Ancient Labyrinths
A Metaphor for Spiritual Quest

A labyrinth, or at least a meditation labyrinth, has only one path. The path is built specifically to aid in meditation. The path brings the person near the center and then back out. We have found that the labyrinth is a wonderful metaphor for life. 

There are many designs for labyrinths. Most labyrinths are built to be walked. The complexity of the labyrinth and its effectiveness are governed by the space used to construct it. Some are in such a small area that two people can not walk past each others. Others are large enough for wheelchair access.

Labyrinths also differ from mazes in that they are usually relatively flat. Mazes are built of walls. In a labyrinth the person can see the entire path. Where mazes are built to trap the subject, a labyrinth is built to free the person. At anytime, the person can simply walk across the lines that make up the path and leave.

There are several types of labyrinths. These include smaller versions called finger labyrinths. Finger labyrinths offer several features. The path is gouged into a piece of material, usually wood. As such, they can be followed in the dark or by people with visual impairments. They are small enough so they can be placed in the lap and allows people who are confined to a bed or wheelchair, the opportunity to use a labyrinth. They also can be built into a tabletop and placed in a waiting room. What Can You Get Out of Walking a Labyrinth?

There is one basic rule for meditation, school or anything else; you can only get out what you put in. If a person enters a labyrinth closed to change or insight, rushing through without putting themselves in, then they will get nothing out.

The labyrinth can be used for many goals. It is a tool. If a person enters seeking to quiet their mind and relax, they will find calm. If a person enters seeking insight into their life, then they will find out about themselves. There are a number of techniques that are effective. One is to enter recalling your life. At each turn look for either a decision or event that changed your life. Watch as the path brings you nearer the goal and then back out.

Another technique is to start with a song, prayer or meditation. At each turn, give thanks for a blessing God has given. As an alternative, give thanks for a blessing each time you turn to your left and release an event that pains you on each turn to the right.
Some of the people we had participating in a class were so overcome by emotions when walking that they left the labyrinth in the middle. One person entered and as they walked, they thought “this is dumb” “this is dumb” “my life is dumb” and found walking the labyrinth let them see what they wanted to change in their life.

The labyrinth occurs in nearly every culture. Cave paintings around the world show different configurations of the labyrinth. Some have questioned whether these cave drawing are of journeys, walking labyrinths or were themselves finger labyrinths.

It has been said that the labyrinth came into the western religions in a response to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. At that time, it became impossible for most people to travel to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage holidays. The labyrinth was substituted for the pilgrimage. As churches grew in Europe, a labyrinth was often included in either the floor or the garden. There is no written confirmation of this theory.

The most famous labyrinth is the one on the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France. This is an eleven circuit labyrinth built on the sacred geometry. It has been copied many times. There are a number of versions around the Detroit area. These include multiple churches that have built them into the lawn, a separate sacred space or on canvas.


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