February 15, 2012

The soul mirror

Psalm 69:18, ICEL

Face me, I am desperate.

The first time I walked the outdoor labyrinth at Mercy Center Burlingame was the first time I walked any labyrinth. I had no expectations. Right away, the path led me close to the center, which surprised me. Here so soon?

But the path kept going, so I kept going. I turned, turned again, turned again. What I had done, I seemed to repeat.

Then the path led me out to the edge where a pine tree threw deep shade, and sap and pinecone petals on the ground made the way less distinct. That edge is the place for tangents (which meet the edges of curves everywhere), and walking along it, I felt like I might fall right out of the circle. But that shady quadrant is close to the achieved center, if you just keep walking.

Rock in the center of the labyrinth at Mercy Center

The rock, and ...

When I turned the final corner and raised my eyes, I stopped, stunned. I’d already noticed the enormous rock in the center of the labyrinth, of course. But when I stood facing it, having traveled a winding path to reach it, I was facing myself. In that moment the rock was a mirror, a mirror that shows soul.

It’s been years since that shock, and it’s never happened again, no matter how many times I’ve walked that labyrinth or any other. I have some expectation now about what I’ll find, and so I never quite find it.

Even so, meaning unfolds for me on the path.

Yesterday I was at Mercy Center again, and I gazed at that rock for a long time. It’s weathered. Storms have pressured it, hands have touched it, gravity and the elements and the years have changed its shape, ever so slightly. Lichen has colored and hardened parts of it, and small nicks and breaks have changed its jaggedness.


Walking in, I drag a world of storms and dissolution behind me. Events pressure me, hands touch me, gravity and the years reshape my jaggedness. I receive, receive, receive, and then I need to haul it all to the center of the labyrinth and dump it out like a box of broken glass and say, “Here it is. I don’t know what to do with it.”

Though I still don’t know what to do with it, at least I don’t have to drag it back out with me. A subtle shift occurs. Having faced the center, having been faced, I’m simpler and cleaner, more solid, more grounded. More like a rock.