About nine years ago, a neighbor and I painted a labyrinth in the cul-de-sac in front of my house. Our labyrinth is a 54 foot diameter replica of the eleven circuit labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France. During this COVID-19 shelter-in-place we decided to repaint the labyrinth, and over the course of several evenings we were able to get it looking like the day we installed it. People in our neighborhood had been using it occasionally, but because the paint had faded, it was hard to follow in a couple spots. Since we repainted, there has been a steady stream of families out walking the labyrinth.
One afternoon my neighbor was out talking to a family with 3 small children and I went out to join them for a few minutes. The little boy was obviously excited about the labyrinth, so I knelt down to get eye-to-eye with him. We talked for a minute, and I asked him if he walked the whole labyrinth. His answer started me thinking, because he said, “I jumped over some of the lines.”
Sometimes life is like a labyrinth, and sometimes it is like a maze. It is important that we know which we are in. A labyrinth only has one path. It is a single track that you follow to the center and then back out again. You cannot get lost in a labyrinth. A maze has several possible paths, many of which lead nowhere or to dead ends. The point of a maze is to get you lost.
When we are in a maze, we need to find our way. We must keep track of where we have been and try to map our path, so we don’t keep doubling back over the same steps again and again. A maze requires focus on the lines around us so we can determine if the information we are being given is showing us the way or leading us astray.
When we are in a labyrinth, we need to follow the way. We do not need to be concerned about where we are going, because there is only one path and as long as we keep moving, we will arrive at the center. In a labyrinth, the lines never lie or mislead, and we can trust the information we are receiving.
When we are in a maze the goal is to escape, and this requires us to innovate. A maze can be healthy if we understand that difficulty is the soil in which our character grows. If we are afraid and lose hope, we risk simply running around in circles and failing to accomplish anything.
The goal in a labyrinth is to experience the journey, which means we need to meditate. Meditation is not sitting in the lotus position humming to ourselves. Meditation is to think deeply or carefully about something, without distraction and with focus. In a labyrinth, the lines allow you to move through the rhythm of the journey without worrying about where you are going, so you can focus on why you are going and how you are going.
Finally, whether we are in a maze or a labyrinth, the path is longer than it looks. This means we will need patience and perseverance. Our labyrinth is 54 feet in diameter, yet as you walk to the center and then back out, you have travelled half of a mile. Most people have a difficult time believing it. It looks deceptively small. Often, our travels in life are also much longer than we first believe. Sometimes, like that little boy, we jump over some of the lines.
There is a time to find our way and a time to follow. There is a time to innovate and a time to meditate. There is need for patience and also for perseverance. Community is where we gain the understanding of what we are in and what we need. Wisdom, seeing things from a larger perspective, is not possible alone. When we are in the lines, it is hard to tell if it is a maze or a labyrinth. Someone standing outside the lines can often give us the insight that leads us to better choices and better outcomes.
I have been so proud of our team as you have navigated the current maze we are in. This has definitely been a time for innovation and way finding, and you have all shown perseverance. In the days and weeks to come, we should remember that the lines are only helpful if they lead us to health. There are times when we need to jump over some of the lines. We will know when to jump, because we have the wisdom of the crowd. Working and living in community gives us that advantage, and it is The Kimray Way.