Since moving to Northern California, I've come across many secret labyrinths tucked away on hiking trails. These labyrinths are cared for in some way by those unseen and the acknowledgement of their presence is in the sheer presence of the beauty and attention to detail that each labyrinth reveals.
Walking labyrinths are a kind of meditation and offer insight to the state of the mind. Do you trust? Are you self-doubting? Do you wonder? Are you present? What does it mean? Are there expectations? What's the purpose?
What is a Labyrinth?
The labyrinth is an ancient pattern found in many cultures around the world. Labyrinth designs were found on pottery, tablets and tiles that date as far back at 5000 years. Many patterns are based on spirals and circles mirrored in nature. In Native American tradition, the labyrinth is identical to the Medicine Wheel and Man in the Maze. The Celts described the labyrinth as the Never Ending Circle. It is also known as the Khabala in mystical Judaism. One feature labyrinths have in common is that they have one path that winds in a circuitous way to the center.
The pattern has been walked by millions of people of all culture for many reasons. The labyrinth is a red place set aside to reflect, look within, pray and negotiate new behavior. They rhythm of walking, placing one foot in front of the other, empties the mind, relaxes the body and refreshes the spirit. Follow the page your body wants to go. The labyrinth can be walked in four stages. If you encounter other people walking the same path, simply allow them to pass. Walk the labyrinth with your body and rest your mind.
Before walking the labyrinth, take time in gratitude to be thankful for your life. Bless the people in your life. If there's a specific event or situation troubling you, bring it to mind and form a healing question.
This is the time to quiet the mind, let go of the mind chatter and release your troubles. Open your heart to feel whatever it might feel. Become aware of your breathing. Take slow breaths. Relax and move at your own pace.
Stand or sit in the center. This is the place of reflection. Pause and stay as long as you like. Open yourself to your higher power. Listen to that small inner voice. In the safety of the labyrinth have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself.
Walking out of the labyrinth. When you are ready, begin walking out the same path you followed in. Walking out, integration of your experience happens. Experience the sense of well-being, healing, excitement, calm or peace.
When walking a labyrinth, the inner voice wakes up. It may be encouraging, surprising, hopeful, doubtful, eager, pessimistic, judgmental and wondrous. Stepping into the labyrinth, we see our thoughts for what they are in that moment, but also the patterning of our thoughts in new situations. Walking the labyrinth becomes a mirror of our mind and an insight into what we may be seeking. Steps along the path are symbolic of people and events in our life. And as one foot is put in front of the other, we are reminded of a bigger presence in our lives that has set our course for us. All we have to do is follow the path and make choices along the way. Stay present and allow for what to be, to be and to be a part of the co-creative process of our lives. Part of the process of walking the labyrinth is about being ready to release whatever comes up for us and to receive what awaits us. There is a glimpse into understanding flow and force as we move forward trusting the path and at the same time wondering if we are moving in the right direction towards the goal: the center. Arriving at the center, there is the pause, the reflection and the awareness that the way back is the same way through. We recount the steps back to the beginning and know the place where we started with fresh eyes.
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