Session 6

  1. Discuss what a labyrinth is and what it is not.
    1. A labyrinth is not a maze.
    2. There is one way in and that is the way out.
    3. A single path with no dead ends
  1. Review the Labyrinth section of the study for the history
  2. Discuss finger labyrinths
    1. If you have quilters who can make some this is a great thing to pass out to students.
  3. If there is a labyrinth close to you can visit, go there for this session
    1. Walk the labyrinth.
      1. Give students at least 20 minutes.
        1. Advise them this might be a quicker walk than they want to take
      2. If there is not a labyrinth close use finger labyrinth
  4. Discuss the experience.
    1. What was good in this for you?
    2. What was not so good in this for you?
    3. Was walking the labyrinth what you thought it would be?
      1. Why or why not?
    4. Will you do this again?
    5. If you walked the labyrinth would you use a finger labyrinth?

Labyrinth

What is a Labyrinth?
A labyrinth is a meandering path, often unicursal, with a singular path leading to a center. Labyrinths are an ancient archetype dating back 4,000 years or more, used symbolically, as a walking meditation, choreographed dance, or site of rituals and ceremony, among other things. Labyrinths are tools for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation, also thought to enhance right-brain activity. Labyrinths evoke metaphor, sacred geometry, spiritual pilgrimage, religious practice, mindfulness, environmental art, and community building. 

Labyrinths are named by type and can be further identified by their number of circuits. Counting from the center, the drawing at right illustrates a seven circuit design. You begin a labyrinth walk at the entrance and proceed along the path. Lines define the path and often maintain a consistent width, even around the turns. Generally at the center you have travelled half the distance, where it is common to pause, turn around, and walk back out again.[1]

“Labyrinths are geometrical patterns used for walking or tracing, as a tool to assist the consciousness. They have been in existence for thousands of years. No one knows for certain when or where they first originated. They have been used by different cultures and mystical and religious traditions worldwide.

Some patterns are simple and some are more complex.

A labyrinth differs from a maze in that there is only one way in and one way out. They have one continuous path that twists and turns, eventually leading to the center. There are no dead ends. There is nothing to figure out as you walk or trace a labyrinth. You simply follow the path to the center and then retrace the same path back out.

Labyrinths are made from a variety of materials. Some are stone, some have the paths marked with grass, or gravel. There are large carpets made with labyrinth designs that get rolled out in gyms or parks. There are also small wooden, metal, cloth and paper labyrinths made to trace with your finger or a tracing tool.”[2]

Left- or Right-Handed Labyrinths
A left- or right-handed labyrinth is determined by the direction of the first turn after entering the labyrinth. Jeff Saward estimates that approximately two-thirds of the ancient Classical labyrinths were right-handed (as depicted above) and two-thirds of the modern Classicals are left-handed. Neither is better than the other—it is totally up to personal preference.

An Ever-Evolving Typology
As our awareness of labyrinths expands, it is important to keep our terminology consistent. One example of a now outdated name is calling the Classical Labyrinth the Cretan labyrinth. Some people call the lines ‘walls,’ but as most labyrinths are two dimensional this can lead to confusion.

With this in mind, Jeff Saward and Sig Lonegren—with the help of Marty Cain, David Tolzman, Lea Goode-Harris, Alex Champion and Robert Ferré— began an ongoing dialog with the goal of providing clarity for a working labyrinth typology. Lars Howlett updated these resources, also building off of the work of Erwin Reißmann and Andreas Frei.[3]

How are they used?

People walk the labyrinth for many reasons. Some do it to relax, some as a walking meditation, some just for fun. [4]

Aren’t they strictly some sort of New Age phenomenon?

No. Labyrinths are ancient. The labyrinth was a central feature in many of the European Roman Catholic churches in the Middle Ages and many of these still exist today. The most famous of these remaining labyrinths is at Chartres Cathedral near Paris, France. The labyrinth at Chartres was built around 1200. It was walked as a pilgrimage and/or for repentance. As a pilgrimage, it was a journey to become closer to God. When used for repentance, the pilgrims would walk on their knees. Sometimes this eleven-circuit labyrinth would serve as a substitute for an actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The cross is at the center of the pattern of the labyrinth and is used in the construction as a guide. Even today, churches with labyrinths encourage people to walk the labyrinth during Lent and Advent.[5]

Where did they come from originally?

