Walking the Labyrinth

By Carol Berry

Hurrah—the labyrinth is coming!  And, it is coming to our very own Kenilworth Union Church on March 13–16. Of course you could choose instead to walk the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France, or at Grace Cathedral (indoors and out) in San Francisco.  Or, even closer to home in Plano, Illinois where there is a wonderful outdoor labyrinth on the banks of the Fox River. But, lucky us, we have the opportunity right here at Kenilworth Union.

Chartres Cathedral LabyrinthThe canvas labyrinth that we will walk in our own Church is on loan from Holy Comforter across the street and is a replica of the 2,000 year old Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth.

Why am I so pleased that our Church is bringing the labyrinth to us? Because walking the labyrinth is a spiritual experience for me—inevitably and always.  And, a strong feeling of peace and some needed insights invariably result from this “walking meditation.”

The labyrinth was introduced to me by one of my non-Christian friends who was intrigued by its universality and history.  We learned that various forms of labyrinths have been known to exist for over 4,000 years and do exist in almost every religious tradition. My curious friend had heard that Lauren Artress, priest at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco at the time, was speaking and introducing the labyrinth at St. James Cathedral in Chicago one Saturday in the late 1990’s. (This was a stop on her tour throughout the country as head of the World Wide Labyrinth Project).  That special introductory day, there were 5 canvas labyrinths set up inside and outside St. James on Huron Street.  And, bonus: sheer veils were provided to wear if one was so inclined—giving a sense of more privacy.

A few years ago, Kenilworth Union joined with our neighbors at Holy Comforter for a labyrinth walk and luncheon to introduce the women of both congregations to this wonderful walking meditation.  Their Episcopal priest, named Elizabeth, happened to be a dancer too, and she danced her way through the labyrinth.  It was a joyful sight. So, really, anything goes, except noise. Silence is key.

The center of the labyrinth is a sacred spot for me—a place to sit or stand in contemplation.  The “corners,” or cusps, are where I often stop for a moment or two, to just absorb the silence and peace, and to pray. Sometimes I spend 15 minutes walking the labyrinth and sometimes much longer. And, sometimes I walk it 2 or 3 times in a row.

When you walk the labyrinth you move at your own pace, passing others or letting them step around you, and meeting people coming the other way.  It can be a walking metaphor for life.

And it is a wonderful, reflective way to spend a few minutes or more during this Lenten season.