Sunday, February 12, 2012
One contemplative practice I like and have never done is labyrinth walking. Now when I first heard of this I still was thinking of a labyrinth with life-sized walls where you could possibly become lost, like a maze. And I’ve been in one in Europe. These labyrinths, however, are normally associated with a cathedral or church and they are created with intent to engage the body, mind, and spirit in the act of prayer.
A labyrinth is a prescribed patter on the ground that you slowly and contemplatively walk. It leads to its center and then back out again engaging your body in prayer itself. My DC pastor would always talk about “your body mirroring the posture of your heart” in reference to lifting hands. But this has been an exploration for me into something generally called body prayer in which you do physical body postures or movements that mirror what you are talking about. For instance if you are praying forgiveness and mercy you might splash cold water on your face exemplifying the cleansing power of forgiveness and mercy. If you’re listening you might be in a child’s pose. If you’re praying defiantly in unbelief at a God who would allow the situation you see before yourself you might raise your hands in a fist or shake your head. Kneeling is also a common body posture some take.
Here in a labyrinth, the walking is type of posture as well. Some walk a labyrinth while thinking about a certain issue. Others simply walk as they meditate. Started in Algeria in 350 AD, it’s an act of deep reflection especially at the center of the labyrinth which is where people usually pause and stop to reflect, think, and pray. Many continue to sit and reflect after reaching the outside of the labyrinth and exiting.
National Cathedral Labyrinth