Questions About Labyrinths
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The Labyrinth Society Gathering 2008
  Questions About Labyrinths
Lasting Labyrinths
M. E. "Beth" Langley
   

 

 

 

 

What is a labyrinth? 

A labyrinth is a pathway, twisting and curving that leads to the center, or the goal.  The pathway is unicursal—there is only one way.  There are no dead ends, tricks, or choices to make.  It is not a puzzle (maze) to transverse. Simply follow the path and you will arrive at the center of the labyrinth.  You may pause at the center, for a little while, or longer.  The way out follows the same path as the way in for nearly all labyrinths.  There are some labyrinth forms that have a direct way out—or two ways in and out—they usually are used for long processional celebrations, still, the way is obvious, there is no trick being played or decision to make.

What is the purpose of a labyrinth?

A labyrinth is a special place… for self-discovery, meditation, worship, problem solving, building community...  It is a place for seeking solace, balance, forgiveness, or guidance.  It is a place for celebration, transitions, and for play!  It is a place to think, a place to open your heart, a place to examine connections.  A labyrinth can be used for nearly any purpose along life’s journey… Indeed, it is a metaphor for life.

Who ‘invented’ the labyrinth?

Labyrinths are so ancient that we don't have an answer for that question.  They are at least 3,500 years old, and probably closer to 5,000 years old, perhaps older.  Labyrinths have been used by many cultures, on every continent inhabited by man.   

Where are labyrinths?

Labyrinths are everywhere, indoors and out, There are permanent ones and temporary ones. You can find them in public parks and gardens, schools and universities, hospitals and hospices, retreat and recreation centers, prisons, cemeteries, and in private homes and gardens. Use the World Wide Labyrinth Locator (WWLL) to search for labyrinths near where you live or are planning to travel.

Is there a right way to walk a labyrinth?

There is no wrong way to walk a labyrinth.  Use common courtesy and respect if walking with others.  If you meet someone coming out as you are going in, or coming in as you are going out, it is ok for one of you to step out of the path momentarily to allow the other to pass.  If you want to walk a bit faster than someone else, it is ok to pass in an unobtrusive way, or for others to pass you.  Some may walk with their heads bowed, oblivious to others, while others will greet you with a smile, gesture, or soft spoken word.  Friends might hug.  You can meditate, chant, sing, or empty your mind.  You can walk it quietly and be open, listening for messages from your Higher Power, your body, or Mother Earth.  Be conscious of your breathing, your body, each step.  Slow down to experience fully the journey to the center of yourself and back out again.  Remember, too, it is perfectly ok for children and teens (or adults) to run the labyrinth.  It is a young person's first impulse when encountering a labyrinth.  Let them play, skip, hop, or even dribble a soccer ball if not disturbing others.

Is there a best way to walk a labyrinth?

Each labyrinth experience is unique. So the best way can also be different.  However, to be aware of the three parts of the walk, and walk with “intent”—not with “expectation” is probably the best advice for a new labyrinth walker.  Also, before you begin, breathe deeply and free your mind.  You can walk with your palms down as a symbol of release, purgation, or letting go.  Relax into the walk.  At the center, you can turn your palms up as a symbol you are ready to receive. Pause there for a while, and pray, listen, feel, in other words, be open to your inner self and the divine.    Stay as long as you like.  When ready to begin the walk out, again be conscious of your breath and allow your mind freedom to integrate your thoughts and messages.  Follow the same path back to the beginning, being aware of returning once again to the exterior world, grounded and refreshed, perhaps with a renewed feeling of purpose and direction, and maybe even with a spark of enlightenment.  At the mouth of the labyrinth, turn to the labyrinth and give thanks, for this day, for this experience, for any blessing you wish to acknowledge.

Is a labyrinth walk the same for everyone?

It is usually different for everyone, and people can have different experiences on different days.  It is a personal experience that is affected by what a person brings to the walk, and what they are prepared to take away.  It can be different each time you walk a labyrinth.  You may have a simple easing of your mind or a dramatic insight.  Almost always people express feeling more content, grounded, or empowered after walking a labyrinth.

How can I learn more about labyrinths?

Visit my links page for hyperlinks to several great sites for information, use the WWLL to find a labyrinth and walk it, or contact me to plan a workshop, presentation, or labyrinth event for your school, family gathering, church activity program, company or organization.  Nearly any event or group can benefit from a labyrinth experience.


   
(c) 2015 All photos and text copyright M.E. Langley unless otherwise noted.