A single (unicursal), non-branching path, which has an unambiguous route to the
center and back and is not designed to be difficult to navigate. wikipedia.org
2010 was comfortably cool and moist, and I could not resist working in my yard.
I started by trimming bushes around the foundation and next to the driveway. I
moved on to cleaning up an overgrown area on the side of my house. I enjoyed it
(the exercise and the results) so much that I decided to tackle an enormous project
- the woods behind our house. We let it go wild over the last 10 years or so and
had dumped fallen branches and raked leaves from the yard in the clearings. For
over a week, I removed bundles and bundles of invasive plants and sticks under
the tall trees.
another week, I cut and bundled the sticks and branches in the large clearing
next to the stream. It occurred to me that the space in which I was working was
almost perfectly circular, and the idea for my own labyrinth took shape.
was a fascinating process. Once I started, I was compelled to keep working on
it from morning until I ran out of light each day. I literally could not put any
effort into anything else until it was finished. It took about a week to clear
the site and 3 days to actually build. Thankfully, my husband and son helped move
the bricks and mulch to the site.
result: a 26-foot-diameter, 8-circuit labyrinth made of 339 foot-long bricks and
168 cubic feet of pine bark mulch.
There were some interesting
things I observed on this journey:
I am very allergic to poison ivy. Almost every year I get a pretty bad case of
it. While poison ivy was all over the woods I was clearing out, I have not had
an outbreak on my skin.
day before I finished, there was a major mosquito hatch. I didn't get a single
I found no ticks even though this area is prime for
My dog, Lilly, seems to be drawn to this clearing as much
as I am. She stretched out in each section as I put down the mulch and has followed
me in and out of the labyrinth a number of times since it was finished.
have used labyrinths as meditation and prayer tools for over 4000 years. I first
became conscious of labyrinths a number of years ago in a Toronto hotel lounge
where I picked up a book
about them. I couldn't put it down until I had read the whole thing. Since then,
I've enjoyed experiencing labyrinths at a number of spas including The
Cliff Spa in Maine and Rancho
La Puerta in Mexico as well as other locations such as the nearby Delaware
conducted at the Harvard Medical School's Mind/Body Medical Institute by Dr. Herbert
Benson has found that focused walking meditations are highly efficient at reducing
anxiety and eliciting what Dr. Benson calls the 'relaxation response'. This effect
has significant long-term health benefits, including lower blood pressure and
breathing rates, reduced incidents of chronic pain, reduction of insomnia, improved
fertility, and many other benefits. Regular meditative practice leads to greater
powers of concentration and a sense of control and efficiency in one's life. Labyrinth
walking is among the simplest forms of focused walking meditation, and the demonstrated
health benefits have led hundreds of hospitals, health care facilities, and spas
to install labyrinths in recent years.
I honestly haven't
given the deeper meaning or possibilities of walking a labyrinth much thought
yet. Right now, I simply enjoy the walking meditation, focusing on my breath,
listening to the sounds of the stream and the birds chirping, smelling the aroma
of honeysuckle and feeling the deep, cool shade of the woods.
you've never walked a labyrinth, you may want to follow these six steps from How
to Walk a Labyrinth to get the most out of your experience:
Prepare to walk. Take some time to transition from your everyday life to
the labyrinth experience. Slow your breathing. Still your mind. Open yourself
to possibilities. Think about your intentions for the experience: questions, affirmations,
feelings. You may want to take off your shoes and walk barefoot.
Begin your journey. Pause at the entrance to the labyrinth to take a cleansing
breath and focus your attention. You may ask a question, say a prayer or recite
an affirmation. Some people choose to bow or make another ritual gesture to signal
the beginning of their walk.
Walk the inward path. Put one foot in front of the other, and walk at a
measured pace that is comfortable for you. On the way in, focus on letting go
of things you want to leave behind and releasing things that stand in the way
of your spiritual journey. Pause when you need to. Don't focus on the center as
a goal; be present in each step of the inward path.
Spend time in the center. Take as long as you wish. You may stand, sit, kneel
or lie down. This part of the journey is about being present to your inmost self
and to the power of the divine. You may want to pray or simply be open to the
the return path. When you are ready to leave the center, begin walking back
the way you came. On this part of the journey, focus on what you will bring out
from the center and back into your life. As before, pause when you need to. Resist
the temptation to sprint to the finish line: the return journey is as important
as every other part of the labyrinth.
Reflect on the journey. When you leave the labyrinth, you may pause make another
gesture or say a prayer. Before leaving the area, take some time to reflect on
insights you've gained.
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