“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
When I was at Duke Integrative Medicine in June, I was pleasantly surprised to see a labyrinth on campus. The setting was serene and beautiful, peaceful and intriguing, and both quiet and noisy from the surrounding trees and nature. Taking time almost daily during lunch or breaks, I did walking and sitting mediations. This was a new experience for me, and it was delicious to the mind, body, and spirit.
Why are these so magical?
· Labyrinths such as this are a patterned path, usually circular in form. Historically, circles are considered universal symbol of wholeness, completion, and unity.
· They are created to be unicursal, meaning there is only one entrance and the path leads in one direction. The path is arranged so the walker moves back and forth across the forms through a series of curves, ending at the heart or center.
· Labyrinths have been found in many cultures around the world, including ancient India, Spain, Peru, Egypt, and China. Archeologists have found most were created on sacred grounds and used for spiritual journeys or pilgrimages of all sorts.
· As one is walking a set path, this encourages the brain to suspend logical thoughts, analysis, and planning – left brain activity – as one doesn’t have to figure out where to go. This encourages the right brain to surge forward allowing for intuition, imagination, and creativity on the journey.
· Research has found the walking puts one in touch with simple body rhythms. With the physical movement on a set path, the walker can notice the breath and patterns, the footfall, and reorientation of the body as one moves through the curves.
· The overall pattern of movement in labyrinth walking due to the organization – starting outside and moving in to the heart holds deep symbolic meaning for many people.
· The setting is simple and organized, many times quiet or in a reserved location, allowing one to go deep inside.
I made a simple ritual of my walks. Prior to entering the labyrinth, I cleared my mind as much as possible, took a few deep cleansing breaths, and clasped my hands in a mudra, sometimes as simple as prayer hands or hands over heart. During the walk, I continued with the deep breaths and simply observed as much as possible with all senses – listening, seeing, tasting, feeling, hearing. Upon entry into the heart, if no one else was there, I took a seat and let the vibrations from my senses and walking reverberate within my body.
This photo is me laying the heart of the labyrinth, yoga stoned beyond belief, after a walk and 10-minute seated meditation. And yes, that is likely a bit of drool from the corner of my mouth.
Have you ever been within a labyrinth? What was your experience? I’d love to hear your experience, shoot me a DM, post a message, or email me!
“The labyrinth does not engage our thinking minds. It invites our intuitive, pattern-seeking, symbolic mind to come forth. It presents us with only one, but profound, choice. To enter a labyrinth is to choose to walk a spiritual path.”- Lauren Artress