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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chartres labyrinth

When I return to Chartres cathedral on Friday, the atmosphere seems different. No Gregorian chant, no organ, no incense. Catholicism has retreated for the day. There are still tourists about; guidebooks in hand, peering up at the stained glass windows and gothic arches, often oblivious to the designs in the stone floor. But the change is unmistakeable. The chairs have been moved apart and the full labyrinth revealed. There's nothing magic or esoteric here, just the squeak of rubber soles on the stones unperturbed by 800 years of footsteps. The labyrinth design is a single pathway into the center and back out again. It is a metaphor for the human journey - long, exacting, twisting and turning, leading each of us to the same place, while allowing each of us our own interpretation.

I find peace in this walking meditation. I find my own breath slowing, deepening, I am aware of the ground; the earth reaching up through the stone. Reaching up? Or I am reaching down? I feel connected, grounded. Each time I walk a labyrinth, different images, thoughts, and feelings arise. Almost always, I feel a deep sense of gratitude - simply for the gift of life. I've discovered that I have to right to follow my unique path, and this allows me to let go and let others find their own way.

It wasn't until last summer, tagging along with Carol, that I first encountered a labyrinth of any sort. There is a labyrinth in downtown Boulder in the basement of the Methodist church. It is a replica of the Chartres labyrinth.
I never anticipated the effect it would have on me. And ever since that time I've wanted to come to Chartres and experience the original.

I don't attend church. I was baptised Catholic but don't believe in papal infallibility or other rigid dogma espoused by the Catholic church. Buddhism appeals to me more than most belief systems. But I am not a practicing anything. However, labyrinths move me. They allow me to slow down, open up, and receive.

And it's not always serious! Sometimes, my thoughts have me laughing out loud. And today, while deep in my own thoughts, I saw the little boy with his plastic sword and shield on his way to slay a dragon or two, and I thought of my son Eric at that age.

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