I wasn’t familiar with labyrinths until I started an internship at the Resource Center back in 2009. One of my duties during that year was helping Jeanette Stokes haul our large canvas labyrinth around to different spaces in North Carolina and set it up for people to walk. A few weeks ago, for the first time, I was on my own, in charge of directing a team of volunteers in how to unfold and prepare the labyrinth for walkers in Duke Chapel. I’d helped with this task numerous times but found myself wondering if I’d forget some vital detail. As we started to unroll the large strips of canvas and sort out which went where, it all came back to me. Unroll, velcro, brush off, lay out signs, say a prayer…each step followed the others, a prayerful practice, preparing a space to hold whatever people might bring to the labyrinth the next day.
I have a busy mind, and practices that center me, that help me settle into my body, have been vital for me in recent years. Walking the labyrinth has been one such practice. The splits and turns of the paths in my head are numerous, but the labyrinth has one path to its center. If I put one foot in front of the other, eventually I will reach it.
Once I reach the center, I am often hesitant to leave. I like to have a good long sit. Sometimes it becomes a space for joy, other times it offers the freedom to crack all the way open, to grieve. Sometimes it’s simply quiet. Once I begin the second half of the journey, the path outward, I know I have to reenter the world where paths are not so consistent.
That’s the beauty in continuing to set up the labyrinth year after year, place after place. I can’t stay in that nurturing center forever, but I can return when I need to. The sacred space the labyrinth opens up remains, even as the labyrinth is transported from place to place, people to people, a shared source of peace.
This year we rented out our two smaller labyrinths to a record number of churches during Lent and Holy Week. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about renting a labyrinth for any season or occasion. I’m glad to be part of sharing and spreading this prayerful practice around the state of North Carolina. I hope the ripple effects continue throughout the year.