Labyrinths have been around for around 5,000 years. It is a ancient spiritual symbol and tool that is used in meditation to create wholeness. They pre-date Christianity, however, have been used within Christianity since the early Middle Ages. They can be seen on ancient pottery, and tiles, stone, historical sites, and are said to mirror spirals found in nature. They are found in different shapes, patterns, sizes, locations, are non-denominal and accessible for all to access. Labyrinths have become a metaphor for life’s journey, and a tool for both prayer, and meditation. They are also tools for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation, for the spirit, a mirror for the soul. There is integration of the mind with the body, and the body with the spirit.
Some say a labyrinth is a maze, however, it is slightly different in that there are no dead-ends. You can see the whole labyrinth in front of you, nothing is hidden. In a maze you loose your way, in a labyrinth, you find your way. It comprises of one single path that leads from the outside into the centre, and back out again, where the entrance becomes the exit. As long as you keep moving forward, you will always come out again. The basic principle is the same, regardless of the design.
Labyrinths can be used for meditation, prayer, taking a question into the centre and bringing the answer out. It can be used for inner clarity or, by leaving an ‘old’ part of yourself to be transformed.
Benefits of Walking the Labyrinth
- quietens the mind
- a feeling of wholeness
- recovers life balance
- letting go of the old
- encourages insight
- reduces stress
- self reflection
- celebration of life – opportunities for gratitude
- finding answers or insight, or both!
- inner peace and calm
Creating your own Labyrinth
Why not try and create your own labyrinth with shells, stones, grass and twigs? it doesn’t matter what the size is (unless you want to physically walk it). Or draw one, meditating as you draw. Here are some directions for creating your own.
How to walk the labyrinth in meditation (non-denominal)
This is a sacred space, a time to look within, to reflect, to pray, mediate, to consider and negotiate change. Draw or make a labyrinth. Go at your own pace. Try and focus on your breathing throughout. Spend some time in gratitude before entering the mediation. This is a simple way of walking the labyrinth, that you are invited to use or adapt as you wish, its your meditation, there is no right or wrong way of meditating. Give thanks at the end.
Going into the centre: Separating from the old. If you have a question, ask it as you walk.
Centre: Reflection, Contemplation, Making a transition
Exit: Affirm and integrate the change and the new. Notice your experience. Give thanks.
How to Walk the Labyrinth – Prayer Labyrinth – Christian Meditation
This can be done with a drawing of a labyrinth, and using your finger to move along the path, or drawn on the floor where you are able to physically walk the path.
The way in: Letting Go. Starting on the outside entrance of the labyrinth, step forward. We are invited to shed everything on our minds, worries, fears and concerns. As with mediation, let your thoughts come, and go, and remember that Jesus is with you.
Centre: Receive and Rest. Walk (or use our finger to trace the the path) towards the centre, letting your mind take you where it will. Stop in the centre. We can be still and wait for the sense of God’s presence, a feeling, powerful thought or image, or profound sense of peace. Spend some time in prayer and reflection. Receive God’s love and blessing.
Exit: Return. Turn from the centre and follow your path back the way you came, but now moving towards the exit. We do in the sense of God’s presence and a feeling of oneness with God, self and others. Return with gratitude. Give thanks and praise to God.
A personal experience
Today I walked a labyrinth for the first time, in my local church. This was a Lenten Labyrinth. I have decided to share parts of this experience. It was a labyrinth mapped on the floor of the church (see photograph). As I entered the church, I noticed how calm and still it was. I was the only person there, and there was a sense of peace, quiet, perfect for meditation and prayer. It felt like I had stepped away from the ‘outside world’ and into a sanctuary of calm. In front of the alter there was a labyrinth on the floor, a leaflet nearby with instructions. I took my shoes off (this wasn’t compulsory, but I just felt it right to do so). I followed the instructions (similar to the prayer labyrinth described above). As I started to walk, I noticed that it felt like someone was walking with me. I noticed thoughts come and go. When I got to the centre, I stopped. I felt a an overwhelming sense of love, peace, healing, like I was in a bubble. After a while I then began the journey back to the exit, following the path. I noticed that my thoughts were different, more prayer like. When I stopped at the exit, it was like I was being released from old pain, like a snake shedding a skin or a deer shedding its winter heavy coat, or a hiker taking off their heavy backpack. The physical feeling was of feeling like a weight had been lifted. I gave a prayer of gratitude and thanks.
Therapy and Labyrinths
My logo is based on a labyrinth I drew, this was an important part of communicating where my counselling and psychotherapy practice has evolved from. I feel a deep connection between the counselling experience and walking the path of wholeness, walking a path of self discovery, letting go of the old, welcoming the new and integration. If this resonates with you, and you would like to explore labyrinths further, it would be lovely to hear from you.