I enjoy walking labyrinths. Labyrinths are maze-like structures that have been used as spiritual tools for centuries. There are many of them around, and I am in the habit of trying to visit a lot of them. For more information about labyrinths, check out The Labyrinth Society.
On my way home from a retreat at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY, I decided to stop at a labyrinth not too far from there at a UU congregation in Rock Tavern. It’s a nice big labyrinth, on the top of a small hill behind the church building. It’s an 11-circuit Chartres-style labyrinth. The path is grass, and the walls are bricks embedded in the ground. It’s a “ninja labyrinth,” one that sneaks up on you. You could be standing right next to that hill, and have no idea that there was a labyrinth there.
At the end of my retreat, after finishing the Parker Palmer book The Promise of Paradox that I mentioned in my last post, I began reading Spiritual Resilience by Robert J. Wicks. The subtitle of the book is 30 Days to Refresh Your Soul; it’s a 30-day devotional tool. I had just read the first chapter in the morning, and so I meditated upon the theme of the chapter as my question entering the labyrinth: “Spirituality dawns when God becomes as real as the problems and joys we face each day.”
As I walked, I discovered that this labyrinth could use a little TLC — the bricks are starting to get overgrown, and in fact there were several sections where I could not see the bricks. Thankfully, I’ve walked enough Chartres labyrinths (and struggled just the night before with “walking” the finger labyrinth with my eyes closed) that I was able to work it out on the fly by memory. I somehow made it through without a mistake. And through that process, I was able to discern some insight into my question: One of the biggest “problems” I face each day is a sense of guilt. I tend to think that most of the troubles in my life are self-inflicted. Right or wrong, that’s my experience of them. But I’m learning that I am able to get through that guilt best not by ignoring it, or saying, “It’s no big deal,” but by recognizing it, noting what’s going on inside me, and noticing that God is dwelling there with me. And because God is dwelling there, my emotions can be redeemed, and whatever problems are really happening around me can also be redeemed. The two things that help most in this are remembering that I’m not alone, and also remembering that I’ve been here before. I’ve walked through these feelings before, and I know where they’re going. I don’t have to run from them anymore.