I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in several Labyrinth walks over the past 10 years. Each time the journey has been different and each time it has been a spiritual journey for me. I have shed tears, released grief and anger, I have learned lessons about myself and how to deal with the challenges in my life. I have also received inspiration and guidance for my future. I have laughed and I have danced both inwardly and physically.
The labyrinth dates back about 3500 to 4000 years. It is a continuous series of lines that weave back and forth and lead to a common central point. This powerful example of sacred geometry can be found at different points in time in many cultures around the world such as Celtic, Mayan, Greek and Native American. It can also be found in almost every major religious tradition in the world. Walking the labyrinth helps to clear the mind and to receive insight.
Many people confuse the labyrinth with a maze but they are not the same. A maze is a route that has many dead ends and trick turns. A Labyrinth is only a single path that leads into the center and out again. When walking the Labyrinth the path leads you along a circuit with many 180 degree turns. The change in directions causes you to shift from one side of your brain to the other. This is part of the benefit of the labyrinth in that it helps to open the connection between the 2 sides of the brain using both sides equally. This balancing through repetition helps to produce a deeper receptive state of consciousness and helps to balance and open the chakras – our major energy centers.
The 2 most common designs of labyrinths are the seven circuit, and the 11 circuit. The 7 circuit dates back about 4000 years. It is also known as the Cretan Labyrinth. This 7 circuit design has been found on Cretan coins and pottery and is associated with the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The 7 circuit design has been found on ancient Cretan coins and pottery.
In the Middle Ages the more complex 11 circuit design was introduced. It is divided into 4 quadrants each with the same number of turns and distance traveled. They were often inlayed within the Gothic cathedrals built during this time. The most famous is in the Chartres Cathedral in Chartres France. It is open to the public and people from around from around the world still come and walk the Labyrinth.
The Labyrinth has been used as a pilgrimage, a journey searching for meaning and guidance. It was also used for repentance with people completing the journey on their knees. The more elaborate 11 circuit design was often used as a substitute for the actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The Labyrinth walk is a spiritual tool for people. It can help with the healing process. It can help in decision making, in how to deal with challenges we are facing, release grief, release anger, release stress. It can aid in helping us find our purpose in life. I always have found that this spiritual tool helps me to see and experience the good in my life, to celebrate and give thanks.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to walk the Labyrinth. It is a personal journey and each walk is different for each person. Before entering you may wish to place your intention, ask a question for which you are seeking guidance. You may also just enter and be open to receive whatever messages or insights you receive. One facilitator suggested to state that you are of quiet mind and you have an open heart. Once you are ready to enter you begin the walk by stepping into the entrance and placing one foot in front of the other. If there are several people walking it is customary to leave a bit of space after the person before you has entered. Everyone is encouraged to walk at their own pace in a quiet meditative/reflective state. It is possible to pass someone or allow someone to pass you by stepping off the path momentarily and turning sideways to allow passage. A turn is a good place to pass with one person pausing and the other stepping in front of the paused person and then completing their turn there. Upon reaching the center you are welcome to stay and use this space and time for reflection, meditation or prayer. A time to be quiet within. When you are ready to leave the center, you exit the labyrinth the same way you came in, walking along the same path but in the reversed direction. Many people feel the walk out is a time for processing the information or guidance you may have received. Returning to our everyday lives empowered by the experience to help us transform our lives and actions.
After exiting the Labyrinth one can choose to quietly leave the space or stay in the room and continue to relect, meditate and assimilate. I have found that watching others walk the Labyrinth is very therapeutic and calming. I often watch for a period of time prior to entering the labyrinth myself and also after exiting.
The labyrinth experience is a personal one as is the choice to walk the labyrinth. Remember that is it not a maze in which one can get lost. The labyrinth is a path that helps you to find yourself, your purpose and the joy in your life.
Come join us for the upcoming Labyrinth walks.
First St Andrew’s united Church, corner of Queens and Waterloo.
Come out on: Tuesday April 22nd at 7 pm
Friday May 16th. (Please arrive on time as doors will be locked when we start. )
We will be walking the 11 circuit Chartres Labyrinth design (as shown above) It will be set up in Proudfoot hall in the basement of the church.