In many ways going on a sabbatical is a lot like the purpose of walking a labyrinth. A labyrinth opposed to a maze, uses the same path in and out without any dead ends. Where the path winds or turns there is an opportunity for reflection into one’s life. With an open heart and mind, walking a labyrinth offers each one who walks an opportunity to engage his/her whole self: body, heart, and mind. The intentionality of walking a labyrinth includes 3 stages: Releasing, Receiving and Returning.
First Stage: Releasing
As one enters into a walk through a labyrinth there is an invitation to stand at the “entrance” and consider what is ahead. The releasing stage is where you stand at the edge of the labyrinth, knowing you are about to enter in, but uncertain of what is to come. It is a space to prepare one’s heart and mind. To shed thoughts and distractions that would disable you from entering in more fully. Letting go of the details and logistics of life enough to open your heart and quiet your mind before God.
Off-ramping daily tasks in preparation for a sabbatical parallels this concept of entering in. There is intentionality needed. Sure once could just start walking or as many do on a sabbatical stumble in exhaused. And sometimes this is the only option of how to arrive. But what could be gained in the intentional preparation of your heart, mind and body to receive what this unique and sacred space has to offer?
Second Stage: Receiving
Whether you pray, sit, stand, meditate, as you walk through at your own pace, allow yourself to connect with your whole self and consider where you are at right in this moment. For many sabbatical is a unique and precious gift of rest. Much of life is lived in a hurried rush from one event or meeting to another. Sabbatical is a call to release the tasks that might otherwise consume and fill one’s thoughts with too much noise. And an invitation to receive the gift of the stillness and silence often not afforded by the demands of daily life.
There is awareness that for many, kids still need to be attended to and bills still need to be paid. The challenge here is to engage this labyrinth-like space daily on sabbatical while the structure of life is less demanding to be able to implement this intentionality these rhythms in the midst of normal routines after.
It is from this place of receiving that a richness; a connection of head and heart ensue. The re-integration of one’s whole self, drinking from the well spring of life at “the center” provides the life that one needs to carry on with the task he/she has been called on this earth to fulfill. If this rushed, ignored or never encountered there is a drought of the spirit and mind that remains.
The other joy encountered in receiving from the the center is Creativity. The encounter and connection with the creator God happens in the stillness and openness afforded at the center. A depth of openness to accept who God created you to be happens after shedding off the logistical cares of the world, listening without the noisiness of the world and refocusing on that which is important for the greater good of the world.
Third Stage: Returning
Leaving the center requires faith and courage. From this safe and comfortable union remains the invitation to go boldly back into the world. Yet not alone; carrying with you the certainty of the encounter and experience of the wonder of the Creator God. There can be a peculiar and wonderful sense of strength and clarity that comes from having walked in. The renewed invitation is not to stay but to take what has been learned, absorbed, & experienced at the center and give it back to the world in the unique way that your unique calling in this world allows. From the richness of the center and the returning to give life away, each one who enters becomes more empowered to find and do the work your unique soul is called to do.