Last week I wrote about the Psalms and praying the Psalms as a spiritual practice. This week, I want to share the beauty of labyrinths. The natural slow-down of the summer is a perfect time to contemplate spiritual practices because maybe we have a bit more time to actually do them! I will be sharing some spiritual practices over these next few weeks in my Thursday Thoughts in the hopes that some will speak to you and you may incorporate these practices into your own spiritual life. In that spirit, onto labyrinths.
Perhaps the most famous labyrinth in the Christian world is embedded in the floor of the Chartes Cathedral in France. It is quite large and was worked into the stone during the construction of the cathedral in the thirteenth century. As Jan Richardson explains, “During the Middle Ages, many Christians who could not make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land walked this labyrinth. Their walking became a form of pilgrimage; as the seeker trod the path, the twists and turns offered the opportunity to make a sacred journey within.”*
Walking a labyrinth is an ancient spiritual practice. It’s a practice used by many faith traditions as a means of centering, contemplation, and prayer. It’s a practice about the quieting of the mind and the opening of the heart. A labyrinth is not a maze. Unlike mazes, you won’t find dead ends or get lost on the way to finding the center. In a labyrinth there is only one way in and one way out, it’s unicursal.
So how does it “work”? As you enter the labyrinth, you are encouraged to walk slowly. Quiet your mind. Focus on a question that is on your heart. Or simply focus on feeling the presence of God within. Pray in silence as you walk. Pause in the center. And then walk out along the same path you just trod. The sacred journey that is made is made within. It’s a form of pilgrimage and one can think of walking a labyrinth as a form of body prayer as well. Labyrinths can be places of profound healing.
The closest labyrinth I know of near Colchester can be found in McCook Point Park in Niantic. Park near Hole in the Wall Beach/the Niantic Board Walk. Walk out of the tunnel and take a right. Keep walking up the hill toward the band stand and you will see a small labyrinth on the right of the path. It was constructed by members of the Niantic Community Church and offered to their community. If you are so inclined to try out this spiritual practice, let me know how it goes!
Solvitur Ambulando (“it is solved by walking”)
*Jan L. Richardson, In Wisdom’s Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season, 56.
Labyrinth Pictured Above: Eastern Point Retreat House, Gloucester, MA
Labyrinth Pictured Below: Glastonbury Abbey, Hingham, MA
Photos by Rev. Lauren Lorincz
Thursday Thoughts 7/1/21