Monday, October 28, 2013

Walking the Non-Pumpkin Labyrinth

Yesterday I wrote this post about walking a pumpkin "labyrinth."  After I walked in the pumpkin patch, I decided to visit the standard labyrinth in the back of our church.

I should perhaps say the former labyrinth. About 9 months ago, we made the decision to leave the labyrinth alone, to see what happens.  Having it there makes it difficult for the people who need to mow the huge swath of our back property.  We decided to see what happened as the summer progressed.

When we created the labyrinth, we used old barrel roof tiles to mark out the pathways.  Then they became a target for vandals, so we removed them and laid down mulch.  We haven't put down fresh mulch since Easter of 2012, but the ghost of the labyrinth remains.

It's only the ghost.  Grass has overtaken parts of the labyrinth.  I used to walk it frequently, so I wondered if I'd remember what to do.  I sort of did, but I ended up just wandering around in circles, but not in a good way.  I kept thinking, now this loop, where did it end up?

I was in the middle of a big field, with mild air and huge white clouds above me in a blue, morning sky, so it wasn't unpleasant.  But our labyrinth is vanishing.  I feel somewhat sad about that, but not sad enough to change it.

My pastor and I talk occasionally about restoring it.  I imagine that at some point we will.  I really like the idea of being a church with a labyrinth, even though only a few church members used it.  I know that some community members walked it.  I imagine that some labyrinth seekers found their way to us.

I thought about my time in the pumpkin patch, about using pumpkins to mark the labyrinth pathways.  I thought about seasonal labyrinths.  I wish we could do something more sacred along with the pumpkin patch:  buy your pumpkins here, experience the labyrinth over there.  I imagine most people would buy their pumpkins and ignore the labyrinth.  But it's an idea I wanted to record.

As I was writing about labyrinths and pumpkin patches yesterday, I was listening to this episode of On Being.  The show talked about healing spaces, and there was one part where they discussed labyrinths. Here's a quote about the quiet joy of walking a labyrinth:

"I have to say, I walked a labyrinth just recently at the new year. I haven't done that much of it, but also what's different from what you described about the mazes or being in a hospital is somehow you know exactly where you're going to step next and you're not worried about that, but you stop being so oriented towards getting to the end, which is an unusual experience in my life where I'm always ticking off my next thing on my to-do box.  . . .   You actually feel like slowing down. I'm just thinking about this myself too, but there's something about the experience that makes you want to draw it out and slow down, and that in itself is kind of an unusual instinct."

And from the Buddhist tradition:  "Another similar sort of experience I've had is with a Buddhist prayer wheel or drum, I guess it is, that was put into a lovely meditation garden in Sun Valley — near Sun Valley, Idaho. It was done when the Dalai Lama visited there, and it was a garden especially dedicated to him. When you push this prayer wheel around, it's actually quite heavy and it forces you to slow down. In order to just turn it around and keep the right pace so you're not falling off the platform, it really does force you to slow down and look around you and just be quiet and meditate."

I wish I worked in a place that had a labyrinth.  It would be nice to take breaks from the computer screen by going out to walk in concentric circles in a predetermined path.

May we all have the kind of work week that brings us times of slowing down and sensing the greater wonder.

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