After waking to icy sidewalks and bone-snapping wind chill, I decided this morning to postpone my walk, enjoy a cup of coffee, and watch CBS Sunday Morning (one of my weekly favorites) before heading off to church. I figured I would walk later, but decided during church that today’s walk would be completely different.
Our church is having what I’ll call an adult education initiative for the month of January. After the service, one of these class offerings was a “labyrinth walk.” Our church has offered these before in the past, but I have never participated. Curious, I thought this would be a perfect time to try it. Plus, it was a walk, after all.
Allow me to go off on a tangent here… I’ve been prone to giggling in church for my entire life. Please don’t be offended or think that I don’t take my Christianity seriously, because I do. It’s just that I could recount a lot of funny things that happen, at least in our pew, during weekly church services. Also, there’s just something about knowing I’m supposed to behave a certain way that makes those funny things seem even funnier and make it even harder not to laugh.
Sometimes my church giggling caused me to get in trouble with my parents; other times, my parents were the ones making me giggle. Take the Maundy Thursday service back when I was fourteen or fifteen. Our church decided to shake things up a bit and served an intact loaf of bread, instead of the usual pre-cut bread cubes so common in the Protestant church in the 1970s. We were sitting near the back that night and were therefore some of the last to walk up and tear off a piece of bread. Because our church was new to this type of Last Supper service, people were shy about taking bread, and everyone was tearing a tiny piece from the middle of the loaf, leaving a large overhang of crust. My dad, who was just ahead of me, thought he should remedy the situation and tore his off the top of the loaf, to clean things up a bit. He ended up tearing off (in my memory, at least) a 5″ by 5″ piece of crust. He gets a little smirk on his face and moves on. I stifle a chortle, take my bread and juice and sit down. When I get back to the pew, he’s still eating. The rest of the service was completely lost on me, some of it because he was still eating for the rest of the service. My stomach and throat ached from not laughing. It still makes me smile all these years later when I think of it. My dad passed away several years ago, and that Maundy Thursday remains my fondest memory of him.
As I got older, I got a little bit better at keeping a straight face during funny, surprising, or even just awkward situations at church. Thankfully that’s the case, because today’s labyrinth walk was a lot different than I was expecting. I figured it was to be a guided meditation, perhaps with a history lesson. I have no idea why I thought that, but I did. Instead, it was completely quiet and very much like this:
Once I recovered from my initial surprise, I smiled at the person in charge who warmly greeted me and asked me if I was familiar with the labyrinth. When I said no, she quietly explained to me that it’s for meditation, there’s only one way in and one way out, and I was expected to complete the course. She said that it takes twenty minutes and welcomed me to pick up an inspirational verse from the table.
I couldn’t really leave by this point, so I hung up my coat, gulped down my coffee that I had brought with me, and walked in to the quiet area. I immediately regretted wearing boots and attempted to tread more quietly before stepping on the labyrinth.
I do not consider myself a super meditative person, but I appreciate that it has benefits for many people. For me, meditation is simply a quiet time of prayer either by myself or sometimes with others in a prayer service. I’m usually seated, but sometimes standing; I’m always still.
I had a hard time meditating while walking the labyrinth, but I certainly did not want to ruin the meditations of the seven or eight people that were walking on the labyrinth with me, so I kept my head down and made my way through. Instead of actually meditating, here’s what was going through my head:
- Slow down, girl; don’t rush the person ahead of you.
- This is a really cool geometric design. I wonder if I could draw this.
- My youngest would love walking along here, but talk about a distraction for the other walkers…
- Someone’s coming right at me. Did I mess up?
- Split the hazards, split the hazards–step right out of that woman’s way. Pause. Step left out of his way.
- I’m glad my kids aren’t here, or I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face.
- Do not kick that candle over; this old building will go up in minutes.
- Hey, she took off her shoes. I should have taken off these noisy boots.
- I’m almost done, and at least I don’t think I’ve ruined it for anyone else.
Once I got home, after a good self-deprecating chuckle with my family, I started feeling a little guilty that I wasn’t really meditating on the labyrinth. I then looked up “labyrinth walking” online. I found this interesting article along with many sites selling labyrinth related items and articles about various walks hosted by church groups and parks. Some were even advertised or described as “fun.”
Maybe if I had researched “labyrinth walk” before going, I would have done a better job meditating.
No, I think I probably would not have tried it at all.
After thinking about it for awhile, I decided that it was OK that I actually had fun doing my first labyrinth walk.
Good day, good walk.