Labyrinth Reflection for 8/2/20

The Labyrinth at Picture Rocks is set off in the far southeastern corner of the retreat center’s large campus and it can be hard to find.  Instead of turning in at the administrative center parking where the office is, I kept going around the road that leads to the back of the buildings.  There, behind the chapel was a parking area that was perfect.  I parked and then turned toward the mound of rocks and walked south or to the left.  There was a short path leading to a small shade structure and the desert labyrinth.
 
The first thing that struck me was how remote it seemed.  It was as if I had wandered deep into the desert wilderness, even though you can see a few buildings through the trees.  I sat in the shade thinking about what I was brining with me into this wilderness walk, what I was looking for, and what I hoped to find.
The directions are simple:
“The Labyrinth is a Holy Walk.  Our lives are a journey, a sacred journey.  We are not always sure where our  lives are going.  There is much grief, sorrow, and hardship, as well as beauty and grace.   The Labyrinth is a way to try to tap into some voices that come from deep within.  Not that we are going to figure  everything out but, that we give ourselves time to ponder.  There is no correct way to walk the Labyrinth.  You start at the entrance just to your left and follow the path to its center.  You can go along as fast or slow as you like but, always remember that there are fellow journeyers along the Sacred path, and to exercise a simple quiet Spirit as you make your way.  Once in the Center, take some time to see where you are along the ‘Path of Life’.  Maybe the Spirit of God will touch you in a deep way but, you must give yourself a bit of time to listen.  After you have listened for a bit, make your way back through the Labyrinth the same way you came in.  We hope that your journey  is a peaceful  one.  ‘May the Lord be with you’.”
Easy enough, but of course once committed to the journey and a few turns into the Labyrinth I wondered – how long will this take?  Can I just skip over the lines and jump ahead?  A few more turns and I thought – maybe this isn’t such a good idea, it is really hot and there are so many things I need to be doing.  And then the idea popped into my head: “could there be anything more important than taking this journey with God?  Isn’t that what faith is for?”  There are always more things to do than time, that is why giving over time for the practice of faith is one of the gifts we pledge as disciples of Jesus.  It is an exercise in faithful stewardship to invest time in practicing faith.
 
One foot in front of the other, turn after turn and slowly the meditation began.  “hey God it is me Beth, I am here, I am listening, I am ready.”  And I found myself relaxing into the walking, being present for the steps.  Noticing the lizards and birds, the blooming cactus, the misplaced stones – the details that turn an event into an experience and offer our imagination space to expand.  Then before I knew it, I turned a corner and there it was, the center!
Three stones were arranged around a fourth.  It was clear that this was one of those spaces on earth where the transcendent intersects with the mundane and the sacred possibility that lives in every moment becomes tangible.  Our memorial garden is such a place, as are roadside memorials, and small shrines.  These places mark a space where someone has encountered the Eternal Mystery, the Divine Reality, and they become places of remembering.  These places remind us of God’s presence.  I could almost hear the echos of the prayers of those who had made this journey  before me.  Small reminders of their own journeys decorated that center stone: rocks, coins, candle holders, folded prayers, other objects of significance.  I wondered what I might add to this place.  “Your presence with me” came the answer.  So I sat and prayed and waited and then it came, like the first rays  of dawn, “you are loved, you are mine, I am with you, welcome.”  I sat there with those words for a long time, knowing that just a year ago I would never have been able to hear them, let alone sit with them and hold them.  It has been a life long journey to this moment of love and acceptance.
Then it was time to finish this labyrinth.  I said a prayer of thanks for this centering time and set my soles toward the return journey.  It was strange how easy it was to be present for that part of the walk, to really be listening to my own heart and to God.  I was so engrossed in the revelations of that part of the walk that I couldn’t believe it when suddenly I came to the end!  But of course leaving the Labyrinth is not the end of the journey, it is merely a stepping into the next and harder work of putting into the practices of daily living the revelations and learnings of journey.
 
It was a beautiful beginning to this season of walking meditation and centering prayer.  What a gift for a starting point.  Like the story of Jesus’ own baptism, once God has reminded us that we are beloved children of God in whom God is well pleased, we can face the challenges of any wilderness.  And of course that is the bittersweet truth of sacred journeys – as the directions say – the beauty goes hand in hand with the struggle.