Friday, March 30, 2007

exit the labyrinth

I walked the labyrinth at All Saints Episcopal church in Pasadena yesterday morning. For Lent the church had unrolled a canvas labyrinth in the north transept of their sanctuary. The experience is basically a walking meditation. I appreciate the physicality of the experience, the constant action of putting your feet down and picking them up serves to keep me awake and focused on the moment, and to center the experience in my body, rather than flights of mentality, which is where I tend to go.

And the labyrinth lays out an actual journey inviting metaphors of spiritual movement, from outside, or surface, in toward the center, or the heart, or deepening, and then out again. The meanders of the path map nicely on to metaphors of the twists and turns and seeming set backs of the spiritual journey. I especially enjoy the way the path initially seems to dive right to the heart of the labyrinth, like the initial ease of progress that often accompanies the beginning stages of a difficult task. But the first campaign slightly misses the mark and then turns away and only after many steps of seemingly mis-directed work leads back to the goal.

The church had laid out the labyrinth for Lent, which made me wonder whether the experience was really appropriate. Lent is a journey toward Easter. But at Easter the journey is suddenly, and spectacularly concluded. So if Lent is the labyrinth path and Easter is the center, then there seems to be no analog for the return path out of the labyrinth. And if Easter is instead placed at the exit to the labyrinth, then what experience in the middle of Lent matches the space at the center of the labyrinth? What actually is the goal of the labyrinth: to reach the middle, or to walk in and out? What is the goal of spirituality: to experience ecstasy, and stay there, or to go deeply in and then return, transformed?

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