Walking the Labyrinth
by Kathy Mansfield
What is the Labyrinth?
The labyrinth is not a maze. The labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool—a single path of prayer and meditation leading to a center and returning back. Unlike a maze—there are no dead ends, only a clearly defined path.
Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity. Whereas a maze is constructed to be a left-brain puzzle.
A maze can have more than one entrance and numerous choices along the way. The walls are usually high so as to block one from seeing the way out. Mazes were developed as a source of entertainment. Labyrinths are tools for spiritual renewal.
Walking the labyrinth is a form of contemplative prayer that can bring one closer to God, and to self. Because it utilizes the mind, body and soul, it can help with healing, grief, forgiveness, gratitude, prayer and creativity.
The labyrinth journey quiets the mind as it removes us from the distractions of daily life. In so doing it allows us to reflect, receive, and be renewed. The inward and outward turns, symbolize our path through life and our spiritual journey. We appear to reach our destination, only to find that we still have a long way to go
“The labyrinth is an archetype, a divine imprint, found in all religious traditions in various forms around the world. …We [people who use and work with labyrinths] are rediscovering a long-forgotten mystical tradition that is insisting to be reborn.”
-Lauren Artress, Walking the Sacred Path
Why Walk the Labyrinth?
For some, walking the labyrinth is a way to relax and to meditate, but for others, it is a highly spiritual experience. For these people, modern day pilgrims, the walk, the journey to the center and back, is a metaphor not only for their journey through life but for their faith journey. On the labyrinth they learn to trust God, to seek His wisdom, and to hear His voice. It is a way to reconnect with our inner Spirit, to go within, to hear the voice of God.
The world surrounds us. Noise and busyness, abound. Finding time to be still and seek God is becoming harder and harder. The labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool that can help us “reconnect” to the Spirit within and to feel God’s presence in the midst of this chaotic world. The labyrinth is truly a gift to us from the past.
What Can the Labyrinth Do for Me?
I once stood in wonder as I observed a young girl who was walking the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in June 2009. As I watched her journey into the labyrinth, barefooted, I was amazed at the reverence with which she took each step. Much to my amazement, when she arrived at the center she started to pray each petal of the center rose. She got it!
How could such a young girl know how special, how mystical, the Chartres labyrinth is?
I could sense her connection with God, and I could imagine a ray of light illuminating her face; God shining Divine light down from the heavens on her because her prayer was so humble, so intense, so pure, telling her, “My daughter, with you I am well pleased.” I felt voyeuristic watching this deeply personal and spiritual moment, yet I could not take my eyes off of her until after she had completed her walk.
Later, after I was finished writing in my journal, I saw her with her grandfather at the exit. Had he shared the secrets of walking the labyrinth and praying the center with her? I do not know. However, I do know that this image of “The Girl Praying the Center” is forever etched on my mind. I will never again walk the labyrinth without thinking of her and her Divine connection. As Thomas Keating once said,
“A single moment of divine union is more valuable than a long period of prayer during which you are constantly in and out of interior silence. It only takes a moment for God to enrich you.”
Don’t you long for this too? To feel God’s presence in your life once again (or perhaps for the first time)? The labyrinth, an ancient, spiritual tool, can help you do just that. All it takes is a few minutes of your time. Are you willing to take the first step? As St. Augustine said,
“Solvitur Amublando – It is solved by walking.”
Kathy Mansfield is an Advanced, Certified Veriditas Labyrinth Facilitator. She trained under Lauren Artress, the founder of Veriditas.
As a facilitator, Kathy offers monthly walks to the formerly homeless in Charlotte and has seen the impact this type of spiritual practice has on those that have faced difficult situations in their lives. She has seen their transformation of spirit. Kathy also facilitates walks for her church, women’s conferences, retreats, retirement communities, survivors of domestic violence, and for whomever calls her and asks for her help. Kathy works with several groups to help them determine what type, size, style of labyrinth to build.
Kathy is also an artist, a photographer that uses her photos to create meditative moments. She also creates Gratitude Beads that you can carry with you throughout the day. Every time you are feeling grateful for someone or for something you can pull one of the beads forward. At the end of the day, you can look at your Gratitude Beads and be reminded of all of your blessings.
If you would like more information or are interested in Gratitude Beads, email Kathy at Heron39@aol.com.