5 Reasons to Find a Labyrinth and Walk it
“Give me a labyrinth to walk, and I can usually free my mind.” ~ Pam Houston
Recently, I traveled to northern California with my best friend to spend a few days at a wellness retreat. In addition to the beautiful trails and redwoods, there is a labyrinth on the property. I was eager to walk the labyrinth because though I knew little about it, I felt the exercise could help me gain a clear perspective and inner peace about some things that had been troubling me.
It wasn’t my first exploration into labyrinths. I walked a labyrinth for the first time a few years ago when I attended a yoga and meditation retreat. I had heard of labyrinths, but I didn’t know anything about the practice of walking a labyrinth. A spiritual guide at that retreat suggested I walk the labyrinth to find answers to my questions. Whether due to curiosity or desperation, I gave it a try. It was a nice walk, but I didn’t remember getting much from the experience, at least not initially.
Northern California was different. As the quote goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear;” I was ready. I was tired of ruminating on the same questions and thoughts. I never felt a sense of peace about them. I wanted answers. I wanted to release them once and for all. I believed walking the labyrinth could help me.
What is a Labyrinth?
A labyrinth is a single winding path, usually a circular pattern, that leads in and out of a center. While the path can be made of different material, most use stones or pavers to line the path. The labyrinth dates back to 4500 B.C. and maybe even earlier. It is used by many cultures, mystics, spiritual and religious traditions.
The labyrinth is not a maze. They differ fundamentally in purpose and design. The labyrinth has one way in and one way out. There are no dead ends in a labyrinth. While the maze taps the left brain to think logically, sequentially, and analytically to solve problems, the labyrinth exercises the right brain to tap into intuition, creativity, imagery, and Spirit.
The labyrinth is described as “a metaphor for a journey to the center of our deepest self” or symbolic of life’s journey with its twists and turns, yet we always find our way. It is a contemplative practice.
“A labyrinth is:
a walking meditation
a crucible of change
a watering hole for the spirit
a path of prayer
and a mirror of the soul.”
~ Lauren Artress, Founder of Veriditas the Worldwide Labyrinth Project
5 Reasons to Walk a Labyrinth
There are many reasons you may want to find a labyrinth and walk it. Here are 5:
- Receive an answer, guidance, or solution to a problem
- Learn more about yourself – personal revelations
- Reduce stress
- Let go of something, someone, grief, etc.
- Find a sense of purpose or direction
How to Walk a Labyrinth
There is no right or wrong way to walk, and some walk it just for fun. However, I have gained deep respect for the practice of walking the labyrinth because of the spiritual transformation I felt when I walked it during my California retreat.
There are some fundamental steps you can take to get the most out of your experience. Before beginning the walk, shed any expectations you have of what will happen. Be present. Use your breath or centering word or mantra to stay in the moment. Then set your intentions.
With your intention set, it’s time to walk the labyrinth. Laurel was the session leader (aka spiritual guide) at the California retreat. She shared these three steps to walking the labyrinth:
- Release (Purgation) – as you walk the labyrinth toward the center, release your thoughts and concerns. Let go or purge yourself of unhelpful thoughts.
- Receive (Illumination) – when you reach the center, stay as long as you like. Some people use that time to pray or meditate. Some symbolically raise their hands to receive what it is that led them to walk or to reach out to their Higher Self or Higher Power. You can stay until you reach a point of inner peace.
- Return (Union) – as you return from the center and walk the labyrinth back to where you started, you have the insight and strength you need to integrate back into everyday life.
When I returned from my first labyrinth experience at the California retreat, a weight had been lifted from me. I was literally in tears. My intention was to let go of worry, which was rooted in fear. The answer I received was not one I expected, but it was absolutely the answer I needed. I received clarity and optimism, faith, and hope. I felt then and still feel such peace.
I went back the second time. It was our last day at the retreat. I went alone this time. I followed the steps that Laurel taught me. I knew the question I wanted answered. I entered the labyrinth and by the time I was ready to return from the center, I was full of joy and almost skipping out of the labyrinth.
As the opening quote says, I now believe “Give me a labyrinth to walk, and I [will] free my mind.”
If you are interested in finding a labyrinth in your area, click here for the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator.
Thanks for reading and being a part of the Your Aha! Life Global Community. I hope you found this article helpful and that you will consider finding a labyrinth in your area and taking that walk. If you do, I’d love to hear about your experience. Remember, you might not arrive at an answer or immediate insight following your walk. It may come to you over time. Stay open and receptive.
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Learn My Story