Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: Discipline

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire


Walking the Labyrinth


When a good friend of mine asked recently if I knew anything about labyrinths, I had to pause. If I had thought about them at all, I guess I had always thought of a labyrinth as some sort of dark, scary maze from which one might never emerge. My friend is someone who is drawn to healing, meditation, and spiritual paths, and she told me she had been looking into them and was amazed at what she found.

Most labyrinths, which have been around since the ancient Greek times, have one definitive path from beginning to end, as opposed to a maze that has dead-ends and multiple options. What my friend was intrigued by, however, was their use by many people as a ritual or meditative tool. They have been used in many cultures and belief systems and can be found in cathedrals the world over, the most famous being Chartres in France. A little searching turned up labyrinths all over our area in parks and churches, hidden treasures. I was intrigued.

Photo by Ellen Saunders

Photo by Ellen Hall Saunders

It's been a tough summer. It turns out that an empty nest does not end a mother’s worries. My writing life called for my attention, my parenting concerns clouded my thoughts. I had barely put pen to paper. A little meditative walk through a labyrinth could be just what I needed to find some peace and clarity.

My husband gamely agreed to spend a balmy evening exploring a labyrinth a short subway ride away, lured by the promise of dinner in a restaurant nearby.

The circular labyrinth we visited is a concrete path with grass on either side that winds back and forth and in and out, eventually reaching the center where there is a little fountain. Apparently one is supposed to walk along slowly and meditatively, keeping a problem, person, or prayer in mind.

And so we walked. Thinking of all that made my heart heavy, I found I had to concentrate hard to follow the winding path, step by step, as I went around and around, back and forth, in and out of what was on my mind. Sometimes it seemed I was close to the center, almost touching the truth, but then the path would move me back out to the edge of the circle giving me more musing, more weaving, more winding. I tried to trust that the process itself, the meandering, would lead to clarity.

The labyrinth seemed to offer whatever one needed from it, and people around us were all experiencing it differently. There were kids running, jumping across the grass to the fountain, shouting. Some adults walked purposefully, deep in thought, while others took it lightly, laughing, racing through it. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

When I reached the center I took off my shoes and reveled in the cool water, walking a circle around the fountain, lighter of heart, clearer of mind. Some of the burdens that had jumbled my thoughts had fallen away. The static was gone. "Just tell the story," I kept thinking, and as I walked I found a way into the book I am writing that had eluded me before.

Dusk fell and calm spread through me. I walked back barefoot on the warm concrete, happily anticipating dinner.

Note:  A version of this essay appeared first on Ellen's blog.


Join our After Page One series.  We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude.   The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.


Ellen Hall Saunders is a freelance writer from Portland, Oregon, currently living in Cambridge, Mass. She writes for WGBH (Boston) and her essays has been published in The Oregonian and Vancouver Family Magazine. She blogs on gardening (Garlic & Gooseberries), travel (Wednesday Wanderings) and food (Food Friday), as well as finding the sweet in the bittersweet of mothering (Thoughts on This and That) on her website Ellen is currently writing a memoir about growing up in Portugal in the 1970s.

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