Walking the Steps Toward Mindfulness

Written By Alaina Cyr

It was a hectic day with many meetings ahead, work piling up, and deadlines flying by. I rushed to the class, cursing at myself for all the work I could be doing in the time I’d be away from my desk.

I was on my way to the Labyrinth Walk, the “walking meditation” that the Spiritual Care puts on once a month. Contrary to what the David Bowie film had me believe, a labyrinth is not meant to be hard to navigate. There is only one entry point followed by a meandering, single path that leads to the centre, meaning you follow the same path to get in or out. There are a number of spiritual interpretations or metaphors for walking the labyrinth, but at the most basic level it provides a set path for a self-paced, walking meditation.

Image of an outdoor labyrinth
Photo: Aaron Harmon via flickr Creative Commons.

As I entered the room, I was welcomed with dim lights, calming music, and a large, painted labyrinth laid out on canvas in the middle of the room. Sharon, the spiritual care professional who’d be coaching me through the path, greeted me with a friendly hello and handed me a short pamphlet about the labyrinth. The pamphlet suggested I take a minute to focus and calm my mind before starting. Being one who readily follows directions, I took a few moments to absorb the calmness of the room, then I slowly approached the entrance, took a deep breath in, and carefully took my first step along the path.

I felt a little goofy as I started to walk along, but my awkwardness gradually gave way to distraction. My mind often wandered to the To-Do list of the day, and I had to pull myself back into the moment by concentrating on how the canvas felt under my feet. As I edged my way deeper toward the centre of the labyrinth, I found it easier to stay focused on the moment by repeating the phrase “the only way out is the way you came in” over and over in my head. I eventually found the centre, paused for a moment, then began the return journey out, continuing to repeat my mantra. As I took the last step out, I took a deep breath and noticed how a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

I recognize now that I was putting up barriers as a way to resist connecting to my spiritual self. By cursing at myself for taking time away from work, feeling self-conscious while walking the path, and constantly thinking about what I should be doing instead I was avoiding being in the moment. As I plodded deeper into the labyrinth, I found my way around these barriers and let myself be for a few moments.

Just 20 minutes after leaving my desk feeling frantic and overwhelmed, I returned feeling relaxed and calm. All the To-Dos were still there, but somehow they didn’t seem so stressful. It's amazing what practicing a little mindfulness can do.


Want to try walking a labyrinth? Check out the Ontario Labyrinth Locator to find one in your area.