The Labyrinth

There is a large Labyrinth on the property of Our Lady of Angels Convent.  It is on the south side of the Spiritual Center.  Surrounded by majestic oaks, beech, and evergreens, the labyrinth invites us to a walking meditation, an inner pilgrimage where our hearts come home to rest.

Types of Labyrinth:

A labyrinth is an ancient circular diagram found in many cultures around the world.  It represents a spiritual journey in a physical form.  In its classical form, this sacred diagram consists of a single concentric circular path with no possibility of going astray.  Labyrinths have been found in almost every religious tradition in the past four to five thousand years.

Walking the labyrinth is an ancient spiritual act and a physical meditation that is being rediscovered during our time.

There are many different forms of labyrinth.   Our labyrinth is a “Five Path Classical Labyrinth” and is found in many of the Earth’s indigenous cultures.   In Chartes Cathedral, France there is a seven-circuit labyrinth which is an ancient prayer form, rooted in the Christian tradition of pilgrimage.  In the Middle Ages, few people were able to read; their religious experiences came through their other senses.  People walked to holy places, many in search of physical or spiritual healing.  During the crusades, travel to the Holy Land became dangerous and expensive   Those unable to travel to the Holy Land participated through visits to churches and walking the labyrinth engraved in the floor of the churches designated as pilgrimage cathedrals.  Walking the labyrinth in these cathedrals marked the ritual ending of the journey across the countryside.  In the tradition of pilgrimage, the path of the labyrinth is called the “Road to Jerusalem.”

The concept is simple:

Following the  curved path in a prayerful stance, provides the opportunity to lay down our burdens and walk firmly to the center and then return with a lighter load in peace and joy.  Unlike the maze which is a puzzle with many paths to choose, the labyrinth is a singular road to the center and back.

While this path is the same for all walkers, each walker brings a variety of cultural, religious and spiritual traditions that make the journey unique.  As a tool for meditation, an experience for prayer, an opportunity for spiritual questioning, or discernment, the labyrinth is to be approached with reverence and respect for the journey to the center.  The great gift of the labyrinth is that you don’t have to do anything in a particular way.  It is the  walking through the pathways that will help you in prayer and meditation and play.  As St. Augustine said, “It is solved by the walking.”

How to walk the labyrinth:

There are as many ways to pray the labyrinth as there are people who use it. The singular path of the labyrinth leads to and from the center.  The labyrinth has a singular path leading you to and from the Center.  You cannot get lost on the labyrinth.  There are no rules.  Give yourself permission to follow the intuitions and desires that come as you walk.  You may be seeking relaxation, prayer, problem solving or healing.  Remember this is designed to be an embodied prayer experience.  Let your body lead you but use what you feel inclined to do — it is your walk.  To help though, here are some common guidelines for the process that are commonly used.

  1. Prepare, set your intention – Reflect on your life right now.  Maintain silence for your own reflection and that of others.  Center yourself with a few deep breaths before entering.  Ask God to bless you as you begin the journey so that you become a channel of grace and blessing.
  2. Walk in – Set your own pace, stop if you choose.  Let go of burdens, ideas, need to control.  Simply follow the path slowly and reverently or quickly and playfully.  Anytime you are moved to pause or stop, do so.  Perhaps you have a question or a desire for clarity or balance.
  3. Center – When you reach the center, walk in and stay as long as you like.  This is a place to listen to the still, small voice of God.
  4. Walk Out – When you are ready, begin your journey back.  Be aware of your feelings, your energy and insights or images.

As I finish writing this I realize many people are nowhere near a labyrinth so I checked the web and found a site that allows you to walk one “virtually”.  Click here for A Virtual Labyrinth. It should take about 15 minutes and certainly gives you a semblance of the experience.  The downside is that you don’t get to go at your own pace but it is amazing how calming it can be.

Rooted in the Gospel...We welcome all as sister and brother.