Sunday, December 7, 2008

Walking the Candlelit Path

On Friday, I went over to the labyrinth; every Friday in Advent, the labyrinth is lit by candles from 6:30-8:00. We're hoping that people will take some time out of their busy December schedule to remember what the season is really all about.

We first did an evening candlelit walk for All Saints Day (read the Miami Herald story here). But I couldn't stay for the whole event, so I walked as the sun was setting. For me, that was a first. I've walked labyrinths in a variety of settings, but always in full daylight. I loved walking as the sun set and the streaks of oranges and pinks filled the sky. I felt electrified and full of light myself, yet serene.

On Friday, I got to the labyrinth at 7:20--full darkness. From the road, the candlelit labyrinth looked Halloweeny. I was expecting more of a Christmas Eve feel, but to see a distant glowing shape was almost spooky (of course, the temperature didn't help--we were at a balmy 75 degrees, which is a Fall temperature to me, not an Advent temperature).

Once I got close to the labyrinth, it lost that Halloweeny feel. I started walking, and realized how different it is to walk a labyrinth in the dark, lit only by candles. I literally couldn't see very far into the distance, to see where the labyrinth would be curving. I could only see as I got there and made the turn. Even though I understood the shape of the labyrinth--I helped create it, literally, with my own two hands--I couldn't remember how the path went.

That experience seemed like a great metaphor for life. And of course, the labyrinth experience works as a metaphor for life in many ways. But Friday night, I meditated on how often I think I know where I'm going, only to be sent curving in a different direction. I meditated on how I had plenty of light if I just focused on my present steps. Once I stared off into the distance, trying to anticipate my future steps, I'd get lost. But if I stayed present, I'd be OK.

Ah, that old difficulty--to quit fretting about the future (which will curve in ways we can't anticipate) and focus on my present steps; to trust that God will give me enough light to show me where I need to go; to use the light I have, even though it may be dim and flickering.

That's the beauty of a spiritual practice like the labyrinth--it symbolically reminds us of the tasks at hand, while giving us an experience rooted in the physical world. And with labyrinths, as with the best spiritual practices, that experience is powerfully calming.

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