I take a breath, step out of the elevator, and there it is: people, in candlelight, walking slowly on white paths painted on a blue background on canvas. Though it looks like a maze, I remember from the Times article that walking this type labyrinth does not involve choices. If one trusts and follows, one goes into the center and comes out again. No fuss. No muss.
I look around for someone to ask what to do. (That sounds so silly to me now.) Thank-you, God, there is no one to ask. There is a brochure, so I find a place to read it and discover simple suggestions like pausing before you enter and a reminder to make room as those going in come face-to-face with those going out.
I remove my shoes and watch for a while. There is such a gentle energy here. Such a contrast from the subway. I pray the prayer I’ve chosen.
I feel nervous. I feel I am not worthy to do this, that I need more preparation. I look at my watch. It’s 6:30. I take a breath and enter the labyrinth at the only entrance. Before I put my foot down I’m no longer sure what I will think/pray, but as my foot touches the canvas I say to myself “Show me the way.”
I walk deliberately and self-consciously. Okay, even dramatically. I try to ground myself by checking in and seeing what my body is feeling, but I’m embarrassed. What am I doing here? This won’t work. Yet I never consider stopping or leaving. I turn left and pause. I look up and I notice beautiful gold stars painted on frosty blue panels in the ceiling. I am thinking, “Show me your way.”
For a long time I do not come near another person. When I do, we slip past each other without eye contact, but I am very conscious of where I am and where the other is. I return to my prayer. I walk and walk and stop and pause and look. There are stained-glass windows above and candles on the floor. The music is soft and familiar. My mind travels. Then I return to my prayer.
I approach the center. Ah, almost there. I can feel my anticipation. Then the path turns and I am somewhere else altogether. Now I’m disappointed. Frustrated. My back is getting stiff. How long will this take?
It occurs to me that this is not a quick trip. I relax even more. Breathing, praying, walking, pausing. I hear a sound like a beautiful waterfall. It’s candle wax dripping on the floor. I have put my right hand over my heart and my left hand over that. I am walking that way for what feels like a long time. It feels very intense. I feel safe. It feels right.
People are clogged at the center, and I pause and close my eyes. Then the clog is gone and I step onto one of the white petals painted on the rose-colored background. (The brochure explained that the center “is the rosette, a symbol of the Holy Spirit and unity of source.”) I wait and listen. Nothing. After the third petal and nothing, I move to the center of the center. There I hear a voice in my head: “There’s no need to protect your heart.” My palms are sweaty as I take them off my heart.
It’s time to leave the center, so I walk out. I am on the path again — but it is different. I find I am saying “thank-you.” I feel connected to all these people. We make no eye contact, but we are connected. I am walking the path more lightly now, doing slow turns as I walk. I am smiling. My body feels great. I am delighted. That’s the word I keep thinking. Delighted!
Then, as I look around at all these folks, I am thinking “all are welcome.” It occurs to me that I will be safe wherever I am. That safety isn’t about finding the right situation, safety is something I carry with me like faith. Like God. I begin to pray for the others on the walk that they all receive what they seek, and I pray for peace. I thank God for this wondrous experience and, with an Amen, I am on the stone floor again.
I look at my watch. It’s 7:35.