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One Step at a Time: Navigating Life’s Twists and Turns

Written By Jared Porter

“I love that thing!” my daughter said, pointing.

That “thing” was a small, hedge-lined, grass field stretching out before her under a brilliant blue sky. Birds were singing. The sun was shining. It was a beautiful summer day.

We’d been here before: the picturesque Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville. One of my favorite parts of the Scarritt Bennett Center is the labyrinth, a circular formation outlined by bricks pressed into the ground near the International Peace Garden. The pathway winds back and forth, back and forth in curving segments. They lead to a center space just big enough for one or two people to sit or stand. 

I’d been there many times over the years to think or take my mind off of something. To pray. To listen. Sometimes, to be still and quiet my mind. It always brings me peace.

We’d been here together before. We last walked the labyrinth together last spring, more than a year ago. With the uncertainty of the pandemic all around us, I remembered this safe space and sought its comfort. It was something I wanted to do together.

Where does the path lead?

If you’ve never walked a labyrinth, it’s an experience I highly recommend. Some might equate “labyrinth” with “maze,” but that is a misconception. A maze is designed with confusing paths and dead ends to trick, deceive, and keep one from finding the way. A labyrinth is quite different. It is not a puzzle meant to make one get lost. It’s a tool that helps us find our way – figuratively and literally.

My daughter, only 7 at the time, had never seen a labyrinth. I watched attentively as she navigated the twists and turns, uncertain but taking the path one step at a time. It can be hard to follow if you don’t watch the bricks closely; it’s easy to step onto an adjacent path and lose your way.

She got visibly frustrated a time or two that spring day. I encouraged her to keep going. I knew she could do it because I had, and I gave her some tips to help her find her way.

Eventually, she found her way to the center.

Finding our way through the labyrinth of life

I smiled that day as I realized just how much the labyrinth has in common with life’s journeys. So often, we start down a path uncertain where it leads, where it will take us, and how we’ll get there.

Even if we can see where we’re headed, the journey may not follow a path that has any rhyme or reason to it. All we can do is keep going and put one foot in front of the other.

I can tell you how many steps it takes me to complete the labyrinth: 275 to reach the center, 275 back out. Still, as many times as I’ve walked it, I can’t always make sense of where I am in relation to the center. I can’t quite tell how it will lead me there, but it always does. I’ve learned to trust the path because I’ve walked it before. Each time I do, it gets easier.

And just like life’s more difficult journeys, some encouragement and practical advice can help us get where we’re going. Having someone along for the journey helps. A good friend or counselor doesn’t walk the path for us, but WITH us — helping us believe in ourselves and trust the journey, even when we’re not certain where it will lead.

How do I know this? I’ve seen it and experienced it time and again, on the labyrinth and off. I’ve walked difficult journeys. I’ve walked some paths more than once. Just like the labyrinth, it gets easier with experience and with a trusted guide.

A happy ending

This time around, my daughter had a little trouble walking the labyrinth. She stopped, shrugged, and said she was confused. But with a little help, she kept going. I saw a difference this time; it was easier for her and she started on the path with more confidence than last time. She’d done it before and knew she could do it again. She paused and asked for help when she needed it.

I smiled as she reached the center. I smiled again when she found her way back out.

Life can feel like a labyrinth sometimes, but we don’t have to walk the path alone. That’s what the caring, compassionate therapists at Insight Counseling Centers do every day. I’m thankful for that. That summer day was a reminder of something I know to be true.

Jared Porter is a supporter and Board member of Insight Counseling Centers.

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