The Berea College Labyrinth

Rev. Loretta Reynolds

Rev. Loretta Reynolds

The last 5 weeks have been…strange.  Classes, meetings, grading, conferences, and worship services are virtual—reaching out to connect with others from our kitchen tables, basements, and bedroom make-shift offices.  In the last few weeks, we have experienced the grief of unfulfilled dreams of graduation celebrations, being geographically separated from friends, losing the personal interaction of the classroom, and many have had to grieve the loss of a loved one without the usual comforting rituals.  As unusual as things have been in the past few weeks, life has a way of also continuing to remind us of beauty—babies have been born, couples have gotten married, spring flowers have graced us with a riot of color, and lessons have been learned.  Doing things differently has encouraged us to learn new skills, has reminded us to appreciate simple freedoms like buying groceries and sitting down in a restaurant, and we are being given the opportunity to apply Jesus’ instruction to love our neighbor by going the second mile (or in this case, by staying at home!).

These weeks of doing things differently gives us an opportunity to discern how our spiritual practices can help us learn and grow while we are living and working in this strange land.  Regardless of your religion or if you have no religious tradition, one spiritual tool that is available to all is the labyrinth.

The CCC had planned to have a World Religion Celebration Week April 13-17.  Our different religious student groups were going to take part in teaching us more about their traditions.  And on Thursday April 16th, we were set to have a formal dedication of our new labyrinth.  It was going to be a special day.  We were looking forward to President Roelofs being present as well as some of our new Board of Trustee members.  Oh well…the best laid plans!  But, as is true in so many areas of our lives right now, we are learning how to be creative, and flexible, and do things in different ways.  So I’m taking this opportunity to share with you a little information about the history of labyrinths and how they can be used for meditation and prayer.

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol, dating back more than 4000 years, and is found in almost every religion.  The meandering, but purposeful path, is a metaphor for life and a meditative tool.  At its most basic level the labyrinth is a guide for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.

A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is like a puzzle to be solved. It has twists, turns, and blind alleys. It requires logical, sequential, analytical activity to find the correct path into the maze and out.  A labyrinth has only one path. The way in is the way out. There are no blind alleys. The path leads you on a circuitous path to the center and out again.
A labyrinth involves intuition, creativity, and imagery.  With a maze many choices must be made and an active mind is needed to solve the problem of finding the center.  With a labyrinth there is only one choice to be made.  The choice is to enter or not. The choice is whether or not to walk a spiritual path.

Student Chaplains at the Labyrinth

If you are in Berea, I invite you to try the labyrinth.  With only one person in the labyrinth at a time, it is a meditation/prayer tool that may assist in calming the busyness of our minds and spirits.  There is no right way to walk a labyrinth.  You only have to enter and follow the path. Your walk can encompass a variety of attitudes; happy, sad, seeking, thoughtful, prayerful or questioning.  Building a labyrinth creates a sacred space. The more a labyrinth is used the more powerful it becomes as a symbol of transformation, contemplation, or prayer.  Each experience in the labyrinth is unique; it depends on what each person brings to it.

If you would like more information on the history and use of labyrinths, you can check out these resources:

The Labyrinth Builders: A Brief History of The Labyrinth

Ancient History Encyclopedia: Labyrinth

If you choose to try the labyrinth, I would love to hear from you!  I will warn you…it may seem a little odd at first.  You may feel self-conscious or just not know what to do.  But like with any new discipline, it takes practice.  Here are a few general guidelines you might find helpful as you get started.

Focus: Pause and wait at the entrance. Become quiet and centered. Give acknowledgment through a bow, nod, or other gesture and then enter.
Experience: Walk purposefully. Observe the process. When you reach the center, stay there and focus several moments. Leave when it seems appropriate. Be attentive on the way out.
Exit: Turn and face the entrance. Give an acknowledgement of ending, such as “Amen.”
Reflect: After walking the labyrinth reflect back on your experience. Use journaling or drawing to capture your experience.
Walk often.

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