Labyrinth: A unicursal path that leads to the centre and back out again.
With sincerest gratitude to my teacher Dr. Lauren Artress
Many of us have trouble quieting our minds, often referred to as ‘the monkey mind’, thoughts swinging from one branch to another, chattering away without rhyme or reason…but when the mind is quiet we feel peaceful and open.
However a completely quiet mind is not a realistic goal as we often discover in attempting sitting meditation - the task is to disidentify with the thoughts going through our own minds and not get hooked on thoughts - to let them go.
On the most basic level, being present means being focused on one thing — a conversation, a project, a task in hand — without distraction, without wanting to be somewhere else, without being in your head and lost in thought. -Headspace
Walking the Labyrinth clears the mind and gives insight into our lives. It calms people in the throes of life transitions and helps them to see their lives in the context of a path. It can stir creative fires or in deep sorrow the walk gives peace and solace. The experience is different for everyone because each of us brings different raw material to the labyrinth: hopes, dreams, history and longings.
Amid the chaos of our stressful lives it is crucial to find a method of contemplation. If we do not develop this outlet in our lives we have no way to reach the spaciousness within that allows us to move with the flow of our complex world.
The Labyrinth can be a tremendous help in quieting the mind, because the body is moving. Movement takes away the excess charge of automatic and random energy that disturbs our efforts to quiet our thought process.
How we know and learn, and how we remain open to the present and the future without fear are major challenges in our lives. The experience of the Labyrinth can be wonderfully supportive and gentle.
The facilitation of Labyrinth walks can create cohesion, and lead individuals to discover unity and commonality. It’s a soothing act to support ourselves and knit communities together.
Connecting us through the activity of walking before words can intercept and create divisions.
Walking the Labyrinth is non threatening. All we are asked to do is walk , and even those of us with the deepest inner divisions can do that.
We can learn what it feels like to stand firm in the world. We sense our feet firmly planted on the ground, our legs, pelvis, torso, arms, neck and head flowing with energy and life. When we are grounded in our bodies, we are stabilised and can receive information more accurately. Attuning our bodies like fine tuning a radio - the static in the incoming messages and impulses are reduced. When we see our lives from a perspective of wholeness, we appreciate that our actions have a greater impact on the world than we may have imagined.
Walking does not require a great demand of concentration in order to benefit from the experience. The sheer act of walking the path discharges energy and begins to focus the mind. A quiet mind does not happen automatically. The labyrinth experience sensitises, educates us and helps us distinguish superficial extraneous thoughts.
Many of us are discovering that this is much easier to do when our whole body is moving,- when we are walking.
It’s a little like a process of Meditation: The focus moves between silence and image so the focus does not remain solely on quieting the mind as in contemplative practice.
Stepping out of the linear mind is often the most challenging part of the walk. Allowing images, memories and feelings to emerge and guiding them through a gentle, gracious, open and expanded thought process.
This is an evocative tool that works well through the imagination and the senses, creating awareness of how we relate to ourselves and others. To recap the benefits of these insights demands that we are able to ‘experience our experience’ in a conscious way.
For instance we can walk the Labyrinth in a judgemental state of mind, however the reflective person would understand that these thoughts curtail their chance of a deeper connection to themselves and others and realizing this the person may begin to allow judgements to dissipate.
Experiencing our feelings and inner thoughts without judgement is part of developing intelligent maturity. If we walk on a beach without winding down to breath in the sea air - we stay disconnected from a nourishing experience. Meditative walking, new emotions, unique thoughts, a sense of being at one with others can enter our awareness.
We are also open to the joy of living in our bodies. We often repress feelings of contempt for our bodies if we feel deficient in any way or have suffered abuse, injury or disease that has left us physically challenged. Disabilities and wheelchairs work just fine in the Labyrinth and for visually challenged we introduce the finger Labyrinth first as a hand held meditation tool to provide an overview before embarking on the path.
Compassion is at the core.
We must ask ourselves ‘’Am I growing in Compassion ?’’
This is the discerning factor.
Shared compassion is the meeting point for all our communities. People can share the richness of their traditions with others from different traditions. Many voices can be heard. As we address violence in communities, drug use, hate crimes, we also open up to the possibilities of community and cooperation. The Labyrinth is truly a tool for our times helping us find our way through the bewildering multiplicity towards common humanity and unity.
Learning to work together to celebrate our differences is hard work. It needs introspection and discernment, it demands the action of the individual and the collective level rather than simply abandoning all critical thinking for a potpourri of wellbeing and holistic initiatives. Discernment, utilising it and not just rifling through experiences without reflection This is the mission of the Labyrinth as it enters our communities. The power of a simple and accessible ritual fulfils our need to honour, acknowledge and empower ourselves as we move through life's transitions.
Labyrinth walking offers a vision of how people can live together in harmony and provides an experience of it. An experience where everyone is on the same path but at a different place, on their own journey through life. The Labyrinth is a tool that encourages people to meet one another on common ground. To quiet the mind and find our centre. The Labyrinth can serve as a touchstone, offering the opportunity to return time and again to a place that moves us.
Mindfulness without Community is an anomaly.
If you've never experienced a labyrinth walk try a hand held labyrinth right here.
Experience a journey into the labyrinth.
Use your finger to trace the path.
Arrive at the centre then return relaxed, rejuvenated, and replenished.
For thousands of years labyrinths have provided a place for meditating, finding peace and tranquillity, making a pilgrimage, and enhancing creativity.
Begin at the entrance and journey to the centre. Pause, reflect, meditate, and when ready, return outwards retracing your path.
You cannot lose your way in a labyrinth.