Michael Ellis: Labyrinth

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Michael Ellis discovers that a labyrinth is far more than an elaborate maze.

In 1996, early one Sunday morning, I went to Grace Cathedral and discovered my first labyrinth. There are two of them, one outside and the other inside identical copies of the famous one in France. I had no preconceived notions of what to expect. I just knew from a friend that you walked it and it was cool.

I didn't have much time and parking was difficult but I rushed in and found the indoor one. I took off my shoes and started walking it. I soon realized that it would take me a while to do. I started thinking that I had parked in an illegal place and maybe my car would get towed. I hadn't allowed enough time for this. I was supposed to be at some friends for breakfast at 8:30 and then I had a hike to lead at 10 and I wasn't really prepared. My mind was full of clutter and my head was ringing as I walked around the path. I was all alone in a big room but I could hear muted singing and prayer from next door. It sounded so nice. But damn it where was the center? I had to get to it and leave. Now I realized I was committed to the path, I couldn't stop now. I just couldn't walk out across the labyrinth but I had places to go, important things to do.

Then I began to slow down, realizing that this wasn't the point of the labyrinth. I was supposed to pay attention to my walking and not let all this other stuff interfere, so I did, just watched one step in front of the other, my breathing slowed and almost immediately I found myself in the center, the light shining on me. I closed my eyes and immersed myself in this place, a wonderful peace suffused me, I bathed myself in it and then slowly walked back out ... knowing with my body that it didn't really matter if my car was towed or I was a few minutes late for breakfast or all of the things I had planned in my life had not come out as I wanted, that the point was to take one conscious and mindful step at a time and the rest will take care of itself.

And like nearly everyone I’ve had my yearlong share of struggles, especially recently. I still walk labyrinths, hundreds of them, and always find peace in the journey and faith in the not knowing.

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This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Michael Ellis is a naturalist. He lives in Santa Rosa.