I walked the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth today. Well, not the actual Chartres Cathedral labyrinth which is in Chartres outside Paris, France, but a copy of it that exists in Albuquerque in back of the New Life Presbyterian Church off Eubank in the northeast heights. It has eleven-circuits and measures about sixty feet in diameter. It took about sixty tons of material to create it: crushed rock for the base and actual rocks to line and denote the circuits. It was a lot of work for a lot of people to measure it out using sacred geometry and then lay the rock. It's a gift to the community and it's open to the public from dawn to dusk everyday. The only reason one wouldn't walk it at night is because it isn't lit. I find it an unusual addition to a church, and I'm very grateful that it's there.
Today was an amazingly beautiful day in Albuquerque. I had been to my dentist's office, which isn't far from the labyrinth, and I wanted to be outside. It's cool enough now to walk the labyrinth in the heat of the day without melting in the process. The breeze caressed me. The sky was blue with white cumulus clouds pushing up from behind the Sandia Mountains. It was quiet for the most part with birds flying overhead and calling out to each other. Far in the distance I could hear a siren wailing. An airplane was taking off from the airport. The traffic noise from the street reached me. But, these sounds fell into the background as I walked the circuits of the labyrinth.
A labyrinth is not a maze. The purpose of the labyrinth is not to get lost, but to go inside oneself. It's a walking meditation. By starting at the beginning and continuously walking the circuits one reaches the center, which, in a Chartres version, is a flower of life with six petals. One usually has an intention for walking the labyrinth, but it isn't necessary. It could just be walked to let go and give yourself over to the walking. It's very relaxing. You don't have to think about where you're going or how you're going to get there. The circuits take you in and then back out again and no thought is necessary. You give yourself over to the labyrinth and let it have its way with you. Whatever experience you have is a good one.
As I walked into the center of the labyrinth, mental chatter fell away and my internal landscape opened up. I prayed as I walked in the beginning and then just let the emptiness fill me. Because the circuits are lined with rocks that sometimes move out of their places, I repaired the circuits as I went. It's all part of the meditation. I noticed that people have placed small objects along the path and, in the center, a small circle of rocks has been put around a tall candle. These things weren't there the last time I walked the labyrinth. Things have also been placed around the labyrinth on the outside of the circuits...crucifixes, a fat smiling Buddha statue, a Kokopelli. I become sensitive to everything I can see and hear and feel. My surroundings become more alive. Or, is it me who's become more alive?
Because of the way the circuits wind around, I don't know I'm finished with the walk until I'm on the very last leg, right before the end. I walk it very slowly because I'm not quite ready to be done. As I exit the labyrinth, I turn back around to thank it for being there and for everyone who had anything to do with its creation. You can walk the labyrinth with other people, but every time I've been to this one, I've had the pleasure of walking it all by myself.
At one point, I was going to construct a labyrinth in my backyard. But, my backyard isn't really big enough to accommodate one and, once I found the one at the New Life Presbyterian Church, I didn't need to try to make it work because I had one. Sitting in meditation for me is not an easy task. It doesn't seem to work for me as many times as I've tried. But, the walking meditation of a labyrinth is perfect. Somehow the walking and the movement help my mind to let go.
If you look online there's a worldwide Labyrinth Locator. You'd be surprised how many labyrinths there are and where they are. You can also buy small finger-sized ones and "walk" them that way. I have a small finger-sized version of the Chartres labyrinth that I keep on my desk. I would highly recommend walking a labyrinth if you get the chance, or feel inclined to look for one. Even for those of you who enjoy sitting in meditation, I think the experience of the walking meditation of the labyrinth would be grounding as well as opening.
Whatever we do to bring ourselves into a space of quiet communion with Life is a good thing. And, sitting in meditation is only one way. There are many ways to come into the now and be present. Anything that brings you totally into the moment and opens you to the flow of Life all around you is a way. If you've never walked a labyrinth, I hope you give yourself the pleasure of it at some point. But, whether you do, or whether you don't, I hope you have your own way to bring yourself into the vastness of the now.