Create your own labyrinth, finding the trees amidst the cactuses and bushes.
I know trees as teachers of mindfulness. It thus seemed natural for me to turn to trees when looking for a place to continue my practice of walking a labyrinth. Before moving to our new home, I often walked the labyrinth at a nearby Episcopal church. There are no formal labyrinths where I now live, so I developed a tree-focused adaptation.
The traditional labyrinth consists of a single path with many twists and turns leading to the center and back out. Many traditions suggest entering the labyrinth in the spirit of a pilgrim. The idea is to walk an outer path but travel an inner journey. The goal isn’t to reach a set destination but to discover new realities. I walk a labyrinth for self-discovery and spiritual centering.
I’m fortunate to live next to a state park with a mostly natural environment. It’s a desert environment with more cactuses and bushes than trees. Yet, there are trees widely spaced throughout the park. I start my labyrinth walk by looking for the nearest tree to my entry point. I walk slowly toward that tree with an intentional calming of my mind. I want to be fully present and open to what I experience on my walk.
I pause when I arrive at the tree. I look intently at its trunk and branches. I feel its bark, smell its pine needles, and listen for sounds. Sometimes I hear a rustling of wind as it moves through the branches of the tree. I listen for messages because I believe trees are bearers of wisdom and can offer guidance on how to live. I spend some time with the tree just taking in its presence.
Each tree is a unique individual with its own history and characteristics. By being fully present
to the tree, I get glimpses of its uniqueness, its beauty, and its mystery. I think about the parts of the tree that I can’t see or touch—roots far underground, sap moving through a network of tubes, and the heartwood at its center. I also think about how the tree has a way of doing things far beyond my understanding but that its work is critical for maintaining life on Earth. I bow to the tree and give thanks for the many gifts it has to offer. I then continue my labyrinth walk toward the next tree in my field of vision. While the traditional labyrinth offers a preset path, the path I take is set by the trees. As I walk, I think about what determines my path through life and where that path might be taking me.
I visit five or six different trees during my labyrinth walk. Some trees are familiar to me, as I visit them often. I know one tree as “the place where the owl lives.” I know other trees by the shape of their branches and the size of their trunk. I’m amazed at how trees can be the same and yet so different.
I’m also amazed at the insights I gain from my visits to the trees. These insights are often reminders of what I may know intellectually but fail to truly appreciate as I attend to the details of everyday life. I know, for example, that trees are essential for life on Earth and that we, as humans, share a DNA connection with trees. But I’m reminded during my tree labyrinth walk that trees and humans share a type of kinship that goes beyond a physical connection. An awareness of this kinship helps me find solace in the presence of each tree I meet. I walk alone as I move from tree to tree, but I’m never lonely. The trees are nearby and seem to beckon me.
Paying attention to treeness has helped me grow in generosity, strength, and resilience. I witness the trees displaying these virtues and notice in them a deep contentment and commitment to doing what they need to do. From the trees
I start my labyrinth walk by looking for the nearest tree to my entry point. I walk slowly toward that tree with an intentional calming of my mind.
I’ve learned the value of slowness, the beauty of soul-fulness, and the importance of connectedness. Walking a tree labyrinth reminds me of the importance of taking a spiritual path through life. I thank the trees for urging me to be more reflective on how I ought to live.