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
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
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.