to Use a Labyrinth
Rule #1: There Are No Rules
John Stuart Leslie
except as noted
"Walking the Labyrinth is the action of interacting with
this ancient symbol of pilgrimage. Many techniques and “How to” information has been written by various
scholars in the field. The act of walking the labyrinth helps achieve a contemplative state. Walking among
the “circuits” (where the path meanders back and forth), one loses track of direction and of the
outside world, and serves to quiet the mind".
From Lauren Artess, Walking a Sacred
Path, New York, Riverhead Books,
Walking the Labyrinths at Grace Cathedral
The Labyrinth is an archetype, a divine imprint, found in all religious traditions in various
forms around the world. By walking a replica of the Chartres labyrinth, laid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral
in France around 1220, we are rediscovering a long-forgotten mystical tradition that is insisting to be
The labyrinth has only one path so there are no tricks to it and no dead ends. The path winds
throughout and becomes a mirror for where we are in our lives. It touches our sorrows and releases our joys.
Walk it with an open mind and an open heart.
There are three stages of the walk:
Purgation (Releasing) ~ A releasing, a letting go of the details of your life. This is the act
of shedding thoughts and distractions. A time to open the heart and quiet the
Illumination (Receiving) ~ When you reach the center, stay there as long as you like. It is a
place of meditation and prayer. Receive what is there for you to receive.
Union (Returning) ~ As you leave, following the same path out of the center as you came in,
you enter the third stage, which is joining God, your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world.
Each time you walk the labyrinth you become more empowered to find and do the work you feel your soul reaching
Guidelines for the walk:
Quiet your mind and become aware of your breath. Allow yourself to find the pace your body
wants to go. The path is two ways. Those going in will meet those coming out. You may "pass" people or let
others step around you. Do what feels natural.
There is no "right" or "wrong" way to walk a labyrinth. I ask and aid walkers at my workshops
by stating "quiet the mind, open the heart". Because you are walking, the mind is quieted. Labyrinth walks are
sometimes referred to as "body prayer" or walking meditation. I suggest that people may want to see the walk as
three parts to a whole experience - but I recognize many go through the walk and these parts at different
The entrance can be a place to stop, reflect, make prayer or intention for the spiritual walk
you are about to take. The walk around the design to the center can be a "letting go" - a quieting of the
thoughts, worries, lists of tasks to do, a letting go unto the experience of being present in the body. Arrival
at the center rosette - a place of prayer/meditation - "letting in" Gods guidance, the divine into our lives.
When ready, the walk out "letting out" takes us back into our lives, empowered by spirit to transform our lives
In many ways, I see the labyrinth as a call to action, a transformation spiritual tool for
people. It can aid healing, help in releasing grief, (people often shed tears during the "letting go"), help
guide through troubled times, aid in decision making, illuminate our purpose in life, and act as a tool of
celebration and thanks.
I have seen it be many things for many people. It is important to recognize it as a spiritual
practice, not a magical tool. Its work is our commitment to enter into the sacred spiritual walk, not merely
once, but to use it as part of an ongoing spiritual practice.
The vision of the world-wide Labyrinth Project is to establish labyrinths in cathedrals,
retreat centers, hospitals, prisons, parks, airports, and community centers so they are available to walk in
times of joy, in times of sorrow and when we are seeking hope.
Excerpted from: Lauren Artess, Walking a Sacred Path, New York, Riverhead Books, 1995.:
I yield to an expert to describe the process of walking a
Labyrinth, for I could not have said it better. The next task would be to go out and try one out... if you can find
one in your area.
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