First click the link above to view various, amazing labyrinths.
It was like love at first sight I must say. My relationship with the labyrinth, that is. I had known and read extensively about labyrinths long before I walked my first one.
What exactly is a labyrinth?
A labyrinth is a circular course leading into a center and then leading outward in the same fashion. It’s done as a meditative walk, which becomes a metaphor for life’s journey. For many, it becomes a walk of prayer and hence, a sacred walk. Simple, yet powerful. It is a devotional tool for our fast-paced world which offers complexities for most of us.
The historical aspect of the labyrinth stretches back over 3500 years and involves concepts like sacred geometry, which theoretically leads one to truth and self understanding. Many European cathedrals in the Middle Ages built labyrinths into the floors within their churches. Walking such labyrinths became symbolic of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land when an actual journey was impossible. The Chartres Cathedral in France, built around 1200, displays one such surviving labyrinth. http://www.lessons4living.com/chartres_labyrinth.htm
Treasures can be had from walking the labyrinth. It is a retreat equipping a stronger, healthier return to daily life. I can attest to the serenity I’ve felt walking labyrinths. A few years ago, a local cultural center sponsored a star-studded, moonlit labyrinth in their meadow. That walk resides in a favorite place in my mind. The dew and the moon fell on my soul that night.
There is no prescribed way to walk a labyrinth. No rules of etiquette except for respect and reverence. Many people like to bow their heads as they enter the labyrinth; others like to divide the walk into the following steps:
- Purgation: as you begin your walk, release or shed your concerns, focus and quiet your mind. Let go.
- Illumination: when at the center, think of receiving. Try not to worry, don’t hurry. Stay as long as needed. Be still and know. Pause and receive what God has.
- Union: on the outward or return walk let planted seeds take hold. Focus on what you thought about or learned in the center.
- Implementation: Once the walk is completed, listen to God. This is where you act on things.
Others may find it helpful to enter the labyrinth with specific issues, prayers or words. These are called interpersonal, intercessory or meditative walks. The prayer or word or need is repeated softly or in your mind as you walk.
In my town, the Saint Francis of Assisi Church hosts a labyrinth in its narthex. The labyrinth is open for walking from 4 to 8 pm during Lent. Discussion of labyrinths is incomplete without mention of the Reverend Doctor Lauren Artress and her book Walking a Sacred Path. Reverend Artress of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco pioneered the labyrinth concept and is considered the voice of the labyrinth movement. Grace’s first labyrinth is an exact replica of the one at Chartres and is walked by many. http://www.gracecathedral.org/our-labyrinths/
John Ridder is another very active proponent of labyrinths. His knowledge of labyrinth lore and skill in building them earned him the cyber title of ‘the labyrinth guy.’ John has now built over 160 labyrinths in places as far away as Australia and Hong Kong and as close to me as Tipton, Indiana and the grounds of the Logansport, Indiana State Hospital. He built the labyrinth at the Fatima Retreat Center in Indianapolis and considers it among his best top ten. Find John at www.paxworks.com.
Portable labyrinths are made from heavy canvas or plastic with the design integrated. Churches use them in parking lots or large halls. They may also be painted on concrete; some are made with stone, some with shrubbery hedge rows. Desktop finger labyrinths are also popular. I enjoy a laminated 8×10 labyrinth featuring the design of the Chartres labyrinth.
I invite you to consider a labyrinth walk. We’re all spiritual beings on a human journey, not human beings on a spiritual journey. The sacred walk of the labyrinth helps make sense of our travels.