What is a Labyrinth?
A labyrinth is not a maze, it is not meant to confuse or frustrate you. Labyrinths are one of the oldest contemplative tools known to humankind, used for centuries for personal and spiritual growth. Labyrinths are a walking meditation and are often seen as metaphors of our life and can be used for reflection and problem solving daily concerns. Labyrinths can slow you down as you wind your way through the path.
Labyrinths always have a visual symmetry combined with a surprising length of pathway enclosed within a relatively small area. Unlike mazes, labyrinths have no choices along the way – the only decision is whether you enter and trust that the path will lead you to your goal.
Labyrinths have always been associated with ancient pilgrimage routes and rituals of self-discovery. As a design, they were worn as a form of protection and ornamentation and were often found carved on doorways to bless a dwelling.
What’s the history?
Labyrinths have been a part of nearly every mystical and religious sect across all world cultures. Popular throughout the Roman Empire as a protective and decorative symbol on the mosaic floors of civic buildings and villas, they were also constructed outdoors as a playground for children and as a test of skill for soldiers on horseback.
In Britain and Germany, from the late medieval period onwards, labyrinths were created by cutting the design into the turf of town commons, village greens and rural hilltops. Mentioned by Shakespeare in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and employed as a dancing ground for rustic festivities, they were once widespread, but only eight historic examples survive in England and three in Germany. Elsewhere in Europe walkable labyrinths were formed of rocks on remote islands in Scandinavia whose sailors believed the labyrinth had magical properties and when walked could control the weather and ensure a good catch.
Labyrinths have been found carved and painted on cave and temple walls in India and on tribal objects from Sumatra and Java, as well as in rock art in the American Southwest.
The Fair Street Reformed Church labyrinth is a replica of the limestone labyrinth found in the floor of the central nave in the cathedral at Chartres, France. Medieval Christians walked the Chartres labyrinth instead of taking a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands.
Why is it here?
Walking a labyrinth is known to help reduce stress, quiet one’s mind, and open one’s heart. It is in this context that we invite the community to a space as we all deal with the anxieties of life. Fair Street Reformed Church has created this public resting place built around a mind and soul quieting experience. We offer this labyrinth as a gift to the community both in times of personal crisis and national tragedy.
How does it work?
Walking the labyrinth creates a serpentine flow of subtle energy that can address many psycho-spiritual areas of the human condition. The path can be helpful in calming the anxious self, it can create space for individuals to walk, reflect, pray, decompress, and meditate at any point in their day.
Walking a labyrinth is known to:
• Reduce stress
• Quiet your mind
• Open your heart
• Promote the interaction of the mind, body and spirit
• Foster creativity
• Promote wellness
• Increase self-awareness
• Enhance spiritual growth
• Balance right and left brain activity
Before You Begin the Walk
If there is anyone on the labyrinth with you, we ask that you be respectful of one another and simply quietly pass them by or allow them to pass you by at your own pace. Here are some additional items to be mindful of as you prepare, walk and leave…
• Pause and take a few moments to quiet your mind and become aware of your breathing.
• Allow yourself to find the walking pace your body wants to go. Do what feels natural. It is natural to start walking quickly, slowing your pace as you go. Some find it helpful to walk around the outside of the labyrinth before entering the walk.
• As you enter the labyrinth, you follow the path to the center and try to develop a relaxed, calm state that releases concerns and quiets the mind. This is the time to open the heart and quiet the mind. If you need something to focus on, ‘… be still and know,’ Psalm 46:10.
• As you walk as you may find yourself to be in prayer. You can use centering prayers, or pray for a specific situation, individual or this community. There will be a prayer box in which you can leave a prayer or take a prayer as you enter the labyrinth. If you have a request, please write it down and leave it in the box, if you are wondering what you can pray for, you can check and see if there are any requests in the box and pray for that request as you walk. Just be sure to leave the requests in the box so more people can pray.
• The labyrinth’s center is place of rest. This is a place for meditation and or prayer. This is a time of openness and peacefulness; you experience or receive what the moment offers you. Stay here as long as you feel the need.
• You choose when to leave the center, following the same path. This is a time to review and consider the healing forces at work and how they may apply to your life.