“Our lives are an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn. That there is no end in nature but every end is a beginning.”

                                                              ~  Ralph Waldo Emerson

I spent part of May 5 walking in circles. Sometimes such circuitous movement is a result of confusion and frustration, or it’s evidence of procrastination. But that day, my circling was intentional.


Three years ago, the Labyrinth Society, an international organization founded in 1998, designated the first Saturday in May as World Labyrinth Day. I learned about this commemoration from friends Susie and Nick Teague.  In 2006, they founded Whispers of Nature and since then have been developing an outdoor labyrinth. In honor of the global labyrinth event, Susie and Nick invited the public to walk the unique maze they’ve created.


While the precise origin of the labyrinth is unknown, the earliest datable labyrinth was built in Greece around 1300 B.C. This ancient tool for walking meditation can be found in schools, prisons, parks, hospitals, spas, churches, and retreat centers.  Many labyrinths around the world replicate the one laid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France around 1200 A.D.  It has eleven circuits, or concentric circles, with a twelfth, at the center, in the shape of a six-petaled rosette. The labyrinth at Whispers of Nature has seven circuits, surrounded by a medicinal herb and flower garden.

Whatever its design, the labyrinth is viewed as a metaphor for life’s journey.


There is no magic formula, no “right” way to walk a labyrinth.  It’s a mystical practice of the simple action of putting one foot in front of the other, following the labyrinth’s unexpected turns, and ending up at the center. A sign at the Whispers of Nature labyrinth offers simple instructions:

“Follow the single path in and out.  You may use it as a walking meditation, play music, or sing.  Your walk may be joyous, quiet, thoughtful or celebratory.  Choose your intention each time you walk.”

On World Labyrinth Day, I walked with intention and attention for three friends who are on their own walks with cancer, visualizing them held in a circle of love.

Sunshine glistened off the glass ornaments in the garden, and the wind whispered through the lavender, poppies, calendula, tulips, mint, and dozens of other plants I couldn’t identify. As always happens for me when I walk a labyrinth, I had moments of being uncertain of the route, of thinking I’d missed a turn, and then resting in the knowledge that the path would guide me if I trust it, slow down, and let go.


When I returned home, a copy of  Western Friend waited in my mailbox; the issue’s theme – “Friends on Aging and Dying.”  The magazine fell open to “Every End Is A Beginning,” an essay by Susan Tweit, recounting her husband’s death from brain cancer.  The title is taken from the Emerson quote above.  I can’t imagine a more fitting thought to carry forward from my walk on World Labyrinth Day—and every day.


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Comment by Cathy Barney on 5th mo. 16, 2012 at 11:29am

Labyrinths are my favorite, Iris! I just moved into a studio space in a re-purposed school in my neighborhood. One goal is to open a nurturing art exploration for neighborhood under-served kids. My dream is to, eventually, create some sort of labyrinth. Kids really get the idea and I have witnessed some amazing transformations when they walk ... thanks for the wonderful reminder!

-- Cathy


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