In many people’s minds, a labyrinth is more often than not confused with a maze. A maze is set to confuse, with many options and decisions about which path to choose. Whereas usually, a labyrinth has one opening by which to enter and leave. This route takes you into the centre of the labyrinth.
Labyrinths become very popular during man’s evolution, particularly when there are great times of stress upon the planet, such as today. Apparently it’s as if a universal force draws man’s attention in this direction in times of mankind’s greatest need!
What is a Labyrinth?
At its most basic level, the labyrinth is a path used for walking meditation. They can be viewed as a metaphor for the journey to the centre of your deepest self and back out into the world, with a broadened understanding of who you are.
The pathway of the labyrinth is in full view, which allows a person to be quiet and focus internally. Walking the labyrinth is a right-brain task using intuition and creativity. The labyrinth’s unicursal path meanders one way in and the same way out. It is showing and is teaching us centredness. It is this that differentiates a labyrinth from a maze, which has many paths and dead ends leading to confusion.
A Labyrinth or a Maze?
Unlike the labyrinth, the maze is a puzzle to be solved. It is a left-brain task that requires logical, sequential, analytical activity to find the correct path in and out. A labyrinth offers a holistic route, as it imprints ‘a groove’ a ceremonial pathway designed according to principles of sacred geometry and earth energy; the clockwise and anti clockwise spins of the meanders map out a balance between left and right hemispheres of the brain; as you walk back and forth…
In 2009 I attended two marvellous labyrinth evenings. One was a forum of a panel of experts, the subject being the health and healing aspects of the labyrinth being used. The other was by Dr. Robert Ferre, the founder and president of The Labyrinth Society who spoke on their history and the symbolism of the labyrinth. Dr. Ferre is passionate about the benefits of the labyrinth and sells and hires them. His labyrinths are in 48 states of the U.S. and in 10 foreign countries. The website is well worth looking at, including forums and a labyrinth locator.
Regarding the health and healing aspect. Students of RMIT [Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology] hired a canvas one, which attendees had the pleasure of walking, to have a first hand experience prior to the forum. Dr. Ferre shared how he has been extremely busy for quite a number of years, as he is promoting them to be incorporated into many hospitals and healing centres in the United States. A nurse spoke of the benefits of labyrinths and how they calm the minds of mental patients, and she mentioned a Sydney eye doctor who is personally funding one being made at a Sydney hospital. One hospital built underground corridors connecting the buildings, so that the labyrinth could have the prime position in the hospital grounds.
I learnt a lot that night about the history and how many world religions have embraced the labyrinth as a useful tool. Historically they go back to stone-age Siberia, Roman and Medieval times and have been found in a wide range of cultures throughout the world and ages.
However, I would say that they have been more widely known for their use in Christian churches. The most famous of these is the more ornate labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral in France. This design is more complex than the classical seven-circuit labyrinth. It is an eleven-circuit design divided into four quadrants. A labyrinth was often found in Gothic cathedrals, but over time many were destroyed or intentionally removed.
The labyrinth can be used on an individual, personal level and for a group or community to come together. Words do not need to be spoken and each person has their own unique experience. Walking the labyrinth, one passes other people and this creates an opportunity to hold awareness, respect and honour each other. A great opportunity to get centred and at the same time be grounded and aware of other people joining in the same spiritual venture.
Many books are available on this subject which all come from an entirely different perspective. The more intellectual, historical approach can miss the wonderful healing and spiritual information that other more mystical books provide. Nevertheless they all serve a purpose, if not to bring to our awareness what exactly the labyrinth is today and how it encompasses all ages, cultures and religions.
A free finger labyrinth is available click here. My suggestion is to experiment with this and use it daily, or as often as you feel the need. Trace with your finger or an object, perhaps a crystal or stick, around the labyrinth into the centre. Allow the energy to help you, listen to your inner voice and take a moment or several in the centre before tracing your way back out to the exit.
If it pleases you, you can colour it in or become even more inventive. Create your own in other material or build a larger one outside, using paint, stones, chalk etc, on the ground, in the dirt, or sand, limited only by your imagination. It is said the benefits of a dirt labyrinth and symbolically burying items to be cleansed, relates to what you need to let go of in your life. Making one in the sand gives a similar benefit, allowing the release of your ‘stuff’ into the ocean as the tide comes in and washes it away.
Important now to give you some guidelines regarding walking or using a finger labyrinth. There are three stages. The inward journey is of letting go, releasing. The middle of the labyrinth is of centring and the outward journey is incarnation, revelation and a new beginning.
Intention is the big thing, to have an idea why you want to walk it. Decide beforehand what that is, a question to be answered, perhaps something that has been bugging you, and wish to release. It may be simply to focus completely on walking each step with absolute concentration with the desire to connect with your spiritual aspect. The use of the labyrinth is unlimited.
For those of you who have a more mystical nature, you may fall in love with a book The Complete Guide to Labryinths by Cassandra Eason. She is a renowned psychic and folklorist and what I loved about her book, amongst many other things, she has many pages devoted to healing and rituals. She covers how to use them in relation to chakras, planets, archangels, Gods and Goddesses. This may appeal to those of us who love rituals and using affirmations with what we do.
http://www.labyrinth.org.uk is another great website to investigate. There are some great photos and it includes the dimensions and design based on an 18 inch square, like in the floor of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
If you are in Australia, go to Labyrinth Link Australia for more information and to locate your nearest labyrinth.
Lastly, I purchased a purple velvet one painted with either gold or silver which can be ordered from a lady who lives in Tasmania. It comes with a stone to hold as your fingers walk through the labyrinth. The size is about 18” square. If you the reader would like to contact her, please write to me and I shall make enquiries of her whereabouts.
Thanks for coming.
Love and Blessings,