I wasn't at all familiar with labyrinths until about four years ago.
That's when I watched Oprah Winfrey take a tour of Shirley MacLaine's home in New Mexico, which includes a labyrinth on the property.
Then, curiously, I was introduced to another labyrinth pattern within the same week at our Peace Chapel. This time it was through Jane Decker, a fellow volunteer at our church and a certified labyrinth facilitator. When she learned that I was grieving a friend who was in hospice care, she recommended a labyrinth walk for handling the stress.
I was concerned that it was a "new age" practice, but Jane quickly corrected me. "On the contrary,” she said, “labyrinths have been around for thousands of years."
So I shrugged my shoulders and said, why not? I slowly walked to the center, focusing on the path itself. In the center, I flashed back to a silkscreen I made in high school art class. It was of a tree with a maze-like pattern; drawing patterns had always helped me let go of what bothered me.
When I left, two feelings left with me: definite peace, and a strange curiosity. I wanted to know more about this mysterious, calming art form.
"It is well worth the financial investment to hire a master gardener or landscape architect to create your own tranquil outdoor space. The above drawing is from Wendy Allen Designs in the UK."
A Quick History
But surprisingly, the original Labyrinth wasn’t what we call a labyrinth today. Unlike mazes, today’s labyrinths have no tricks or dead ends. While mazes are meant to make you lose your way, labyrinths are meant to help you find it.
The most famous Christian labyrinth dates back to about 1201 and is in Chartres Cathedral in France. It was likely used as a symbolic journey to the Holy Land.
In the last 30 years, labyrinth interest has seen a major resurgence. An incredibly diverse set of people have used the labyrinth for spiritual peace, stress reduction, and artistic inspiration.
For me, labyrinths have now come to offer three wonderful benefits.
Tracing a defined path takes you on a journey of self-awareness and prayer. It has the power to guide you into a meditative state of mind.
Medieval labyrinths represented a path to God, with the entrance being one’s birth and the center being God.
I love using that symbolism. I can pray as I walk the path, and I try to treat the center as a type of sanctuary where nothing outside is allowed in and I’m alone with the one who heard my prayers all along.
The labyrinth is a great tool to relax your mind. It offers your brain a rest from scattered or overwhelming thoughts.
“Combining the Labyrinth with the aroma of lavender through essential oils, a candle, or the actual flowers, as shown above, will trigger all your senses."
I don’t know about you, but I have a million thoughts fighting for attention all the time. It’s nice to say no to them, to take their power away, as ABC’s Dan Harris has explained.
I’m not even going to say anything. Just watch this:
Pretty neat, huh?
Today, labyrinths can be found at retreat centers, churches, hospitals, addiction centers and most recently, hotels (like The Sea Island Resort in coastal Georgia).
Like me, people are starting to realize that there's a lot of power in tracing a labyrinth path.
Dixie & Grace offers its own Labyrinth, too. It's a small, personal one known as a "finger labyrinth". You close your eyes repeat a prayer or mantra while running your finger through the grooves of the path, to the center and back out.
It takes about 50 seconds to complete and can be carried with you anywhere: to the hospital, to your desk or to your bedside.
You can find it here!