In San Francisco last week, I had a chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do…I walked a labyrinth. A labyrinth is an ancient pattern, sometimes incorrectly described as a maze. A labyrinth differs from a maze in that it has only one path and there are no dead ends. The oldest known examples date back five thousand years to the Isle of Crete. In Christian prayer life, the labyrinth entered during the Middle Ages when it was incorporated into cathedrals across Europe. Today, people around the world use the labyrinth to quiet the mind, find balance, and encourage meditation, insight, and celebration.
The labyrinth I walked was at Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill. In 2007, an inlaid limestone labyrinth was laid inside the cathedral. The outdoor terrazzo labyrinth was dedicated in 1995 and is the centerpiece of an award-winning meditation garden at the church. The stages of the labyrinth walk are first, purgation (releasing) where you shed thoughts and distractions and let go of the details of your life. As you walk into the labyrinth, you open your heart and quiet your mind and become aware of your breathing. At the center, you may sit or stand as long as you like and meditate or pray, allowing yourself to receive guidance (illumination). To leave the center, you follow the same path back out finding union (returning). You may find a strange sense of strengthening and clarity and become more empowered to find and do the work you feel your soul calling for.
Walking the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral was a wonderful experience for me. It was so peaceful walking barefoot on the warm marble path with nothing to do but meditate and pray. If you’re in San Francisco, I recommend it as a relaxing, inspirational way to spend about half an hour amid the frantic pace of the city.