Spirals and circles are recurring shapes in nature: nautilus shells, sand dollars, the moon and sun, human DNA. It is not surprising then that circles and spirals show up in the art and religion of many cultures throughout the world: the Tibetan mandala, Native American medicine wheels, prehistoric petroglyphs and European labyrinths.
A labyrinth is a circuitous pathway spiraling to a center. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has a single path to the center with no dead-ends or detours. There is only one way into a labyrinth and that same way leads back out.
Labyrinths were created in
In the early medieval period, many Christians made pilgrimages to the
Labyrinths fell into disuse after the medieval period; however, in the last ten years labyrinth walking has experienced a resurgence of popularity in some American churches. Labyrinth construction projects have sprung up across the country as parishioners and other spiritual seekers enjoy the benefits of this contemplative practice.
The process of walking the labyrinth is simple. The walker begins a slow, deliberate walk into the labyrinth. Many of the American labyrinths are based on the
Reaching the center represents meeting the divine presence and usually involves the walker spending some time meditating or praying in the center. Finally, the walk out is a time of spiritual, emotional, and, according to some walkers, physical healing or refreshment.
Walking a labyrinth can be adapted to whatever spiritual or emotional need in front of the participant. Labyrinths can be found in urban settings, manicured church gardens, by the sea or in the wilderness. The location is not important. It is the journey that matters—a symbolic pilgrimage towards spiritual wholeness.
Image and text: LGloyd (c) 2006 This labyrinth is on the grounds of a church on Palos Verdes Peninsula, California.