The Spiritual Journey of the Labyrinth
Every day, each of us walks a path whether we are aware of it or not. Not the physical path our feet trace, but rather the spiritual, metaphysical journey each of us are on. Labyrinths offer a unique opportunity for mindfully exploring this path. Walked with our physical bodies or traversed within our meditative minds, the spiritual journey of the labyrinth offers us the chance to find our center and emerge refreshed and ready to greet the energies that surround us.
What is a Labyrinth?
Labyrinths are ancient tools for healing and balancing emotionally and energetically. A traditional labyrinth is a meandering path that is arranged in a geometrical shape of seven circuits that does not otherwise appear in nature. The entrance is typically at the bottom, with a path leading inward that either turns to the right (a right-handed labyrinth) or the left (a left-handed labyrinth). Unlike a maze, labyrinths have one path that leads travelers to the center and back again. Because of this, whoever walks a labyrinth does not have to occupy their mind trying to “solve” a puzzle but can instead turn their thoughts inward as they focus on each step that carries them closer to the heart of the labyrinth.
At the beginning of many labyrinths is a touchstone, a literal stone that serves as a place to pause and gather up our prayers, thoughts, emotions, and begin to shape our intention for clarity and outcome of our journey into the labyrinth.
Our Sacred Journey Inside
When I first discovered the labyrinth years ago, the image actualized for me the sacred ritual of moving from the outer to the inner world and back again. Both in physical form, as our feet trace the path before us, and in spiritual form, as we meditate on finding the core of our being. The winding circuits of the labyrinth also mirror the circulation of vital energies inside our bodies. In fact, the pattern of the labyrinth circuits is reminiscent of the human brain and intestines—the two poles of our beings that correspond with our consciousness and our physical body. The journey inside the labyrinth connects all parts of our being, similar to the connections we form while practicing yoga.
The Labyrinth as Home
Across cultures, the labyrinth has long been regarded as the path one walks to reach fulfillment, a kind of pilgrimage. Any pilgrimage has a beginning, a middle, and an end. To begin, the traveler sets out to reach a destination, often a spiritually significant destination. The first steps begin the journey, and as the traveler makes their way, winding along their path to their destination, their mind is occupied with thoughts of where they are headed. Reaching the destination marks the middle, not the end, of the journey. Time stands still for a moment as the traveler plants their feet at their destination and reflects on the journey that brought them here, the obstacles they had to overcome. Reaching this place has been their goal, their focus. But eventually, a traveler on a pilgrimage must turn around and retrace the steps they took to find their way home.
The Labyrinth as Pilgrimage
As with a pilgrimage, a labyrinth offers a space for a traveler to find fulfillment and introspection. This can be true for the labyrinths we walk with our physical body as well as those we traverse within our mind. We stand at the beginning, aware that we are about to step consciously on a path towards our inner self. We step with the intention to quiet the distractions of the outer world and to return to the home within ourselves.
Coming home to center inside the labyrinth, we rebalance and strengthen.
Each of us has a sacred spot in our heart—often referred to as the cockles of the heart—that we can feel our way into. When we are there, it is just us with ourselves and all that we are. Safe, protected, free to be open to ourselves, and to hearing our own deep wisdom, the wisdom of the spheres. Coming home to center inside the labyrinth, we rebalance and strengthen. Letting this space wash through us after a pause, we then reverse directions.
Our Journey Home
During the outward journey, we integrate the gifts received on our inward path. We feel refreshed, re-centered, and ready. Joy bubbles up in me often, and in fact, the structure itself moves us toward the feeling of joy. The labyrinth process is stillness in motion. Through our careful steps, we find stillness. Inside that still point, we often find forward movement in our health and growth. Taking time for reflection, insight, contemplation, prayer, and/or meditation is imperative to every cycle of growth.
Walking Your Own Labyrinth
If you are interested in walking a labyrinth of your own, this World-Wide Labyrinth Locator can help you find one close to your home. You may be surprised just how many labyrinths surround you. If you’re preparing to travel, a wonderful way of connecting yourself to the places you go is to locate a labyrinth to walk. Please share your favorite labyrinths in the comments section.
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Thanks for reading about my journey—I know you have powerful stories, too. I hear them in the heartbeat of the universe, and I know we are kindred spirits.
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