upper room daily devotions

Friday, March 09, 2007

why walk labyrinths?

I was asked this questions recently: Why walk labyrinths? When I was asked this question, I could tell that the person talking with me was confused by more than why I find walking labyrinths meaningful; she also didn't really understand why people enter in to most spiritual exercises or disciplines.

Spiritual disciplines are the daily steps we take in our life's spiritual journey. What we do on Sunday in worship is a communal gathering that brings together people who spend time most days of their life attempting to draw closer to God. If we hope that all of our spiritual work will happen on Sunday, we will be a very disappointed group of people. We come from disparate lives and we are diverse people; the Sunday morning ritual will not/cannot reach all of our hearts each week. Personal spiritual practices/exercises/disciplines are where most of our spiritual journey takes places. Sunday morning is like a gas station where we get a little fuel for our spiritual journeys.

Our spiritual journeys really take place in the ways in which we lead our everyday lives. How do we make room for God? How attentive are we to the God who resides in our hearts and in our world? How much time to we spend with this Friend? How often to seek the Comforter? How much do we allow the gospel to stir our hearts with passion for justice, and how much does the gospel crack open our hearts with mercy? Each day - each breath - we are invited to live deeper inside of the Divine. And yet, despite God's persistent invitation to dwell there, most of us need to practice recognizing the Divine and responding to it. Spiritual practices are set aside activities that we do to remind us of the holiness of life. They invite us to be attuned to God. In them is where our relationship with the Holy One really takes place. We can make up our practices or use practices that have been tried and true, extensions of our ancient faith tradition.

I walk labyrinths because I need about fifteen to twenty minutes of quiet if I really want to shake loose my brain's attachment to its own noise. I can't slip into a deeply prayerful attitude very easily. As a product of MTV, multi-tasking, video games, and the cell phone generation, I am used to lots of noise coming at me. As someone who lives in a city, I am used to noise all around me. Walking a labyrinth takes time - usually about 45 minutes for me. About twenty of these minutes is getting my head to quiet itself and allowing my soul to open itself. Nothing magical is happening. I am simply allowing myself the time necessary to be fully present in time and space. When my mind revs up, I take a breath and say to myself, "I am here." Once my mind is quiet and my soul is open then I may think a scripture ("Be still and know that I am God") or ask a question ("Why have I been so restless? What am I being called to do? How can I find forgiveness? Where am I experiencing God?") and I just slowly walk. Once in the center of the labyrinth, I give thanks for the gift of my spiritual journey. Sometimes I lament things that I have been grieving but haven't given proper time to letting go. Then I begin the walk out, slowly emerging and still resting in God.

This is not necessarily the spiritual exercise/discipline/practice for everyone, but it works for me. I am excited to go to the Whidbey Institute tomorrow and to walk their labyrinth. It is in a field, marked by stones, surrounded by the incredible towering trees of the Pacific Northwest. It is quiet there with occasional voices along adjacent hiking trails. The air is pregnant with life. I can't wait to walk this labyrinth. Why I would want to do it seems quite obvious to me.


RevErikaG said...

I love labyrinths too! It is a great exercise to center myself! Do you have a variety around you to walk?

rev katie m ladd said...

We have several, actually. On Whidbey Island (about an hour away)there are a couple of retreat centers with outdoor labyrinthis. In town several churches have labyrinths available on a regular basis. We don't seem to have a good directory for labyrinths. I keep running across new ones. I would love for my church to have one. What about you? Are there a lot of choices in your area?

RevErikaG said...

I wonder if one of those retreat centers is where my friend Juli works (she's in the 2 year academy for spiritual formation with me!) We have one at a local lutheran church that's next to the 405 (ah, nothing gets you centered like walking the labyrinth and listening to gridlock!). So I usually only have the pleasure when I'm at the aforementioned academy...where they have a lovely one outside surrounded by trees and flowers. It is such a wonderful tool...I too, have thought about getting one for my church.

rev katie m ladd said...

Ewwww...traffic and a labyrinth? I thought of having congregation members each decorate a part of the path or something like that to make it a communal project. We just don't have room in our church, though. We do have a parking lot, but it always is in use!

On another topic, are you enjoying the two year academy?

RevErikaG said...

I love the idea of getting the congregation invested in a labyrinth's creation! That'd be fun!
The academy has been a unique and interesting experience...I'd be glad to email with you about. Our Leadership Team Director is from your neck of the woods..she'd be a great resource if you are interested! Enjoy your blog a lot, Katie!

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