Labyrinth or maze:
is there a difference?
Essentially there is no problem solving involved in walking a labyrinth, even though there can be twists, turns and spirals, because the pathway leads the way. As a mindfulness tool the focus is in the here and now. Your attention is in the present moment. Whereas when walking a maze there is a LOT of problem solving, decision making, confusion and often frustration involved. It is not a calming endeavour at all. This is the main difference between labyrinths and mazes. Having said that, in England labyrinths are often referred to as mazes!
Why is there increasing interest in labyrinths?
The Roman era, Medieval period, and the Age of Enlightenment all played their part in the journey of the labyrinth, but it is generally agreed that the rise in popularity in recent times is down to one person, Lauren Artress. She had encountered labyrinth walking at a conference in the United States in the 1980s and was captivated. In 1991 she took a small group of her church community from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to see and walk the iconic labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral. Basically, current interest and use of labyrinths has grown from there.
Two organisations have largely been responsible for the growth in interest and labyrinth use around the world: Veriditas, and The Labyrinth Society. Veriditas was established and incorporated as a non-profit organisation by Lauren Artress over 20 years ago.
Similarly, the Labyrinth Society was established as a non-profit organisation approximately 20 years ago to meet the changing needs of the growing worldwide labyrinth community. It has over 10,000 Facebook followers.
Where can I find a labyrinth near me?
If you live in Australia your one-stop-spot is the Australian Labyrinth Locator. If you live or are travelling anywhere else on the planet your go-to place is the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator. Needless to say, not all labyrinths are listed on these sites. There could well be labyrinths waiting for you to discover.
What can be gained from walking a labyrinth?
Generally speaking, labyrinths are walked for the following purposes:
walking as a gentle, physical exercise
calming the mind, de-stressing
experiencing peace and tranquillity
being prayerful and contemplative
making a pilgrimage
personal and professional development
celebrations and special events
What is a labyrinth?
In the first place it is an ancient symbol, shaped and given meaning over many thousands of years. In the second place it is an archetype, anonymously made and universally present. But put simply, it is a path. In so far as labyrinth design is concerned, it is ‘unicursal’ which means a single pathway leading to a centre or central point; to return it is a matter of following the pathway back to the start, or ‘threshold’ as it is sometimes referred to.
Where have labyrinths come from?
Labyrinths have actually been around for a very long time, like 4000 years. And what makes them particularly intriguing is that, before waves of migration and the advent of technologically shared information, labyrinths appeared in different cultures at various times, predominantly as carvings: from Galicia in northern Spain to the Solovetsky Islands off the northern coastline of Russia in the Arctic Circle, from Gabon in West Africa to the Tohono O’odham people labyrinth in North America, from the Sillhutani ruins in Peru to Gedimedu in India and petroglyphs in the Nilgiri Mountains of India, from Bla Jungfrun island in Sweden to Pylos in Greece No one culture can call the labyrinth their own.
Who uses labyrinths?
Labyrinths can be found in a wide range of places and spaces from natural environments to parks and gardens, from hospitals to prisons, from schools to universities, from retreat centres to health and wellness facilities, from public open spaces to private residences and National Trust sites, from churches to galleries. Their use ranges from organised walks and individual walks, to gatherings and conferences, to workshops and retreats, to therapy and healing, to professional development, to learning and teaching programs, to celebrations, rituals and religious observances.
How is a labyrinth walked?
You cannot lose your way in a labyrinth. You are either going into the centre, in the centre, or walking out of the centre.
Begin at the entrance and simply follow the path on your journey to the centre.
There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. You may choose to pause, reflect or meditate at various points along the path or in the centre.
When ready, leave the centre, and return outwards retracing your steps.
Do I walk alone or with others?
Both! Sometimes you may like to walk alone, sometimes you may gain enormous benefit from walking with others. Walking both ways offer entirely different experiences. Each walk will be different, and each walker experiences the walk differently.
How long does it take?
This depends entirely on the size of the labyrinth, the pace at which the walker moves, and the mode of movement.