The labyrinth is a modern day, yet timeless walking meditation. This ancient path for prayer dates back at least 3000 years, and has been a part of many cultures throughout history. The most recognized is in Chartres Cathedral in France, and its rediscovery in the early 1990’s prompted a resurgence of this spiritual practice. Cross cultural and nondenominational, it welcomes people of all ages, inviting them into a prayerful experience like none other. To walk the labyrinth is a simple yet profound path that represents our spiritual journeys and leads us to our center.
Lauren Artress is widely recognized as being responsible for opening our culture to the value of the labyrinth as a path for prayer since her visit to Chartres Cathedral. The 11 circuit medieval labyrinth there, built in 1201 had remained covered with chairs, but she brought a group of people there, moved the chairs and walked the ancient and long forgotten path. She returned to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, painted the labyrinth on a canvas, and began sharing it with the public. Various forms of the labyrinth have grown to be an integral part of our culture for those with and without religious affiliations. The labyrinth is for everyone.
They are located across the country and throughout the world, often found at churches, universities, libraries, parks, hospitals, prisons, and even back yards. Labyrinths are recognized for their ability to relieve stress and instill a sense of quiet and balance in our often harried and over scheduled lives. It is particularly useful for those going through hardships of any kind, and people who walk it often report a sense of peace. Others find answers to questions and guidance in different areas of life. Writers and artists find creative inspiration. Others experience God’s presence in a special way as they walk the path and some have experienced healing. There is no right or wrong way and no chance of getting lost, with only one path in and one path out.
Tricia Kibbe is a labyrinth facilitator who trained under Lauren Artress, and is now treasurer of the New England Labyrinth Guild, after serving as president for three years. She tells of her introduction to the labyrinth. “I first walked the labyrinth in 1997 while I was at an Omega retreat in New York City,” said Tricia. “Lauren had a canvas labyrinth and I had no idea what a labyrinth was. I walked it and then and there decided to go to California to train. It was a whole new experience and I got hooked. I’ve worked with the labyrinth ever since.”
The Labyrinth Guild of New England was founded in 2000 and works to educate people about the labyrinth. It now also serves as a resource for organizations. They rent beautiful canvas labyrinths, and provide facilitators while creating various ministries throughout its Lexington, Massachusetts community. They seek to make labyrinths accessible. At the Guild’s website, www.labyrinthguild.org, there is a labyrinth locator that will help people find a labyrinth to walk in their own area. Its mission statement is to help create, “A world in which the labyrinth is widely used as a spiritual tool to nurture and empower peace, harmony, healing, and understanding for ourselves and others, individually and collectively.” For Tricia, healing comes with intention.
“I find the most powerful strategy is to walk with intention. Release and letting go, but there is something about intention that can open up things that you may not have thought about, creating that “ah-ha” moment not otherwise available. For people who have lost a spouse or partner, walking with intention can be very powerful.”
She recommends talking it out beforehand, and writing your intention on an index card, leaving it at the beginning of the walk, or perhaps taking it with you and leaving it at the center. The intention can be whatever you feel comfortable with. Sometimes a word for reflection, randomly chosen, can offer us guidance as we walk. In the case of loss, Tricia suggest bringing a touchstone from your loved one, holding a candle and walking with it to represent the idea of being accompanied by them in spirit.
“The labyrinth opens us up to space in our psyche and emotions that is not normally available,” said Tricia. “That’s why healing is very powerful on the labyrinth. Why? I’m not sure, but I think it creates a sacred container, a sacred space. We don’t spend a lot of time in sacred spaces any more. It creates a new atmosphere of the sacred.”
She points out that because the path is well defined, and we don’t need conscious thought to find our way, we are opened up in some way in that process. The path takes us along as a metaphor for life and the intention moves us forward on that path. This can be particularly useful for those who seek healing in some way.
“Intention is powerful,” she says. “I’ve seen a lot of people transformed, not necessarily at that exact moment. The first walk is always a learning experience. Do it again and again. Come back to it.”
Sometimes the labyrinth can be intimidating and people are hesitant. She recommends beginning with a finger labyrinth. These are made out of a variety of materials like wood, clay, lucite and sometimes just printed on paper. There is even an app you can download to your phone or computer that will allow you to “walk” your choice of labyrinths with your finger. It even has music if you want it. However you do it, as simply as you take a walk in the park, you can walk a labyrinth.
“You bring your life to it, yourself to it, and the labyrinth meets you where you are,” says Tricia. “We don’t take time to slow down. And this is just walking. In those moments there is something about getting to the center, in that sacred space and opening yourself to the Divine. Losing a loved one is a profound experience. To have some kind of acknowledgement of that loss in sacred space is bound to be a healing and sacred time.”
For more information about the labyrinth visit www.Veriditas.com.