Walking a Labyrinth can be a beautiful healing journey bringing great insight for you around a particular issue or about your life. Catalyst magazine will start us off on our look at what a labyrinth experience is like:
A maze is a puzzle to be solved, defined by ambiguity, blind alleys and blocks. In contrast, a labyrinth is pilgrimage, where one path leads to the center and out again. It is traversed as a metaphor of the personal journey: inward, center and outward; releasing, receiving and returning; yin, yang and the interstitial opening in between. Its walk is contemplative, deliberate and restorative. The outline of the labyrinth is ancient—found throughout world cultures for at least 4,000 years.
“Everything in the labyrinth is metaphorical, a symbol of something else,” explains Robert Newman, Dean of the College of Humanities at the University of Utah.
A little labyrinth history
Angel Fire gives us some background on the long history of Labyrinths and how people used them:
Labyrinths have been around for over 4000 years and are found in just about every major religious tradition in the world. They have been an integral part of many cultures such as Native American, Greek, Celtic and Mayan. The Hopi called the labyrinth the symbol for “mother earth” and equated it with the Kiva. Like Stonehenge and the pyramids, they are magical geometric forms that define sacred space.
During the crusades, they were used to symbolically represent the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Today, labyrinths are being used for reflection, meditation, prayer and comfort. They are found in many sizes and shapes, and are created in sand, cornmeal, flour, painted on canvas, fashioned with masking tape or string for a temporary design, or built in a permanent fashion from stones, cut into turf, formed by mounds of earth, made from vegetation, or any other natural material.
The spiritual healing path
Labyrinth Center shares the healing aspects of walking a labyrinth:
There are as many different ways to walk the labyrinth as there are individuals. As Dr. Lauren Artress points out (Walking a Sacred Path – Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool), the seeking of answers to our questions is the act of walking a sacred path. When we walk the labyrinth, we discover our sacred inner space. We are attracted to healing tools such as labyrinth because they deepen our self-knowledge and empower our creativity. Walking the labyrinth clears the mind and gives insight into the life journey. It calms those in the throes of transition, and helps us to see life in the context of a path. We realize we are not humans on a spiritual path, but rather spiritual beings on a human path. It urges actions and stirs creative fires. To those who are in sorrow, it gives solace and peace.
The journey is different for everyone, as we each bring different raw material to the labyrinth. We come in uniqueness, and often depart with a greater sense of connectedness. So, walk on, with the understanding that you can access the truth in your soul.
Walking a labyrinth
Paxworks outlines the 5 steps of walking a labyrinth. Below are the first 3:
1) Environment: Begin by setting the environment for the experience. At organized walks, your host or facilitator has already prepared an environment by adjusting lighting, selecting music, controlling air conditioners, and saying opening prayers.
Set your personal environment by dropping your ‘physical baggage’ i.e. set aside bulky or noisy items like key-chains, pocket change, pagers, cell-phones and dangling jewelry. We especially encourage walkers to take off watches to remove the temptation to measure the walk’s progress chronologically. Many indoor labyrinths ask you to remove you shoes and walk in socks. A barefoot walk on an outdoor grass labyrinth is awesome!
The Walk: There is no required way to walk a labyrinth. The beauty of the labyrinth is that people can approach the experience on their own terms. However, as a guideline, traditional scholars have broken the ‘walk’ down into three stages.
2) Entering: (also referred to as shedding or purgation.) During this stage you walk the path toward the center, and should try to eliminate worldly concerns and quiet the mind.
3) Illumination: The time spent in the center. This is a time of openness and peacefulness; you experience, learn or receive what this unique moment offers. Take your time.
Building your own labyrinth
There are many resources on the web to help you build out a labyrinth if you are interested in making one on your land. They come in many sizes and shapes and can have different path walls (stones, rope, bushes, painted lines…) and different decorations (statues, flowers…) along the way.
Here’s a few good links:
- Labyrinth-Enterprises: A great summary of what you need to think about when choosing how to build your labyrinth including building materials and some costs.
- in5d: Answers general questions about building a labyrinth and gets into some great details on materials and how to stake out your points with some detailed geometry.
- The Labrynith Society: Great detailed directions on how to layout the design with masking tape, then build it out from there.
Here’s a video from John of CelticWay building out his very big, very awesome tree labrynith in 2008.
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