Labyrinth Longing


Reading the title of my article may make you wonder. People don’t usually long to walk a labyrinth, while some may not even know what it is all about. I was welcomed back to my traditional walk around Manresa’s labyrinth on my recent retreat.

There is something mysterious and transformative about walking in circles slowly and prayerfully. This time was the same, yet quite different.

As I started out, Diana Ross’ song echoed in my being asking important questions, “Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to, do you know?”

It was my time to dialogue with my Creator, to pray for others, to find my centre, to just walk out the cares and concerns of living in a fast moving world.

Several years ago I was introduced to walking Manresa’s labyrinth. Out of curiosity I stepped on to the well worn muddy path edged with all kinds of rocks, watching others deep in prayer. I marvelled at their concentration, and tried to follow their lead.

I was initially there “just for the fun of it,” but soon discovered that there was much more to just circular walking. I found myself as a pilgrim on a journey, meeting and quietly greeting others along the way. There was a certain energy that emanated from this profound experience.

Manresa’s labyrinth is like the one at Chartres Cathedral in France, but wider. While the labyrinth on the floor of Chartres is made out of marble tiles, Manresa’s is outdoors, open to nature’s changing seasons and sounds.

I discovered that labyrinth walking is a spiritual practice that is thousands of years old, and has been adopted by many religions and cultures like Greece, Egypt, China, Ireland, Peru, and Scandinavia.

People are drawn to labyrinths for a host of reasons. The physical motion merges with the spiritual dimension resulting in a surrender to the God of mystery. The deliberate walking, breathing, and just being, helps to clear the mind, and shed burdens.

It was now a fresh start to finding myself this Saturday morning. I soon developed a rhythm as I inhaled the crisp fall air, and meditated as I gradually approached the centre. I was seeking clarity, and the silence interrupted by a chirping bird fascinated me. The outward journey was slowly leading me to the journey inward, one foot in front of the next.

I was distracted by the thought of Ignatius of Loyola walking many miles to the Holy Land on an injured leg, one shorter than the other. Was it mindfulness, conscious intention, or chanting a simple prayer that kept him going?

The Buddhist author and spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh suggests focusing on the soles of your feet. So I tried to walk along the path aligning the pace of my walking with the pace of my breath. I left myself open to God’s presence, not placing any high expectations on the outcome of walking the labyrinth. What helped once again, was reminding myself to, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).

I experienced a range of emotions as I walked. At first there was a need to follow routine, followed by an awareness of God’s nearness, then the stillness of the moment, the excitement of coming to the centre, the peace that filled me, and ultimately the joy of receiving healing.

Will I walk the labyrinth again? Oh, yes, because it offered me an opportunity to reflect deeply in sacred space. The Lord’s blessings rained down on me. Above all else, the slow circular walk touched an emotional chord in me, and I allowed the tears to flow freely. I had come home!

Viola Athaide is a student in the Windows of Theology program at Regis College, Toronto. She currently teaches Scripture at her local parish church.

  • Tonis Kilp
    Posted at 09:11h, 06 December Reply

    Good snowy morning thank you for once again sharing your gift of writing, especially about Manresa, take care and all the best, many blessings, tonis.

  • Peter Chouinard
    Posted at 11:17h, 06 December Reply

    Just profoundly moving and deeply spiritual.
    Thank you Viola! Advent blessings.

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 11:27h, 06 December Reply

    Thank you for that touching and insightful description of the labyrinth Viola. I liked your analogy of walking the labyrinth, being like a pilgrim on a journey, eventually coming home. I appreciate you sharing your gift Viola.

  • Bonnie azevedo
    Posted at 12:26h, 06 December Reply

    I have never not experienced labyrinth sounds so spiritual and seeking God what an amazing experience God bless

  • Sylvia Lee
    Posted at 13:02h, 06 December Reply

    At Manreasa in September 2019, I attempted to walk the labyrinth for the first time. It was a very special experience for me as I really felt God’s presence with me in the quietness. Thanks for sharing your encounter with God around the labyrinth at Manresa, Viola.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 13:37h, 06 December Reply

    Thank you Viola!

  • Colleen Digby
    Posted at 09:39h, 08 December Reply

    It was a joy reading your script on your Labyrinth experience! Thank you, love & God bless. Honey xx

  • Fay Vaz
    Posted at 23:29h, 08 December Reply


    you are truly a very gifted writer – and thank for sharing this gift of the Pen with so many of us – May God continue to bless you and the holy spirit guide you in your journey. I look forward to your next article.
    You awake the religious cord in me when I read you poems.
    God bless you and be with you always.

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 05:58h, 10 December Reply

    Once again, Viola’s words lead me to my own reflection on the spiritual benefits of communion with and awareness of God’s quiet presence, by allowing my mind to accept His gentle guidance amid the worldly distractions all around us even – or perhaps inevitable – in this festive season. What should be a time for preparation for His coming so easily becomes a stressful concern over gifts, parties, and Yuletide celebrations.

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