Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Walking the Labyrinth

Before dawn on a recent Sunday,
my husband and I set out for a quiet stroll along the Boardwalk
that runs three miles along the Atlantic Oceanfront in Virginia Beach.
But we had forgotten the annual Rock 'N' Roll half marathon
was being held that weekend.
With thousands of people already there ahead of us,
we decided to make a sudden change in our plans.

We drove north on Atlantic Avenue
with the idea that we would stop for a hike at First Landing State Park,
which many remember by its earlier name, Seashore State Park.
But as is often the case, life intervened while we were making our plans.
Our search near 67th Street for an alternate entrance to the Park
brought us somewhere we had not planned to go.

We found ourselves at the headquarters
of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.),
a Virginia Beach institution founded in 1925 by the clairvoyant Edgar Cayce.
I remembered a labyrinth had been built in front of the ARE offices and massage school,
formerly the Cayce hospital,
which is situated on a high dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
And I thought walking the labyrinth
as the dawn broke over the Atlantic would be particularly memorable.

Here the rising sun has illuminated the front doors of the building,, 
making them a brilliant orange:

The building to the left is the Cayce Library and Conference Center.
The Atlantic Ocean is on the horizon, barely distinguishable from the sky.
 The labyrinth,  foreground:

I really had no expectations about labyrinths, which are not the same as mazes.
Labyrinths do not have false starts and stops;
their form leads one through along a continuous path.
Other than that, I only knew that labyrinths have been built for centuries,
often at places of both Christian and Roman worship or in open fields.
Some people believe they offer a form of spiritual practice,
effective for meditation and contemplation.
Some have posited that their design was to trap evil spirits.
Today, some American cities are building them in parks and public areas for recreation.
A great source for more information about labyrinths is

So out of curiosity, I entered and began to walk 
with slow and measured steps along the tan colored stones.
Around each turn, like the ones pictured below, 
my energies naturally slowed, gathering inward.

But then as I moved out of the turn into the longer lanes,
my energies quickened and I experienced a sense of openness.

I found the alternating sensations subtle, yet powerful.
The balance of yin and yang,
the opening and closing like the petals of the lotus
or the measured beats of one's heart,
the sense of energy rising and falling were quietly pleasing.

Center of the A.R.E 75th anniversary labyrinth:

And yes, as I walked the labyrinth, the sun rose over the Atlantic:

Tomorrow, a visit to the A.R.E.'s small Meditation Garden.

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