In the labyrinth

I am reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s beautiful An Altar in the World right now and loving it.  Several different and disparate people recommended it to me and they were all right.  There are many passages that resonate – most of all the section called “reverence,” which is the best way I know how to describe my instinctive posture towards the world.

In the book’s section on groundedness Brown Taylor writes of the ancient spiritual practice of labyrinth walking and I thought instantly of last spring, when Grace and I went to Kripalu.  Together we walked the labyrinth there, and I was startled by how utterly she seemed to sense the palpable peace and – well, reverence – in the air.  I followed Grace in silence, watching her narrow shoulders, her bobbing ponytail, the little freckle at the base of her neck that I remember noticing when she was only months old.

Just like life, Brown Taylor says, the labyrinth had “switchbacks and detours,” and “the path goes nowhere.”  In fact, “the journey is the point.  The walking is the thing.”  I’ve walked the Kripalu labyrinth twice, once alone, and once with my daughter, and both times I found myself doubting, at a certain point in my passage, that the winding back-and-forth path will ever get me to the center.  The center that I can see so clearly and yet, rule-abider that I am, I refuse to simply walk into. Of course, with a little trust and some forbearance, the path eventually got me there both times.

More importantly, though, there’s no actually no eureka at the center.  There’s a pole which says let peace prevail on earth (I was delighted when I noticed that an identical pole stands in the playground of my children’s school), and some small piles of stones, which remind me of the cairns at Walden.  I stood in the quiet center, my entire being prickling with awareness, and then, after long moments of listening to my own breathing (and Grace’s), set back out again on the winding path.  There’s nothing, really, at the center.

The journey is the point.

I am deep in my own labyrinth right now.  Some unexpected switchbacks and detours are causing my faith in the security of the path waver.   That it isn’t the destination I am doubting is evidence of enormous internal growth for me.  I don’t much care about the destination, anymore – after years and years and years, I’ve honestly and truly let go of that.  But I’m feeling the ground under my feet shaking some, and I don’t like wobbling.  So I’m trying to close my eyes and revisit the labyrinth at Kripalu, hear my own breathing and Grace’s, and put one foot in front of the other.  To remember: the walking is the thing.


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10 Comments

  1. Posted January 18, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Beautiful! I love this analogy of the labyrinth as it applies to life. Do you happen to know the history of labyrinths, why they were created in the first place? Just curious.

  2. Posted January 18, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    The journey is the point.
    The walking is the thing.
    Absolutely true. Necessary to remember.
    So simple, and so so not.
    I have tremendous faith that you will get where you need to go. Let the feeling of being lost, on shaky ground, teach you something, and us.
    xox

  3. Posted January 18, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this lovely reminder, Lindsey! I shall remind myself today that “walking is the thing.” xo

  4. Posted January 18, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    That book is on the table in front of me as I type. Funny, it was the first book I picked up this morning — one of my favorites. Not at all surprised that you love it. Beautiful post, and beautiful Kripalu memory.

  5. Posted January 18, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    “The journey is the point.” So true and so important to remember. I hope that the ground-shaking you’re experiencing continues only as long as it needs to in order to teach you whatever lesson is at hand, and not a moment longer. xo

  6. Posted January 18, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Walking and trusting, trusting and walking, right alongside you.

  7. Posted January 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m still working on it: on knowing that the walking is the thing and not the destination. Most days I’m there, but not every day.

  8. Posted January 19, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    Walking and wobbling right along with you, Lindsey. It seems to be a wobbly time for many… breathe, take it all in, know that you are exactly where you are supposed to be…

    and I’ll do the same. ( ;

    Just beautiful – so evocative of the peace to be found in the labyrinth.

    Thank you.

  9. Posted January 19, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I did that labyrinth in December and I know what you mean about not sure you would get there. It IS so beautiful. I am still into the destination … and wish I wasn’t. Weren’t?? Wasn’t. Whatever.

  10. Posted January 22, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    The journey is* the destination..is something I have just begun to grasp in the past couple of years, it is my tag line as a constant reminder to me that there is no “there”. What a labyrinth life is, and I so get that feeling of being unsure of the journey even as we are in it and know that “the walking is the thing”. Warm and supportive thoughts to you on this part of the path. xoxo