Arachnae's Metaphysics

Walking the Labyrinth

Labyrinths are showing up in some surprising places. Labyrinths are as old as mankind. You find them in Catholic cathedrals, in pagan retreats, in gardens and in houses.

Labyrinths are often confused with mazes, which they are not. Mazes have wrong turns, dead ends and the possibility of loss and failure. They are puzzles, things to be solved, complete with the anxiety of losing your way and the triumph when you succeed. But you may have to ask the groundskeeper, seated in a tower overlooking the maze, for help if you go too long without success.

A labyrinth is one long, winding twisting path that turns and spirals around itself, ultimately leading you to the goal - the center. There is no possibility of getting lost, and in fact most labyrinths are simple paths laid out on the ground, with all parts visible to every other part.

The most famous labyrinth is that at Chartres Cathedral in France, build around 1200. The labyrinth was in the nave and in medieval days, pilgrims who could not afford to take the lengthy pilgrimage to the Holy Land could go to the Cathedral and walk the labyrinth on their knees. This was considered a reasonable substitute - obviously not as holy and worthy as a trip to Jerusalem, but at least proof of piety and the desire to make such a trip.

Today many people are making labyrinths, both in the Chartres design and other more ancient designs. You can even buy a labyrinth on canvas to lay out on grass. Labyrinths are walked as a kind of moving meditation, and can yield a very emotional or cathartic experience.

Different ways to walk a labyrinth:

For Releasing - as you walk inward toward the center of the labyrinth, think of something you want to release. It can be a bad habit, an ingrained way of thought that is unhealthy (you're ugly, or stupid, for instance) or an attachment to someone or something that no longer serves your best interests. Spend the inbound journey saying farewell to the thing to be released. At the center, pause a while and reflect. Believe that you are now free of the habit, thought or attachment. Feel both the relief and the grief; yes, it is possible to grieve when releasing a bad attitude towards yourself. Now start the return journey. You are returning to the world without the baggage you came in with. Step slowly and deliberately, yet don't feel that you need to restrain any joy you may feel.

For Discovery - you are on a journey to discover something about yourself. Do not speculate on what it may be; spend the inward journey just thinking about what you know about yourself, and clearing your mind so that when you reach the center, you are receptive. In the center, wait with a quiet mind. As thoughts intrude that don't relate to your journey, allow them to pass through your mind without consideration. Give this some time - eventually you may find that you have gained a new insight into yourself. When your epiphany occurs, welcome it and consider it seriously. Then return the way you came, integrating your new knowledge into your understanding of yourself.