What Do Labyrinths Have to Do with Leadership?
The labyrinth is a unique and absorbing invention. They have been used for thousands of years throughout the world, in different cultures and religions. The simple act of walking a labyrinth can shift ordinary linear perception because they are designed along curving circuits the walker can see the center. However, because there are many turnings along the way, your sense of time and space is altered. You may feel close to the center, yet in the next moment feel far away. It can be disorienting and orienting at the same time. The labyrinth offers a full-immersion in mindfulness for brain and body, noticing one moment at a time.
One particularly memorable walk for me was found in the Sonoran desert located in the Southwestern United States. Although I had walked this labyrinth before, I imagined my experience may be quite different than in my previous visit.
My intention was to be slow and deliberate. I began with a pace that seemed sluggish. Mindfulness is not accessible when we are fast and rushing. After the first few steps, I noticed that I was hearing the sound of the sand crunching under my feet. With each step my gaze pointed in a direction that yielded surprises and delights. New landscapes, flora, fauna, sounds of different birds, of water, of the occasional plane flying overhead.
I had no desire to know when I would arrive in the center. I knew that it would happen when I got there. That allowed me to simply relax, trust, and let go. No two steps were alike. Every step was deliberate, paced, and absorbing. Time stopped for me. The labyrinth became a walking mindfulness meditation.
Labyrinth leadership take-aways:
- We get what we pay attention to. Sight on the goal can prevent us from experiencing what’s happening along the way.
- The journey can be the result. Getting to the “center” was no more or less satisfying than the process of getting there.
- Doing one thing purposefully yields surprising benefits over doing many things aimlessly.
- Visualizing where we are going before starting out is an important part of any process or system to advance.
- Slow down to move fast. Those few moments when we become fully absorbed in an experience are the gateway to insight, creativity, and innovation. When we move fast, we are likely reacting and leaving greatness on the table.
If you have the opportunity to walk a labyrinth, do so. If not, create a similar experience by visiting a nearby park or trail. Become aware of how you personally experience your own learning of the labyrinth’s wisdom. And while you’re there, know that while you have walked the path of the labyrinth, it has left its path within you