We were lucky to have houseguests this week—family members who live much too far away, whom we don’t see nearly often enough. On Tuesday, we all piled the kids in the minivan and went exploring.
There’s a labyrinth nearby that I’ve been wanting to explore for ages, and one of our guests is a contemplative type (takes one to know one). He spent a few years living in a cabin he built in the woods; he even contemplated pursuing the monastic life. I thought the labyrinth would be up his alley, but if I was wrong, at least it was near a beautiful park we wanted to visit anyway.
The labyrinth is on the grounds of a local school. Even though we were staring at the map, it took us a while to actually find it. I was looking for something stately, something striking. I was disappointed at first when I realized it was just a circle of bricks in the grass. I might have missed it entirely were it not for the simple park benches bordering it.
A labyrinth is an old tool for meditation and spiritual growth. The visitor begins outside the circle and simply follows the path as it slowly twists and turns its way to the center. There is no right or wrong way to do it.
The grown-ups gave the kids directions before we got started: Think about something that makes you happy. (Parties! Legos! Babies!) Think about something that makes you feel peaceful. And should you pass someone else as you walk, give them a big high five.
I’d never walked a labyrinth before, not here or anywhere else. But since I’d thought about coming to this place for a long time, I had expectations: it would be contemplative. It would be sacred. It would be quiet.
I got two out of three, because I’d never imagined coming with four kids.
The lush green grass felt good on our feet, prompting some of us to kick our shoes off into the center. And then we marched into the labyrinth single-file.
As we began to wind our way through the labyrinth’s eleven concentric circles, we started to spread out. And as we spread out, our paths started crossing. Well, not crossing, exactly, because everyone walks the same path. But sometimes, when we’d be pass each other on two neighboring circles, we’d high five. Or we’d find ourselves walking in the same direction on neighboring circles, and we’d hold hands for twenty feet. Or we’d be two circles apart—not quite close enough to touch—so we’d blow kisses.
We giggled—a lot. I don’t know if that labyrinth has ever seen so much giggling.
Labyrinths have a way of spurring reflection, even if you do have four crazy kids in tow. My mind filled up with metaphors as I walked, made more poignant because I was walking with family—with my dear family members who now live so terribly far away, with my dear children I share a home with, for now, but who change and evolve and grow more every year.
As we walked—and giggled—those concentric circles carried us far away from each other and then pulled us back together. Sometimes our paths crossed just long enough to high five; sometimes our paths ran together for a stretch; sometimes we literally couldn’t be farther apart.
If you stumbled upon us, not knowing about the form of the labyrinth, you might not have realized that we were all on the same path, headed to the same destination. In our own way, in our own time.
But oh, how we high-fived and fist-bumped and giggled when those paths crossed.
Do you ever feel like you’re walking in circles, maybe in more ways than one?