The Labyrinth



The Labyrinth Walk

By Joan Harrigan, PhD.


The labyrinth is a sacred design that can be walked with prayerful awareness to quiet the mind and increase spiritual clarity. Ancient in origin, the best preserved example is found in the flag stone pavement of the nave of  Chartres Cathedral in France. This circular, cruciform pattern spirals in a meandering path throughout its four quadrants until reaching its innermost core, a holy vortex in which the pilgrim may rest to commune with the Divine.


In medieval times, Christians would devoutly walk the labyrinth as a substitute for making the arduous pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The labyrinth walk represents the soulís return to it Source and then re-enacts its descent to the manifest plane. The inward journey clams and purifies the mind for spiritual stillness, and the outward fortifies and integrates the personality for effective service in the world.


Many find that walking the labyrinth is a metaphor for their life experience. While walking, they become more aware of their personal life pattern, as inner themes and feelings emerge in the quality of their walk. Others report that waking the labyrinth feels soothing, as if moving through the design yields a healing vibrational rhythm.


The proportions and ratios of the labyrinth pattern are based in sacred geometry, which reflects the essential designs of nature. It is impossible to become lost in walking a labyrinth. Unlike a maze, which has tricky dead-ends, a labyrinth is a single turning path that always leads to its center. It provides a comforting sacred space for reflection and repose.


Many canvas replicas of the Chartres labyrinth are being made throughout the country. These are unfurled in local communities to provide direct experience of this spiritual too.

Walking The Labyrinth

Remove your shoes and center yourself prayerfully for your walk. Stand at the entrance to the labyrinth, looking at the center. Focus on your breathing, and determine which nostril has more air flowing through it. That is your current dominant nostril and dominant side.


Bow and pray to the Divine as you prepare to begin your contemplative walk. Stand straight and bring the chin back, bowing the head down a bit. Engage the contemplative walking posture: let the arm on the dominant side hang down by our side. Place the fore-arm of the non-dominant side on your lower back and with that hand, grasp the upper arm of the dominant side above the elbow. If that is uncomfortable, grasp the wrist instead.


Gaze at the center of the labyrinth. When you feel focused and drawn inward (and when the person in from of you reaches the third turn in the Labyrinth, which will be directly in from of you) take your first step into the Labyrinth, using the foot of the dominant side. To walk, place the heel firmly down, and roll your foot to the toes. Continue with the heel-toe roll as you walk slowly and with awareness on the labyrinth path, gazing on the ground about two feet in front of you.


Breathe diaphragmatically, using a gentle, slow, deep, regular, pattern. Repeat your sacred prayer word mentally in rhythm with your walking and breathing. Be aware of your inner experience.


Upon reaching the center of the labyrinth, release your arm grasp. You may spend some time sitting or standing in each petal and in the middle of the inner blossom. To leave, gaze for a moment at the exit of the blossom, grasp the non-dominant arm, and take your first step of the return walk using the non-dominant foot.


When you exit the labyrinth, turn and look at the center, give a prayerful bow, and offer thanks. Sit quietly for a while after walking, being aware of the effect of the experience.