As labyrinth facilitators, we’re frequently asked questions about labyrinths. This section gives our answers to a few of these popular questions.
What is a Labyrinth?
In simple terms, a labyrinth is a single—or unicursal—pathway that winds towards its centre, and in which the path out is the same as the path in. This characteristic distinguishes a labyrinth from a maze. In a labyrinth, there are no tricks, dead ends or the need to double-back to reach its centre. Walking a labyrinth provides a way to quiet the mind and become conscious of your breath and body’s movement as you make your way to the centre and back out. This meandering yet purposeful path is often described as a metaphor for life’s journey with its twists and turns, sparks of clarity along the path or in the centre, and flow of movement where you are sometimes close to others and at other times far away from them. The labyrinth is considered a walking meditative tool, akin to a full-body prayer, that helps walkers reduce stress, be mindful and connect more deeply with their inner selves and their spirituality.
Labyrinths are not new to this Earth, with some dating back many centuries before the common era. Like the iconic spiral symbol, they’ve been linked to cultures around the world through ancient and primitive art, stone carvings, structures, fencing, coins and jewelry. Additionally, labyrinths were installed in many European Medieval cathedrals as a tool for pilgrims to walk when visiting sacred relics and sites.
Are there different types of labyrinths?
There are two primary labyrinth designs: the 7-circuit Classical labyrinth, sometimes called the Cretan labyrinth that resembles a brain, and the 11-circuit Chartres labyrinth that is sometimes drawn smaller as 7 circuits. Circuits refer to how many times the path spirals before reaching the centre. The classical labyrinth is considered the pre-Christian design and the Chartres labyrinth is the design installed in many European cathedrals during the Middle Ages. The labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral in France is one of the few remaining intact cathedral labyrinths still walked today.
What is a labyrinth facilitator?
A labyrinth facilitator is trained in hosting labyrinth walks and guiding walkers in the use of this tool for deeper self-reflection and increased spiritual awareness. We were certified by Veriditas, a company in the United States that has a comprehensive labyrinth facilitator training program. Veriditas was founded by Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress. With her labyrinth work in the early 1990s and the release of her ground-breaking book in 1995, “Walking a Sacred Path”, Artress is often credited with the revival of the labyrinth in North America. Veriditas started its facilitator training program in 1997 and has trained more than 3000 facilitators from around the world. Over 1000 of them are certified facilitators.
Why would I want to walk a labyrinth?
The labyrinth offers you a place to settle your busy mind, whether in meditation or prayer, and connect with your body and heart by consciously walking the path. When you cross the labyrinth threshold, the simple act of placing one foot in front of the other has a calming effect and reduces stress. The labyrinth walk engages your senses and in doing this can bring up all kinds of feelings, including joy, peace, sadness, confusion and even anger. When you reach the centre you can take time to pause and reflect on what might have emerged during your walk. When you leave the labyrinth, you are encouraged to take what you’ve experienced in the walk—thoughts, insights, feelings—and apply it in your day-to-day life.
What’s the right way to walk a labyrinth?
There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. You are urged to walk comfortably at your own pace. If someone in front of you is walking slower than you like, you can easily pass them on a curve. A labyrinth facilitator usually demonstrates how to do this when making opening remarks.
Where might I find labyrinths?
Labyrinths are being walked by people of all generations, nationalities and faiths. The mystical aspect of labyrinths is that once you’re introduced to them, they will continue to pop up in your life wherever you are. Certainly, the worldwide resurgence of the labyrinth is witness to the installation of this powerful and transformative tool in an abundance of settings, including churches, community spaces, private gardens, healthcare facilities, hospitals, businesses and even prisons. What’s interesting to note is how the benefits of walking labyrinths are being revealed in practical applications beyond meditation and enlightenment. For example, labyrinths are being used with:
- People suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s to provide a safe and purposeful path for wandering
- Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to help calm and focus them
- Grief counselling and addiction recovery programs to work through difficult and demanding situations
- Healthcare providers, caregivers and patients to reduce stress
- Cancer patients to reduce anxiety, e.g. finger labyrinths in waiting rooms
- Prisons to help inmates cope with incarceration
- Companies for brainstorming and creative problem-solving
You can use the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator to find a labyrinth close to you.
Where can I find information on labyrinths?
There is a plethora of books written and websites available on the characteristics and psychospiritual benefits of walking labyrinths. We’ve included a short reference list of our favourites:
- Artress, Lauren, Walking a Sacred Path, New York, New York, The Berkley Publishing Group, 1995.
- Christie, Tony, Labyrinth Wisdom Cards, Gaois Publications, 2012
- Eason, Cassandra, The Complete Guide to Labyrinths, Berkeley, California, The Crossing Press: A Division of Ten Speed Press, 2004.
- Lonegren, Sig, Labyrinths: Ancient Myths & Modern Uses (Revised Edition), Sterling; Revised edition, 2001.
- Sewell, Ruth, Sellers, Jan & Williams, Di, Working with the Labyrinth, Wild Goose Publications, 2012.
- Simpson, Liz, The Magic of Labyrinths, Hammersmith, London, Element: HaperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2002.