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Labyrinth Walking Meditation

August 31, 2010

Walking a labyrinth can be a profound experience. In our town, we have a simple labyrinth, marked on the earth with stones in a circle of redwoods. I love to walk it, using it as a moving meditation.

There are many ways to walk a labyrinth. You can find very specific instructions for what to do as you walk one – even eHow has a page on how to walk one.

I like to approach labyrinth walking more casually, without a set procedure. Sometimes I set an intention, but more often I simply start to walk and see what experiences it brings. It always takes me out of linearity. We are so accustomed to seeing life – our hours, days, years – as a line that progresses from one place to another. The latter place is usually a goal. We try to find the straightest way to the goal. We measure the distance in our minds. If it’s a car trip, we watch our progress on a map. But getting to the center of a labyrinth is like the “long and winding road”. You come closer to the center and your mind may start to try to measure how close you are to the “end”. Just then, you find yourself taking a turn that leads you back out toward the edge.

For me, the labyrinth mirrors life, which isn’t really linear. Walking it is a great way to relax into the twists and turns of life, to let go of the constant focus on future goals and the tendency to try to see how everything leads to something else. It’s a way of being in the Now. Martha Cuffy, who is seen in the photo walking a labyrinth with friends, expressed similar sentiments in a lovely post with a perfect title – Walk your Life in a Labyrinth.

I was inspired to write this post by Eleanor, a seminary student in Hong Kong, who left a beautiful comment on the website about her experience walking the labyrinth. It’s moving and inspiring to read how she uses her walk in the labyrinth to process emotions and gain insights into herself and her life. She has quite an inner journey, and comes out of it with beautiful observations on the nature of silence. This is a beautiful example of the power of walking the labyrinth. Not every walk will be this profound – one needs to let go of expectations and see what special gifts the labyrinth holds each time it is walked.

Have you walked a labyrinth? What was the experience like for you?

Comments

16 Responses to “Labyrinth Walking Meditation”

  1. Eleanor on August 31st, 2010 7:03 pm

    Dear Mary,

    Thank you very much for your acknowledgement! Yes, I agree that life isn’t really linear and it’s not always as smooth as we think. Nevertheless, the center is always here, in the midst of all the twists and turns. The labyrinth is indeed a beautiful imagery of the mystery of life.

    It has been half a week since my first labyrinth walking meditation. I find that the anxiety for my further studies at the seminary college has disappeared. Instead, it is replaced by a sense of joy and expectation. I look forward to my first lesson at the seminary college tomorrow!

    Best wishes,

    Eleanor

  2. Em on September 1st, 2010 9:39 am

    Dear Mary,

    I went to a 5-day silent retreat this past June, and that’s where I first experienced the labyrinth. It was quite a large one, as there were stone benches in the center for sitting. I walked it on the first day and enjoyed it so much that I ended up walking it once or twice a day for the rest of my stay there.

    I at first thought it was a maze, but found out the difference. In a maze, we choose the path we want to take. But with a labyrinth, it’s a set path that is supposed to represent a mini-life journey.

    Here’s some more information that I found from a pamphlet at the retreat:

    “Labyrinths are usually in the form of a circle with a meandering but purposeful path, from the edge to the center and back out again. The path becomes a metaphor for our journey through life. In surrendering to the winding path, the soul finds wholeness. Each experience in the labyrinth is different. On the spiritual journey we meet fellow travelers, obstacles and unexpected turns. The Labyrinth walk is a process meditation that seems to suspend time as well as judgement. Images may abound as they do in dream time and whatever arises within is part of this process.”

    Thanks for writing about it! I was really excited to see that you’ve had experience with a labyrinth and that you love it as well!

    -Em

  3. Mary on September 1st, 2010 12:59 pm

    You’re welcome, Emily. Thank you for adding this information – it captures so much about the labyrinth. Best wishes!

