As I write this, we have just finished our winter solstice labyrinth walk. It was a time of silence, candlelight and peace.
Some believe that labyrinths may have originally served as a calendar. Using its lunations (the outer ring of partial circles) it offered a method of keeping track of the lunar cycles of twenty–eight days each. Using this, the church could determine the date of the lunar feast of Easter.
Here at AK Child & Family we use our 24 foot canvas modified Chartes labyrinth to celebrate each change of season – the vernal and autumnal equinoxes and the summer and winter solstice. In this quick-paced world we live in, we feel like it is important for us spiritually to remember life’s natural rhythms. And all Alaskans, living at our northern latitude, often feel the effects of light and dark more intensely than others in different locales.
What is a labyrinth?
It is not a maze! A maze is a cognitive puzzle that keeps one centered in their head. A labyrinth has no dead ends, and no tricks. It has one circuitous path that leads one to the center. The exit from the center is the same path entered. A labyrinth walk frees one to enter sacred heart space. It is a path of prayer, an active meditation, a moving Gloria.
Is the labyrinth “new age?”
No! Labyrinths have been found around the world, in every culture and every religion. Forms of the classical labyrinth are over 5,000 years old and have been found in pre-historic cave paintings and etched in ancient clay vessels. The labyrinth in the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France from where the name the Chartres labyrinth comes was laid around 1201 AD.
How does it work?
It’s not magic! It’s an archetype imprint that is a Divine gift that allows a way to literally move toward peace, healing and Divine communion. The path winds throughout and becomes a mirror for where we are in our lives. It touches our sorrows and releases our joys. There are typically three phases of a labyrinth walk:
As a pilgrim walks toward center a letting go of the details of life occurs. This is an act of shedding thoughts and distractions. It is a time to open the heart and allow the mind to quiet.
When the center is reached, one may stay there as long as they like either sitting or standing. It is a place of meditation and prayer. The center is a place to “receive” what is there to be received.
Exiting the center, the entrance path is followed back out. A sense of strengthening may occur. It is a journey back out into the world.
The labyrinth turns the simple act of walking into a sacred experience. Its’ sacred geometry is an abode of eternal truth. The winding path of the labyrinth offers a blueprint for the psyche to meet the soul. It’s another tool to provide a crucible for change, and a watering hole for the spirit of the students of AK Child & Family. The labyrinth can organize chaos. And for many in our care, a means of moving from chaos to order, from despair to hope, from darkness into light would indeed be an answer to prayer.
Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies, and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.