Not to be confused with a maze, a labyrinth has a single, circuitous path that winds to its center and out again in a metaphorical pilgrimage. It is one of the oldest and most mysterious motifs created by man. In the last 3,500 years, labyrinths have appeared in a wide variety of world cultures.¹ The form was adopted by early Christians as a representation of hope. For centuries, it was incorporated in European churches.² Due to a resurgence of popular interest that began in the 1990s, labyrinths may be found in parks, hospitals, prisons, airports, schools, retreat centers, back yards, and, of course, churches.³
Walking a maze requires logic and analysis, left-brain tasks, to navigate twists, turns, and blind alleys. In contrast, the labyrinth offers a meandering path to its center and out again—no navigation needed. One can simply walk, allow the mind to become quiet, and let the body take over. Labyrinth walking yields the benefits of sitting meditation—a boon to those who struggle to sit still. It is a right-brain task that "invites our intuitive, pattern-seeking, symbolic mind to come forth.”⁴ Walking the labyrinth as a group affords a rewarding mode of celebration, commemoration, reflection, or exploration, in community.⁵
Call us for help with your labyrinth project. Labyrinths can play an innovative role in health care facilities. An existing labyrinth is not necessary. A canvas labyrinth can be rented or a labyrinth may be created with rocks, paint, tape, sticks, chalk, sand, and other materials. Consider labyrinth walking for your next team-building session or staff retreat. A labyrinth can provide a meditative space for your recovery program. It can serve as the centerpiece of a healing garden and a safe space for stress relief. Temporary labyrinths offer a therapeutic group activity and seasonal festivity for patients and families.⁶
¹Lonegrin, Sig, Labyrinths: Ancient Myths and Modern Uses, revised edition. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing, 2001.
²Wright, Craig, The Maze and the Warrior: Symbols in Architecture, Theology, and Music. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.
⁴Artress, Lauren, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice. New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 1995. Artress's work stimulated the current revival of interest in labyrinths.
⁵The labyrinth set into the floor stones in the nave of Chartres Cathedral may be the world’s most recognized path.
⁶Photo by Warren Lynn, DIY Backyard Breast Cancer Healing Garden Labyrinth Ideas, Breast Cancer Authority (blog), October 5, 2014.