Some friends of mine are avid labyrinth walkers and have recommended the practice to me. But though I’ve long admired the floor of Chartres Cathedral—and once had the pleasure of seeing my children race around it at top speed before they climbed the tower and searched the high vaults for bats—I’ve never been on a formal retreat involving labyrinths. Perhaps that’s because I’m more familiar with informal collapses than with formal retreats. Fortunately an economic alternative has suggested itself: puddle hopping.
I love looking at old photographs; it’s the closest thing to time travel that I know. I find myself staring at century-old black and white photos taken on the streets of large cities. I look at the people. I search their faces, wondering what was going on in their minds. Often they are turning toward the camera—an item that was much less common then—with a shocked expression.
A few years ago I bought a book on leadership called Getting to Yes. I think it was about moving from win-lose situations to win-win situations in which everyone involved has an easier time “getting to yes.” I cannot say for sure since I never read it, but the title alone proved worth the price. Just seeing it on my bookshelf cheered me up.
When he’s at home, Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, begins each day with a short meditative walk, or sometimes with some slow prostrations, followed by 30 to 40 minutes of sitting on a low stool to repeat the Jesus prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”). Usually he repeats the words silently, saying them while breathing out. “Over the years increasing exposure to and engagement with the Buddhist world in particular has made me aware of practices not unlike the ‘Jesus Prayer’ and introduced me to disciplines that further enforce the stillness and physical focus that the prayer entails,” says Williams (New Statesman, July 8).