About ten years ago I moved to a house that was a few blocks away from a labyrinth. Although I had previous experience with labyrinths, living in close proximity to one allowed me to cultivate and deepen my practice. Labyrinth walking is now one of my favourite rituals and one that I do regularly and with intentionality.
One of my favourite labyrinth experiences was walking one with my daughter when she was 9 months pregnant. Both of us were undertaking a major transition in our lives. My daugher was about to become a mother. I was about to enter in the stage of being a grandmother. Her daughter was born two days after this picture. Some say that the shape of the labyrinth reflects the womb and that walking it can be an experience of rebirth.
Yesterday, I visited a favourite labyrinth. It is out in the country, surrounded by trees. I went as a party of my birthday week celebration. During this walk I expressed gratitude for the past year and reflected on what I desire for the coming year. It was a very meaningful experience for me.
A labyrinth is a circuitous path that can be used as a form or prayer or meditation. You can find them indoors or outdoors and made of a variety of materials. When I travel I often seek out labyrinths to walk. You can find a link to world wide labyrinth locator website here.
Some of the ways to use a labyrinth walk are for:
- stress reduction
- marking milestones in your life
- faith rituals
- decision making
If you have never walked a labyrinth, relax - you can't do it wrong. There is no magical way to walk a labyrinth. One of the benefits of walking these paths is that as you meander in and out you are engaging both the left and right hemispheres of your brain in a very unique way. The rhythm of walking the clockwise and counter-clockwise direction of the labyrinth provides comfort and peace.
If you have never walked a labyrinth here is a very basic approach to help you get started:
1. Entering the labyrinth: Pause at the opening, take some deep breaths, focus yourself, set your intention or pray.
2. Begin walking inward: Walk at a pace that is slower than usual but still comfortable for you. Many people use the walk in to the centre to release the things in their life that they want to let go of. I often name things that I want to leave behind in my life. Doubt or fear in specific areas often crop up for me.
3. The Centre: Once you are in the centre pause for a few minutes. Offer gratitude, take some deep breaths, pray, listen, centre yourself. I am currently learning about the four directions teachings and so I stood on the rock in the middle of the labyrinth above and faced each of the directions as I prayed and did some deep breathing. Begin moving back out when you feel ready.
4. Begin the journey outward: My common practice is to receive or ask for the things I want to have more of in my life. I have let go of the things I want and now I turn to the things I want in my life. I tend to think more of attitudes and mindsets here and not so much of material things. For example I may receive peace in a situation.
If walking a labyrinth is something that you want to explore there are a lot of resources available online. This book is one of my favourites. It provides you with a history of labyrinths and many ideas of how to walk a labyrinth.
Whatever milestone or crossroad you are at in your life, the practice of walking a labyrinth can be a deeply thoughtful and spiritual way of approaching it.