When people hear the word labyrinth, they usually think of a maze or the movie with David Bowie. But that’s not what a prayer labyrinth is about. You do not get lost in labyrinths and have to find your way out, because there is only one way to travel. You are slowly working your way to the center and then back out again. It is an ancient form of prayer that is a metaphor for life’s journey.
The first time that I walked a labyrinth, I did it because I had lost my job and went away to a retreat center to pray about what to do next in life. Anxiety and fear were creeping in and I wasn’t even able to sleep at night. As I began walking the labyrinth, I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I started saying the Our Father prayer. As I did, various phrases from the prayer struck me in ways that they never had before and I repeated them like a mantra. The movement and the way I kept changing the direction I faced, gave me new perspective. Once I finally made it to the center, I clearly heard, “I am with you always, even until the end.” Tears of relief flooded out of me and in that moment I felt peace. Everything was going to be okay.
The second time that I walked a labyrinth, I imagined it looked like the way intestines look curled up inside of me. I again received a clear message when I reached the center and felt that I had been fed spiritual food. As I journeyed on the way out of the center, I imagined that now I was the food in the intestines of the world. I was being sent back out to feed others. And this is one of the goals of the labyrinth. It is a journey taken to enter your center, your heart, and then to carry that message back out into the world again.
Each time I have walked a labyrinth I have had a completely different experience. I have walked them alone or with other people. I have walked them in a field in the middle of nature or on bricks in the middle of the city. I have even walked a labyrinth made out of words. Physical movement has a way of quieting and focusing the brain and connecting it to the heart. I have found this form of prayer especially helpful when I am anxious or discerning something. There is no right or wrong way to do it… you just have to experience it for yourself. Below I included some tips of things that have helped me if you are looking for guidance on how to start.
Tips for Walking a Labyrinth:
- Set an intention before you enter it. This might be a question that you are pondering, an issue that you are struggling with, or simply the desire for a grace like peace.
- Walk slowly. Use your senses to observe what is around you.
- You may want to focus on your breath or repeat a mantra or prayer if you feel too distracted.
- When you enter the center, stay until you receive something.
- As you exit, you may wish to journal or talk to someone about your experience in order to savor it and to solidify it in your brain.
More Information about Labyrinths
Click the image below to watch a 2 minute video on the history of labyrinths and walking them in community.
How do I find a Labyrinth?
Trying to find a labyrinth near you? Most cities have them at churches or hospitals. Use this link below to locate one near you.
You can even buy or create a finger labyrinth that you could take with you anywhere. Click the image below for some tips on how to meditate with a finger labyrinth.
Check out this video on collaging your own labyrinth.