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Rebecca Gallo is trying to put into practice the lessons she learned while walking The Camino. Follow along as she continues her spiritual journey — whatever that might mean.

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December 5th, 2012

Life: A Labyrinth or a Maze?

 
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I punched a zip code into the labyrinth locater. Jackpot! The search returned two labyrinths in Asheville, North Carolina. The first was at a Catholic church, but I wasn’t ready to step foot in one of those at this point in my life. The second was an outdoor labyrinth at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. It was a mere one-and-a-half mile walk from my temporary home. The next morning, I headed out in search of this circle of stones, eager to walk the labyrinth and hear what it had to tell me.

My body fills with a comfort upon seeing a labyrinth. For those that have never walked one, know that it is not a maze. There are no wrong turns in a labyrinth. There’s a definitive starting point with just one path to follow — and that path is guaranteed to lead you to the center. If only life were so simple.

Instructions for “how” to walk a labyrinth vary. I tend to use the method I learned the first time I was introduced to these circular paths:

  • I pause at the start to think of the question into which I’d like some insight.
  • I walk the path at my own pace. If there are others walking the labyrinth, I pass them quietly or let them pass me.
  • At the center, I pause. I spend as much time there as I’d like, reflecting, listening, then I follow the path back out.
  • When finished, I like to turn around, face the labyrinth, and send up a prayer of thanks.

That morning, I stood between the two large stones standing sentinel over the entrance. I was having trouble coming up with a question, so I finally just asked, “What do you want to tell me?”

I’d rather look at life as a labyrinth than a maze. A maze brings thoughts of frustration — I can’t see where I’ve been, nor get a big picture view. A labyrinth gives me a sense of peace. Everything I encounter ultimately leads me toward the center. I can look out to see the big picture, or put my head down and focus on staying on the path.

As I started my walk to the center, I thought about how I’d rather look at life as a labyrinth than a maze. A maze brings thoughts of frustration — at reaching dead ends, getting lost, not knowing which way to go. Mazes have high walls — so I can’t see where I’ve been, nor get a big picture view.

A labyrinth, however, gives me a sense of peace. Everything I encounter ultimately leads me toward the center. I can move forward, or pause. I can look out to see the big picture, or put my head down and focus on staying on the path. There is no pressure to find my way — the way is there for me, if I just look around. Sometimes I pass by places I’ve already been — seeing them from a different view. Sometimes the destination seems so close, but then a turn in the path takes me further from it, until I find myself — sometimes almost unexpectedly — at the center. There, I take the time to pause and reflect.

As I walked the labyrinth that day, the word “journey” kept coming to me. I thought about the journey I’d been on over the last year. A journey that took me from my home state of New York to the mountains of Western North Carolina to Italy and finally to Spain to walk the Camino to Santiago.

I realized that so many aspects of my life follow this labyrinthine path — my work life, my family life, my love life, my spiritual life. But many times I feel like I’m in a maze: frustrated with no idea where to go next, which path I should take.

Many of you followed me on my journey to Santiago. Now, I invite you to follow me on my continued spiritual journey — whatever that might mean. Some days it feels like a maze, other days like a labyrinth. I’ll share with you the stops I make along the way, beliefs I find myself considering, questions I ask, experiences I have, people I meet.

Come, join me.


Does your spiritual journey feel like a maze or a labyrinth? Or something else entirely?

 
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The Author : Rebecca Gallo
In the spring of 2012, Rebecca Gallo spent six weeks walking the Camino to Santiago. Rebecca writes about putting into practice the lessons she learned on that journey. She's continuing her spiritual journey -- looking for deeper meaning, asking questions of all she's believed before, and finding answers in the people she meets and the experiences she has along the way.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.colgate Brian Forbes Colgate

    I noticed and followed a link to this page while reading an article on Advent by Fr Tom Gibbons. First I immediately followed the link to the Labyrinth Finder … I did not find any in my home town, but found close to 100 in Ontario, Canada, where I live. Then, bonus, I read the rest of your article to learn of your journey to Santiago! This is the third article about the Camino that has been handed to me today … i.e., not one that I’d gone looking for on my own. I am currently walking, alternately, 18 and 32 km walks in my preparation for my own journey next year, starting in Lourdes, and walking to Santiago, then on to Fisterra and Muxía. Thank you for all your insights! Blessings, Brian

    • Rebecca Gallo

      I love when things happen like that Brian – and I find it happens more when we become aware of it. I’m excited about your upcoming pilgrimage to Santiago. It was a life-changing trip for me. If you do a search on bustedhalo.com, you’ll find a few of us have written about our own walks to Santiago. Good luck!

    • Rebecca

      Hello Brian – Good luck on your journey to Santiago. As you may know, a few of us here have walked The Way and written about it on this site. In the search bar at the top of the page, you can type “Camino” and our recollections, stories, and insights will come up. Buen Camino:)

  • http://www.facebook.com/sue.ballew Sue Bacon Ballew

    Rebecca, I shared your quote about looking at life as a labryinth rather than a maze on my Facebook wall. And copied the link to this page. I thought this was appropos for where I was on my spiritual journey. The labyrinth site was interesting, but did not bring up the retreat center I went to in October in Belleville, Illinois at Our Lady of the Snows (King’s House). I walked my first labyrinth there. Your article brought me right to that day….thank you. Sue

    • Rebecca Gallo

      Thank you for sharing my words with others, Sue. I’m happy the article brought back a good memory for you. There is an option on the Labyrinth Locator to “add a labyrinth,” so you might want to look into that for the one you mentioned.

    • Rebecca

      Thank you for sharing my words with others, Sue. I’m happy the article brought back a good memory for you. There is an option on the Labyrinth Locator to “add a labyrinth,” so you might want to look into that for the one you mentioned.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.cox.16752 Bob Cox

    I would like share experiences on our spiritual journeys. Maybe when we are up in the mountains again!

  • Linda Mastro`

    Thanks for this reminder that life can be both maze and labyrinth, depending on where we find ourselves and how we respond to what shows up.

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