Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Labyrinth Surprises, a Post by Nancy L. Agneberg

I walked a labyrinth today. 

A labyrinth is an ancient sacred design with a simple pathway leading to and from a center on a single path. Unlike a maze, in which you can get lost, there are no tricks and no short cuts in a labyrinth. The way in is the way out. 

The Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool
The spiritual practice of walking a labyrinth allows the mind to relax and become aware. By meditatively walking a labyrinth we can be led to ourselves and therefore, to a deeper relationship with God, the Sacred, the Divine. Walking a labyrinth can create balance and calm within or can mend your heart and help you find wholeness and healing. As you experience a labyrinth, you are invited to discover the sacred in everyday life. 

Choosing to Walk a  Labyrinth Today
As preparation for retirement, my husband and I have a plan: sell our home here in Madison and instead, rent an apartment here until he retires fully. At the same time we intend to buy a home in St Paul where the majority of our friends and family, including my 90 year old father, live.  A clear plan, but apparently, not so easy to accomplish. 

Our home has been on the market for well over a year. We have had more showings than I care to acknowledge. We have lowered the price more than once. We have had many people express interest, but the magic has not happened, and we are weary and discouraged. We need a break. 

Along with this ongoing stress, my father has had two surgeries recently, and we are in the process of moving him from his home of 40 plus years to a senior living apartment. He is willing and eager to do that, but all of you who have had this experience know the challenges. I repeat, we are weary and discouraged and we need a break! 

Today we took our house off the market. 

Today seemed a good day to walk a labyrinth.

Today's Labyrinth Experience

Madison Christian Community, located not far from our home, has an outdoor labyrinth, and that's where I headed. I must admit I didn't expect to see a labyrinth that appeared so untended and bare, but I mused that the state of the labyrinth might match my inner spirit at the moment. I stood on a slight hill above the labyrinth and thought about how easy it is to lose one's way, and I prayed I could find my center once again. 

Before walking the labyrinth, I sat on a nearby bench and thought about what I hoped to gain or learn as I walked. How marvelous it would be if the labyrinth were a fortune-teller gazing into a crystal ball. "My dear, I see a new house in your future. You will sell your home soon, very soon. Trust me." Instead, I prayed that this quiet time would help me restore some spiritual balance in my life. That I could find my own rhythm again. That this symbolic pilgrimage would help me build strength and energy for the months ahead. That I could be assured that our hopes and dreams, our plan, will be fulfilled. A lot to ask, and then I wrote in my journal one more request:

                       To be surprised. 

More than One Surprise.  

 Usually, when I walk a labyrinth it takes time to find my own rhythm and not feel wobbly on the narrow path. Normally, one is advised to walk the labyrinth slowly and deliberately, and that can take some focus and concentration. This time, however, I was surprised at how fully at ease I felt on the path. My arms hung easily and naturally at my sides, and I just walked as if I were strolling along my familiar neighborhood sidewalks. That was surprise #1.

Surprise #2 was discovering the clarity of this path. From a distance I had wondered if I would be able to find my way, for it looked so overgrown. Would I be able to see where to turn, for example? I was relieved to see how clear and distinct the path really was in spite of the weeds. I noted, however, my desire to tend the path, remove the dandelions, neaten the way. No surprise there!

Surprise #3 was how quickly I arrived at the approach to the center of the labyrinth. In past experiences I have been astounded by how long it seems to take to reach the center. I usually wonder if I have lost my way and may even have repeated part of the path. Often, when it seems I am almost there, the path swings further away from the center, and I begin to feel as if the center will never be attained. That was not true this time. I was so surprised when I arrived at the center before I expected to be there. 

 Entering the inner circle, I heard words whispered within, "Be prepared to be surprised." Being prepared and being surprised seem like opposites, but at the same time being prepared can mean being open to whatever surprises occur on the path. 

 As I walked out of the labyrinth, retracing the way in, I gave myself credit for being more balanced than I had been feeling, and I felt more energized and stronger than when I had started. I reminded myself to experience fully the path beneath my feet right now and to remember that what is worthwhile is not necessarily neat and well-tended. I rejoiced in the surprise.  

An Invitation
If you have walked a labyrinth, I would love to know your experience. I invite you to leave a comment. 

If you have not walked a labyrinth and would like to do so, here is how you can locate a labyrinth near you. Labyrinth Locator

I have written about previous labyrinth experiences before on my blogs. You may want to read Walking the Labyrinth at Chartres and Take Your Soul for a Walk.


  1. Yes I have walked a labyrinth.

    After a few times, I felt it necessary to create a labyrinth which is something since I am a professional writer and not a professional artist or even an amatuer artist. It is a "Butterfly Grief Labyrinth" based upon Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ “Five Stages of Grief”. Recently, I finally saw an interpretation of my design become a reality at a local retreat center.

  2. How marvelous--gratifying, too, and I can only imagine how meaningful it must be for those who walk it. I would love to see a picture or have you send a link so others can see it as well. Anything more you care to add about the process or the use of your labyrinth design would be most welcome. Thank you so much for your comment.


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