On a beautiful day several years ago, I was walking my favorite labyrinth in the quaint little town of New Harmony, Indiana. My experience with the labyrinth was fairly new and each walk seemed magical. Very intentionally I placed my foot, step by step, on the marble path slowly, thoughtfully, meditatively.
The gated-in area that held the labyrinth was surrounded by trees whose leaves were gently fluttering in the wind, flowers scattered here and there, the tranquil sound of a trickling fountain, and a feeling of serenity. It was one of those moments where everything seemed right with the world, where all was well, where I truly was at peace.
About that time I heard the entrance gate slam shut and from the corner of my eye watched two boys, maybe eight or nine, rush into the labyrinth area. They clumsily found the entrance to the labyrinth and quickly began their walk. Actually it wasn’t a walk at all. They ran, they galloped, they raced each other towards the center.
I tried not to get distracted by their presence, by the shift of energy they brought to this space. A tinge of disappointment rose in me that my perfectly serene moment was gone. I tried to return to my original peaceful state as I watched them jump over lines and rush past me. “Don’t get distracted”, I told myself, “They're just kids. It’s OK if they don’t walk the labyrinth the right way”.
Almost immediately I caught the gravity of those words. It’s OK if they don’t walk it the right way. In other words I was thinking that they were doing it wrong. I was judging the way they walked the path. My way was good, and their way was wrong. I wondered how many times I had unknowingly experienced that same thought in different circumstances.
Questions began rising in me as the boys rushed on. What if we are both right? What if I am not meant to compare my path to anyone else’s? What if it is not up to me to evaluate whether others are walking their path “correctly”? What if I just stay focused on what feels right to me, what I am meant to experience in my journey and let everyone else do the same?
Yes, certainly these different ways of walking the path will intersect from time to time, and we will have to navigate that, how to be in community and walk differently and still remain in love for each other. But what if there are thousands of ways to be loving, to be right, to be beautiful?
I thought about all the time I had wasted comparing my path to others. Are they doing it better? Am I doing it better? Why do they have more? Why do they get easier? Why isn’t it fair? None of that comparing was helpful.
I realized that what I need to do is to tune into the best way for me to walk my path. What do I need to learn? What experiences will help me grow? What’s the best way for me to advance my soul? How can I move deeper and deeper into my truest self, my true purpose on this earth? And allow everyone else to ask themselves those same kind of questions and find their own way. The answers may look very different and both be very right.
As I continued to advance one step at a time into the center of the labyrinth that day, I realized I loved the way I was moving, slowly, reflectively. It was perfect for me. It was exactly what I needed.
But I also began to enjoy the way the boys made their way to the center. I no longer saw them as a distraction, as two boys walking the labyrinth the wrong way, but instead as two kids moving through the path with joy, with exuberance, with enthusiasm.
I smiled as I saw them reach the middle, long before me, jumping up and down with excitement, swirling in circles with arms outstretched, completely overcome with joy. Then they quickly ran out of the labyrinth and through the gate, slamming it behind them. I was left behind in the silence of their absence, changed by their joyful presence, thanking God for a thousand right ways to live.