Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Walking with an open heart and an open mind

Spiritual journey / Walking the indoor labyrinth at Grace Cathedral.

When was the last time you went for a good walk? 

If you had to think about this question for more than a few seconds, it's probably been a long time since you enjoyed a good walk. Am I right?

In our hurried lives, it's often quicker to complete our journey from A to B by car, taxi, bus or subway -- even though it may cost more money and leave a bigger carbon footprint. Sometimes, though, you just need to break away from routine, get out on foot, and walk.

Chances are good that you just might be surprised by what you see and how it makes you feel.

Recently, on a crisp, late-autumn night, my wife and I enjoyed meandering around the Union Square and SOMA (South of Market Street) districts of San Francisco -- and we zig-zagged about on foot. We ventured into "The City" via light-rail BART (leaving our car behind in Oakland) so we could admire the Christmas tree and holiday lights adorning Union Square this time of the year. Our itinerary also included stops to see the Adopt-a-Pet window display at Macy's and also to walk peacefully through Yerba Buena Gardens, where we stopped in front of the the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial and waterfall.

On this night, each of our destinations in The City provided much visual beauty and spiritual enjoyment.

Another kind of walk that I believe is always worth taking, no matter the time of year, is to follow the path of a labyrinth. In colloquial English, according to Wikipedia, "labyrinth is generally synonymous with maze, but many contemporary scholars observe a distinction between the two: maze refers to a complex branching (multicursal) puzzle with choices of path and direction; while a single-path (unicursal) labyrinth has only a single, non-branching path, which leads to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not designed to be difficult to navigate."

Recently, a resurgence of interest in the labyrinth symbol has inspired a revival in labyrinth building around the world. This interest has also spread from literature to movies, even video games.

I've been blessed to walk the unicursal labyrinths at Grace Cathedral several times (there is one inside the cathedral as well as outside on the cathedral plaza) as well as the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France. I encourage everyone to walk a labyrinth path at least once in their lives -- even if your travels don't take you to either San Francisco or France. You may be surprised to find a labyrinth close to where you live.

The Grace Cathedral website has an entire section devoted to labyrinths. In it, it says: "The path winds throughout and becomes a mirror for where we are in our lives. It touches our sorrows and releases our joys. Walk it with an open mind and an open heart." The cathedral hosts a monthly candlelight labyrinth walk with music and also hosts yoga classes held on the indoor labyrinth.

Indeed, labyrinth walks are an opportunity -- a perfect time -- for you to reflect, pray, and meditate on peace. Within yourself, your community, and your world, too.

To learn more about labyrinths, read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labyrinth 

To learn more about the Grace Cathedral labyrinth, read: http://www.gracecathedral.org/visit/labyrinth/

Photograph of the Grace Cathedral indoor labyrinth by Michael Dickens, copyright 2011. 

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