When telling someone I have been “walking the labyrinth”…. I get a blank stare or a questioning look.
The ancient practice of “labyrinth walking” has been used for centuries by different faiths for spiritual centering, contemplation, meditation or prayer.
Labyrinths are found in many religious traditions dating back 4,000 years. In Western tradition, labyrinths first appeared in Christianity among the Crusaders. They were believed to be a symbolic representation of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land for those unable to make the trip to Jerusalem.
Later, labyrinths appeared in churches, the most celebrated example is found on the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France.
Today labyrinths are found in many sizes and shapes, made from just about any natural material. They are built in a permanent fashion from stones, cut into turf, formed by mounds of earth, or imbedded designs in the floor of buildings.
Entering the serpentine path of a labyrinth, one walks slowly while quieting the mind and focusing on a spiritual question or prayer. When walking the labyrinth, you meander back and forth, turning 180 degrees each time you enter a different circuit until you arrive at the center rosette. The basic designs are: 7, 11 or 12 concentric circuits. Today, most labyrinths have 7 concentric circuits.
There is no ‘correct’ way to walk a labyrinth—the journey is strictly personal.
A common misconception equates labyrinth with maze. Mazes have twists, turns, dead ends; they are puzzles to be solved. Labyrinths, on the other hand, are unicursal: you walk the same path going in as you do coming out. There is only one, open, unobstructed path the walker follows into the center and then walks back out.