Last week, I hosted a labyrinth walk in Austin, TX.  Twenty-two people made their way along the winding path of my portable labyrinth. Some were walking slowly, some backwards, some dancing, some twirling.  Some were crying, some were laughing.  All were moved during their pilgrimage in JW Grand Salon 3-4 at the JW Marriott Austin.

A hotel ballroom and a canvas labyrinth ringed with battery-powered tea lights may seem an unlikely place for a pilgrimage, but I’ve learned over time that pilgrimages take place in the most unlikely of settings.  Whether there’s walking involved or not, we set out on a path, leaving the unknown.  We experience a “road of trials” (think: Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey) in the form of twists and turns.  We arrive at a quieter place, at the heart of things.  In the labyrinth, it’s often the center (but not always).  We receive information – a feeling, a word, a knowing, an emotion, a decision – that we take with us as we make our way back to the place or community from whence we came.  We’re the same, and yet not at all.

Pilgrimages are intentional.  We set out to learn something, to find a rich experience that will inform our lives.  They don’t always have to involve a long trek or even a walk, but they’re good for our souls.  Where will you go on your next pilgrimage?

When I imagine the upcoming Gathering of Wayfinders, I picture a very large group of shiny, happy people who are my tribe.  We’re all bringing our divine, silly, funny, just a tad messed up, wrinkly, goofy, boisterous selves to hear Martha Beck talk about her latest book.  It’s gonna be a blast.  And it’s gonna to be crowded.  And the energy’s gonna rev up high.

I love finding ways to take that energy home, but to also wind it back down a bit because – at least for me – that level of “buzz” is unsustainable.  I need space for quiet so I can make meaning out of what happened.  The best way I know how to do that is to walk a labyrinth.  Walking’s always been my preference…I’m not so good at the sit-on-your-cushion-in-the-lotus-position kind of meditation.

Labyrinths aren’t mazes; they’re not designed to trick you or create decision points.  If you follow the path, you’ll arrive in the center.  And if you follow the path back out from center, you’ll end up where you started.  Or not, actually.  There’s something about walking in those curves and turns that quiets the mind, allowing you to slooow waaay down.  And that’s a very good thing.

I’m always a little different for having walked a labyrinth.  Occasionally, the transformation feels big, like there was a “lightning bolt from above” kind of message.  More often, though, it’s subtler than that.  An idea might float into my head.  Or I’ll feel the urge to skip.  Mostly, I get calmer.  And that’s a very good thing, too.

I’m bringing my canvas labyrinth to Austin this April.  Maybe you’ll join us and experience some very good things of your own.

Register Here

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved travel.  My parents and I would drive seven miles from our home to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on a Sunday afternoon and we’d sit on the outdoor rooftop terrace and watch the planes take off.  (You could do that back in the 60’s!)  We’d look at the tail art on the jets and try to figure out where the plane was from and where it was headed.  We’d watch people arrive at customs (you could do that in the 60’s, too) from the second floor of the international arrivals building, making up stories about where the luggage had been.  I even worked at JFK during my summer breaks during my college years.

My well-traveled European parents and I had lots of conversations about the importance of understanding other cultures and how getting out into the world shaped who they were and who I’d become.  Over the years, I’ve collected a lot of stamps in my passport, having set out to see the world and learn more about it – and myself.

What I know for sure is that you don’t always have to go far to learn a lot.  Setting out on a walk around the neighborhood can feel like an adventure just as much as getting on a plane does.  And, you can be just as confused in a gorgeous setting half way around the globe.  What matters is how present you are, wherever you are.  When you slow down enough to use all of your senses, really allowing yourself to be fully immersed in whatever emotions or physical sensations are present.  THAT’s when the adventure comes alive, whether it’s in your backyard, along an ancient pilgrimage route in Spain, or walking the twists and turns of a labyrinth.