As a writer, I often daydream. Sometimes, I daydream at the computer when the words aren’t flowing and I need to figure out what happens next. Sometimes, I take a shower and the thoughts just start to happen. Getting unstuck, finding a new path, whatever I need, often happens when I take that mental break and stop trying to force things to happen. I’ve even had breakthroughs on the treadmill while making deals with myself that I’ll get to that next mile mark. Whatever it takes.

But on Saturday, I found a new place to think. My RWA chapter went on a field trip where we learned about labyrinths. After the presentation, we walked a labyrinth. It’s not as complicated as you might think. Labyrinths can be quite simple. They aren’t mazes, first of all. There is one path in and one path out and you walk the path with a clear site of the center. There are no tall hedges to get lost in.

I was surprised at how simple the labyrinth looked. We walked one that was patterned after the one here, which is a medieval labyrinth. Specifically, this is the one that’s in the Chartres Cathedral in France. The path we walked was grassy, with bricks to mark out the way. It’s meant to be walked barefoot, though as our teacher stressed, there is no right or wrong way to do it. I walked in wearing shoes, then took them off for the walk out.

And it was different each time. It’s a surprising experience, in fact. Our group of writers, who are normally quite boisterous and talkative, got very meditative as we walked. I found that I was a bit bored and distracted at first. And then I had a moment where a recent painful memory crashed in on me and had me on the verge of tears. It was surprising how it came out of nowhere when I wasn’t expecting it. Then the memory went away and the knowledge that things happen as they are meant to happen gave me comfort.

Then I settled into the experience and started to think of many things. I can’t even remember everything, though some of it was writing oriented. As I got closer to the center, I felt calmer. And then I was in the center, watching others walk the path, and feeling very peaceful and content. When I was finally ready to leave the center, I took my shoes off and began the walk back out. Oddly, I felt as if I’d left any baggage I was carrying in the center. I felt lighter, relieved in some way.

The farther I went, the less light I felt. It was almost like picking up the worries I’d left behind as I walked out. By the time I got out, I felt the same as when I’d entered. I felt like me, with all the worries and cares and joys that I have. It was a very interesting experience, and it’s one I intend to repeat. Because, as our teacher said, each experience in the labyrinth can be different. You won’t always get the same thing out of it.

I wouldn’t always anticipate having an experience where grief hit me out of the blue. But I definitely see the advantages to working out those thorny plot problems while walking the labyrinth. When I went in this time, I had no expectations, which is why so many things hit me. But if I went in thinking of my plot and characters, I know I would get answers to my questions. Just like standing in the shower or daydreaming on the computer.

I highly recommend the experience if you’re looking for a new place to think. You can learn more about labyrinths, including whether there are any in your town, here. If you’ve ever had the labyrinth experience, what did you think of it?