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WALKING THE LABYRINTH

TO

RELAXATION, REFLECTION,
RENEWAL, AND CONNECTION

Developed for the Leisure Information Network


by Beverly Chen
2015

WALKING THE LABYRINTH TO RELAXATION, REFLECTION, RENEWAL, AND CONNECTION

Contents
INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................................... 1
HISTORY OF THE LABYRINTH ........................................................................................................ 2
FIVE STAGES OF THE LABYRINTH WALK ...................................................................................... 3
READY Preparation .............................................................................................................. 3
RELEASE Path to the Centre .............................................................................................. 3
RECEIVE Being in the Centre ............................................................................................. 3
RESPOND Path from the Centre ......................................................................................... 3
REFLECT Making your Experience Concrete................................................................... 4
SUGGESTIONS FOR WALKING THE LABYRINTH ............................................................................ 4
PERMISSION ........................................................................................................................... 4
PURPOSE .................................................................................................................................. 4
PATH ......................................................................................................................................... 4
PACE .......................................................................................................................................... 4
PASS ........................................................................................................................................... 4
PAUSE ....................................................................................................................................... 4
FINGER-WALKING A PERSONAL LABYRINTH ............................................................................. 5
EXAMPLES OF LABYRINTHS ........................................................................................................... 6
3-Circuit Classical Labyrinth .................................................................................................. 6
7-Circuit Modern Round Labyrinth ....................................................................................... 7
11-Circuit Chartres Medieval Labyrinth ............................................................................... 8

WALKING THE LABYRINTH TO RELAXATION, REFLECTION, RENEWAL, AND CONNECTION

INTRODUCTION
The labyrinth, a spiral circle pattern, can be traced back more than 4,000 years. Through its
long history of sacred and secular use, it has crossed cultural and spiritual traditions around the
world. (See History of the Labyrinth.)
There are two basic families of labyrinth designs: the oldest and simplest is the Classical Family
which is drawn from a seed pattern; the Medieval Family is a more complicated design based on
sacred geometry and many layers of symbolic meaning, with the most famous being the 11circuit labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France. There are many modern adaptations of the
Classical and Medieval styles. (See the Classical pattern, the Modern, round 7-circuit pattern
based on the Classical, and the 11-circuit Chartres pattern; these can be used as finger labyrinths)
Labyrinths today can be found in many contexts and environments, including healthcare
facilities, religious worship spaces, schools, retreat centres, community centres and parks. They
can be permanent or portable, indoors or outdoors, ground/floor or finger labyrinths.
Walking the labyrinth has been reclaimed in our time as a way to move into relaxation, reflection,
and renewal. It can connect us to our creative energies and inner wisdom, to our deeper selves
and to one another.
Amazing but not a Maze
Labyrinths are not the same as mazes. Mazes have dead ends, cul-de-sacs, intersections, high
walls and other features that are meant to confuse and get the walker lost. A maze is a left-brain
game. Walking the labyrinth is a heart-led, right-brain, intuitive experience. The labyrinth helps
you find your way, literally and metaphorically: it is a single path to the center and you change
direction and walk back out the same path. The whole labyrinth is visible at one time.
The Benefits of Labyrinth Walking
The labyrinth appeals to people from different cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds,
including those who are disadvantaged or have high needs. Walking the labyrinth is an inclusive
practice that is as easy as simply walking or moving in some way; as comforting and calming as
the circle of a hug; as flowing as water with ideas and solutions that are creative and inspiring. It
can help users to find balance in body, mind, emotions, and spirit. It appeals to all the senses. It
is a place of silence, tears, laughter, singing, chanting; a place of slow or fast walking, dancing
and other expressions of movement.
Walking a labyrinth, following its curves and turns, can promote a calm, focused attention span
and mentally, physically, and emotionally refresh adults and children, alike. It can shift one's
mind from left-brain, linear thinking to right-brain creative, intuitive, non-verbal thinking. The
labyrinth is a safe space for recognizing and exploring feelings. Using the labyrinth is a way to
develop and practice Healthy Life Skills: slowing down and quieting busy minds; letting go of
worries and doubts; becoming grounded and centered; opening to the flow of intuition and
creative energy that supports goal-setting, problem solving, decision-making, and artistic
expression; moving forward, on the labyrinth and in everyday life, choosing wise action based on
core values. It helps to deepen respect for one another; you walk the path together yet you each
are on your own unique journey. There is no failure, you can't do it wrong; it is more about the
journey than the destination, being more than doing. (See 5 Stages of the Labyrinth Walk and
Suggestions for Walking the Labyrinth.)

