“How to Use the Labyrinth”
One of the most comforting things about the use of the labyrinth is that there are no “should,” no “rights or wrongs” about it. It’s a simple practice that involves following a path until you reach the center; and then turning around and following that very same path back out again. That's it. It really is that simple. Yet, we are so accustomed to someone giving us instructions that we feel lost without them. Let me give you a few rules for the road to make it more welcoming. There are really only three things to remember: follow the path; go at your own pace; and be respectful of others on the path. Since the labyrinth is such a beautiful metaphor for the path of life, or the path to God, or the path to the center of our being, each of these three instructions may well reflect the essence of our faith about how we are to live.
Following the path of the labyrinth is, in itself, an almost instant relief to us as we step onto it because it requires absolutely no decision-making, no choices at all. It is very well-marked, with a smooth flow that takes us through all the quadrants, in a random way, until we reach the center. After we begin our walk, we can notice a quiet rhythm to the path that is calming. Neuroscientists believe this results from the many turns balancing the body and calming the central nervous system.
It may take a few steps along the path, or a few of the turns, but you will soon settle into your own pace. It can be helpful to take a few slow deep breaths, (maybe as you walk down the sidewalk to the labyrinth), consider your intention for walking the path this day, or sink into a quiet peacefulness (“Be still and know that I Am God.”) There may be noise all around you. Do not fight it. Just note what you are hearing and the rhythm of the sounds. How the sounds feel. Become aware of the sights around you. Occasionally, it may seem right to pause in the walk, stopping along the path to experience more deeply a thought, a prayer, or an understanding at a deeper level. Some are even inspired to sit or lay down on the path or at the center. This is completely appropriate; others can step around them. The bolder at the center of the labyrinth and the retaining wall around the labyrinth provide ideal spots to sit and reflect, meditate or contemplate.
Be respectful of the other pilgrims involves allowing others to go at their own pace. If someone is moving slower than you just quietly pass them. Respect the quiet and meditative mood of other participants. If this is a day when you want to run the labyrinth and shout for joy, allow the other participants to finish. You may be with a group that has decided to dance the labyrinth or to sing the labyrinth. Since there is only one path going into the center and returning, we will meet other people on the path. Again, just stepping around them is simple, easy, and appropriate.
This is your walk, the path that you are on—make the most of it, experiment, find your way to God.
Adopted from an article by Suzy Peacock