Note: Find the previous posts in this series here and here.
Many years ago, I walked a labyrinth to process some major changes in my life. I found my way to the centre and stood in silence for a few moments. Then, as I started the outward journey, a quiet thought arose in my mind—Trust the process. I didn’t think much of it then, but those three words have been a source of great comfort and reassurance many times.
ENTER THE LABYRINTH
Last week I spoke about how the four phases of spiritual practice align with the four stages of transformation (See this post as well for more detail on the process of transformation). When our spiritual practice is structured to move through these phases, we are able to be changed, little by little, into people who are more connected, compassionate, and contributing than we would otherwise be.
The labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool that perfectly captures that journey. Labyrinths date back to thousands of years before the Christian era, and they appear in almost every culture across the globe. Unlike mazes, labyrinths are not puzzles to be solved. They have no wrong turns or dead ends. The twisting path enables the two hemispheres of the brain to connect more deeply, which can stimulate new intuitive insights and creativity. The labyrinth is also a great metaphor for the unpredictable twists and turns of human existence.
THE LABYRINTH JOURNEY
The practice of walking a labyrinth follows a four step process. You will notice the same basic movements that we have already spoken about with regard to spiritual practice in general.
- The first movement is Preparing. Before beginning, we take time to focus, consider the walk ahead, and decide what, if anything, to carry with us (a quote, a passage from a sacred text, a question, an image, a situation in one’s life, or simply a desire to be more mindful). We hold this intention in mind, and then when ready, we enter the labyrinth and begin the journey inward.
- The work of the inward movement is of Releasing. Here we seek to let go of any presuppositions, expectations, or attempts to find answers to whatever we carry with us. The idea is to Listen and open to the creative Spirit.
- The centre of the labyrinth is the place for stillness and Receiving. Often new insights, perspectives, or questions will arise here, and there is often a sense of clarity, peace, or confidence that emerges.
- Finally, we retrace the path outward, and prepare to return to our routines, seeking to Integrate whatever gifts the labyrinth may have given us into our lives.
THE LABYRINTH AS A MODEL FOR SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
The movements of the labyrinth walk correspond with the Preparation, Listening/Reflecting, Responding and Integrating phases of all good spiritual practice. The power of the labyrinth is that it gives us four specific actions or movements in which to experience these phases.
You don’t need a labyrinth to follow these movements—any spiritual practice can be structured around these four phases. If no walkable labyrinth is available, a finger labyrinth can be used instead. Wooden or stone labyrinths can be bought, or one (like this one here) can be printed and laminated. Alternatively you may find the Labyrinth Journey app helpful.
- Have you had any experience with using a labyrinth? What was it like for you?
- Would you find it helpful to include the labyrinth in your own spiritual practice?
- What would it mean for your spiritual practice to follow these four movements?
I’d love to hear your experiences and ideas. Please leave any thoughts or questions in the comments below.
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