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  Labyrinth Walking Guidelines
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"If we learn to love the Earth, we will find labyrinths, gardens, fountains and precious jewels. A whole new world will open itself to us. We will discover what it means to be truly alive".
- Teresa of Avila

What does a Labyrinth Walk Involve?  
Labyrinth walking is generally used as a form of meditation. In fact, it is described by many as walking meditation. People walk through labyrinths to reach any number of goals, such as inner peace, heightened spirituality, personal insight, prayer, relaxation, stress relief, or just "letting go”. The labyrinth journey may represent pilgrimage, the seeking of inner wisdom, and other mysteries. Labyrinth walkers follow the labyrinth path from a specified beginning to a well-defined central area and back through the same path to the exit. They might pray, reflect on life, consider a particular problem, and let the mind wander, or seek spiritual guidance and unity as they move along the curving trail. Their aim is not to reach the finish, but to become immersed in all aspects of the walk, and potentially to experience some degree of personal transformation.

Metaphorically, labyrinths reflect the path of illness and recovery. Despite the many uncertainties and changes of directions, if we are diligent and stay the course, we will arrive at our goal. This is one of the most common insights reported by labyrinth walkers. For 30 years, Herbert Benson at Harvard University has championed the physiological benefits of meditation, which he calls the "relaxation response." He clearly shows that meditation slows breathing, heart, and metabolic rates, and lowers elevated blood pressure more effectively than drugs. As a form of walking meditation, the labyrinth produces the same verifiable results.

What is the history behind it?

Labyrinths may date back 4,000 years, though their origins are shrouded in mystery. During the middle ages, labyrinths were built in a number of large European churches so worshippers could make a symbolic "pilgrimage" to the Holy Land. The labyrinth on the floor of the famous Chartres cathedral in France was built in the year 1220.

Many religious traditions incorporate labyrinths. In Judaism, the Tree of Life, called the Kabbalah, takes the form of an elongated labyrinth. The Hopi medicine wheel is another example of a labyrinth. Labyrinths are being rediscovered and can now be found not only in places of worship, but also in retreat centers, hospitals, prisons, parks, airports and community centers. There are around 2,000 permanent labyrinths in the United States alone. Temporary and semi-permanent labyrinths may be laid out with stone, tape, fabric, sticks, chalk, plants, and many other materials.

One of the most commonly reproduced labyrinth designs is the 11-circuit labyrinth, which is named for the 11 circles that must be walked to reach the center. This is the design of the Medieval Labyrinth at Chartres cathedral. Other design types include Classical, Roman, and Contemporary.

What is the evidence?

A recent article about the labyrinth at Mid-Columbia Medical Center in Oregon quotes CEO Mark Scott as stating that the labyrinth complements the use of chemotherapy and radiation in cancer treatment. In verification, a cancer patient agreed that walking the labyrinth gave her a sense of confidence and control over her treatment. Attitude towards one's treatment process (inner healing) has been shown to be a significant factor in the efficacy of that treatment (outer healing).

Three Rivers Community Hospital, also in Oregon, invites the local community to use their labyrinth. Programs have included a women's cancer support group, hospice butterfly release, survivors' labyrinth walk, holistic nurse’s retreat, candlelight memorial service, Spears Cancer Center walk, Day of Renewal walk, domestic violence awareness walk, Rotary Club walk, volunteer chaplaincy program, and more.

The labyrinth at California Pacific Medical Center is just outside the waiting room. Inside, there is a sign and brochures describing how to walk the labyrinth. Surgeons sometimes walk the labyrinth before performing an operation, to calm themselves. Nurses send anxious patients and family members to walk the labyrinth, reporting that they return more relaxed and focused.

Labyrinths can be used by both individuals and groups, either without guidance or as part of a specific program, such as dealing with AIDS, supporting the cancer journey, relieving grief or loss, or examining one's priorities. There is a portable canvas labyrinth in use at St. Luke's Hospital, St. Louis, MO.

Guidelines for Walking the Labyrinth
(Click here to return to Labyrinth Walking Main Page)

"If we learn to love the Earth, we will find labyrinths, gardens, fountains and precious jewels. A whole new world will open itself to us. We will discover what it means to be truly alive".
- Teresa of Avila

In many respects, walking the labyrinth is a lot like life. Sometimes we may not be sure of where we are on our path, but we just have to trust and to put one foot in front of the other. There are many ways and reasons to walk a labyrinth - for prayer, centering, problem-solving, walking meditation, reflection, inspiration etc. Walking the labyrinth is a personal experience and there is no right way or wrong way to walk.

Guidelines for Walking the Labyrinth:

  • Prepare yourself by clearing your mind of expectations, quiet your thinking, focus on   our breathing, and open your heart to God.
  • Reflect on what you bring to this invitation for intentional time with God.
  • Pay attention to your breathing and your body. Pace yourself in prayer. Walk, skip, run, dance or crawl as the Holy Spirit is with you.
  • Feel free to gently pass or to let another pass you on the path or hug if you feel it is appropriate. Go at the pace the Holy Spirit guides in you. You cannot "get lost"-- you will walk either to the entrance or to the center, as it is a single path.
  • After your walk, take time to journal, ponder or meditate on your experience. Some people walk a labyrinth repeating and meditating on a verse of Scripture. Some walk focusing on a particular image or a noticing in nature to allow the Holy Spirit to guide them.

 Some walk in prayer using the ancient Christian Three-fold Path of Prayer:

1.Purgation (Release).

