The Labyrinth as a Walking Meditation
Courtesy Eve Hogan
Meditation can be frustrating, with physical discomfort and constant, intrusive thoughts. Walking a labyrinth can be a wonderful walking meditation.
Walking Into the Present Moment
When most people first attempt to practice meditation in a traditional sitting position, the first thing they notice is the flood of thoughts that suddenly engulf them as they desperately try to quiet the mind.
Discomfort in the body is often followed immediately thereafter. This can be disheartening and discouraging at the onset of a new practice. A walking meditation helps to resolve both of these issues, and a labyrinth is the perfect place to practice.
A walking meditation is a journey in mindfulness with a goal of bringing ourselves fully into the present moment. Swami Prabhavananda said, “If the body is thought of as a busy and noisy city, then we can imagine that, in the middle of this city, there is a little shrine, and that, within this shrine, the Atman, our real nature, is present. No matter what is going on in the streets outside, we can always enter that shrine and worship. It is always open.”
This beautiful sentiment may be met with the questions, How do we get into the shrine? Where is the doorway?
In my experience, the present moment is the access point to our real nature, our soul essence. When we are in our heads, spinning out on the past (which causes depression) and fearing the future (which causes anxiety), we close the door to the shrine. When we enter silence, create stillness, become mindful of the present moment, the doorway opens and in we are swept. The present moment is the doorway and breath is the key.
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So, as you enter a labyrinth as a walking meditation, it may be useful to visualize yourself walking into your own inner shrine. As you walk in through all the twists and turns, you may still be in the “noisy city” with a mind full of thoughts. Notice as the thoughts rise, take a deep breath and release them bringing you attention back to the present.
As you walk, with each step, become aware of your senses. What do you smell, feel, see, and hear? Notice the sounds around you—a bird singing, wind passing by, even city noises, people’s voices—without getting pulled into those sounds.
Then bring your awareness to the sounds within you. Listen to your breath, in and out. Notice your footsteps, feel the pressure on your feet as you step, notice your heartbeat. Watch your thoughts as you walk the labyrinth and when the past or the future or some other place starts creeping in, take a deep breath, another step, and bring your attention back to the present moment. Every time a thought pops up, release it and let it fly away like a dove.
By the time you reach the center, you will be emptied and prepared to sit or stand in the center in stillness and silence. This is the space within which Spirit can speak to you.
When you are ready to turn and walk back out of the labyrinth, you will likely be fortified with a calmness, clarity, and renewal that will support you throughout your day.
Leading the Way
Once, I entered a labyrinth in front of my husband and immediately felt a sense of discomfort at walking in before he did. Looking at this as a metaphor, I could see that the experience paralleled an event taking place in our lives. At that time, I had a book that was about to be published and, in that moment in the labyrinth, I realized I was uncomfortable having “my projects” take off successfully before “his projects” did. Hence, my discomfort at entering first.
I had not been fully aware of my feelings until they were revealed through metaphor. The awareness offered me the opportunity to make choices about how to handle my feelings—and his—rather than letting them sabotage my decisions without my knowledge.
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