LABYRINTHS: A GUIDE
Adapted from Rebecca Valette Boston College USA for use at St. Mary’s Towers Retreat Centre, Douglas Park, NSW, Australia
Walking the Meditation Labyrinth – Five Paths through the Labyrinth
1. The Path of Silence: Empty your mind of the hubbub and commotion of the outer world. Open your heart to the silence of the walk.
2. The Path of Image: Follow the images or dreams that arise in your imagination.
3. The Path of Memory: Walk the sacred path in the memory of a friend or family member who has passed away.
4. The Path of Prayer: Recite a prayer, a Bible verse, or a line of poetry.
5. The Path of Questioning: Concentrate on a question. Don’t expect an answer. Simply be content to explore the possibilities.
There is no right way to walk a labyrinth.
You only have to enter and follow the path. However, your walk can encompass a variety of attitudes. It may be joyous or sombre. It might be thoughtful or prayerful. You may use it as a walking meditation. Adults are often serious in the labyrinth. Children most often run in and out as fast as they can in a playful manner. When you walk a labyrinth choose your attitude. From time to time choose a different attitude. Make it serious, prayerful, or playful. Play music or song. Pray out loud. Walk alone and with a crowd. Notice the sky. Listen to the sounds. Most of all pay attention to your experience.
Some general helps for walking a labyrinth are:
1. Focus: Pause and wait at the entrance. Become quiet and centred. Give acknowledgement through a bow, nod, or other gesture, and then enter.
2. Experience: Walk purposefully. Observe the process. When you reach the centre, stay there and focus several moments. Leave when it seems appropriate. Be attentive on the way out.
3. Exit: Turn and face the entrance. Give an acknowledgement of ending, such as ‘Amen’
4. Reflect: After walking the labyrinth reflect back on your experience. Use journaling or drawing to capture your experience.
5. Walk often
Labyrinths were common in Europe in the Middle Ages, and walking them was part of popular and religious culture. Labyrinths in sacred spaces represented the intersection of the human and the divine.
The circle, a perfect form, can be seen as symbolizing eternity, the universe, the repetition of the seasons, the cosmos — the overall perfect plan of the divine. The meandering path is the journey of life. It can also be seen as a path of truth through the maze of choices that the world presents.
There is a single path to the centre and out again. The path through the labyrinth constitutes the longest possible way to arrive at the centre. It is important not to hurry the experience, but to submit to its structure and discipline.
Pass others by stepping to the side and around them. Similarly, step around others walking in the opposite direction.
This path is an opportunity for meditation. Walk its circuitous route mindfully. It is a symbol of the universe: God’s masterpiece.