My first experience with labyrinths was over 10 years ago at a New Year’s Eve Candlelight Labyrinth Walk open to the community in Long Beach, California. I had no idea what to expect but it was a lovely way to discover the walking meditation practice. There was a canvas labyrinth laid out in a large room with only soft light coming through windows and from the candles along the edge of the labyrinth. Relaxing music was playing as we were being guided into the entrance of the labyrinth at a slow pace so the labyrinth would not get crowded. After our walk, we were welcome to sit in a room set up for journaling about our experience. It was a unique, peaceful way to ring in the New Year and I had found my favorite way to practice meditation.
At the time, I was in the middle of a health crisis and was exploring meditation as part of my research on ways to improve my body’s ability to heal and be more resilient to illness and injury. You can find a great deal of research on the benefits of meditation including stress relief. I had tried a couple of sitting meditation techniques by attending two different Buddhist meditation groups. I learned a lot and liked parts of the experience, but found sitting for a long time challenging. Labyrinth walking appealed to me on multiple levels – walking and the labyrinth design are helpful in quieting my mind. The labyrinth is different from a maze because it has only one path to the center and you walk the same path back out again. You don’t have to find your way and you can’t get lost – although you may feel like you are lost at times because of the spiraling path design. This can be a great metaphor for difficult times in our lives.
Walking the Labyrinth
Labyrinth walking can be an individual or group experience. The Veriditas guidelines describe a 3-step process for walking a labyrinth but you can create your own.
- Release – Walking into the labyrinth
- Receive – Pausing in the center
- Return – Walking out of the labyrinth
[Photo: Veriditas – Walking labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral]
I became in involved in the local group that was organizing the labyrinth walks in Long Beach and learned that the canvas labyrinth I was walking belonged to a local labyrinth facilitator. She facilitated workshops for us combining art and writing experiences with walking the labyrinth. We also learning how to paint our own labyrinth Medieval or Chartres-style labyrinth on fabric, which continues to be my favorite design to walk. We used the Veriditas instructions for walking the labyrinth at our events and in 2009 I did the facilitator training with Lauren Artress. You can read more about the labyrinth and the practice of labyrinth walking that began at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
Finding labyrinths to walk
Over the years, I have had many experiences and especially love walking outdoor labyrinths. Many labyrinths have been installed at churches but they can also be found at locations like hospitals and universities.
Here in Greenville, South Carolina we have two that are along our Swamp Rabbit Trail including at one of our parks downtown – Cancer Survivors Park. Although it is small and not my favorite design, it is a beautiful location for an individual walk. You can find labyrinths near you by searching the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator.
Handheld labyrinth meditation
I have to admit that prior to this year I enjoyed my handheld labyrinths primarily as decoration, keeping a small pewter one on my desk. However, in this pandemic year labyrinth walking has also had to transition online and Veriditas has been offering a weekly online finger labyrinth walk. The walks are like mini-workshop experiences with people from all over the world gathering on Zoom for a mindful community experience. You can find recordings from the past online labyrinth mediations with links to the resources used by the facilitators. Upcoming online finger labyrinth walks are listed on the Veriditas home page with registration links. Lars Howlett has created a great video (below) that is a great introduction to handheld labyrinths and offers tips for using them for meditation at home.