“A labyrinth is a symbolic journey . . . but it is a map we can really walk on, blurring the difference between map and world.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
A prayer labyrinth is a metaphor for our lifetimes: as we walk down our path, we do not necessarily know the direction it will take. A forest of trees may burn down to prevent us walking a familiar way. We may spiral down a perceived shortcut full of unpredictable twists and turns. We might encounter a storm and be forced to hide beside a boulder, avoiding lightening bolts as they strike too close for comfort. When the storm passes, the path may lead inward toward the ultimate goal, only to lead outward again. Regardless, if we sit back and trust the Universe we know the path will ultimately bring us to the Center–the center of Ourselves, of the Divine, and of this Holy life.
Sometimes we walk a labyrinth alone. Sometimes we are inundated with others walking their own way to the center. Meeting others along the path can be expected, though sometimes we let them pass us along the way, while other times we pass them. At the center we may rest to watch others, heads bowed, prayers sent. We may join in communion. Or we may quickly leave the center to let others in. While on the journey we grow closer in relationship with ourselves and with the Divine, and in turn closer to others.
The power behind our collective prayers is incomprehensible. Like a labyrinth, we do not know where the prayers may lead, but we know they will bring us to the Center.
In one month my own journey through sexual healing has been profound and transformative. My heart has been cracked open. Waterfalls of grief have poured out. A painful death has taken place inside, and in its place the bliss of resurrection is profoundly felt.
Last Thursday at 3 PM I walked the prayer labyrinth at the Lama Foundation, a spiritual intentional community and retreat center located in Northern New Mexico. Before walking the path, I painted a banner that said, “This is my prayer for sexual healing.” Laying it at the entrance of the Labyrinth, I proceeded to travel through the maze, reflecting on how my prayer and the path were one in the same. At the center I sat and meditated for ten minutes, breathing in love, breathing out thanksgiving, while focusing my thoughts on sexual healing. The tears came and the knot in my heart slowly loosened.
Five days later I sat in a daily morning meditation circle with Lama community members. After sitting for 20 minutes I became distracted and felt the need to refocus my meditation. I opened my eyes and watched the candle in the center of the room flicker a few times before I closed my eyes and breathed out abstract thoughts.
Suddenly I was running through a beautiful meadow, full of sunlight, flowers, butterflies and hummingbirds. Running hard, I began laughing, feeling the sun on my face. Tumbling down the hill I came upon the scene of where I was abused at age three or four. My childhood self stood beside the barn and the field of lambs, and across from me was my abuser. Without stopping, I ran and scooped the child me into my arms. Continuing to run we both laughed wildly, feeling the sun on our faces. Miniature me began kicking her feet, loving the freeing feeling of laying in my arms while we ran together to the pen of baby lambs, where we both began petting their soft, new wool.
The tears wouldn’t stop pouring forth. The meditation bell rang, and I clambered backwards out of the chamber to face the mountains and feel the orange glow of morning sunshine on my tear streaked face.
I broke through the wall built in my heart, the wall that wouldn’t allow me to comfort that small me. The wall that prevented holding her hand, of helping her out of a bad situation. I broke free of the strong chains that shackled my healing. I died a death in that underground prayer room, and I came out a resurrected person.
Please know your commitment to prayer has been transforming spaces–hearts, minds, and thoughts–since they day you signed the letter. Without your support, I would not come to this place, nor would other church leaders be paying attention to these important issues, writing valuable pieces on John Howard Yoder’s actions and sexual abuse as a whole.
I offer you the option of engaging in a walking prayer today. If you don’t have a labyrinth available, you can still focus your thoughts in a certain direction as you journey down a forest path or your neighborhood road. A few ways to engage in the prayer for sexual healing while walking include:
- Ask the Divine a question upon entering the labyrinth or path, then listen for an answer in form of nature, sounds, signs, messages, and omens.
- Repeat the line, “I’m ready to allow sexual healing to happen” as you walk, matching the words to your breath and steps. Continue this pattern while falling into a meditative state, appreciating and understanding the words in a new light, feeling them inside your body as it moves.
- Pray for yourself and your own sexual healing on the way into the Labyrinth (or on your way to a certain point). In the center, or at a halfway point, stop to experience the Divine’s love for you–let yourself feel wrapped in the love. On the way out, or on the way back, pray for sexual healing for others and the broader church. (You can also do this in the opposite direction.)
- As you move toward the center of the labyrinth or mid-point of a path, focus on letting go of distractions and worries that keep you from the focus of this prayer. In the center, spend time reflecting on your relationship with the Divine and with the idea of sexual healing. Be aware of the Divine’s presence. Then, as you leave spend time giving thanks and praising the Divine for all that she/it/he has done.
A Labyrinth allows you to go on a symbolic journey, creating a space to unwind and think. On this journey you can break from “surfing the surface” of our world to actually contemplating the deeper things in life. In particular, through walking a labyrinth or path, you can focus your prayer for sexual healing on your relationships with yourself, one another, our planet and God.