History of The Labyrinth
Labyrinths have existed in different forms since ancient times, dating back some 4,000 years, as part of the myth and ritual of nearly every culture on earth. They are integral to Native American, Greek, Celtic, Swedish, Finnish, Estonian, and Mayan cultures and traditions, and their basic design is fundamental to nature. The Hopi People called the labyrinth the symbol of ‘mother earth’ and equated it with the Kiva, sacred rooms for spiritual ceremonies. Like Stonehenge and the Pyramids they are magical geometric forms that define sacred space and once a labyrinth space is delineated it is said that an energy vortex/portal is immediately created. Some of the earliest forms of labyrinths, the Cretan labyrinth or classical seven-circuit labyrinth, are found in Greece, dating back to 2500-2000 B.C.E. and so much a part of the fabric of this early society that this classical labyrinth was embossed on coins and pottery. In Western traditions these symbols appeared in Christianity as well, first among the Crusaders where they came to represent the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Later these forms appeared in churches with the most famous example being the Cathedral at Chartres, France with its spectacular 11 circuit labyrinth constructed in the stone floor 1201 AD which was the inspiration for the 11 circuit 66 foot labyrinth at Open Sky Yoga Barn. Labyrinths can be fashioned from many materials and come in many shapes, both temporary and permanent - created from cornmeal, paint on canvas, LED lights, laser light projection, masking tape or string for temporary use whereas permanent installations can be made with stone (as in OSYB Labyrinth), cut into turf, formed by mounds of earth, made from vegetation or any other natural material. There are three basic designs; the 7 circuit, the 11 circuit and the 12 circuit. The most common design around the U.S. is the 7 circuit. Below is a diagram of the 11 circuit Chartres used as the model for OSYB, eleven concentric circles with the twelfth being in the center of the labyrinth.
Spiritual Meaning of Labyrinths
The labyrinth is non-denominational. People of all faiths and people longing to re-connect to faith come to walk labyrinths. The Labyrinth is a model of spiritual wholeness and order, which when walked can enable one to heal the separation between body, mind and spirit. It is a path of prayer and meditation for all people seeking wholeness. There is no ‘correct’ way to walk a labyrinth, the journey is a very personal one, each person walks the Labyrinth in their own style, and takes from the experience their own unique spiritual lesson. A labyrinth has only one path to inner discovery - or another way to phrase it is “the way in IS the way out”. Much as the surrender to walking a sacred spiritual path in life – our only decision is to choose spirit and surrender to divine guidance. By simply yielding to and following the path, the mind quiets. The voice of the heart can then be heard and labyrinth walking thus becomes spiritual practice. The rediscovery of this self healing-alignment tool to put our lives in perspective is one of the most important spiritual movements of our day. Whatever one's religion or spiritual beliefs...walking the labyrinth clears the mind and gives insight. It can also calm people in the throes of life's transitions. We extend an invitation to people from all faiths, especially those who are in transition and/or are struggling to find a means of prayer or meditation. We welcome you to join us in learning about this ancient meditation tool of prayer, as we all realize our true nature as "spiritual beings on a human path, not simply human beings on a spiritual path.”
Guidelines for Walking the Open Sky Yoga Barn “Goddess Labyrinth”
Labyrinths are unicursal: as indicated above you walk the same path going in and coming out. Many people confuse labyrinths with mazes, yet they are very different. A maze is a puzzle to be solved, with choice points, twists, turns, and dead ends. Mazes stimulate and engage the thinking, problem-solving mind while labyrinths engage the heart, with no decisions about directions needing to be made. When you walk the Labyrinth you meander back and forth as you follow the path, turning 180 degrees each time you enter a different “circuit”. As you shift direction you also shift your awareness from right brain to left brain, inducing receptive states of consciousness and balancing the chakras. The Sacred Labyrinth Walk of Illuminating the Inner Path is the ancient practice of "Circling to the Center”. Mirroring the path of life, every Labyrinth journey is different; contemplative, painful, joyous, even boring at times. It can be walked, skipped, danced, run, bounced; alone or with others; in silence or with music, ritual and ceremony. When walking the Labyrinth, it is helpful to let go of all thoughts, concerns and stresses, and open yourself to experience whatever your Divine guidance has for you in the present moment. You can hold in your heart a challenge you are dealing with, walk it for someone in need of healing or healing for the whole planet. As you enter the Labyrinth with an open mind and heart, prepare yourself to receive answers and insights about your life.
1) Environment: Begin by setting the environment for your experience by dropping your 'physical baggage' such as keys, cell-phones, watches. Enjoy sounds of nature; experience a barefoot walk -“earthing” and getting grounded if you choose. The OSYB Labyrinth takes 10-25 minutes to walk depending on how fast you go, 15-20 minutes total is average.
2) Entering/Releasing: As you prepare to walk, slow your breathing, still your mind, open yourself to possibilities. Begin to walk the inward path focusing on letting go of things you want to leave behind, releasing things that stand in the way of your spiritual journey. As you focus on your breathing, your mind starts to clear and you may be able to release concerns, pressures and stresses that distract you from your own deeper intuition. Acknowledge and then let go of emotions, thoughts, and feelings along the way. You may recite a personal mantra or repeat “be here now” or “I have arrived, I am home in the here and now. In the here and now, I am home I have arrived.”
3) Illumination/Receiving: Reaching the center, you come to find your true center, a place of peace and spaciousness. Here you can pray or meditate, and receive clarity or illumination. Pray about certain parts of your life, or just rest in presence. Take your time here to listen and receive.
4) Union/Integrating: The Journey Outward: You walk out from the center along the same path that brought you in, focusing on integration and commitment. The return is as much the journey as every other part of the labyrinth. Reflect on the journey and take what you found at the center back into your relationships, roles and responsibilities.
5) Implementation: This stage represents your life outside the labyrinth; the world where your experience or illumination is carried into and affects your everyday life. You re-renter the world with a new sense of yourself and your relationship with the source of life.
Many resources were used to compile this document including personal experience, books on Labyrinths, information from friends with labyrinths and various internet sites.