Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

The Labyrinth of Life

I love maps. I love maps I can hold in my hand and unfold on a table. I love Rand McNally atlases. I love globes. I love the placemat maps I got for my grandson, so that we can move his plate aside and find where we live and explore the country or the world. I love maps in malls and hotels that say “you are here.” When I lived in Paris years ago, I didn’t go anywhere without my paperback street guide which included maps of the Metro and bus routes. I always knew where I was, where I was going, and how to get there.

I’ve had many occasions in recent years to ride in the car while one of my daughters is driving. When they get in the car, they automatically program the GPS for their destination, and follow the moving arrow along with the spoken directions. The directions lead them one step at a time, guiding them just as far as the next turn. Even when it is somewhere that, at least in my opinion, they should know how to get to, they turn over the directions to the GPS and trust that it will get them there. They are content to know only their immediate instruction and seem unperturbed that the rest of the route is a mystery, revealed only as needed. It is, I’ve come to appreciate, a lesson in faith.

Like walking a labyrinth. There is a lovely labyrinth not far from me, nestled among trees and bushes in a beautiful garden adjoining a monastery. It is open to the public and I have walked it many times in all seasons. A labyrinth, unlike a maze, has only one route to the center. You cannot make a wrong turn. However, it is impossible to stand at the entrance and see how you are going to get from point A to point B. The path turns and winds in such a way that you can only see the segment immediately in front of you.

Walking a labyrinth is a meditation in being present, trusting that no matter how many twists and turns you take, you are being led without mistake on the path to God (or the center, or your true being, or enlightenment, or whatever term you want to use). And once you reach the center, after resting in the power of its energy, you turn and walk back out, again trusting the path to lead you, this time back into the world, carrying the experience of truth with you.

So I’m not going to scoff at my daughters anymore for their reliance on and trust in that GPS. It might not be as infallible as the labyrinth, but perhaps it is their version of a practice in being present and trusting in the goodness of the universe.

I can appreciate that…and still like maps.

If we learn to love the earth, we will find labyrinths, gardens, fountains, and precious jewels! A whole new world will open itself to us. We will discover what it means to be truly alive. ~Teresa of Avila

18 thoughts on “The Labyrinth of Life”

  1. I'm beginning to wonder where I'd be without a GPS when I need it, but you have put it all into perspective here, Galen. I have traversed the labyrinth trail more than once, and it has never failed to reconnect me to the real journey God has in store for me. We stand at crossroads that only God can determine in which direction we will go.
    I love maps, too, especially His.
    Blessings, my friend!

  2. My kids rely on GPS (totally), and you're right, they are content to be directed one command at a time, trusting that they will get to their destination. It is very similar to living a life of faith. I am still trying to patiently take one step at a time, keeping my mind and heart open to Truth. We never know the twists and turns our pathway may take, but it is a comfort to know that we are not alone.

  3. I was just talking to someone recently about a major life decision she has to make in a few months. Although the time for deciding was not yet here, it was very hard for her to wait for clarity. She wanted to know NOW what the decision would be THEN. We had a good conversation about the discomfort with living with uncertainty. I'm learning to trust my internal GPS more and more. Thanks for your comment, Pam.

  4. The more I think about it, the more I see the comparison to GPS. For example, if you don't follow the GPS direction, the program is not upset. It simply recalculates your route and gives you a new way to get to your destination. Interesting! Hope you had a good Thanksgiving. Thanks for commenting, Martha.

  5. I remember a GPS insisting that the "nearest gas station" when we were… well, let's say befuddled in Cleveland… was nothing but a massive hole in the ground across a bridge that was half dismantled…

  6. Just to add, the way the GPS does recalculate when you take a wrong turn shows wherever you are on your journey, there is always a way through. I love imagery like this, makes it easier to remember concepts…thanks, Galen.

  7. I love the GPS theme developing in symbolism here, Galen. I don't trust GPS completely because sometimes it gets things wrong and if you don't realise you're going off course it can be a bit of a panic when you suddenly realise it has taken you in the wrong direction. They have to be updated regularly otherwise this can happen, so it's best to employ the use of maps too – but not both at the same time!

    Love the idea, and far prefer the idea, of an internal GPS which covers physical and spiritual realms happily. For me, it's about committing to my internal signal when it starts beeping that I'm not being present. I was driving to a volunteer meet this morning with email problems on my mind, which I could do with out right now. I told myself off, then tried to be present, but the issue was still niggling. How annoying it was! But then acceptance came in and I got a handle on it. My internal GPS at least beeped – that's progress!

  8. Great metaphor for the difference between manufactured (ie fallible) GPS, and inner/divine GPS. The great thing about a labyrinth is that if you follow the "directions"/path, you will reach the center without fail.

  9. Yes, as I said to CW, the GPS in our cars is not as infallible as our internal GPS. Hope your meeting went well and your email problems are resolved. Thanks for commenting, Lynne.

  10. The metaphor is definitely expanded when you add that recalculating feature. No matter how you go astray, the GPS will get you back on track. I am going to think about this some more! Thanks, Lynne.

  11. I don't use the GPS on my phone very often (I don't have one in my ancient car), but when I do, I like to see where the map shows up ahead. It's very helpful but not infallible. Sometimes it will take me ways that I know are not as good as ones I've taken on my own.

  12. Oooops, Galen, I am going to be the odd-one-out. Walking a labyrinth I find myself anticipating only my next (present moment) breath and next step; I have faith that the center will always be there. With the GPS, however, I feel anxious while waiting for the next direction, HOPING that I am able to fulfill that requirement and trusting, somewhat, that the GPS and I properly initiated that encounter. Walking the labyrinth I become spiritually energized, "following" the GPS I feel like I am on alert to fulfill a direction from elsewhere or "all" is lost…and exhausted upon arrival. Make sense?

  13. Perfectly. Like I said, I still like maps. I am not as trusting and relaxed as my daughters are when following GPS directions. What I observed is that they seem to have the same faith and confidence in the GPS (as misguided as that might be!) as what I experience walking the labyrinth. They might not be as spiritually refreshed as after a meditative labyrinth walk, but I was struck by how their engagement with the GPS was quite different from my own (which is more like yours). So while I've come to appreciate that faith aspect to their following GPS directions, and used that to make the analogy, I do not fully share their confidence. So you are not the odd one out, at least in my book. Nice to hear from you.

  14. What a lovely analogy on GPS and Faith. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one. We all need a map to help us back into the presence of our Heavenly Parents and Savior, Jesus Christ. There is great peace when you know where you are going. Loving thoughts and hugs for you!

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