Many people often ask what a labyrinth is because they aren’t entirely sure. Labyrinths are geometrical patterns used for walking or tracing, as a tool to assist the consciousness. They have been in existence for thousands of years. No one knows for certain when or where they first originated. They have been used by different cultures and religious traditions worldwide.
Labyrinths have different patterns, sizes, and shapes. It differs from a maze in that there is only one way in and one way out. They have one continuous path that twists and turns, eventually leading to the center. There are no dead ends. There is nothing to figure out as you walk or trace a labyrinth. You simply follow the path to the center and then retrace the same path back out.
Labyrinths are made from a variety of materials. Some are stone, some have the paths marked with grass, or gravel. There are large canvases made with labyrinth designs that get rolled out in gyms or parks. There are also wooden, metal, and paper labyrinths made to trace with your finger.
Some people use the labyrinth as a tool to aid in their sense of consciousness. It can be used as a tool to unwind and to let go of anxiety. There are many hospitals, universities and churches who have installed labyrinths to aid people in peace. Walking the labyrinth can release patterned behavior, thoughts, and feelings. As you release old thought patterns, the alignment of your body may shift or straighten into a greater spiritual alignment. Some walk a labyrinth as a kind of moving meditation.
The labyrinth can be used as a metaphor for how you live your life. It is fine to walk it alone and fine to walk with others. People walk at different paces. If you encounter someone going the opposite direction, one will simply step off the path momentarily to allow the other to pass. While you may be walking a labyrinth with others, the spiritual journey is entirely yours to make. You enter the labyrinth and follow the path as it winds its way toward the center. You pause in the center as you like, then turn and exit the labyrinth on the same path you came in, just going the opposite direction.
There are infinite focuses you may choose. There is no “right or wrong” way to walk a labyrinth.
What you focus on at the time may be determined by where you are in your life and what your questions, concerns or goals may be at the moment.
It is best to walk the labyrinth with an open heart and an open mind, asking for that which is for your highest good.
You might walk it as a kind of prayer.
You might walk it as a symbolic journey, as mentioned above.
You might set the intention to receive inspiration, or to receive an answer to a question.
You might walk the labyrinth with the intention to unwind, to let go of a worry or burden–letting it go when you reach the center.
You might use the labyrinth for learning more about yourself and life, by simply being aware of how you walk it and what you observe as you walk it.
Do you walk it fast? Or slow? Do you lose your focus or your way? Does your mind race or can you hold your mind steady and stay present? Do you wonder when you will reach the center? Do you wonder if you’re doing it right? If you encounter another person on your path, are you impatient? Are you the one who steps off the path to accommodate the other person? Or do you hold your direction and find that other people step off to let you go your way?
Want to give it a try? There are several fixed walking labyrinths around Austin and Labyrinth Progressive Student Ministry has a very large canvas labyrinth that we take out to the turtle pond from time to time. Want to join us? Check out our schedule for when we will be out and about with our Labyrinth! We hope to see you soon!