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LABYRINTH: BASIC QUESTIONS

What is a labyrinth? "A labyrinth is a pattern, usually in the form of a large circle, that has one path, beginning at the outer edge and leading in a circuitous way into the center." (The Sacred Path Companion, Lauren Artress, Pg. 33). A wide range of labyrinth patterns date back thousands of years. Some of the oldest were found in Sweden (c. 0-500 B.C.E.). Most others date from the Middle Ages, about the 13th century onward.

Although often thought of as inviting a connection to one's spirituality, labyrinths are not linked to any particular religion or religious doctrine.

Is a labyrinth the same as a maze? A labyrinth is different from a maze, which has a number of twists and turns and dead ends. When one walks a maze, they are confronted with a riddle that engages the problem-solving activity of the "left brain." Though intellectually challenging, a maze does not provide the same level of emotional and spiritual centering & serenity offered by the labyrinth.

Walking the labyrinth engages the right brain, and is often characterized by right-brain qualities such as feelings of contentment, a sense of a meditative mood, or a creative, joyful state. The labyrinth journey is an experience of the process, rather than a focus on the goal.

Where can I find labyrinths? Most often, we think of the labyrinth pattern as being laid out on the ground or floor for walking. In this context, they are found in private yards, on church grounds/inside churches, and at healing centers. Many hospitals are now installing labyrinths on their grounds for patients and visitors to walk for relaxation and meditation. (Note: More reference links for Labyrinths here)

What if I can't physically "walk" a labyrinth? Labyrinth designs can also be created on paper, wood, artists? canvas, etc., for "finger" walking. They have been used as art work to "walk" with the mind's eye and can frequently be found as pendants, necklaces and bracelets.

Why would I want to walk a labyrinth? People walk labyrinths for a multitude of reasons. Most report that they simply feel better after their experience. The feelings described range from a state of general well being, to a sense of profound joy, creative bliss, or a connection with the Divine (however one might define this).

As a symbolic representation of our journey through life, labyrinths offer a means of slowing down our minds and our rapid daily pace, thus offering time and space for reflection.

Are all labyrinths the same? No, there are a number of different designs. Those called archetypal have been created "anonymously, perfected over time, and passed down through the ages to new generations. They have been developed collectively through the teachings of a sacred tradition, mostly unknown to us today." (The Sacred Path Companion, Lauren Artress, Pg. 34). We also have contemporary labyrinths, which have been created "by modern enthusiasts. They are fun to make and often build a sense of community as well." (The Sacred Path Companion, Lauren Artress, Pg. 34).


Resources

Artress, Lauren
The Sacred Path Companion ... A Guide to Walking the Labyrinth to Heal and Transform. 2006 (ISBN 1-59448-182-2) A wonderful blend of information on labyrinths and standard, as well as unique, methods for gaining the most during our time of walking the path.

Walking a Sacred Path ... Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool. 1995 (ISBN 1-57322-007-8) This book is a classic in the study and explanation of the history and deeper, metaphorical meanings of labyrinths and how we interpret them in our world today.

Attali, Jacques - The Labyrinth in Culture & Society ... Pathways to Wisdom 1999 (ISBN 1-55643-265-8) An extensively researched work regarding the movement of mankind and how it correlates with, and is symbolized by, the labyrinth.

Buchanan, Jim - Labyrinths for the Spirit ... How to Create Your Own Labyrinths for Meditation and Enlightenment. 2007 (ISBN 978-1-85675-261-9) The focus of this beautifully designed book is to provide the reader with a variety of ideas for creating one s own labyrinth.

Geoffrion, Jill Kimberly Hartwell
Living the Labyrinth ... 101 Paths to a Deeper Connection with the Sacred. 2000. (ISBN 0-8298-1372-1) As with her first book, Geoffrion has created a guide of quick, simple and yet often profound ways to explore ourselves and our relationship to the Divine (however we define that) through the journey of the labyrinth.

Praying the Labyrinth ... A Journal for a Spiritual Exploration. 1999 (ISBN 0-8298-1343- 8) The design of this book is very simple, with prompts for deeper exploration.

Hogan, Eve Eschner - Way of the Winding Path ... A Map for the Labyrinth of Life. 2003 (ISBN 1-883991-52-8) Though small in size, this book offers a wonderful range of thought-provoking questions. It gently guides the reader through ways to experience life as a spiritual journey.

Longegren, Sig - Labyrinths ... Ancient Myths and Modern Uses. 2001 (ISBN 978-0-906362-69-3) Mr. Longegren's book is a well researched, somewhat complex study of the history of labyrinths and provides very detailed instructions on how to create labyrinths and the kinds of ceremonies that can be used.

West, Melissa Gayle - Exploring the Labyrinth ... 2000 (ISBN 0-7679-0356-0) This book is a foundational work in labyrinth description and development.







Westrn Washington Labyrinth Network

Labyrinth Network Northwest


BASIC SEVEN CIRCUIT CRETAN DESIGN
(also called "CLASSICAL" )

Cretan


CHARTRES
Chartres



Shintu
Shintu walking the labyrinth… Courtesy of www.gratefulness.org