  4. Karen on September 12th, 2010 4:27 am

    Mary~
    I just wanted to take a moment to express to you how very much I value your work. I am a high energy person and people perceive me as perpetually positive. I am! However, in the last year or so I have found all that energy backfiring on me in the form of anxiety attacks. Rather than seek out medication right away, I began a soulful search for a more natural solution. I found some of your podcasts via iTunes and they were a Godsend for sure. Thank you for sharing your gifts with others like myself. You and Richard have blessed my life.

    I do have a question: I have no problem relaxing. I have always been a sound sleeper. I have added a regular yoga class to my life and relaxing through the movements and in the meditation is also not a problem. My difficulty comes in relaxing during situations for which energy output is required. For example, I am a high school teacher and I pour out high, positive energy for my students, but then, my body sometimes misinterprets that energy into a “nervous” feeling. I’d love to find a way to relax during times of energy output, if that makes sense.
    Thank you again for what you offer to others.
    Karen

  5. Mary on September 12th, 2010 9:25 am

    Karen, it’s interesting how nervousness and excitement are so close. Being a high school teacher could easily create some anxiety or nervousness! Regardless of what is happening, doing some deep breathing or simply bringing your awareness to your breath when you notice nervousness can help. We do have a special program called At Ease for anxiety. It helps you develop the habit of breathing through anxiety. It’s available on the website and also as an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch App. That might help.

  6. Karen on September 12th, 2010 11:30 am

    Mary,
    Thank you for your quick reply. It is true: nervousness and excitement are so closely related and I can sometimes feel my body getting these signals crossed! I will look into the At Ease program. —and continue deep breathing, of course!
    Please keep up your amazing work. You are providing quite a service!
    Peace~
    Karen

  7. patti on October 25th, 2010 3:51 am

    hi mary….just checking in and hoping everything is well in your world!
    all the best from australia.
    patti.

  8. Mary on October 25th, 2010 9:20 am

    Best to you patti!

  9. Amanda on January 3rd, 2011 10:30 am

    Your work is a rose in my garden. Thank you x
    I must add, it’s also really beautiful reading about others journeys.

  10. Mary on January 5th, 2011 9:28 am

    You are very welcome, Amanda. We also love to read about others journeys!

  11. meditate on April 2nd, 2011 3:42 am

    You don’t have to walk blindly by keeping your eyes shut rather you have to pay attention on nature around you. You will start viewing everything with a new angle and will do in deep that will make you feel that you never saw that one before

  12. Dave O NeillDavid on January 31st, 2012 6:18 pm

    Hi,I’ve being walking the same labyrinth here in western Australia since1990 and three years ago I walked the labyrinth at Chartes close to Paris
    I love the experiences I have had and when I get my busy head out of the way the messages that I receive are aways spot on for what I am dealing with at that time.
    What a blessing?????
    Take care to you all
    Le gra
    Dave

  13. Deb Hoult on March 17th, 2012 12:50 pm

    Hi Mary and Richard. I am so grateful to have found your meditation apps. Although I am just a beginner to meditation, I found it easy to get into a relaxed state with your lovely voice and soft music. I have been using them before bed, although I have recently begun meditation lessons which suggest I meditate early in the morning. That is taking time for me.
    The use of your apps just compliments what I have been learning and I believe that this is happening at just the right time! Keeping in touch. Deb Hoult

  14. Mary on March 18th, 2012 10:58 am

    Deb, we are so pleased that the apps are helping you with meditation. With some meditation styles, it is better to meditate earlier in the day. With most of our meditations, it is fine to listen at bedtime. It all depends on whether the meditation makes you more alert and also what your goal is in practicing meditation. We wish you the best on your meditation journey!

  15. dale on April 29th, 2013 2:07 pm

    to me the labyrinth walk is a request to nature for harmony.

  16. Mary on April 30th, 2013 9:00 am

    Dale, that’s a beautiful perspective! Thank you.

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