The Labyrinth – An Ancient Meditation Tool
- 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 Americans, 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 magical geometric forms that define sacred space.
- During the crusades, they were used to symbolically represent the pilgrimage to the holy land. Today, labyrinths are being used for reflection, meditation, prayer and comfort. They are found in many shapes and sizes, and are created in sand, cornmeal, flour, painted on canvas, fashioned with masking tape or strings for a temporary design, or built in a permanent fashion from stones, cut into turf, formed by mounds of earth, made from vegetation, or other natural material.
- There are three basic designs – Seven circuit, eleven circuit, and twelve circuit. The most common design found around the country today is the seven circuit. These seven circuit designs were found on pottery from over 2000 years ago. Chartres Cathedral at Chartres, France is a very famous example of an eleven circuit design. One of the most famous aspects of the cathedral in Chartres is the spectacular rose window over the great west door. It has the same dimensions as the labyrinth and is exactly the same distance up the west wall as the labyrinth is literally from the cathedral’s main entrance below the window. An imaginary cosmic hinge located where the doors and floors intersect would, if closed, place the rose window directly on top of the labyrinth, thus the sparkling, colored light of the window and the darkness of the labyrinthine pilgrimage are combined.
- Some more recent examples can be found at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and Christ the King Lutheran Church in Torrence, California. The eleven circuit, or Maltese design, Octagonal in shape, can be found at Amiens Cathedral in France. The size of the design can range from a small design on a stone to over 40 feet in diameter.
- Many people make the mistake of thinking a labyrinth and a maze are the same thing. A maze has dead ends and many trick turns. A labyrinth has only one path leading to the center and back out again. There are no dead ends.
- When you walk a labyrinth, you meander back and forth, turning 180 degrees each time you enter a different circuit. As you shift your direction you also shift your awareness from right brain to left brain. This is one of the reasons the labyrinth can induce receptive states of consciousness. It can also help to balance the chakras.
- Each person’s walk is a personal experience. How one walks and what one receives differs with each walk. Some people use the walk for clearing the mind and centering. Others enter with a question or concern. The time in the center can be used for receiving, reflecting, meditation, or praying, as well as discovering our own sacred inner space. What each person receives can be integrated on the walk out. Your walk can be a healing and sometimes very profound experience or it can be just a pleasant walk. Each time is different.
- One of the people who have done the most work in reviving the labyrinth is Rev. Lauren Artress. In 1992 Rev. Artress brought the form to the Grace Cathedral of San Francisco, Ca. Since then, over one million people have walked the labyrinth on its grounds, with several hundred other labyrinths springing up around the US. Why the sudden interest in this ancient form? Rev. Artress attributes it to the lack of spiritual awareness in modern culture. “We lost our sense of connection to ourselves and to the vast mystery of creation,” writes the Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, Canon of Grace Cathedral, in her book about the labyrinth, Walking the Sacred Path: “The web of creation has been thrown out of balance.”
- Labyrinths are truly sacred places. The design itself is inherently powerful. The space and the experience of walking it are also very sacred and powerful and help us to feel a greater sense of oneness. It is a tool for people of all beliefs to come together for a common spiritual experience.
Walking the Finger Labyrinth
Before starting, you may want to compose an intention. If you walk a finger labyrinth, you may want to use it to let go of events of the day…you may want to walk your finger labyrinth as an exercise-like meditation, yoga, or saying a prayer-to center yourself and open yourself to what lies before you.
As when you walk a full-size labyrinth, if you are present in the moment, you also will be more conscious of the walk itself. Are you rushing to the center? Is the labyrinth bringing up feelings that you need to be dealing with in your life? What’s it like to be on that path, winding back and forth; to be in the center; to be on the path back? How is it similar to and different from walking a full-size labyrinth? You may want to have an affirmation or meditation as you walk the labyrinth. You may find that some mantras work particularly well for armchair labyrinth walking. If you are walking two labyrinths simultaneously, with both hands, you may-like my friends-experience something completley different from what you feel when walking a single labyrinth.
“The Art of Finger Labyrinths”