I had the great privilege to attend the first women’s retreat held at the Findhorn house on Iona – led by Dr. Emma Rochester. During the retreat, Dr Emma taught us much of the history of the island where St. Columba settled with his followers after his banishment, took us on walks to visit beautiful natural sacred sites and created sacred space and rituals. Most astounding was learning about labyrinths. We drew, built and walked labyrinths.
WHAT IS A LABYRINTH?
Labyrinths date from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages and have been revived at various times since then. A labyrinth is a path marked out on the ground with rocks, shells or other suitable materials found in the local vicinity. The path of the labyrinth winds around from an outer starting place to a place that is central in the pattern. Unlike a maze, which is a puzzle to be solved and where one can become lost. Labyrinths have only one path into the centre and as this is also the way out – one cannot become lost.
What is a Finger Labyrinth?
Finger labyrinths are a hand-held version of a labyrinth. Since it can fit in your handbag, you can carry it with you and use it whenever you have a spare moment – feeling nervous before an appointment, to clear your mind before an exam.
Your finger walks the path as you would walk a full-sized one. Stopping every so often to scan, breathe and release as you walk with your finger is very effective and serves to connect the tactile sensation of your finger to the rest of your body and Mother Earth.
What patterns make a Labyrinth?
The most simple labyrinth pattern is a spiral.
This spiral labyrinth can be found at the Findhorn Foundation – created out of rocks in the area.
Dr Emma guided us to create this labyrinth on the beach near where we stayed on Iona. It was a joyful experience as we worked together in community – gathering seaweed, shells and rocks to define the edges of the path. Joyful even though a gale was blowing and icy rain falling intermittently! Somehow the added difficulties served to bring us together with the one purpose creating a sacred space and experience setting the stage for walking within – to the centre of the labyrinth – to our centre.
As the patterns become more complex, the path winds around itself and moves back and forth across the spread of the pattern.
The famous Chatres labyrinth has four quarters with the path winding in and out of each one.
However complex the pattern, there remains only one entrance and the path takes you to the centre. From the centre, you proceed along the same path to reach the exit, which is also the entrance.
Why walk a Labyrinth?
Labyrinths are perfectly designed for meditation. The act of walking and being held in the present moment is constant as one concentrates upon keeping on the path and following it as it twists and turns. Walking mindfully like this, is an age old technique that has been scientifically proven to assist with dealing with strong emotions such as anxiety.
The labyrinth is a safe place. There is no fear of becoming lost as this is not a maze; a trick, – it is one path with one way in and the same way out. Often Labyrinths are in a public place where one walks alongside others, or in a community group.
Symbolism is known to create powerful connections in the mind. Symbolically walking toward the centre of a labyrinth provides us with the opportunity to take us on a journey deep within ourselves – our psyche – our centre.
Walking the Labyrinth
There is no one prescription for walking a labyrinth and you can design your own ritual to serve your personal intention. Traditionally, this is one way to walk the labyrinth – As one walks into the labyrinth, it is an opportunity to release all that no longer serves us. Spending time at the centre allows us to adjust to how we are now, having released. Walking out is a celebration of the new way one decides to be from now on.
Setting an Intention
Take a quiet moment to decide what you would like to achieve from your walk into the labyrinth. Use simple words to describe your intention, adding that it be for your highest good and serve to ease your journey.
My life will be full of joy peace and calm.
I release all that holds me back from ….
I attract loving people into my life.
HOW DO YOU WALK A LABYRINTH?
- There is only one entrance to the labyrinth and this is on the outer edge. Pause at the entrance, take a breath in and release it down to the Earth, announcing your intention as you move into the labyrinth.
- As one walks the labyrinth, you only need to be aware of where you are at any particular moment – placing one foot ahead of the other on the path. As you place your foot (or finger, if using a finger labyrinth), become fully aware of yourself; your mind focused on you in the present moment, your body sensations and the placement of your foot/finger on the path – at once grounding you to the centre of Mother Earth. This way, you are taken away from your busy brain to the present moment.
- Closing your eyes removes the distraction of sight, directing your focus onto the path. This may be difficult, even potentially risky when walking a labyrinth, so try focusing your eyes softly on the path directly in front of you rather than looking ahead and all around you.
You are not in danger of falling with a finger labyrinth! Closing your eyes allows for more concentrated focus on the sensation of your finger feeling the edge of the path and will ensure you are able to follow the path even without being able to see where you are going.
- Going in – to the centre of the labyrinth can be the time to release all that no longer serves you in relation to the intention you have set for your walk.
- After going a short distance, ground, scan, breathe in – being aware of any feelings and sensations in your body – and release, saying ‘I release all that no longer serves me’.
- When you reach the centre of the labyrinth, you have space to pause. Feel what it is like to have arrived here – what it is like to have fulfilled your intention. Imagine how it is to walk in the world now – Savour the feelings and the images.
- Walk out of the labyrinth carrying these feelings and sensations in your body – as you walk mindfully out and into the world.
- Take a few moments to ensure you are well grounded.
Like to know more?
I am facilitating workshops to learn about, experience and make finger labyrinths. I also have some for sale on my website: Lifehealingjourneys.com.au
If you would like to know more, please personal message, text or email me.