About the Labyrinth

The Labyrinth is a circular spiraling path which leads from the periphery to the center and then back out again. Unlike the form of the maze, there is no way to get lost while walking a labyrinth. Walking the labyrinth is therefore not a mental experience, filled with decisions and challenges. It is one of quiet contemplation, one step in front of the other, much like life’s journey. It is an ancient spiritual tool used to access levels of human consciousness beyond the rational mind.  There are many possibilities and contributing factors as to why this is so. Some possibilities are:

Because the Labyrinth is only one path, the mind does not need to focus on where it is going and make decisions as to which path to take. The way in to the center is the same path that leads out of the labyrinth. One cannot become lost. The Pilgrim (one who walks the Labyrinth) is free, therefore, to simply focus on his or her own experience, calming the mind and allowing spiritual insights to arise.
All labyrinth paths have alternating left and right 1800 turns. As the body experiences these changes in direction, both hemispheres of the brain are activated and stimulated.
The Labyrinth is based on the form of the spiral, the circle and the double helix – all forms found in Nature. These forms are repeated in regular relationships which correspond to those in nature. These relationships are often referred to as sacred geometry. The proportions tend to enhance the electromagnetic communication in the body because they are in harmony with the electromagnetic fields of the earth.
The labyrinth can therefore be used as a tool for self-realization as the lower mind is calmed and higher insights are allowed to come through.
The Labyrinth walk can be viewed as a metaphor of the journey of life. Those walking the Labyrinth are commonly referred to as Pilgrims or Walkers. Everything that happens on a walk will reveal something to the Pilgrim. For example–How does one react when meeting another person on the path? Do you always jump out of the way? Or do you always refuse to give way to the other walker? Or do you easily slip left or right to let another person pass. What insights can one gather from each of these scenarios?
Walking the Labyrinth is naturally divided into three sections, affectionately dubbed the “3 R’s” ― beginning the walk and the journey to the center, the experience in the center and the return to the natural world. The experience can be described as follows:
Release – the walk into the center
Receive – reaching the center
Return – the walk out of the labyrinth, reconnecting with the world
Of course, these are only guidelines. Any and all experiences can happen at any point on the journey. The Walker or Pilgrim is encouraged to find his or her own pace and focus on his or her own understanding, listening with the heart. The first -time walker might simply be open to his or her own experience while the experienced Walker might want to set an intention or ask a question.
Therapeutically, the Labyrinth can be used as a way to process emotions or thoughts. Labyrinths are used in hospital settings and hospices. There even are specific programs designed around Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-Step Program.
In group settings, the labyrinth can be used as a problem solving aid or team building tool. In this case, members of a team or group walk the labyrinth with intent or focus on the same problem.
In a therapeutic setting, a workshop would most likely include a short introduction to the labyrinth and then a “free walk” to allow participants to experience the labyrinth for themselves and understand what will happen. The emphasis in this introduction would be to create a safe space with no expectations – there is no wrong way to walk the Labyrinth.  After the walk, participants would then be guided through processing any experiences from the first walk. Next, they would be given several possibilities of questions or intents for a second walk. After a second walk, they would again be guided through processing. Many times participants will want to journal in order to capture thoughts and emotions brought about by the walk on the labyrinth. Participants will sometimes have dreams or insights in days following the labyrinth experience should be made aware of being watchful for these experiences.
The Labyrinth can also be used in a more ritual form to consciously release a particular negative thought pattern or emotion. A variety of techniques are possible. One very effective technique is the Fire Ceremony or Burning Bowl. In this ceremony, a small, contained fire would be placed outside the entrance to the labyrinth. Each participant would write on paper something they wish to release – such as “I forgive my father” or “I release this anger”. As they enter the labyrinth, each person would drop his or her paper in the fire and it would then be consumed. The smoke would symbolize the release. The participant would then walk the labyrinth with the intent to fully release this thought/emotion and thus accept the healing. The Facilitator would carry away and bury all the ashes from this fire.
A group or team using the walk to assist in problem solving or team building would follow the same pattern in the workshop. First a free walk, and processing; then a focused walk and more processing or debriefing. In this case, however, all participants would focus on either the same central question or issue, or be assigned something to work on. The debrief could follow whatever problem solving tool the organization normally uses.  An interesting team building exercise involves having participants take an object into the labyrinth (a stone or flower) which they give to another participant during the walk.
In closing, there is a body of research being compiled by the Facilitator Certifying agency, Veriditas, on ways to use the labyrinth and its meaning in the modern world. One group associated with Veriditas is even using a labyrinth with horses that have been traumatized from abuse. It calms the horses  and makes them more accepting of their new handlers who are trying to help.

To attain knowledge, add things everyday.

To attain wisdom, remove things every day.

Lao Tsu, Dao de Jing




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