Walking a labyrinth is a spiritual, reflective activity. We offer two ways to do this.
Walk our outdoor labyrinth any time, weather permitting, for personal meditative worship.
Periodically, we set up our portable labyrinth for indoor walking in our Large Hall. It won’t look like our usual worship space, because there will be only a few chairs and the tiled area will be covered with a cloth with an intricate circular pattern on it which people will be walking – a labyrinth – a spiritual tool.
In the past, when a labyrinth has been available for people to walk, they have found it to be a calming, centering experience where people are gentle with one another and meditate in their own way.
Our labyrinths are scaled-down replicas of the one found inlaid in the stone floor of the great Christian cathedral at Chartres, France. The single circular path of our indoor labyrinth is outlined in lavender paint on a nylon parachute that Allan Kerr donated for that purpose. Ours is not unique; there are others in churches in the city and there is an outdoor one in Belgravia Park, Providence Renewal Centre and Riverdale Community.
The world is experiencing a great recovery of the mysticism that was sent underground during the Middle Ages. That’s when we last saw people walking these massive patterns in Christian churches. Walking a labyrinth adds to our worship experiences. It is a symbol of wholeness that is embedded in many faiths. It has been related to the medicine wheel of First Nations’ spirituality. Ellen Parker, a Camrose social activist, compares it to “the Buddhist walking meditation” she has practiced for a long time.
While the labyrinth’s origins are pre-Christian, it found its way into the great cathedrals, like Chartres, Rheims and Amiens, as a method of pilgrimage for ardent Christians unable to visit the Holy Land. For some people it is a Christian spiritual tool that emulates what can be found in other faiths.
The experiences are always personal and unique. Some walkers describe experiencing an enormous sense of peace after their first walk. Some find a similarity to the way they feel when they do Tai Chi, but in a Christian context. For others, walking the labyrinth can reclaim spiritual aspects that allow Christians to practice a personal relationship with Christ, as well as a universal relationship with the whole Earth, much as the Christian mystics Hildegarde of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, and Thomas Berry had in their daily relationships with the cosmos.
But what, exactly, happens when you walk the labyrinth? For some, it may seem like nothing much the first time. But if you take it slowly and let reasoning recede it can be an activity that can quiet the “thinking mind” and allow your more intuitive part to surface. The labyrinth is an enormous symbol of the spiritual journey from outer to inner and out again. It is a ceremonial trek of some length. Our outdoor labyrinth has a 39 foot diameter and equates to a walk of about one-third of a mile. Participants have time to become calm.
One walker commented that “as I slowly walked back and forth toward the center, my mind untangled. I enjoyed the absence of my usual inner voices, the ones ordering me to get on with my ‘to do’ list. On the way out, I thought peacefully, about nothing. It was my ‘to be’ time. Then I went home and slept for a long time. “I had some really amazing dreams. Mostly they dealt with the sense of connection, of how we heal as persons, as well as explaining how the Earth will heal”.
An engineer, after walking the labyrinth, reported that “I found it very easy to be open and receptive. Some people are experiencing a growing dissatisfaction with organized religion and this is a relatively safe way to focus on potential spiritual experiences”.
Many find the strict structure of the path acts as a container which allows them to feel grief or fear they had earlier put away – so they can begin to deal with it at last. Some bring their dreams to meditate on while walking, and find insights. Nearly all find it a powerful tool for discernment, allowing them to be more alert to what God might be trying to say.
The absence of religious regulation is important. It is very individually focused, for anyone to get what they can out of it. Paradoxically, the communal nature of the walk also means reflecting carefully on the way you relate to other people, changing directions, stepping aside, offering choices, waiting patiently.
That sense of attunement to the Sacred Spirit and to others remains long after the labyrinth experience of walking a sacred path.