I think of a labyrinth as a precise route to the center of your relaxed state. Most people think of them as mazes. See, you just did. 😉 They differ in that a maze is multicursal (many paths), and labyrinths are unicursal (single pathways). The key is that however long and intricate a labyrinth pattern, anyone can trace the route, reaching the center and back out again.🚶🏽♀️
Labyrinths have been around for over 4000 years and have a deep history steeped in spiritual, mathematical, and cultural contexts. I wanted to take a look at labyrinths for health.
The first time I did a labyrinth to focus on my health was as an exercise amongst a group of people on the grounds of a wellness retreat. Our leader instructed us to contemplate silently around our fears as we entered the walking path paved with large stones. When we got to the center, we were asked to release our fears (figuratively) onto the large stone lying at the center of this labyrinth. Our final education was to contemplate the release of our deepest fears as we walked out silently. I loved the exercise. It was soothing and moving for me at the same time.
I have since sought out labyrinths around me. Here's one in Battery Park in Downtown Manhattan, a 5-minute walk from my office. Here's one I like in Portland. For me, it's a walking meditation that gets me into a relaxed, reflective state. Labyrinths have been an honored tradition for centuries for healing our souls. They were walked as pilgrimage or repentance in European Roman Catholic Churches. You'll still find many labyrinths today on church sites when you use a search tool like this one. 🔍 What's even more interesting is that leaders in medicine were interested in exploring the use of labyrinths as a professional discipline that includes spiritual connection and existential meaning.1 What they found is that it was a great tool to help with relaxation and stress. We need tools like this to reconnect to ourselves in our hyperstimulated world. We can be slow, intentional, and uninterrupted on our path. Nothing needs to happen. We don't need anything from the labyrinth, and it needs nothing from us.
My suggestions for walking a labyrinth should you venture to meet one.
Ask yourself a contemplative question or set an intention before entering.
Stroll and keep the question or the intention at hand.
Meet the center, greet the center. Stand with your eyes closed, slow your breath, and feel whatever comes up physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Take notice of the strongest feeling(s).
Walk out the way you came. Be with your feelings.
Optional. Document your experience. Journal about your question, intention, and feelings. What did you learn?
In the end, we are only walking our 'paths' to listen to our experiences. ⚡️