Labyrinths can be used as a walking meditation. As well as design, part of their appeal is they offer results with ease and simplicity.
Firstly, what is a Labyrinth?
If you think of a maze, you’re on the right track, however labyrinths are most often a two dimensional design. It differs from a maze by having just a single circuitous pathway to the centre, which you return on to exit. Mazes are a puzzle, and are intended to keep you guessing, as they lead you down many false pathways to dead ends.
Where are Labyrinths Located?
Worldwide, in churches, cathedrals, medical centres, hospitals, prisons, schools, colleges, universities, public parks, retreats and spas. They are thought to be between 4 to 5 thousand years old. Early designs were found on rocks, tablets, tiles and pottery. Latterly, one of the most famous Labyrinths can be found on the floor in the Chartres cathedral in France.
I first came across a labyrinth when I was on a retreat in Hawaii. How come I was there? I had reached a place in my personal life where I was asking myself, who am I? Wife, mum, daughter, sister, employee. But who is Veronica? I had gotten lost in being all of the other roles and so I decided to take a trip to Sydney Australia, which somehow through fate, spring boarded me to a retreat in Hawaii. Part of the retreat experience was the opportunity to walk the labyrinth.
I was using it as a walking meditation allowing the labyrinth to bring to mind any lessons or insights that may assist me moving forward. Once you quieten your mind and allow yourself to be open receptive, metaphorical information comes forth in a way that is pertinent to you at the time.
My Journey & Insights
I entered in to the labyrinth and immediately spotted the centre circle, where I was headed. Whilst I was walking, it seemed the pathway drew me nearer to the centre and then further away. This happened a couple of times, and with my eye firmly on the centre circle I found frustration arising, and thought this is taking some time, I must have gone wrong. A little while longer and I was delighted to find myself in the middle. After quick scan of the area, I decided to exit doubling back on the path I came in. Being aware of the wandering path and the time it took, when opportunity arose, I hopped a few lanes and exited. Glancing at my watch, it was time for my afternoon session with the retreat facilitator, Eve.
Considering this was the first time for me to use a labyrinth, Eve helped me to decode the metaphors.
Eve said “OK lets look back at your experience and chat what thoughts and feelings arose as you were in the labyrinth”
Firstly I was feeling a little frustrated at being able to see the centre point, and yet not reaching it quicker.
“Yes” she said, “that offers the idea that while life is a journey from one point to another, often we can be so transfixed with where we’re heading, we’re not really aware and appreciating all that is involved and happening on the way. In effect missing the joy of living. For example say a holiday abroad, there’s the excitement of the booking, researching the area, discussing possible sightseeing attractions, sharing the details with friends, following the weather patterns, buying suitable clothing, exchanging currency etc., all of these are part of the build up to the holiday”
Yes, I see what Eve meant. I was so eager to reach the centre I hadn’t even thought to take in my beautiful surroundings. This could also apply to my home life. I could move to appreciation of all that surrounded me, family, friends, situations and circumstances. Allowing the clues and prompts I was being offered, to lead me to a personal growth experience.
Next I mentioned when the path seemingly moved me further from the centre. I doubted myself and lack of self confidence arose as I thought I’d made a mistake. Easily relatable to a frequent pattern in my current life.
As Eve pointed out there is just a single pathway, so I was unlikely to make a mistake.
Eve asked what happened when I reached the centre? I said I headed back out. At this point she offered me a possible solution to my self doubt “Once we have achieved a goal, far too many of us use it like a tick list and then are quickly onto the next thing. Whereas if you take the time to really allow the satisfaction and sense of achievement to deepen within yourself, your whole psyche would recognise your progress, and use this as a memory boost towards the next challenge. The same way as performers or athletes complete the smaller events, as stepping stones to the greater events. The more sense of achievement you can recall, the greater the confidence you can feel”
Hmm that made sense. By now I could see and feel how the metaphors were relating to my habits and beliefs.
Lastly I remembered how I wasn’t prepared to tread the whole path on the return, and this also related to, where in life if I had got bored of a task, I often gave up before I had finished. Nature works in cycles with definitive endings, and as I see my self as part of nature, with cyclic body systems, maybe I would be more in harmony with myself if I completed tasks in full. Even more profound, only take on tasks which bring my senses alive, thus eliminating boredom, and overwhelm created by (‘maze’) distractions.
I was fascinated. From just a bit of curiosity and I was led to all these insights, This sparked my interest in finding out more about Labyrinths. My research brought me to Dan Johnston who holds a PhD in clinical psychology and his website http://lessons4living.com/learning.htm He describes his findings after having walked a labyrinth “Meaningful insights were offered. Months of psychotherapy could have given less. I came to understand that the labyrinth was indeed a significant tool for transformation”
My belief why Labyrinths work. The circuitous route engages the creative side of the brain and so it slows down the mental chatter allowing your subconscious to rise. It offers an atmosphere of focused attention, and ease of the route offers you an uplifting sense of achievement, as you reach the centre. As a bonus, often they are located outside in nature.
Of course, you can take the opportunity to experiment and find out for yourself https://labyrinthlocator.com/
Suggestion on How to Use a Labyrinth
It is helpful to quieten yourself, aim to be open minded and possibly have a question you’d like have answered, or setting an intention, cultivating patience for example.
Releasing on the way in any thoughts, habits or beliefs that could be outdated or holding you back, or just generally unhelpful.
Receiving in the centre. Taking time to really listen to yourself, to deepen this connection by feeling into any emotions that have risen. Have any ideas or solutions been revealed?
Consolidation of insights gained and your choice of what to do with the information received.
What aha’s and insights will you gain? Enjoy.