2. Illumination.(Receiving)

3. Union.()

One suggestion of a way to walk involves three stages:

 Releasing: As one enters the labyrinth, this is the time to clear the mind, focus on breathing and putting one foot in front of the other. Pray for release of your fears, blockages, and resistances. This is the emptying phase. Pray for release as you journey in toward the center. "I let go and let God."

 Receiving: When one reaches the center, this is a time for listening and receiving any messages, answers, comfort, prayers, and inspiration.  Pray for illumination in the center of the labyrinth. The center can be understood to symbolize the evolutionary process of the Spirit coming into matter. Here is the in-filling. This may be on a subconscious level for you. Later, in the nights and days to come, you may come to know consciously God's messages for you that you received in the center of the labyrinth. Stay as long as you are called to be in the center praying for illumination. "Breathe on me breath of God; fill me with life anew."

Union Integrating: If one has had a thought or an answer or inspiration...this is the time, on the walk back out, to integrate the experience and relate it to one's life.On the return path pray for integration of that which you received, consciously or beyond your conscious mind. Pray that the Spirit's guidance be integrated or manifested in your life. Pray, "Thy will be done."

 Upon completion of the walk, many people like to write or draw or journal their thoughts. Bringing paper and pen is a good idea. At any stage of the walk one can "receive" or "integrate" or "release". Remember, there are no rules on how to walk a labyrinth. It is a personal experience for everyone. Walking the labyrinth can be a metaphor for your own spiritual journey. Notice how walking the labyrinth is a non-lineal experience. The journey is not to figure out how to get to the center, but how to take the next step with God.

Walking the labyrinth can be a metaphor for your own spiritual journey. Notice how walking the labyrinth is a non-lineal experience. The journey is not to figure out how to get to the center, but how to take the next step with God.

Guidelines for Walking the Labyrinth

In many respects, walking the labyrinth is a lot like life. Sometimes we may not be sure of where we are on our path, but we just have to trust and to put one foot in front of the other. There are many ways and reasons to walk a labyrinth - for prayer, centering, problem-solving, walking meditation, reflection, inspiration etc. Walking the labyrinth is a personal experience and there is no right way or wrong way to walk. Each walk has a theme you would like to focus on such as releasing anger, mental clarity, healing or anything else that would benefit the group. Listed below are some meditation themes .

  • Meditate to send positive energy to a specific person or persons in need.
  • Focus on a challenging short term or long term goal that you wish to accomplish.
  • Release negative emotions and visualize positive thoughts pushing them away.
  • Give yourself an energy boost by visualizing and calling in Vortex Energy into your body

1 Prepare to walk. Let go of  thoughts of your everyday life. Remove your watch. Slow your breathing. Still your mind. Open yourself to possibilities. Prepare yourself by clearing your mind of expectations, quiet your thinking, focus on our breathing, and open your heart to God.

2  Begin your journey. Pause at the entrance to the labyrinth to take a cleansing breath and focus your attention. Think about your intentions : questions, affirmations, feelings. Leave your personal belongings in a secure place. As you walk you might want to chant these I AM's

I am pure being... in God.
I am peace...
I am goodness...
I am joy...
I am happiness...
I am open...
I am wise...
I am blessed...
I am creative...
I am divine...

I am in God and God is in me...
I am innocent...
I am blameless...
I am forgiven...
I am precious...
I am known...
I am cared for...
I am loved...
I am Love...
I am free...

1. Repeat I am statements until you feel they are real. Get a flow of repetition going and stay in it.

2. Add, "in God, or Christ," after each statement if that carries you into Love. If not, leave it as is, or add what is alive for you. If the name God, or Christ seem dead and oppressive, you may need to heal a frozen image of the Divine you hold that inflicts you with negative feelings. . Divine reality is far beyond religions... far beyond names. You could say, the Great Love or Pure Being as well.

2. Observe the resistance that arises in you but don't react against it.

3. Make a firm commitment of purpose to accept your I ams and to recognize as ultimately false to your deepest being those old feelings that come from wounds and self imposed limiting beliefs.

4. Continue with your I ams as you walk . Allow the realization of truth to break through the barriers of the past. Express good things to others. You are being born into who you are, who you have always been and always will be. The shadows are passing away, new things have come!

 

3  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. Pray for release of your fears, blockages, and resistances. This is the emptying phase. Pray for release as you journey in toward the center. "I let go and let God." Pause when you need to. Don't focus on the center as a goal; be present in each step of the inward path.

4 Spend time in the center. When one reaches the center, this is a time for listening and receiving any messages, answers, comfort, prayers, and inspiration. 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 this sacred space.

5  Take the return path. When you are ready to leave the center, begin walking back the way you came. Pray that the Spirit's guidance be integrated or manifested in your life. Pray, "Thy will be done." 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.

6  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.

7. Share and Exchange Your Thoughts and Experiences At the end of the walk we hold a short discussion about the experience. This can be a great way to reinforce everyone's experience well after the session is over. Upon completion of the walk, many people like to write or draw or journal their thoughts. Bringing paper and pen is a good idea.

At any stage of the walk one can "receive" or "integrate" or "release". Remember, there are no rules on how to walk a labyrinth. It is a personal experience for everyone. Walking the labyrinth can be a metaphor for your own spiritual journey. Notice how walking the labyrinth is a non-lineal experience. The journey is not to figure out how to get to the center, but how to take the next step with God.

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