Each turn of the labyrinth offers us the chance to look at our own lives from a new perspective. “As we walk, these turns become a rich opportunity for us to look at all the things that have happened in our lives and how we have responded to them. We can rethink whether a new or different perspective is possible.”
Editor's note: This is part of our series on labyrinths. Read more here:
A Role in Someone Else's Walk
Once I was leading a group of women walking a labyrinth painted on a church parking lot. As we walked, a car drove up to the labyrinth’s edge. One of the women walked off the labyrinth, got into the car, and drove away without saying goodbye. After the walk, the remaining women and I shared our overall experience, without focusing on the woman who left.
One woman explained that at times the labyrinth felt very safe. She entered the labyrinth after a woman named Bambi and in front of a nurse. This woman explained that her childhood best friend was a toy deer and that her mom had been a nurse. “So I felt like I was sandwiched between my childhood friend and my mother.” However, as she walked the labyrinth, every time she came up to one of the 180-degree turns, she came face to face with a widowed woman. “My greatest fear in life is to be a widow, and here I had to face it at every turn. I felt safe, though, because of the presence of my mother and Bambi.”
She asked, “What was the name of the woman who got in the car and left?” I said, “Pat.” She gasped. “My daughter’s name was Pat and she died young.” Off the labyrinth of life without saying good-bye. We were all stunned by her story, and the way in which many of us, without knowing, had played such an amazing role in her metaphorical journey.
The Power of the Turn
A standard labyrinth that takes its inspiration from the one at Chartres Cathedral has more than 20 180-degree turns.
As we walk, these turns become a rich opportunity for us to look at all the things that have happened in our lives and how we have responded to them. We can rethink whether a new or different perspective is possible.
We tend to immediately label things that happen good or bad without taking the time to look at the situation from multiple angles. Often, it would behoove us to consider our labels to be a hypothesis instead of the truth, be open to other possible outcomes, and then watch to see how everything actually turns out.
I like to call this ability to see things from more than one viewpoint “the power of the 180-degree turn.”
Several years ago my beautiful labyrinth on Maui, which usually sits beside a gentle, babbling stream, got swallowed up by a raging flash flood. My immediate reaction was to be upset and label the event as very bad. In the moment, I even considered it a tragedy. But things unfolded differently. Many people showed up to help rebuild the labyrinth, money poured in from all over the world to support the project, and the resulting labyrinth was a new and improved version of the first. What I thought was bad was actually a blessing.
If you choose to take a deeper look at your life as you walk the labyrinth, allow the 180-degree turns to represent major events of your life. As you make each turn, pause to consider the labels or beliefs you adopted at the time of that event.
As you walk to the next turn, use the stretch between the turns to consider what the lessons and blessings from that event may have been. Who did the situation bring into your life? What did you discover? How were you strengthened? Where did it lead you? As we do this exercise, we often realize that it wasn’t necessarily the event or the thing that happened that solely caused us suffering, but rather the decision we made about it, the belief we held or the way we behaved in reaction to it.
You cannot change the past, but you can change how you view the past and whether you allow it to continue to upset you.
Explore walking through your past as you walk into the labyrinth and see if you can practice forgiveness, acceptance, letting go, or even gratitude as a new response to the things you have encountered.
When you reach the center, practice being present, here, now. Notice where your life’s journey has led you so far. See if you can experience peace in the present moment as a means of strengthening yourself and fortifying yourself for the journey ahead. Take this time to consider all you have learned so far and set your intention for moving forward.
As you turn to walk out of the labyrinth, imagine you are walking into the future. Explore walking mindful of your thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes, choosing powerful responses to the numerous 180-degree turns that you are yet to encounter.
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