I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Kristine Schnarr’s reflection on the labyrinth.
During the majority of my 71 years on this beautiful earth, I have lived in the suburbs of various sprawling cities around the United States. However, born in Chicago, I am very much a city-girl at heart. I am also very much an introvert and very much a contemplative. Over the years, I have always gravitated towards places and spaces, that offer opportunities for quiet prayer and contemplation in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life.
I actually do not remember my very first labyrinth experience. I’m not sure where or when it was. If I had to guess, I would say maybe 25 years ago at a women’s retreat somewhere. Conversely, I will never forget the first time I met My Labyrinth. My Labyrinth and I met the first week of March, 2014. That was the week my husband and I made a big move from a large home with a large yard in a midwestern suburb to a rather smallish condo with a small balcony in the urban setting of Arlington, VA.
On one of our first walks around our new, vibrant, city neighborhood I spotted a small grassy park-like space less than ¼ mile from our condo. As we ventured into that space, I saw My Labyrinth. It was in a low area, rather hidden from those coming and going on the adjacent city sidewalk and street. It was surrounded by big, beautiful trees that helped create a cathedral effect. It was love at first sight.
You might be wondering why or how I feel I can call this public labyrinth, My Labyrinth. After being in relationship with it for the past 7+ years, I would say that the main reason is I am one of the few people I know who knows about it and who uses it. I hardly ever see anyone else there. When I talk about it or share photos of it with my friends, they always ask its location and then say they have never been there. Even though I am more than happy to share it with others, I rarely see anyone else there. When I do see other people there, I am happy for them, and actually feel a sense of kinship with them. Especially during this unprecedented year of the world-wide COVID pandemic.
As I traversed the trials and tribulations of these trying pandemic times, I often turned to My beloved Labyrinth for a sense of groundedness, solace and hope. In this place, I truly felt that I could be a Monk in our anguished world. In the face of endless uncertainties, this small space in my urban corner of the world held a spaciousness for me. Here the pandemic paradoxes of sorrow & joy, grief & gratitude or hopelessness & hope could reside together in my heart & soul. Here I prayed. Here grace flowed.
Thomas Merton once said, “In a world of noise, confusion and conflict, it is necessary that there is a place of inner silence and peace, not the peace of mere relaxation but the peace of inner clarity and love.” When I walked My Labyrinth during this tragic year, I was able to abide in that place of inner silence, clarity and love thanks to My Labyrinth. Walking My Labyrinth taught me that if I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and just kept trusting the path I was on, I would reach the center, rest and then be able to continue the journey out into the world with the strength I needed for whatever was ahead. As I walked My Labyrinth’s path, I was given the grace to let go, the faith to trust, the hope to keep going and great gratitude for the beauty and nurture of nature.
I close with a Haiku poem and a prayer of thanks for My Labyrinth:
OFF THE BEATEN PATH…. MY URBAN LABYRINTH CALLS…INVITING ME IN
Thank you, Holy One, for the gifts of grace you offer to those who seek and love You. Thank you for the gift of My Labyrinth for such a time as this. Thank you for how My Labyrinth has been such a sweet help to me during this challenging pandemic year and how it has nurtured me as I travelled the way of being a Monk in the World.
Kristine Schnarr and her husband, Mark, live in Arlington, VA. Kristine thanks Abbey of the Arts for nurturing her interest in Celtic Spirituality and her love for contemplative spiritual practices. Kristine is an avid, amateur contemplative photographer. She loves to share and give away her photos to others and use them to inspire her recent love for writing Haiku poems.