WALKING THE LABYRINTH TO RELAXATION, REFLECTION, RENEWAL, AND CONNECTION

A Labyrinth Near You


If you are interested in experiencing a labyrinth walk, you can search on an online labyrinth
locator to find a labyrinth near you. You can search for labyrinths from coast to coast in Canada
by going to the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator at www.labyrinthlocator.com.
If you are in Ontario, you can also go to the Ontario Labyrinth Directory of the Labyrinth
Community Network at www.labyrinthnetwork.ca/Ontario-labyrinth-directory.
If you are in British Columbia, you can also go to labyrinth locators at
www.sthilda.ca/labyrinthlocator.html and www.stpaulsanglican.bc.ca/labyrinth/links.shtml.
Learning About the Labyrinth
If you would like more background information on labyrinths, the following are selected online
sites that provide text and visuals about labyrinths in general:
The Labyrinth Society. www.labyrinthsociety.org.
A rich source of information about labyrinths. It offers a virtual labyrinth to walk online and
downloadable labyrinths that can be used as patterns to make finger labyrinths. The site links to
many other labyrinth-related websites. Of special interest is the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator, a
searchable tool to find labyrinths located near to you that you can visit and walk.
Labyrinthos. www.labyrinthos.net.
Noted for its Labyrinth Resource Centre. A reliable source of information about the history of
labyrinths supplemented by an extensive photo library of labyrinths from around the world.
The website of Jeff Saward, labyrinth expert extraordinaire.
Ridder, John. Paxworks. http://www.paxworks.com. A wonderful source of labyrinth
information. On Johns homepage, click on RESOURCES at the top of the page and this will
take you to his links to online resources.

HISTORY OF THE LABYRINTH


The labyrinth has a long and rich history. Below are just a few highlights of the labyrinth story.
The best website for a more comprehensive and detailed look at the labyrinths history is that of
Jeff Saward, labyrinth expert extraordinaire, at www.labyrinthos.net
The labyrinth is believed to have evolved out of the spiral and circle forms, the most basic in all
of nature. It is found in many ancient and contemporary cultures and spiritual traditions around
the world. It is an archetype, a Divine imprint. While its origins are still mysterious, the labyrinth
and its family of antecedents can be traced back over 4,000 years, appearing in its earliest forms
in Crete, Egypt, India and Sumatra, Iceland and Scandinavia, Peru and Arizona. Prehistoric
labyrinths from the Bronze Age are found carved on rock faces in Spain and Italy. Only one
archetypal design of the labyrinth emerged over thousands of years. Over time, the labyrinth
pattern, its symbolism, and its mythology have been integrated into the lives of people of
different cultures for a variety of purposes, both spiritual and secular.
The Classical Family of labyrinths is based on a pattern first documented on a clay tablet from

WALKING THE LABYRINTH TO RELAXATION, REFLECTION, RENEWAL, AND CONNECTION

Pylos, Greece (circa 1200 BCE) and also found on Cretan Coins of four to five hundred BCE.
The Classical labyrinths are easily constructed using a seed pattern. The Classical 7-Circuit
labyrinth is the most common and is sometimes called the Cretan Labyrinth. The labyrinth
symbol was widely used and adapted by the Romans.
The Medieval Family of labyrinths is based on sacred geometry and is usually divided into four
quadrants. The oldest examples are found on the floors of European churches and cathedrals,
particularly in Italy, France and Germany, and as turf labyrinths in England and Germany. The
best known is the 13th century, 11-Circuit labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral, France. While
Christians used labyrinths found on pre-Christian sites and modeled their own after those earliest
labyrinth forms, the development of the high medieval Christian labyrinth was a breakthrough in
design. The Medieval labyrinth has many layers of meaning and Christian symbolism. The
medieval Christians walked the labyrinths as a way of symbolically participating in the great
pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Walking the labyrinth has re-emerged today as a powerful tool for personal and spiritual healing
and growth, professional development, and community building. The labyrinth, both in its
permanent and portable forms, is now found in many contexts and environments including
churches; schools; hospitals, birthing centres, hospices and other healthcare facilities; senior
residences and centres; retreat centres; prisons; community centres; parks and public and private
gardens; and the workplace.

