Kathleen McGowan is the New York Times bestselling author of The Magdalene Line series, novels which explore and celebrate the role of exceptional women in history who have changed the world through their courage. Her novels, The Expected One, The Book of Love and The Poet Prince have been translated into over 40 languages and sold over a million copies. She is at work on her fourth novel in the series, The Boleyn Heresy, due for 2013 release.

Kathleen is preparing to launch a new series in e-book format, "Legends of the Divine Feminine", a unique hybrid of fiction and non-fiction exploration into stories from around the world, featuring extraordinary female characters.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It is Solved By Walking - The Labyrinth as a meditational tool for the Type A Truth Seeker

It has been exactly a year since my last post. Here is why. 

I am not Zen and I never will be. I am not a navel contemplator.  I do not do "still."  But I consider myself a deeply spiritual woman, someone who needs to commune with the divine and feel a connection to something bigger and better than I am on a regular basis.  So how does a Type A personality find a means in which to slow down and focus on the inner world rather than the outer world?  For me, that answer became abundantly and blissfully clear years ago when I first discovered the empowerment of labyrinth walking.

                                            Two views of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral,
                                             completed in 1200 AD. 

The labyrinth is an ancient tool for meditation and prayer.  Often mistakenly referred to as a maze, the labyrinth is markedly different from those hedge maze garden structures that challenged people to find their way out.  A maze is a place where people get lost, because there are multiple pathways to the same destination.  But a labyrinth has only one path to the center.  It is a structure filled with metaphor, but this is the first and most important: when you walk a labyrinth, as long as you stay true to your path, you will always reach the center.  A labyrinth is a place where we find ourselves rather than lose ourselves.

I need to find myself now.  Ten months ago today, my newlywed husband died in my arms at the age of 41.  Married on July 22, 2012, he became ill on Thanksgiving and died of an aggressive and impossible cancer right before New Year's Eve.  My life does not look anything like I thought it would at this time.  Everything I have ever believed about the world, about God and even about myself has been challenged in these last ten months. With the exception of my immediate family and a very small group of friends, no one and no thing that was critical to my life at this time last year even exists anymore in my daily experience. 

My own labyrinthine path over this past year has taken as many twists and turns as the 11 circuits of the most famous and exalted of all labyrinths, the 800 year old structure within Chartres Cathedral.  When walking the circuits of that labyrinth, there are moments when I am certain I am coming very close to the center, what I have perceived to be my destination, when suddenly an unexpected turn takes me out to the most distant reaches - as far from the center as it is possible to be.  But the labyrinth has taught me to put my head down and just keep walking.  Stay on my path.  Keep moving toward a center on my way to a sacred destination worth reaching.  It is a walking meditation, a place where I can pray, a place where I can talk to God and know that He and She are not only listening, but replying.

I often say that walking into an 11 circuit labyrinth is like dialing the 1-800 number to the Divine.  As I walk in to those circuits, I breathe away the stresses and anxieties of the cerebral world, and allow myself to stay on the path that flows to the center.  When I arrive at the central space, in the shape of a rose  with six petals, that 800 number has connected me directly to the Upstairs Department.  I have reached a customer service line of angels to answer my questions. 

I have written two books which were inspired by the labyrinth and how it serves as a prayer tool.  In this excerpt from my second novel, The Book of Love, the heroine Matilda of Tuscany seeks her answers in the labyrinth.  This passage conveys my deep love of this process, through the eyes of Matilda:

"Solvitur Ambulando meant "It is solved by walking," and it was an integral part of their teachings from the labyrinth.  For Matilda had been taught that the labyrinth was a perfectly constructed device.  It was created through the combined wisdom of Solomon and Sheba, a sublime indication of how beloveds can manifest great miracles through shared spirit.  It was given to man as a means of accessing God most directly through inner listening.  Walking the labyrinth gave the prayerful person ears to hear, so that upon reaching the center , the messages of God could be heard and understood most clearly.  It was a walking prayer, a dance of meditation that brought the mind, body and spirit together in a singularly powerful understanding.  It was through the labyrinth that Solomon gained his legendary wisdom. 

"Perhaps Matilda would find her strength in the morning, once she had listened to God in the center of the labyrinth.  It had never failed her before.  The six-petaled flower at the center of the labyrinth was her favorite place on earth, the sweetest, safest location ever created.  Tomorrow she would go there in search of herself, her future and God's otherwise indiscernible will."

In 2009, I released a book entitled "The Source of Miracles" to convey the prayer practice that I utilize within the 6 petaled rose.  The book also tells the story of how my experiences within the labyrinth saved the life of my youngest son, Shane. 

 And so this week, after many years of driving for hours to find walkable labyrinths, I have realized one of my great dreams: I am in the middle of construction of my very own, custom built labyrinth!  It is designed to replicate the dimensions of the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral.

Construction of the circuits 

Selenite is cut and polished to create the rose petals


More selenite and celestite for the center of the labyrinth
I will keep you all posted on the progress of my labyrinth.  But if you would like to try this amazing walking meditation, and perhaps find some respite for your over-committed 21st century mind, try this Worldwide Labyrinth Locator:
I'll meet you in the center.
 x k