How to Walk a Labyrinth

by Contributor

Taking a labyrinth walk is a modern revival of an ancient spiritual custom. The labyrinth, a winding one-way path which leads walkers into and back out of a central space, offers a kind of body meditation which parallels the inner journey of prayer and reflection.

Prepare to walk. Take some time to transition from your everyday life to the labyrinth experience. Remove your watch. Slow your breathing. Still your mind. Open yourself to possibilities. Think about, or write in a journal, your intentions for the experience: questions, affirmations, feelings. Leave your personal belongings in a secure place. Take off your shoes, a traditional sign of respect for a sacred space, and required for walking some painted labyrinths.

Begin your journey. Pause at the entrance to the labyrinth to take a cleansing breath and focus your attention. You may ask a question, say a prayer or recite an affirmation. Some people choose to bow or make another ritual gesture to signal the beginning of their walk.

Walk the inward path. Put one foot in front of the other, and walk at a measured pace that is comfortable for you. On the way in, focus on letting go of things you want to leave behind and releasing things that stand in the way of your spiritual journey. Pause when you need to. Don't focus on the center as a goal; be present in each step of the inward path.

Spend time in the center. Take as long as you wish. You may stand, sit, kneel or lie down. This part of the journey is about being present to your inmost self and to the power of the divine. You may pray, journal or simply be open to the stillness. Respect the boundaries of others with whom you share this sacred space.

Take the return path. When you are ready to leave the center, begin walking back the way you came. On this part of the journey, focus on what you will bring out from the center and back into your life. As before, pause when you need to. Resist the temptation to sprint to the finish line: the return journey is as important as every other part of the labyrinth.

Reflect on the journey. When you leave the labyrinth, you may pause make another gesture or say a prayer. Before leaving the area, take some time to reflect on insights you've gained, or make notes in your journal to explore further later.

Tips

  • There is no "correct" way to walk a labyrinth--the journey is very personal.
  • Labyrinths are unicursal: you walk the same path going in and coming out. That means you are likely to encounter other walkers going the opposite direction. When you do, step to one side to let them pass. Take your cue from passersby, and from your own process, about whether to acknowledge them with a nod or smile, or simply allow them to pass.
  • To find a labyrinth near you (or use an interactive online labyrinth) visit Veriditas, the online home of the Labyrinth Project.

Warning

  • Walking a labyrinth-like massage and other forms of bodywork-can surface unexpected emotions and memories. Tears are not uncommon, especially during the inward path when you are focusing on release. Let your thoughts and emotions flow as easily as you can, and don't be embarrassed. Other walkers are used to it, and are dealing with their own feelings. If you are excessively troubled by material that surfaces, follow up on your labyrinth walk with counseling.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images