Day 22: Labyrinth Walking

December 19, 2021

A friend walking the labyrinth, February 2018

Day 22: Labyrinth Walking

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? Or, seen a labyrinth? If you check out “labyrinth” on your laptop or smartphone, chances are you will find the labyrinth set in the floor of the Gothic cathedral in Chartres, France. (I would love to make a pilgrimage to that cathedral and walk that labyrinth. But, that is another branch on the Tree of Contemplative Practices.) This particular labyrinth (similar to a maze, with a circuitous path) is based on a circle with a winding path to the center.

I was introduced to labyrinth walking by a professor at my seminary. In my second year, I took a spiritual formation course on prayer and several other spiritual exercises. All of us class members gathered together at a retreat center to immerse ourselves into prayer practices.

Our professor had a canvas labyrinth laid out in one of the large rooms at the retreat center. He had the lights down low, and some electronic candles lit at intervals around the circumference. He had our class read an article on the historical use of labyrinths in meditation and prayer before we arrived at the center, so we all had a basic introduction. We walked both in small groups and alone, during that weekend. I immediately took to this practice of prayer walking and prayer in motion. It is a different kind of praying and contemplation, and I cannot do the same thing the same way all the time. I appreciate having some variety, so I relished learning many different ways to encounter God in prayer.

As I said before, I can’t exactly explain how or why the time in that retreat center was especially graced, but it was. I felt our time away was particularly blessed by God.

When I returned home, I found an outdoor labyrinth nearby my house, at a Catholic property in Chicago. I would walk it occasionally, and it was almost always a breath of fresh air for my spirit. A few times I had more difficulty connecting to the Holy, but I was obedient and continued in the spiritual practice, even though I did not “feel” such a direct connection to God that time. And, as my professor let us know, that was okay. It is okay to be at different places in the spiritual path at different times. Sometimes nearer, sometimes further away.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to make my own canvas labyrinth. Perhaps I will talk more about that in some other post. (The process of making it was greatly satisfying, and great fun, too!) It was about two thirds the size of my professor’s labyrinth, so a little more transportable.

Labyrinths make a wonderful change of prayer and contemplation. People can be so inventive – just look at all the contemplative practices here. Thank God for creativity.

Thank You, God, for labyrinths. Thank You for the opportunities I have had to walk them. Encourage those who read this post to walk them, too.

 @chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )

Day 2: Quieting the mind

Missouri Botanic Garden, December 2019 – photo credit Elizabeth Jones

November 29, 2021

Day 2: Quieting the mind

It’s so difficult to hear anything in a crowded room full of people talking. Competing voices, sounds, all kinds of ruckus and noise. Do you want to turn down the sound level, like turning down the car radio?

Sure, sound can be that way in the external world. However, I am thinking of the internal world – the interior space within each of us. How can we clear away the sound, the noise, and even prepare our internal, interior space for prayer? Contemplation, or meditation? This effort is the first thing I seek. I am not always able to get there, it is true, but I try.

As a marvelous writer on prayer and spirituality said, “For too long we have been in a far country: a country of noise and hurry and crowds, a country of climb and push and shove, a country of frustration and fear and intimidation.” [1] Richard Foster is so right. We need to set aside all that clutter and noise inside our heads, and between our ears, too.

Quieting the mind for me has some options, for sure. My favorite ones right now are first, taking deep breaths, in and out. That slows my heart rate, encourages me to sit up, sit straight, and stretch. Stretch my arms, shoulders, do shoulder circles (forward and back), and swivel or pivot my head and neck.

If you feel some muscle or place in your body or torso that feels like it needs to be stretched, by all means do it! Your body will thank you for stretching. And, your mind and spirit will appreciate the physical invitation into the presence of God.

Sometimes it can be enough to quiet the mind. Sure, these different contemplative practices can be so meaningful! But sometimes – it can be enough to have some inner stillness, to center oneself. Advent especially is a time of preparation and stillness. Ask God. The response can be clear. Praise God.

Please, pray with me. Dear God, thank You for this deep-down desire to quiet the mind. Thank You for help to become still enough to hear from You. Being in Your presence is so worth it! Remind me – remind us of that truth, please. In Jesus’ name we pray.


[1] Foster, Richard, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper: San Francisco, 1992), 1.


@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for the excellent image, the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )

Mission Statement

Have you ever felt fragmented and off kilter? I have.

To center myself and my mind, I have determined to journal every day, for the next few weeks. I found an excellent prompt (or series of prompts) – the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

I will be doing a daily Advent discipline of journaling each day in Advent 2021.

Contemplation, prayer and meditation help center and calm me. See whether these quiet practices might help you, too!

Want to join me on my journaling journey?