What seems normal to a Labyrinth lover may seem like a new phenomenon to people who have never been introduced to Labyrinths.
Perhaps at parks, hospitals, or churchyards you have seen those strange-looking circles and wondered about their meaning. Maybe you asked, “Is that a maze?” Or questioned, “Why are people are walking there?”
Since the early 1990s, there has been a growing movement in the appearance of labyrinths and their users. Although its popularity didn’t happen overnight, the labyrinth in comparison to other methods of symbolic experiences has caught on quickly in recent years. So, the question for me as the writer of this blog, is how do I give you a proper introduction?
Let’s start with a picture of the most famous design.
Above is the 11-circuit pattern of the Chartres Medieval Labyrinth, dating back as far as 1215 AD, at Chartres Cathedral, Chartres France. This is the labyrinth design that I enjoy the most and am most familiar with. There is deep symbolism in it because of its sacred geometry measurements of its six-petaled rose center, the four quadrants, as well as, the design around the outside.
We do know that labyrinth designs have been found all over the world and pre-date Christianity by some 5,000 years. It is believed the Chartres Labyrinth was created to provide early pilgrims a way to pilgrimage across Europe when it was too dangerous to continue on to Jerusalem. Remember, at this time in history it was dangerous to practice Christianity. Thus, the symbolism, ritual, and experience spoke deep to the spirituality of their souls. The labyrinth in the center of Chartres Cathedral gave pilgrims an experience of the divine that translated to a meaningful purpose and expression of it among them.
As paradigms changed and ritual and symbolism gave way to intellect and dogma, the labyrinth lay silent, as if in a deep sleep, waiting for her time again to be awakened and bring her gifts to the people.
Far away on the West Coast of the USA lived a woman who was a priest and a psychotherapist. Her inner being stirred when the labyrinth found its way to her. This woman, the Reverend Lauren Artress, was compelled by a desire that would not be quieted. She organized and took a group of pilgrims to Chartres in the early 1990s, and during that trip, Dr. Artress’s passion was birthed. Today’s Labyrinth Movement was born.
I use brief introductions to help you utilize the walking meditation yourself, to find the still point inside of you. The circuitous path flows, massaging your brain back and forth, finding a rhythm that allows you to release whatever it is that is bothering you. There is only one path to the center and the same path out again. If you focus on putting one foot in front of the other it is impossible for you to get lost. However, you may very well feel lost from time to time. There are points on the walk where you feel like in just a few steps you will be at the center. Then you find yourself out on the furthest circuit.
The labyrinth walk mimics life cycles. There are times we think we have arrived in our bliss only to discover that the other shoe drops and we again feel lost, overwhelmed, and disempowered. The labyrinth operates as a container for all those feelings of despair and confusion. Take those feelings to her. Let go of them in her center.
Why do I keep calling the labyrinth her?
The labyrinth represents many things to many people. There are many stories that tell us that there is a Divine Feminine energy about it. However, you may not experience that for yourself. For me, the center represents the womb of God, from where all things are created and birthed. You will have to experience the labyrinth on your own and create a language for your experience.
My experience of her is deeply rooted in her healing properties. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and made a personal commitment to walk the labyrinth once a week for a year. It was during that year that I developed a personal relationship with the labyrinth, and it is from that personal relationship that I share her mindfulness and healing properties with you today. The labyrinth is truly a personal experience and each walk is always a bit different. You can find a labyrinth by going to www.labyrinthlocator.com and type in your zip code.
When you find one, how do you walk it?
On most labyrinths, there is only one entrance. When there, think about the three R’s: Release, Receive, and Return. As you walk the path to the center, focus on releasing what concerns your heart. When you arrive in the center, focus on receiving what you need to for this current situation. As you step out of the center and begin your return, it is important to focus on what you are bringing out of the labyrinth and what you need to do on your return to the opening. The three R’s are a general guideline.
As you return and develop your relationship with the labyrinth, you will find that you will use many diverse rituals to walk, meditate, and practice presence. Enjoy and let me hear about your own experiences as you go out to discover this new tool for your daily life.
– Dr. Robin