Walking the Labyrinth - part I
So if you’ve been following this blog & some of my social media sites (Facebook, Youtube, Instagram etc), you’ll know that I’ve taken the advice that I’m always giving patients about getting active in a way that suits them so I’ve started walking for health twice a week to a local beach, meditating for a bit and then walking back up the very steep flight of steps. On one of these walks I noticed a labyrinth laid out in stones on a flat place on the cliffs, so when I got back to the clinic, I put the search terms ‘labyrinth walking’ into Google and was really astounded with what I got back as I hadn’t realised that labyrinth walking is a practice that has been going on for centuries PLUS it combines my 2 most favourite activities.. walking & meditation.. in one! So the next time I did my walk, instead of going to the beach I walked the labyrinth and I’ll talk about my experiences of doing that in Part II of this blog.
However I thought it might be worthwhile telling you a little about ‘labyrinth walking’ if like me you’ve never heard of it before and the benefits it is supposed to give.
Labyrinths are ancient structures.. there are pictures of them on Greek coins & vases over 3000 years, there’s one in the Christian cathedral of Chartres that was built over 800 years ago and they’re also found in Asian Indian & American Indian culture (and no doubt other cultures also). A labyrinth is not like a maze - there are no dead ends, there’s no working out a route to a hidden centre, just a single path that leads you in to the centre and which you follow out again, although sometimes the path is not a direct one - you may approach the centre but then be taken to the outside again.
Labyrinths can be built as permanent or temporary structures - you can even build one with sticks or cut grass in your garden if you want and there are books on how to do and what to consider when designing your labyrinth.
So what is the purpose of a labyrinth? Probably not physical exercise, since the walking is quite slow- certainly it requires a bit of concentration to follow the path and tends to create a fairly slow, steady step. It’s an aid for contemplation or meditation or mindfulness and there is some evidence to suggest walking a labyrinth can have a calming & relaxing effect and reduce anxiety (some have been built in hospitals & prisons in the USA).
For other people there’s a spiritual element, as a way of centering themselves, carrying an intention or question into the labyrinth that they want clarity on or experiencing a spiritual ‘journey’ symbolised by the journey through the labyrinth.
You can find a good overall description of labyrinths and a link to some other resources, including where to find labyrinths, here https://www.verywellfit.com/walking-the-labyrinth-3435825