FIVE STAGES OF THE LABYRINTH WALK


READY Preparation
Taking a few moments to slow down and quiet down
Becoming aware of your breathing, thoughts and feelings
Developing an intention for your walk

RELEASE Path to the Centre


Going in
Letting go of the busyness and overwhelm of your life
Quieting the mind, heart, and body; Surrendering to the heart
Opening yourself to the full experience of walking the labyrinth
Inviting guidance and inspiration
Yielding to a Higher Power

RECEIVE Being in the Centre


Arriving at the centre of the labyrinth, of yourself, of the universe
Being in a place of rest, meditation, reflection and prayer
Receiving what is there for you to receive
Listening to your heart, your inner wisdom
Connecting with the Divine, your Higher Self
Illumination, Inspiration

RESPOND Path from the Centre


Going out the same path you walked in
Pondering on what you have received:
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WALKING THE LABYRINTH TO RELAXATION, REFLECTION, RENEWAL, AND CONNECTION

refreshed spirit, calm, renewed vision, understanding,


compassion, forgiveness, creative ideas, gratitude
Considering how it may be applied in your life
Integration, Union, Empowerment, sense of Peace and Possibility
Carrying your unique experience back out into the world

REFLECT Making your Experience Concrete


Reflecting on what you heard with your mind and felt with your heart and body
Making your experience concrete through journaling, drawing, mandalas.

SUGGESTIONS FOR WALKING THE LABYRINTH


PERMISSION
It is important to give yourself and other walkers permission to allow whatever comes up to be
experienced without feelings of self-consciousness.

PURPOSE
It is helpful to set an intention for your walk.
Experience the labyrinth; Enjoy the movement of your body; Ask a question; Seek
guidance; Open to connection.
The combination of attention and intention helps to make the labyrinth space and experience
become sacred and powerful.
Let go of expectations.
Whatever happens during the exercise of the labyrinth can be used as a metaphor, a mirror,
for where you are in your life or on your spiritual journey.

PATH
You may be drawn to walk around the labyrinth before entering or after exiting.
There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth.
You cant get lost; you will either return to the center to stay there awhile longer or return to the
entrance/exit point and you can start again.

PACE
Find and honor your own pace which may change as you move through the stages of the
labyrinth.
Practice mindful walking, becoming aware of thoughts, sensations, feelings.
Pause wherever and whenever you may feel the need.
Allow your breath to flow and help quiet mind.
Take whatever time you need in the centre; leave when you feel ready. Accommodate others
in the space.

PASS
The labyrinth is a two-way street. Pass each other as feels respectful.

PAUSE
At the exit, pause, give thanks; maintain a non-verbal state for a while after your walk, resting,
journaling or drawing.
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WALKING THE LABYRINTH TO RELAXATION, REFLECTION, RENEWAL, AND CONNECTION

FINGER-WALKING A PERSONAL LABYRINTH


Walking a labyrinth using a finger labyrinth can provide most of the same benefits as
physically walking a floor labyrinth. Finger labyrinths should be approached with the same
respect as their larger counterparts.
The earliest known finger labyrinth is on an outside wall of the St. Lucca Cathedral in Lucca,
Italy and dates from the ninth century. It is a twenty-four-inch labyrinth. It is placed so that
people trace the pattern with their fingers in order to quiet the mind and open the heart before
entering the cathedral proper.
In addition to those practices that can enhance walking a ground labyrinth, some of the following
may help you get the most out of your finger labyrinth journey:
Create a comfortable environment including location, chair and position, uncrossing legs and
arms
Turn down phone and cell phone
Select music or background sounds that will support your experience
Adjust lighting
Remove jewelry, watches, bracelets, etc.
Acquaint yourself with the labyrinth by passing your hands over the surface and looking at the
details of the labyrinth
Calm and centre yourself
State to yourself or out loud a question or intention you want to bring to your walk
Chant or repeat a mantra or phrase
Begin to trace the path from the outside with one or more fingers, following the groove/path to
the centre, pausing in the centre, and retracing the path to the outside; You may want to try
using your non-dominant hand.

WALKING THE LABYRINTH TO RELAXATION, REFLECTION, RENEWAL, AND CONNECTION

EXAMPLES OF LABYRINTHS
3-Circuit Classical Labyrinth

WALKING THE LABYRINTH TO RELAXATION, REFLECTION, RENEWAL, AND CONNECTION

7-Circuit Modern Round Labyrinth

WALKING THE LABYRINTH TO RELAXATION, REFLECTION, RENEWAL, AND CONNECTION

11-Circuit Chartres Medieval Labyrinth

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