Recently a friend and I attended a weekend conference on labyrinths in Denver. When we arrived at the Arvada Center for the Arts, we were completely shocked to find that we were going to be joining over 200 other participants.; we had both imagined that the topic would attract a much smaller crowd of say thirty to forty interested souls.
So why all the buzz about labyrinths? And what is a labyrinth?
Labyrinths predate written history. Evidence of their existence is found in different cultures and at different times in most traditions around the world. The Jewish Kabbala, the Native American Medicine Wheel and the Tibetan Sand Mandala are all examples of labyrinths. A maze and a labyrinth are often confused as being one in the same. However, in a maze the purpose is to create a sense of confusion and being lost, while the labyrinth provides an ordered though not always obvious journey without tricks or decisions.
The labyrinth is based on a geometric pattern usually in the form of a circle that has one path, beginning at the outer edge and leading in a circuitous way into the center. For many the circular form represents unity and wholeness while the pattern itself recalls forms and figure found in the cosmos and nature as well as the principles of sacred geometry.
Labyrinths are made from many different materials. Some are found in plazas created by using different types of paving materials; some are etched in the grass; some are made from mounds of earth covered with grass; some are made out of stone; and some are made out of portable tapestries.
Labyrinths are enjoying a resurgence in modern day cultures. They can now be found in over seventy countries throughout the world in schools, hospitals, hospices, spas, churches, public and private parks, prisons, etc. It is believed that the labyrinth provides sacred space for meditation, centering and healing. Studies have been done showing a reduction in heart rates and blood pressure after walking a labyrinth. While there is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth, the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other along a defined path creates an opportunity for reflection and a quieting of the mind. Labyrinths have been used for a wide variety of purposes including stress reduction, meditation, prayer, healing, engaging the creative mind, and intentional walking.
Here in Carbondale, I have access to two labyrinths: one in a public setting minutes from my home and one at a private residence just up the road. To find a labyrinth near you go to the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator.
There are many resources available on labyrinths. One of the best places to start is with the book Walking A Sacred Path by Dr. Lauren Artress. Dr. Artress was the speaker at the conference that I attended in Denver and she was fabulous, appealing to a remarkably diverse group of people from all walks of life.
Take a walk, and see what you find.