I’ll never forget the first time I walked a labyrinth.

It was in Maui on a week-long retreat, the first retreat I’d ever participated in. I’d gone to Maui to escape my life, and in doing so, I rediscovered myself.

If you’re not familiar with a labyrinth, it’s similar to a maze in that it’s a geometrically designed path with a clear entrance, a clear center, and a walkway by which you navigate. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is not designed to confuse or trick you – there’s a single path leading to the center, and the same path leads you out. In other words, you can never get lost. 

When you first step onto the labyrinth, you’re led towards the center. At the last moment, the path changes direction, leading you back outward again. Another change of direction, drawing you in. And again, a redirect leading you outward. 

If you’re anything like me, this can be extremely disconcerting. The mind wants to make sense of the pattern and, on this first tour around the labyrinth, my mind wanted to “win”. 

Almost immediately after setting foot on the labyrinth, I started to worry. “Am I doing this right? What if I somehow mess it up? Ack, I feel lost!” 

There’s a point on the path where it feels like you’re there – this time you’re going to reach the center! And then the path changes direction, leading you to the outermost circuit. 

The first time I walked the labyrinth, this part almost broke me. It seems silly, but I was so caught up in getting it right, that the disconcerting feeling that I’d somehow messed up was enough to make me want to step off the path and never set foot on another labyrinth again. 

It was only the fear of being embarrassed (did I mention there were other people walking the path with me?) that kept me from stepping off the path. I kept going, and after a few turns, found myself directly in the center.

For me, walking the labyrinth is a metaphor for the spiritual journey. 

There are times when I feel like I’m walking close to the Divine. I feel like the path is well-marked, I’m “on track”. I feel spiritually connected – like I’m in alignment. At these times, even if things aren’t going my way, I have a clear sense that things are going to be OK.

And then there are times when I feel like I’m moving in the complete opposite direction. I have a vague notion of what it feels like to be “centered” and “connected”, but it feels far away and I can’t see how I’ll ever find my way back. At these times, I feel like I’m floundering. I’m scattered, disconnected, unsure, and afraid. 

What I’ve come to understand is, this is the path. Sometimes I can feel the Divine presence in my life, and sometimes I can’t. The times where I can’t used to terrify me. I feared I’d lost it forever, and would never feel it again. There are times where it still terrifies me, where it feels so far away that I may never get back.

What I’m learning is that often when I’m farthest away, it’s right before I get drawn back in. And each time I draw back in, I go deeper and deeper into the beautiful mystery of connecting with and being in communion with the Divine. 

I’m becoming more confident in this. Just like with the labyrinth, after walking the spiritual path for a while, I’ve begun to trust it more and more, and in doing so, I’ve begun trusting myself. 

What I know for sure… No matter how far I drift off course, I’m always on the path. 

And the path always leads me home.