For many of us, we are living in a period we haven’t experienced before. COVID-19 aka the coronavirus is leaving many feeling unsettled, scared, and uncertain. This is a time where we are having to consider what are our essentials, what’s important, and how to stay calm.
During our days of lockdown and Social Distancing, I have taken to being out in nature a lot but more importantly embracing an ancient centering tool called the labyrinth. Currently, I live in Santa Fe and there are nearly 30 labyrinths there. Each day I choose a different one to walk, center, and contemplate.
A labyrinth has one meandering path which winds its way to the center. It is the same path back out as the one we took towards the middle. The labyrinth’s path is like the path of life. There are twists and turns, feelings of being lost, feeling relieved to have found the center, meeting people on the path that you must work to go around and connect with, and inner insights.
The design of the labyrinth itself is meant to help us center, be present, and patient. We walk one step at a time on the winding pathway. The meandering path and one foot stepping at a time will quiet our ruminating mind and leaves us in a state of peacefulness.
In the Center of the Labyrinth | History and Origin
The labyrinth is an ancient tool, thousands of years old originally from ancient Crete and found all over the world. Christianity embraced the labyrinth during the time of the crusades to symbolize the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The labyrinth at Chartres is a beautiful example of this type of labyrinth.
My family comes from the island of Gotland Sweden in the Baltic Sea. There, we have very old labyrinths, one dating from the time of goddess worship before the Viking period.
In pagan Scandinavian times, labyrinths were used to reenact a variety of dramas, one being that every spring a hero would have to fight the winter demon so that the sun goddess could come back again and bring light and spring with her.
We happen to be in this time period right now. It feels as if this myth has come alive and each one of us has to be the hero that frees the inner sun goddess from the winter beast to bring spring, wellness, and stability to our year, our families, and our lives.
Labyrinths were also used as fertility rites as well as walked for good luck and protection. The labyrinth is the feminine archetype, the nonlinear way of thinking.
By walking back and forth, one side to the other, from the outer to the interior of a labyrinth, we align the left and right hemispheres of our brain. Though we can feel disoriented and lost within a labyrinth walk, we are never lost, we can always get home.
In the Center of the Labyrinth |How to Walk a Labyrinth
Embracing the traditions and practices of my ancestors I approach the labyrinth. It’s an invitation to practice the art of going in.
- Setting Intention
Standing at the entrance of the labyrinth I set my intention for the walk. Where we place our intention is where we place our energy. Feel free to say an invocation or prayer, read/recite a poem, or sing a song. Anything that helps you set your heartfelt intention.
2. Entering the Labyrinth
Remember that a labyrinth is a field of infinite possibilities. The path towards the center leads to the very center of the creative force, the center of yourself and even the center of the universe.
As you proceed on the path, take notice of each step.
Watch your breath. Let them become longer and slower.
With each exhale go further into your center.
As we walk towards the center we are leaving our outside world behind and going deeper and deeper into ourselves and our center.
I like to walk in silence but feel free to make this your own. Perhaps you have music you’d like to listen to. Maybe you have a mantra or chant you’d like to recite which centers you. All things are there for you to explore and use.
3. The Center
Once you reach the center, make it a place of silence and contemplation. Spend time in the center before making your way back out. Feel free to sit or lie down in the center. Meditate, breathe deeply, and empty yourself of thought. Like an empty vessel, this is when insights and inspirations move in. We’ve created the space for that to happen.
Oftentimes I like to do my gratitude practice as I sit in silent meditation. There are no rules. Just take a bit of a pause to find insights from your walk to the center.
4. Outward Journey
Though the journey out will be the same path you walked in on, you will not be the same person walking out. The person who left their outside world behind for a moment and has experienced their inside world walks out a different person with new insights.
Look at those insights as gifts you are going to take out into the world. Maybe that is a way to be helpful in your community, workplace or community. Maybe it is a spark of creation such as an art piece, song, poem, writing, or other craft or art project.
What perceptions have you shifted? What gifts do you have to bring out into the world? We all have something to give even that is simply a smile.
I wish you a good journey on the meandering path.
For more information about labyrinths please read this very in-depth history by Norse scholar Maria Kvilhaug.
To find a labyrinth near you look at the World Labyrinth Locator.