What is a Labyrinth?
A labyrinth is a walking meditation, a path of prayer, and an archetypal blueprint where our awareness meets Spirit. It has only one path that leads from the outer edge, in a circuitous path, to the center. There are no tricks to it and no dead ends. Unlike a maze where you lose your way, the labyrinth is a spiritual tool that can help you find your way.
The Benefits of Walking a Labyrinth
Labyrinths are currently being used world-wide as a way to quiet the mind and recover balance in life. It encourages meditation, insight, self-reflection, stress reduction, and provides a way to discover innovation and celebration. Labyrinths are open to all people as a non-denominational, cross-cultural blueprint for well-being. The practice of labyrinth walking integrates the body with the mind, and the mind with the spirit. Labyrinths can be found all around the world in medical centers, parks, churches, schools, prisons, memorial parks, spas, cathedrals and retreat centers, as well as in people’s backyards. Walking the labyrinth reduces stress, quiets the mind, grounds the body, and opens the heart.
How to Walk a Labyrinth
Labyrinth walking in an ancient practice used by many different faiths for spiritual centering, contemplation and prayer.
To prepare, you may want to sit quietly to reflect before walking the labyrinth. Some people come with questions, others just to slow down and take time out from a busy life. Some come to find strength to take the next step. Many come during times of grief and loss.
Generally, there are three stages to walking a labyrinth:
1) Release (on the way in),
2) Receive (in the center), and
3) Re-emerge (taking back out into the world that which you have received).
There is no set ritual for walking a labyrinth. The basic advice is to enter the labyrinth slowly, calming and clearing your mind. This may be done by repeating a prayer or chant. Open your senses and focus on the process of taking slow, deliberate steps. Bring to mind a prayer or spiritual question to contemplate during the walk to the center.
Upon reaching the center, pause to reflect, pray, listen for an answer or for a deeper revelation. Now begin the return journey. Pray or reflect further.
Upon exiting, use further reflection, prayer, or journaling to absorb the experience.
Use the labyrinth in any way that meets what you need while being respectful of others walking. You may even go directly to the center to sit quietly.
There are many ways to describe a labyrinth. It is a path of prayer, a walking meditation, a crucible of change, a watering hole for the spirit, and a mirror of the soul.
History of a Labyrinth
The labyrinth is an ancient pattern found in many cultures around the world. Labyrinth designs have been found on pottery, tablets and tiles that date back 5000 years. Many patterns are based on spirals and circles mirrored in nature.
In Native American tradition, the labyrinth is identical to the “Medicine Wheel” and “Man in the Maze.” The Celts described the labyrinth as the “Never-Ending Circle.” It is also known as the “Kabbala” in mystical Judaism. One feature that all labyrinths have in common is that they have one path that winds in a circuitous way to the center.
In the Christian tradition, around the year 1200 CE, a labyrinth was constructed in stone in the floor of the Chartres Cathedral near Paris. The faithful, who were not able to travel to the Holy Land, could make a pilgrimage journey to the cathedral and complete it by walking the labyrinth, denoting a symbolic journey to the Holy Land. Today, labyrinths are found in many Gothic cathedrals around the world.