Welcome! There are many styles of labyrinths, all composed of twisting paths, leading from an entrance, to the center, and back out again by the same path. Unlike a maze, labyrinths are designed not to confuse, but to make clear; to lead not to dead ends but toward a destination. The path winds throughout and becomes a mirror for where we are in our lives.
Scholars believe labyrinths may have existed for 4,000 years, originating on the island of Crete. The oldest existing labyrinth pattern can be seen in a rock carving on the island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy, and the oldest one designed to walk through was in Egypt and dates back to 2000 BCE. Labyrinths have been part of cultures as diverse as American Hopi Indian, Scandinavian and Indian.
In this century, the labyrinth has been re-discovered, and is used by many as a meditative practice.
1) Sometimes we can walk for the simple joy of the experience. Generally labyrinths are set in places of beauty that remind us of the marvel of creation.
2) The labyrinth experience can be trusted. We will not get lost. By simply and persistently putting one foot in front of the other, we will reach our goal.
3) Some find walking this pathway relaxing, and helpful in times of grief, stress or clarification.
Some people us the labyrinth as a way of praying.
Some people like to think of a question, intention, or concern before beginning, and let the walk be a time of musing, praying, and reflecting on this in their Creator’s presence.
Some people like to divide the walk into 3 parts:
· Walking in: A releasing and letting go of the details of your life, a purging of the thoughts and emotions. This is a time to cast off, discard, divest, unwrap, and forget. Let go of all that burdens you.
· At the center: A place of illumination. This is also a place of prayer and/or meditation. Being in the center is a time to be open, expectant, empty, and receptive. Receive what is there for you to receive.
· On the way out: On the way out consider what you are bringing with you as you return to your regular world. Join with your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world, and carry the peace and gifts you have received as you return to the many circles in which you live, and work, and have your being. This is a time to gain direction, satisfaction, comfort, and new energy.
Some choose a “breath prayer”: a very short repetitive prayer you can say on an inbreath and outbreath such as “Be still // and know” or “I am with you // always.” You can pray or meditate with the rhythm of your steps or your breathing.
The Labyrinth has been used by Christians, Muslims and possibly other religions as a metaphor for pilgrimage – some say that in the Middle Ages, those who could not make the strenuous and expensive trip to the Holy Land on pilgrimage would take their prayer to the labyrinth. It is a chance to see what God would bring to mind as they put one foot in front of the other.
We can “know” things while meditatively walking the labyrinth that we can’t “know” sitting still. The very act of walking serves to still our thoughts, allowing space for our Higher Being to speak. The rhythm of walking is conducive to stillness. The unpredictability of the labyrinth’s twists and turns helps us to relinquish our need to feel “in control” and to acknowledge our dependence upon a higher being. The certainty of reaching the center inspires us to trust in our Higher Being’s providence.
All these things can serve to draw us into a genuine experience of prayer – of allowing our hearts to be open before our Creator.
· You might want to center yourself prior to starting your walk. This can be done using centering prayer, having a brief meditation or doing a movement exercise.
· Begin only at the entry point.
· Don’t worry about appearing to be in too much of a hurry. Your peace is your pace.
· Walk gently at a pace that feels right to you. Your walk may be faster or slower than someone else’s. If you need to pass someone or to allow someone to pass you, that is fine. If you step aside, be sure to return to your own ‘lane’ or you could find yourself turned around.
· Try not to engage with what someone else is doing on the labyrinth . . . simply observe, body, soul and spirit . . . just notice . . . let what you notice teach you. If someone upsets you, that person is your teacher.
· You may want to pause for a moment when you reach the center, to enjoy the stillness. There is no time limit.
· The process can take about half an hour – if that seems too much, you may leave at any point: simply walk out. You can return whenever you like.
· It is better not to try to make your walk “be” something dramatic – just enjoy what is, for our Higher Being is with us when we travel. There is no right or wrong way of doing a walk.
· Like any spiritual practice it takes practice.
Here at Cross Wood, United Church of Christ, you are welcome to come back again and again – either in community or by yourself. On Tuesday nights we have a Gathering of Renewal – with song, prayer and study or meditation of God’s word. The Gathering of Renewal takes place at 7:00 PM, but about an hour before I can usually be found walking the labyrinth in preparation. You are free to join me walking, ask me questions or come to the Gathering of Renewal too. All are welcome! The Ancient Art of Labyrinth Walking will take place on the first Saturday of each month at 10:00 AM. Hope to see you there.