Labyrinths have been found on every continent from long ago. For ancient people they were ways of connecting their inner, spiritual and emotional world with the outer, physical and social world.
In Medieval times labyrinths were laid in churches and cathedrals – the most famous example is at Chartres Cathedral in France (see front cover). Today Christians are once again laying labyrinths in churches and cathedrals, in gardens or taking portable ones from place to place.
Anyone can walk a labyrinth. You don’t have to be ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ to do so. It can be ‘a tool’ for connecting your inner and outer worlds and gaining balance in your life, especially when you are stressed. Some people like to think of it as a way of praying.
Why walk a labyrinth?
To take a break from a busy day
To let go of something worrying you
It helps you think more clearly
It helps you pray ot meditate
You find a calmness, a still inner centre
A slow walk
1. Pause at the entrance (called the ‘mouth’ of the labyrinth) before you begin.
2. Straighten your back and look straight ahead or to a point on the wall the other side of the labyrinth.
3. Take several gentle, slow, deliberate breaths. Don’t rush. You’ll be here a minute or two before starting.
4.Enter the labyrinth and slowly walk forwards following the path until you reach the centre.
In the centre:
5. Pause there a while.
6. Again take some gentle, slow, deliberate breaths. It helps to keep your head up, looking directly ahead or at a point on the wall while you do this.
7. Don’t rush this. Pause for as long as you need.
8. Turn around. Pause again. Breathe slowly.
9. Take as long as you need. Look ahead.
10. Then retrace your steps out wards.
At the exit:
11. Pause again before leaving the labyrinth, standing straight and still and looking straight out.
12. Turn and look inwards towards the labyrinth’s centre. Take a gentle breath or two before leaving.
13. Tell one of our staff about your experience
A fast walk
1. Pause at the entrance before you begin.
2. Take one or two deep breaths.
3. When you feel ready enter the labyrinth and walk at normal pace until you reach the centre.
In the centre:
4. Stand still. Breathe normally. Close your eyes and count to ten. Open your eyes. Turn around.
5. Pause. Take one or two deep breaths.
6. When you feel ready retrace your steps to the exit.
Stop immediately after you leave
7. Turn to face the labyrinth. Pause. Breathe normally while you count to ten.
8. Tell one of our staff about your experience. Something might surprise you as you talk about it.
Deacon Merry believes we can all learn from the ancient practice of walking the labyrinth. This was made for the Kindness Festival 2020.