The other day I dropped by the Intermountain Medical Center for my regular stress test — a test designed to measure your vital signs under stress then add to that stress with the results.

I don't run a treadmill there anymore. They simply shoot me full of something that makes me feel like I've been shinnying up a flagpole for an hour, check my signs and turn me loose.

I left with a headache and a revelation.

I'm getting older.

The comic Steven Wright once said, "I hope to live forever. So far so good."

Well, so far so good for me, too.

While heading back to the car, I passed the Tempest memorial labyrinth on the medical center grounds. Amid all the confusion and concern of the health center, someone had thought to install a little pocket of peace. On a whim I decided to walk its path. Within moments I was feeling centered again. The word "core" is Latin for "heart."

I was able to get back to my core, thanks to the kindness of some labyrinth-building strangers.

People tend to confuse labyrinths with mazes. A maze is a puzzle with dead ends and blind alleys. You have to figure a maze out. But a labyrinth is one, simple path — a winding but purposeful path. You enter a labyrinth, walk to and fro, get to the center of the circle, pause to reflect, then walk until you wind your way back to where you began.

Many European cathedrals have labyrinths embedded in their floors. Some people have "finger labyrinths" they carry with them, so they can trace the path with a finger in public place.

Following the path is supposed to represent not only our journey through life, but our journey inside to our deeper selves.

I believe in that deeper self. In spiritual moments, I feel I get in touch with a self that is more "me" than the day-to-day me. That deep self sees most of what I do in life as "tinkling brass" (to borrow from Paul). The deeper me is more real, relaxed and grounded than the surface me.

Walking a labyrinth is one way to find that inner self.

While walking a labyrinth, I've been told, you should be alert to everything around you — the sky, the wind, the sun. You should move steadily, with purpose, and try to focus on the moment.

When done right, the walk becomes a form of prayer.

Christianity pretty much abandoned labyrinths in the 19th century, but I've heard some Christians are bringing them back.

Good for them.

Sometimes, to get what is spiritual right, you have to do something physical (think baptism and the laying on of hands).

Treading the path of a labyrinth is one way to get your heart, mind and body back in rhythm with each other

It's a royal road — to yourself.

e-mail: jerjohn@desnews.com