Labyrinths have been around for over 4000 years and are found in just about every major religious tradition in the world. They have been an integral part of many cultures such as Native American, Greek, Celtic and Mayan. The Hopi called the Labyrinth the symbol for “mother earth” and equated it with the Kiva. Like Stonehenge and the pyramids, they are geometric forms that define a spiritual space.
We are all on the path…exactly where we need to be. The Labyrinth is a model of that path. There is only one path in and one path out, however, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to walk a Labyrinth. Every way is a good way. Walking the labyrinth with a quiet, open mind and an open heart allows us to focus on Spirit.
There are three stages to the walk: the first, from the entrance to the center, is Surrender, a shedding and releasing, a letting go of all that is unlike Spirit in our lives. The entire space resembles an architectural ground plan and appears alarmingly complicated at first glance. Before deciding to enter a Labyrinth several hurdles appear. Once past the entrance, the “tortuous path principle” takes effect. The entire space is filled with the maximum of twists and turns possible – meaning the greatest loss of time and the most physical exertion for the walker on her or his way to the goal, the center. The experience is one of repeatedly approaching the goal, only to be led away.
The second stage, Illumination, happens when the center is reached. We can stay there in the center as long as we like. It is a place to meditate and reflect. Being open and receptive to receiving whatever comes through helps. The center is meant to be the place where one has the opportunity to discover something so basic that it demands a fundamental change of direction.
To leave a Labyrinth, the walker must turn around and retrace her or his steps. A 180 - degree change of direction signifies distancing oneself from one’s own past. Yet, one should not view this as simply a negation or a rescinding of the journey to the center. The key experience is between entering and leaving. Turning around at the center marks a new beginning. A walker leaving a Labyrinth is not the same person who entered it, but has moved into a new level of existence. The walk out takes us back into our lives, empowered by Spirit to transform our lives and actions. This is the third stage, Union, the joining with our higher power.
Like the Labyrinth, each of our lives is a sacred journey. And it is about change, growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously expanding our vision of what is possible, stretching our souls, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to our intuition, taking courageous challenges at every step along the way. We are on the path…exactly where we are meant to be right now…And from here, we can only go forward, shaping our life stories into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing and courage, of beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, and of love.
Adapted from Caroline Adams
The Lavender Fields Labyrinth is an exact duplicate of the Labyrinth embedded in the floor of the Cathedral of Chartres (Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral). The Chartres Cathedral is located about 80 km from Paris and was dedicated on October 24, 1260. It has eleven circuits, is 42 feet in diameter and a ½ mile journey to walk both in and out.
1. Walking a Sacred Path by Rev. Lauren Artress, Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA.