An Osteopath's View

Thoughts on leading a healthier life from Helena Greenwood at Jurassic Coast Osteopathy, Weymouth, Dorset

Walking the Labyrinth - Part II

Having read a bit of what walking a labyrinth was about and having contacted the person who built it (who I had seen walking round it a few days earlier so I just thought it would be polite to ask permission, even though it is in a publicly-accessible area), I entered the labyrinth about 7.30am.  The photographs don’t really do it justice as the sun was just coming over a rocky ridge (catching the tops of some large stones a bit like it does at Stonehenge at solstices), there was birdsong, lovely green moss and little flat growing plants.  As you can see, the builder has chosen a great space for it in a natural ‘bowl’.

It’s a very peaceful time of the morning, but the ‘bowl’ surrounding the labyrinth and the gentle concentration not to trip over the stones that it’s built with, particularly where the path switches direction unexpectedly (it’s not just a simple spiral like a snail shell) meant that I had to walk quite slowly & carefully.

As I’ve mentioned before (’Taking Pleasure in Small Things’), walking really helps me notice what’s around me and expands my senses - I find that walking & noticing & concentrating on my senses in nature calming even when it’s in a straight line, so that experience was intensified by walking the labyrinth.

Some of the information I’d read on labyrinths talks about the symbolism of the path as lessons for life .. sometimes it takes you towards where you’re trying to get to, at other times the direction is less direct and the centre seems out of reach, but you get there in the end - it just might take a bit longer and involve some twists & turns you hadn’t planned for…

The centre of this particular labyrinth has a structure that reminds me of a dolmen (not sure if that was the builder’s intention) which for me, as a child brought up on Salisbury Plains, climbing on Stonehenge and surrounded by barrows in the fields near my home, it had a very familiar feel, like (coming) home.  

In fact, the Neolithic history of the area of Dorset that I live in (Portland, Weymouth, Dorchester) is one of the things that I feel very drawn to - there are hill forts, barrows, stone circles, trackways and other land features that are part of my childhood memories but part of a much older, deeper shared human ancestral memory.

When I walked the labyrinth, I stopped at one point on the path; I stopped in the middle (and thought about what a great sundial it makes).  And after I had finished, instead of taking the main route off that bit of the cliffs, I took a small track that I didn’t recall taking before as a bit of an adventure.  It lead me (in a different way from usual) to another ‘bowl’ where there are lots of sloes in the autumn so I carried on following small tracks, which became quite a challenge.

This area of the Portland cliffs was quarried in the 17th century with open pit quarries dotted around, which has left a landscape of bowls, ridges and walls all close together but with chasms & ridges between.  As I found, there are quite a lot of tracks.. but not all of them led anywhere useful for my purpose (getting back to the main path).. some lead to shelters (huge overhanging rocks with a place to sit underneath); some lead to lookout points.. and some lead pretty much nowhere, in fact I began to wonder if they were animal trackways rather than human ones!

So after the labyrinth, I was definitely in a maze - and it was one that might not have had a solution.  But what was really interesting was my approach to it.. trusting that I would find a way out; finding higher ground to look for new paths; not being afraid to go back to a previous route fork & take a different decision; not being afraid to push myself a bit physically but at the same time being sensible (given that I was scrambling over loose rocks and vegetation). 

Eventually, I rounded a corner and found myself on a route back onto the main path where I continued on to find a friend doing her ‘sun salutation’ on a grassy cliff edge - what a great way to start her working day (she’s a yoga teacher).

So lots of transferable life lessons in the experience & I can’t help feeling the calm and grounded/centered feel I left the labyrinth with helped me find my way through the quarry ‘maze’.  If you walk a labyrinth, let me know what you get from it.  I’ll definitely be doing it again!

Posted 90 weeks ago