I’ve walked the labyrinth: in San Francisco in Grace Cathedral, in Toronto next to Trinity church that supports the city homeless, behind St George‘s Anglican Cathedral in Cape Town, in Alice Springs at Campfire in the Heart and in McLaren Vale along the shiraz walking trail of the old railway line.
Each time I’ve walked the labyrinth I have been visited by new thoughts, I’ve been comforted and had some revelation. The very act of walking in and out, tracing and retracing my own steps, strengthens my narrative.
I’ve walked the labyrinth many ways: on my own, with the love of my life and with a group. I’ve walked with a specific intention, meditation or song. I’ve found that the deeper the intention for the walk, the deeper the experience.
I recently learnt of a virus of the inner ear that causes an illness called labyrinthitis – it is not very pleasant causing dizziness and disorientation. I have been reflecting on this affliction and noticing when it flares up. It seems to take hold when there is a need for re-calibration and balance. The condition making sure that its host knows that recalibration and rebalance is required! Walking the labyrinth is similar in a way. Perhaps if you need to recalibrate and find your balance this walking meditation you might be saved from physical symptoms.
Hildegard I know you spent a lot of time in your life not well and I wonder if this ever had to do with your needing to re-charge, straighten up after being dizzy or unsettled by one phenomena or another?
The labyrinth is not a maze, it is one single path that leads to the centre and the same one leading you out. Going in deep and faithfully taking one step at a time is surely the only way into the centre, and once there to find your way out requires a good deal of fidelity and courage. Being true to your path is the universal quest. The ritual walking of the labyrinth reflects the common path of human experience. We all enter the path, and we all exit the path.
And in the places I have walked a physical labyrinth I add my steps to those who have gone before and have left my footprints for those who follow.
Grace Cathedral nurtured the first wave of AIDS in San Francisco and held so many of the gay community to its bosom. The quilts, the prayers, the poems and the sanctuary it was and continues to be is an ongoing testament to the fidelity of San Francisco to its gay community.
Toronto’s Trinity Church has a strong and fine history of being a place for the homeless to feel safe, find a meal and receive friendship, a sanctuary, especially in the winter time.
Cape Town Cathedral hosted so many moments of civil disobedience, solidarity and prophetic witness by black and white throughout the apartheid years. It welcomed everyone and in doing so putting all of the congregation at risk – it was a sanctuary on more than one occasion for those fleeing arrest, bullets and persecution. It grew its own prophets led by Desmond Tutu.
Campfire in the Heart is a sanctuary on the edge of a township riddled with racism and flooded with ancient stories holding the fragile land and communities together. It stands as witness, and is invitation to all, with warmth, wise counsel and deep compassion in the pores of those who are there and in each grain of the red sand on which it lies.
The old train track at McLaren Vale is surrounded by houses on one side and vineyards on the other, nestled in the valley behind the main part of the township the labyrinth is a quiet, still place where the wattle birds, magpies, honeyeaters, galahs and parrots sing to all those who walk the path there. The old red gums hold the stories of the land and provide the sanctuary to support the pilgrim.
I keep going, on my labyrinth way, and as I head into the half way mark, between fifty and sixty, I accept that I have now turned from the centre and am heading out. Gathering up the lessons I have learnt on the way in, savouring the moments, reflecting on where I have trod, noticing with new eyes what I didn’t see on the way in and gratefully stepping forward.