Today, during quiet time, I tried a finger labyrinth for the first time. I found it in the corner of a prayer room here, and it looked excellent. Labyrinths are not, as most people think, synonymous with mazes. Mazes have dead ends; in labyrinths, all routes lead to the centre. This finger labyrinth took the form of a piece of perspex with the labyrinth itself painted on thickly, so as to create edges and borders which can be firmly felt. I took a finger from my non-dominant hand, as the leaflet placed with the labyrinth recommended (something about sides of the brain and intuition; I have no idea if it makes a difference) and tried to ‘walk’ through it slowly, and with my eyes closed.
One thing I’m learning about myself this year is that I’m quite impatient; it seems that finger labyrinths exacerbate this impatience within. I wanted to open my eyes so I could see the route, thereby completing it more quickly (and in doing so completely defeating the point of the exercise in the first place). When I did manage to keep my eyes closed for a few moments, I felt more keenly the bumps in the patterned borders of the labyrinth, lost myself in its contours, felt a thrill when an unexpected turn presented itself, and genuinely relished every sensation at the end of my finger. With my eyes open, I lost all of this. No thrill, no interest, no tactile joy. Yet still, I couldn’t resist looking, just to check where I was and when the next turn would come.
I have a tendency of wanting to plan and map out my life. I hate, for example, not knowing where I’ll be living a year from now. I want to know exactly what is happening at all times. However, nobody’s life lives by pattern and rule. Does anyone know where they’ll be in a year’s time? We can make educated guesses and assumptions, but do we know? No. And that’s a good thing. When we don’t know, we can (cheesy as it sounds) enjoy the journey. We can enjoy the bumps, turns and contours of life without rushing towards the ultimate goal of attaining whatever we place at the centre of our lives. With the labyrinth, we go through a twisting journey, ultimately knowing that we will be brought to the centre. Sometimes we are so, so close to that centre, but the path turns, and we are taken away from it to experience another set of twists and turns. Likewise life.
As with life, so with God. I want to really, truly, completely know and understand God. This is a weird thing for someone so keen on medieval mysticism to admit, but it’s true. I know it’s impossible, but I want to do it anyway. And I go about it by trying to map God out. I read books and think very, very hard about God and Jesus and spirituality. But, in doing so, once again I am rushing towards an impossible goal, forgetting to experience joy on the way. God is a delight; God is, indeed, delight itself. It’s quite simply fun to explore God blindly, not looking to any authority but simply being in that divine presence and experiencing it for all it’s worth. It’s sheer fun to experience the unexpected, the novel, the exciting bumps and twists inherent in God which gradually, over the course of time, reveal themselves to us. It’s good to be proven wrong just when you think you’re getting close to the truth, to the centre of the matter. The labyrinth that is God is a gift which we should revel in, not one we should rush through with eyes wide open.
None of this has made me more patient. I expect, frustratingly, that patience will come only when I stop consciously trying to make it come. But it has taught me to be a little more relaxed, a little less uptight, and to enjoy my life and my God wherever I am and whatever may happen.