What is a Labyrinth
What is a Labyrinth?
A Labyrinth is a path that has a beginning and an end which are one and the same. In walking a Labyrinth we always end up where we started. A Labyrinth represents the path of life, with its twists and turns. On the surface, its simple design is a thing of beauty. Slowly walking a Labyrinth offers a chance to unwind from a stressful day, while a brisk walk may energize you.
A Labyrinth offers a kind of meditation that parallels the inner journey of reflection and meditation and the chance to become more aware of where we are in life, perhaps, an opportunity to come to "know" ourselves a little better.
How To Walk
There is no "correct" way to walk a Labyrinth - the walk is personal. A Labyrinth is not a maze, it has no dead ends, it gives no problem to solve, and there is no task to accomplish. You can relax.
Walking a Labyrinth opens you to the possibility of gaining a new understanding and insight
into who you are and about your place in the world.
Research has shown that focused walking such as walking a Labyrinth is highly efficient in reducing anxiety and eliciting the "relaxation response." This effect has significant long-term health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, slowing breathing rates, reducing incidents of chronic pain, and reducing insomnia.
Here are a Few More Suggestions for Ways to Walk the Labyrinth
Gracious Attention: Let all thoughts go. Allow a sense of attention to flow through you.
Ask a Question: Focus on a question. Walk with a listening heart.
Use Repetition: Repeat a word, mantra, or phrase over and over.
Offer Petitions: Bring to mind persons or issues for which you wish to pray.
Honor a Benchmark: A birthday, a lifestyle change, an anniversary. A memorial can be the focus of your walk.
Body Prayer: Move spontaneously as your body wishes. Dance the path. Move your arms and legs, bend, and sway.
You may pass other people or allow others to step around you. The path leads two ways: those going in will meet those coming out.
History of the Christian Labyrinth
Labyrinths have been in existence for over 4,000 years and are found in almost every major religious tradition in the world. The oldest existing Christian labyrinth is probably in the 4th-century basilica in Orleansville, Algeria. And while Christians used labyrinths on pre-Christian sites and modeled their own after those used by earlier cultures, the development of the Christian seven-circuit labyrinth was a breakthrough in the design. Its path of seven circles was cruciform (shaped like the Cross) and thus incorporated the central Christian symbol. This pattern was later expanded to eleven- and twelve-circuit designs. During the time of the Crusades, when it became dangerous to make a pilgrimage to the Holy land, seven European cathedrals were designated as destinations for pilgrims. Entering the cathedrals’ labyrinths (usually laid into the marble floor) marked the end of a difficult journey and a promise of entry into the Heavenly Jerusalem.