Walking the Labyrinth

AJW explores what the journey through a labyrinth can teach us about running and our lives.

By on May 11, 2012 | 5 comments

AJWs TaproomThe labyrinth has appeared across time and across cultures in places ranging from ancient cave walls, to intricate basket designs, to the floors of grand cathedrals. As an essential archetype in many cultures, the labyrinth offers a simple and elegant means of traveling to the center of oneself and then emerging back into the world.

Last month, while attending a workshop conducted by the Santa Fe Leadership Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I had the opportunity, along with the rest of the seminar participants, to walk the labyrinth that sits adjacent to the cathedral in downtown Santa Fe. We took our walk on a crisp, sunny morning when few others were around. Our instructions were simple: Walk from the entrance of the labyrinth along the prescribed path to the center. During the walk we were not to speak, and the goal was to use the experience to simply focus on the moment. Aside from the instructions to remain on the course, there were no other explicit expectations for the walk.

As I entered the Labyrinth, I slipped off my shoes and began to make my way through the winding course. After a few minutes, I realized a pattern in the path. In some sections, the twists and turns were abrupt and choppy and often turned me around and sent me back toward the starting point while there were other sections along the path that were long and straight and clearly intended to send me toward the ultimate destination at the center of the Labyrinth. At first, I was frustrated by this seemingly arbitrary aspect of the path, but as I became more absorbed in the experience I began to look forward to the less predictable parts.

What was perhaps most intriguing to me was my reaction to arriving at the center, which was, I thought, intended to be the end of the walk. As it turned out, from that point, I was to make my way back out to the entrance. So, I did, following the exact same path out that I had taken in.

After I exited the Labyrinth and put my shoes back on, I quickly grabbed my journal and, for no reason that was apparent to me at the time, jotted down George Sheehan’s famous quip, “The first thirty minutes of my run is for my body, the second thirty minutes is for my soul.” A week later it dawned on me that I had realized, in the midst of this simple experience, that the Labyrinth had something to teach me about running, and, indeed, about life. Not only the twists and the turns, not only the disconcerting feeling of going backward when you should be going forward, and not only the way in which the walk was simultaneously confusing and liberating, but more importantly, the overwhelming feeling that it was just as important, if not more so, to feed the soul as much and as often as we feed the body.

Bottoms up!

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Allagash White beerThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Allagash Brewing in Portland, Maine. I tasted their Allagash White a couple of weeks ago in a local tasting room and loved it. The brewer who was visiting from Maine told me that they modeled the White after the traditional Belgian beers that the monks used as their “day beer” to drink through the day while they went through their daily routines. Crisp and fruity, this wheat beer would be great to drink really cold on a really hot day.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Is it about the journey or the destination?
  • Do you embrace the “twists and turns,” the unpredictable, the retrograde motion in your life? In your running?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.