Labyrinths have been found all over the world dating from the earliest antiquity. Their origins are lost in the mists of time.[6]

TYPES OF LABYRINTHS

Go to https://labyrinthsociety.org/labyrinth-types to see types of labyrinths with photo examples.

Finger Labyrinth

A finger labyrinth is one where you use your finger rather than walk it. They can be made from different types of materials or just printed out on paper.

Some examples of Finger labyrinths are found here: http://harmonylabyrinths.com/finger-labyrinth-gallery/

Or here is another Finger Labyrinth https://zdi1.zdcms.com/cms/res/files/382/ChartresLabyrinth.pdf

Why walk a Labyrinth?

Many use the labyrinth as a tool to aid the self or consciousness.

It can be used as a tool to “unwind the mind,” and to let go stress or worries and concerns.

There are hospitals, universities and churches who have installed labyrinths to assist people to come to peace or relaxation.

Walking the labyrinth can release patterned behavior, thoughts, and feelings of various sorts. It can “untorque” or unwind you. As you release old patterned energy, the alignment of your body may shift or straighten into a greater spiritual alignment.

Some walk a labyrinth as a kind of moving meditation.

The labyrinth can be used as a metaphor for how you live your life. What can you learn about yourself as you walk it?

It can be looked on as a symbolic “hero’s journey,” or a journey to a place of peace inside. The center can represent to your consciousness perhaps your heart, your Self, or your true beingness.

(Originally the labyrinth at Chartres was referred to as “The Road to Jerusalem,” and the name Jerusalem actually means “city of peace.” In some traditions, the labyrinth was used to represent finding the Holy Grail or finding Mecca.)[7]

How do I Walk the Labyrinth?

You enter the labyrinth and follow the path as it winds its way toward the center. You pause in the center as you like, then turn and exit the labyrinth on the same path you came in, just going the opposite direction[8].

How Long Does It Take?

Some people can be in and out in about fifteen minutes and some will take over an hour, stopping to pray, observe, etc.[9]

Do I Have To Walk It Alone Or Can Several Walk At Once?

It is fine to walk it alone and fine to walk with others. People walk at different paces. If you encounter someone going the opposite direction, one will simply step off the path momentarily to allow the other to pass.[10]

What Do I Focus On As I Walk The Labyrinth?

There are infinite focuses you may choose. There is no “right or wrong” way to walk a labyrinth.

What you focus on at the time may be determined by where you are in your life and what your questions, concerns or goals may be in the moment.

It is best to walk the labyrinth with an open heart and an open mind, asking for that which is for your highest good.

Here are some suggestions.

You might walk it as a kind of prayer.

You might walk it as a symbolic journey, as mentioned above.

You might set the intention to receive inspiration, or to receive an answer to a question, or solution to a “problem.”

You might walk the labyrinth with the intention to unwind, to let go of a worry or burden of some sort –letting it go when you reach the center.

You might use the labyrinth for learning more about yourself and life, by simply being aware of how you walk it and what you observe as you walk it.

Do you walk it fast? Or slow? Do you lose your focus or your way? Does your mind race or can you hold your mind steady and stay present? Do you wonder when you will reach the center? Do you wonder if you’re doing it right? If you encounter another person on your path, are you impatient? Are you the one who steps off the path to accommodate the other person? Or do you hold your direction and find that other people step off to let you go your way?[11]


[1] https://labyrinthsociety.org/about-labyrinths

[2] https://www.peacelabyrinth.org/how-to-walk-the-labyrinth

[3] https://labyrinthsociety.org/about-labyrinths

[4] https://labyrinthsociety.org/faqs

[5] https://labyrinthsociety.org/faqs

[6] https://labyrinthsociety.org/faqs

[7] https://www.peacelabyrinth.org/how-to-walk-the-labyrinth

[8] https://www.peacelabyrinth.org/how-to-walk-the-labyrinth

[9] https://www.peacelabyrinth.org/how-to-walk-the-labyrinth

[10] https://www.peacelabyrinth.org/how-to-walk-the-labyrinth

[11] https://www.peacelabyrinth.org/how-to-walk-the-labyrinth



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