A Labyrinth Is Not a Maze


I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been intrigued by labyrinths. Maybe it started with the movie. At first I thought it was because I like a good challenge. But then I realized I was confusing a labyrinth with a maze, which is designed as a puzzle to solve with multiple paths and dead ends. A labyrinth actually only has one path, however winding, with a clear beginning and end point. You go back out the same way you came in.

The first time I had a chance to walk a labyrinth was in San Francisco. See my post on that. It’s a highly meditative process. And it was then I realized the deeper symbolism of the labyrinth. The idea is to walk the course either thinking about some specific question you want to answer or just pondering life in general. You’ll be surprised what you come up with along the way.

So how does one go about finding a labyrinth? It turns out there’s such a thing as a labyrinth locator online. By luck, I found that there is one down the street from me outside of a church. They are very commonly located at places of worship, either inside or outside. So one Sunday my husband and I decided to walk over and check it out.

The day was hot and the labyrinth happened to be in direct sunlight, but that did not deter us.  We noticed a sign listing every major religion on it. It shared a quote from each. All the different faiths had one thing in common: The belief in the concept of helping others. This suggests that we are all connected by an invisible thread. With that thought in mind, my husband and I entered the labyrinth.

My first thought was that I felt a little bit like I was traveling around inside the belly of a giant…or its brain ūüėȬ† It’s interesting how patterns in nature repeat themselves.¬† Then I tried to focus my intention on the present moment.¬† I noticed how we moved methodically to every corner of the labyrinth, but ended up in the same spot, the center.¬† What does that say about life?

Afterwards, I asked my husband his thoughts.  He noticed how when we seemed closest to the center, we were really quite far from reaching it.  When we were furthest away, it turned out we were actually heading right for it.

There’s a lot to be learned from walking around inside a labyrinth.¬† You should try it!¬† I know I’ll be going back again or perhaps to a different one.¬† Either way, I imagine I’ll discover something new.¬† What I learned was that a labyrinth is not a puzzle to solve.¬† We are the puzzles.¬† And each time we enter the labyrinth, a little piece of the mystery about ourselves is revealed.

“Trust the Path”

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

One of my writing critique partners recommended this book to me, which I received as a Christmas present.¬† Somehow I decided to read the last chapter first, and boy am I glad I did.¬† The author relates a personal story about getting lost at Big Sur while on a journey to find himself.¬† The story suggests that we need to stop looking for the “right path” and¬†instead trust the path that we are on.¬† I was just¬†discussing this in¬†my guest post on my friend’s photography blog.

Taking a look at the cover image, a labyrinth, makes me see the idea of the path in a whole new way.¬† We’re always worried about ending up on the wrong path.¬† But perhaps there is only one.¬† If all paths are connected and intertwine, then we don’t have to be concerned with being stuck somewhere we don’t¬†want to be.¬† We can simply go in a new direction.¬† Or better yet, we can trust that by moving forward, taking action, and staying in the present moment, that we’ll end up where we need to be regardless of the path we take.

I’m reminded of the fantasy movie “The Labyrinth” with David Bowie.¬†¬†The main character feels like the path she is on continues forever without leading her anywhere.¬†¬†She gets a little help from a tiny¬†worm who suggests that things aren’t always what they seem.¬† Why not walk through walls?¬† Maybe there’s an opening.¬†¬†But even when she does, she still has a choice to make: left or right.¬† The tiny¬†worm sends¬†her in the opposite direction, which, unbeknownst to her,¬†actually¬†leads her away from the castle.¬† Is she on the wrong path?¬† OR does she¬†need to make this journey.¬† The best part for viewers is watching her overcome obstacles¬†while discovering herself.¬† Making it to the castle is just a reflection of all her hard work and how far she’s come.

So I encourage each of you to TRUST YOUR OWN PATH.  And who knows, perhaps we will see each other along the way.

Walking the labyrinth in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA