labyrinth

San Francisco, Day 4

Grace Cathedral

The past few days I’ve been going at a very heavy pace, visiting as many places and meeting as many people as I possibly can. I’m only here for a week, so I feel compelled to make the most out of every minute. Today, however, I decided to slow down a bit. I’ve also decided to give myself and you, dear reader, a break. This won’t be an endless blog post, instead I’ll leave you with a few photographs of my visit to Grace Cathedral.

I chose Grace Cathedral for my day of rest because of its labyrinths. Those of you who have followed my journey might remember my first experience walking a labyrinth. I knew that walking a labyrinth, particularly one in such a magnificent sacred space as Grace Cathedral, would be just the thing to do for my teeming spirit and my tired body.

Thank you for reading along, and thank you for your kind comments, which I find both encouraging and thought-provoking.

NOTE: If you are on Instagram, be sure to follow me @storiesofdevotion for real-time updates and more pictures.

My view of the back of the cathedral as I approached from Jones Street. I walked some four of five of the steepest blocks I've ever known, only to be greeted by the Cathedral's backside!

My view of the back of the cathedral as I approached from Jones Street. I walked some four of five of the steepest blocks I’ve ever known, only to be greeted by the Cathedral’s backside!

The sanctuary.

A view of the sanctuary.

The rose window through the Ribbons of Light, a temporary art installation.

The rose window through the Ribbons of Light, a temporary art installation.

The labyrinth toward the entrance to the nave.  The photo doesn't do a good job of showing the size of this beautiful labyrinth.

The labyrinth toward the entrance to the nave. The photo doesn’t do a good job of showing the size of this beautiful labyrinth.

At the entrance to the AIDS Interfaith Memorial Chapel.

At the entrance to the AIDS Interfaith Memorial Chapel.

The labyrinth outside, with beautiful views of the city.

The labyrinth outside, with beautiful views of the city.

A magnificent cathedral and a respite for the spirit.

A magnificent cathedral and a respite for the spirit.

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PLACES: The Labyrinth

A generous invitation.

A generous invitation.

Today, as I was driving back home from an interview a particular church sign caught my attention. It wasn’t a clever play on words and it wasn’t a Bible verse either. It simply said, “Come walk our labyrinth.” I was interested and briefly considered coming back another day, but then I thought, “Why not do it now?” So I decided to turn around and accept the invitation.

During my time in the Episcopal Church I learned a little bit about contemplative prayer and I remember learning a thing or two about the labyrinth. But I had never actually walked one. As I pulled into the parking lot of Indian Heights United Methodist Church, I realized I had no clue how to actually walk a labyrinth. I pulled out my iPhone and did a Google search for “walking the labyrinth.” I skimmed through the first few pages…labyrinths have been around for over 4000 years…contemplative prayer…set your intention…meditative walking…and so on. And then I wondered if this church had instructions on their website… Ta-da! Just what I needed, a detailed yet brief explanation of their labyrinth and instructions on how to use it. I read everything on the labyrinth page and I read the PDF guide, “How to Walk the Labyrinth.” I was ready to try it for myself.

Follow the sign.

Follow the sign.

The labyrinth is beautiful. It is behind the church, across from the parking lot. As you approach it, you notice the care with which it has been landscaped. Per the instructions, I sat on the bench outside the labyrinth to prepare for my walk. I turned off my phone, sat quietly and stilled my mind. After a couple of minutes I began my walk, slowly pacing my steps, one intentionally following the next. Right step, “be still…” Left step, “and know.” The instructions suggest using a prayer or a verse as a mantra to keep yourself centered, this has always been one of my favorites, “be still and know.”

Prepare before entering.

Prepare before entering.

Walking intentionally is not easy. It feels unnatural at first. When I walk, I’m usually trying to get to my destination as quickly as possible. On the labyrinth, the practice is to do quite the opposite. Walking the labyrinth was a centering experience, physically and spiritually. As I made my way to the center, because of the way the path is arranged, there were times when I was closer to the middle and then closer to the outside. And isn’t that the way life goes? When I walked near the outside, the center seemed so distant, and yet I was closer to the perfume of the flowers along the perimeter. The sun was warm and gentle on my back, there was a light breeze every now and then, and I could hear the birds chirping and singing around me. I reached the center and felt engulfed with gratitude for the gift of a moment, for the respite of one breath. After a few minutes in the center, I made my way back out, at the same even pace with which I walked in. Thirty minutes after I had read that sign, “Come walk our labyrinth,” I was back in my car, on my way. But I was not the same. And all I did was accept a generous invitation.

This labyrinth is a custom designed, seven-circuit pattern, based on the classic Cretan Labyrinth.

This labyrinth is a custom designed, seven-circuit pattern, based on the classic Cretan Labyrinth.

YOU TOO CAN WALK THE LABYRINTH!
Indian Heights United Methodist Church
10211 Nall Ave
Overland Park, KS 66207
The labyrinth is open to the public 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
I invite you to read this and this before you visit.