“Any action done with mindfulness helps unite body and spirit. 'Solvitur Ambulando'” (It is solved by walking)
A labyrinth is a geometric pattern with a well-defined pathway that winds its way to the center and back out again. Unlike a maze, there are no tricks in the pattern, no wrong turns, no dead ends. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other and follow the meandering path, and you will reach the center and come back out again.
Labyrinths have existed for over 3,500 years and have been adopted by many cultures for a variety of uses. In the Middle Ages, labyrinth designs made their way into churches and cathedrals in France and northern Italy. These were typically inlaid in the stone floors of the nave of the church, like the famous one in Chartres, France.
The Labyrinth Today
The labyrinth is making a comeback as a tool offering a chance to take time out from busy lives and to leave schedules and stress behind. Walking the labyrinth can richly bless our lives and lead us to discovery, insight, peace, solace, and direction. It reminds us that no time or effort is ever wasted. If we stay the course, every step, no matter how circuitous, leads us closer to our goal. It fosters unity and connectedness by inviting everyone to walk the path together as a symbolic act of cooperation. As a spiritual discipline, the labyrinth is more about the journey than the destination, more about being rather than doing, integrating body and mind, reason and imagination, thought and feeling into one harmonious whole as God intended.
Why Walk the Labyrinth?
Walking the labyrinth is embodied prayer. It is a symbolic action that can bring meaning into everyday reality; a place of integration, of focus; a place to discover or recover the desire of one’s heart.
“No one can know God that has not first known himself or herself. Go to the depths of the soul, the secret place… to the roots, to the heights; for all that God can do is focused there.” -Meister Eckhart
Suggestions for Your Walk
Many people have concerns about their first labyrinth walk. Be assured that your way is the right way to walk the labyrinth.
Prior to your walk...
You may find it helpful to sit and relax, clear your mind and become aware of your breath. Spend a few minutes in transition from the outside world. Say a prayer, read a sacred text, or spend some time outside the labyrinth before you begin.
Walk in prayer...
Many people walk the labyrinth as a prayer-walk, giving thanks and praise, asking God for help for self and others.
Walk in reflection...
This is an excellent place in which to meditate on a question, joy or concern. It is also wonderful to walk in silent meditation, letting go of thoughts and entering a sacred space of silence and solitude.
A body prayer...
The walk can be a prayer in itself. Carry a symbol of significance for you… feel free… be spontaneous… dance!
A Contemporary Three-Part Guide
Walking in – Release
As you walk toward the center, let go of the details and concerns of your life. This can quiet your mind and open your heart.
Remaining in the Center – Communion
The center is a place of quiet or meditation; a place to be open, a place to receive, to commune with the Divine. Stay here as long as you wish, so long as there is room for others to enter.
Walking out – Synthesis
Walking out is symbolic of taking what you have received back out into the world in order to incorporate it into your life or to act upon it.