This past weekend I facilitated part of the Candlelight Walk at Grace Cathedral. I lost count of how many people were present there to experience the labyrinth walk. However, one particular family caught my attention. It was their first time walking the labyrinth and they did not speak English. They were tourists visiting San Francisco – of course I learned that after the walk.
I don’t know what kind of experience they had during the walk, but for sure they had one. I was paying close attention to the elder woman of the group who was probably in her 70’s. I saw her wondering around and felt like she was almost wanting to ask me questions whenever she was walking close to me. However, she did not ask me anything. I guess she felt intimidated by the silence, in which the walk was set up.
The family came out of the labyrinth like they were looking for explanations. Somehow they were referred to me because someone thought Italian and Spanish languages have the same Latin roots and we might be able to communicate. Whomever it was, was not wrong. We were able to communicate in a sort of Italian/Spanish mix.
The first question pondered was, “What is this and why is it here at Grace Cathedral?” I found myself trying to explain to them in a “mix” of new invented words and crafting a short summary of the huge symbolism. I did my best and I think they got the information they were looking for. I saw one of her sons – probably in his 30’s – walking the labyrinth again while the others were watching him from the chairs set up at the left of the entrance to the labyrinth.
This experience lead me to write this post. I have assumed you know what a labyrinth is. If not, here is my short summary of it:
A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that can be used in both sacred and secular settings. It has no religious’ denomination. Labyrinths can be found in churches, hospitals, college campuses, private gardens, public parks or spaces in between. It is not a maze. A maze has several intricate paths that are meant to confuse you. A labyrinth has only one path that leads you to the center. It is designed so you can find your way.
There are numerous patterns to a labyrinth and it can be found in many cultures. It is not known where it was conceived, but there is evidence of ideograms from the Neolithic and Bronze-Age. The most famous labyrinth is found in Greek mythology in the myth of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur (hence the name of my web page, just in case you have not figured it out yet, is a word play with my real name).
The labyrinth can be used in different contexts and populations. Among the many applications are spiritual insight, healing, self-reflection, peace building, meditation, stress-reduction, and community/team building.
Next time you see a labyrinth, don’t feel intimidated by it. Walk it with an open heart and mind. Give yourself permission to experience it.