This month in the Journey Book Club we’re reading about one of my favorite tools for the journey: the labyrinth.
Labyrinths—maze-like formations with single, unhindered paths that lead to and from the center—have been used as spiritual tools throughout millennia and across traditions. As humanity entered a new season of awakening over the past few decades, the labyrinth has experienced a resurgence in popularity, becoming a well-known spiritual practice and commonly used tool for the journey.
In Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice, author and labyrinth educator Lauren Artress describes both why the labyrinth has grown in popularity and how it can be engaged as a spiritual practice and used as a tool on our own spiritual journeys:
[The labyrinth] is a tool to guide healing, deepen self-knowledge, and empower creativity. Walking the labyrinth clears the mind and gives insight into the spiritual journey. It urges action. It calms people in the throes of transitions. It helps them see their lives in the context of a path, a pilgrimage. They realize that they are not human beings on a spiritual path but spiritual beings on a human path.
To me, walking the labyrinth is a ritual—a way to enact meaning. It is an embodied meditation engaged in hopes that it will offer rest, renewal, and reveal the stirrings of the soul. It is also a metaphor not unlike pilgrimage—an exterior journey that mirrors an interior one. Like our own journeys, the path of the labyrinth is winding, and, at a glance, it’s hard to determine where the path will lead you next. One thing, however, is certain, both with the labyrinth and in life: If you follow the path, whether it is a path of stone or the path of your soul, you will ultimately be led to the center—the place where the true self and Divine meet.
Walking the labyrinth is a spiritual practice that is open to all and offers countless gifts to those who are either longing or ready to both release and receive. However, while The Labyrinth Society’s World-Wide Labyrinth Locator serves as an excellent tool for finding labyrinths to walk nearby (or even while on vacation—what a neat tradition it would be to seek one out in each destination), there are still many locations that don’t have access to labyrinths.
For those without a labyrinth nearby, or even those who want to have the experience of making their own labyrinth (a meditative practice within itself), here are a few ways to do ways to do so, below. While Lauren Artress has her own list of elements she considers essential to a labyrinth experience, my list of essentials are just three: that the practice involve movement, whether by finger or foot; that the path is winding, both as a metaphor and a meditative tool; and that there is a distinct center—a place to pause and reflect so that you might return down the same path in a new light.
3 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR OWN LABYRINTH:
1. Draw a labyrinth. You can do this on paper, using it as a finger labyrinth, or if you live by the beach you can draw a larger one in the sand to walk, leaving it there as an invitation to the curious passerby. Here are some good tutorials—simple or complex!
2. Make a spiral labyrinth out of fallen leaves. I love the inversions that this practice invites: raking leaves—often considered a chore—becomes a meditation, and walking the labyrinth—most often seen as a meditation—can also become play.
3. Turn a neighborhood walk into your own labyrinth path. Just be sure to incorporate a few turns and a peaceful destination that can act as the labyrinth’s center, inviting you to pause for a moment before returning down the same path.
Walk a labyrinth—whether one nearby or of your own making—and see where the practice takes you. Your experience will be just as unique as you are, and that’s something to be celebrated, because the Divine speaks to us precisely in our uniqueness.