Well, it’s almost the beginning of December, so this means it’s the start of my blogging Advent calendar. I try to write every day and my goal is something meaningful and reflective about this special time of year. Hey, let’s face it: sometimes I just write about the movie Elf or travel or books or music. So it’s really a grab bag of ideas and each day you don’t know what you’re going to get! Usually, there’s a musical tie-in because that’s just how I roll–I love finding a connection between what I write and a song or passage. So I hope you will make time each day to check in and travel along on the Advent journey together!
Today I’m starting off with a theme for this year’s Advent calendar, and it’s going to be called Advent 2015: Learning to Walk. Here’s the back story:
December 2002—my husband was flying US Airways and thumbing through Attache, the in-flight magazine. He stumbled on an article and recognized the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth. So he read on and then came to a stunning realization: we were there when the magazine was there and in fact we are IN one of the photos! We were fortunate to stumble on the cathedral on a Friday in May 2002 where the chairs were moved and the labyrinth was available. Although the Chartres labyrinth is usually covered by chairs, it is traditionally uncovered every Friday from 10 am to 5 pm from Lenten season (usually around end of February) to around November 1st.
The labyrinth is an amazing experience! You can’t help but think you are breathing in history in this holy, hallowed ground since the Chartres Cathedral dtaes back to the early 1200’s. Upon discovering the labyrinth, we left the cathedral to get our friends and when we came back, we let our daughter, who was learning to walk, cruise around the labyrinth with us. Our experience fit perfectly with the title the Attache author chose: “Learning to Walk.”
Why Walk a Labyrinth?
Labyrinth walking in an ancient practice used by many different faiths for spiritual centering, contemplation and prayer. But don’t call it a maze! It has only one path to the center and back out, which is the meaning of the term unicursal (one line).
The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress is a leading authority on labyrinths in her Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice:
The labyrinth is a sacred pattern, an ancient mystical tool that can help us quiet the mind and create a space for self-ressurection and prayer. Labyrinths are usually in the form of a circle with a meandering but purposeful path, from the edge to the center, large enough to be walked. The labyrinth is an archetype, a divine imprint, found in most religious traditions in various forms around the world…By walking a replica of the Chartres style labyrinth, laid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral around 1201, and replicated at Grace Cathedral [in San Francisco], a long-forgotten mystical tradition is insisting to be reborn. It is a spiritual practice meant to awaken us to the deep rhythms that unite us to ourselves, our communities and to the Wisdom that beckons.
So maybe you can’t travel to France or San Francisco, but rest assured, there is probably a labyrinth near you! Find one near you using the Labyrinth Locator.
How to Walk the Labyrinth:
The Sacred Labyrinth Walk website gives excellent guidance on how to approach your walk. First, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to walk a labyrinth. A good mantra is to “quiet the mind, open the heart.” Labyrinth walks are sometimes referred to as “body prayer” or walking meditation. A walk can have three component parts, and although no one will hold you to these, it is a good way to approach a walk:
Part One: “The entrance can be a place to stop, reflect, make prayer or intention for the spiritual walk you are about to take. The walk around the design to the center can be a ‘letting go’ –a quieting of the thoughts, worries, lists of tasks to do, a letting go unto the experience of being present in the body.”
Part Two: “Arrival at the center rosette – a place of prayer/meditation – ‘letting in’ God’s guidance, the divine into our lives.”
Part Three: “When ready, the walk out–‘letting out’–takes us back into our lives, empowered by spirit to transform our lives and actions.”
Slow Down this Advent:
The message of the labyrinth may as well be one from our Father Himself: just slow down and walk and focus on me. I’ve got you. I must admit, even with a tiny one in tow, the labyrinth walk was a stirring, emotional one. I’ve since done one at our church as part of a youth retreat. And I just found out about an outdoor one nearby that I can’t wait to try!
This Advent, I need to be more about walking…no need to run at the normal breakneck pace or feel like I need to do it all. I need to slow down and take a breath and focus on the walk. My walk–with Him, with my family, with my friends, with everyone I encounter. I suspect you might need to walk more too. I’m going to print a few copies of the labryrinth symbol as a reminder to slow down. Maybe the labyrinth steps can help us this Advent:
Letting go: no, we aren’t talking the song from Frozen! Instead, what do I need to let go of today?
Letting in: Take the time to pray, meditate, and listen. I’ll admit, this will be my weakness. But I’m determined to make the effort.
Letting out: what will I do now that I’ve finished my spiritual walk for the day?
I hope that you will share your thoughts by commenting. And hey, I could use some accountability partners! Plus, I’d love to know what things you’d like to talk about this Advent season. Let’s do this!