Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Labyrinth 1 - The Mary Labyrinth

I think things are all in how you phrase it.

Some people would say that I get mildly obsessed pretty easily. I like to call it "inspired". What's the difference? One person's "romantic" is another person's "stalker". I'm not a stalker. Yes, I'm sure that's what stalkers always say. Oh boy, off to a bad start.

Anyway, the point is, I am now mildly obsessed/inspired. My girlfriend, Zan, just randomly tipped me off to something called a "meditation labyrinth". No, it doesn't involve David Bowie's crotch. It's actually a winding path of varying styles that leads one through a contemplative metaphor for life and the spiritual path. Labyrinths have been around for close to 4,000 years and were used by the Egyptians, Minoans, Romans, Indians, Native Americans and many more. Even the Christians got in on it, starting around 400 AD. (Then they kind of banned them because they were too New Age-y, then recently decided to get back on the boat.) They can be made in the grass, with stone, on a tarp, you name it. Supposedly people have had visions on them. More realistically, people claim that they are excellent sources of walking meditation and calming relaxation. The path is supposed to be like the journey through life, in that you don't know where it's taking you. You only know that if you keep walking, you'll get there. How could I not have known about this?

So Zan showed me a website called Somehow, this thing that I'd never even heard of yesterday, is catalogued all over the world. They're everywhere! Tons of them! There's a few a couple of blocks from where I live, there's some in Japan. Big ones, little ones. It's nuts. So I've decided that I'm going to go and walk as many Labyrinths as I can and see what happens. Since I go on the road, I'll be able to go to Labyrinths all over the country if they have them. Here's what I figured...If they have them in Toledo, OH, they'll have them anywhere. SAYS: There's like six there! It's on!

So maybe I'll go to 100. Maybe I'll get bored and only go to one. But periodically and sporadically I'm going to update this blog with new pictures and thoughts on a different labyrinth. Starting with the one a couple blocks away:


The Mary Labyrinth at the Basilica of Saint Mary
(Click on the link above for a cool aerial photo of the labyrinth in season.)

Faith: Christian. This one is located at the giant Basilica off of Hennepin Ave in downtown Minneapolis. Christian labyrinths use the path as symbolism for a pilgrim's, um, pilgrimage to the Holy Land. So the final part of the labyrinth, right before you turn back and go the opposite way, is called "Jerusalem."

(Above) The start and "Jerusalem".

State of labyrinth: Fair to poor. The design is beautiful and elaborate, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it hasn't been mowed since last fall. There are barely discernible spray-paint lines and it's kind of hard to see where you're supposed to walk. It doesn't look at all like the aerial photo from the link above.

Embarrassment factor: High. It's right off of Hennepin between downtown and uptown. Lots of cars driving by. Bums from under the bridge staring. But I think the worst case scenario is you just look like a crazy person walking in circles on a church lawn. I can deal with that. That might actually be a very good description of me.

Spiritual/weirdness factor: Half-way through the labyrinth, and as I was in the peak of zoning out into meditation land, I looked down and immediately in front of me was an adult robin. (See picture below.) He was just staring up at me, without an ounce of fear. And he was close. So close that I kind of assumed that he was injured. As I kept on walking (gotta mind your bird-business, don't want to get attacked by rapid robins!) he suddenly flew away across the street. That was the tamest robin I've ever seen. Actually, it was the only tame robin I've ever seen. Pretty neat.

Meditation from pamphlet: "All pilgrimages begin with a first step. It's the act of walking that makes you a pilgrim - in life or on a labyrinth. Open your mind and heart as you walk. Let yourself experience the changes of direction. You may get turned around, but you are never lost: trust that the path will lead you where you need to go. As you follow the path, let yourself relax. Take slow, steady steps to quiet the mind and enable full-body prayer. Walk at your own pace. Spend as much time as you like in "Jerusalem". Journey out and bring the peace of your labyrinth walk into the pilgrimage of you daily life."

Overall experience:
I am hoping that as I do this more often, I'll get a sense of why people do this. Right now I am overwhelmed with self-consciousness. I think that's part of the process. As you do it more, you'll stop thinking about your surroundings and start thinking about the meditation. I thought, despite the obvious state of disrepair that the St. Mary Labyrinth (hopefully temporarily) was in, that it was a pretty cool first one to go to. And due to it's proximity, I'm sure I'll go back again. So there. That's my first labyrinth review: "Pretty cool". I'm kind of easy right now. Maybe later I'll become the Simon Cowell of labyrinth critics. But for today, I'm pleased and excited to do more.

88 North 17th Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403
United States
view map

We are located on Hennepin Avenue between 16th & 17th Streets in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Mary Labyrinth is on the west facing lawn.

Basilica Labyrinth Initiative
Phone: 612-333-1381


Always open
Seasonal, daylight hours only

The Basilica of Saint Mary's labyrinth is dedicated to Mary, the blessed mother of Jesus. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the Basilica Mary Labyrinth.

Outdoor Grass

Lucinda Naylor

Date installed:
July 2008

44° 58′ 2° Lat.; 93° 17′ 9° Long.

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