The labyrinth at First Church is laid out on a 36 square foot canvas on the floor of the Fellowship Hall. Music and candles help to create the sacred ambiance that surrounds the walker before, during, and after the walk.
A labyrinth has only one path to follow in and out. The journey you walk on the labyrinth can represent many different metaphorical journeys — a journey toward the heart of God, a pilgrimage of prayer, or walking into the center of your awareness in meditation. There are no surprises, no roadblocks or dead-ends on a labyrinth. It is not a maze. When you walk out of the labyrinth you follow the same path as you did coming in.
For those who have difficulty walking, a hand labyrinth (carved into a piece of wood that can be held on your lap, the labyrinth then traced with a finger) is available during each walk. An indoor canvas labyrinth, such as the one here at First Church, is walked on either barefoot, with socks, or house-shoes (slippers, etc.) and not street or outdoor shoes.
THE FOUR-FOLD PATH OF THE LABYRINTH
RELEASING begins when you enter the labyrinth and ends upon arriving at the labyrinth’s center. This is an opportunity for “letting-go” of whatever distracts you. This is a time for quieting, opening, emptying, and shedding. For some, this happens through a mindful slowing and deepening of their breathing, or the silent repeated reciting of a simple prayer, mantra, name, affirmation, or scripture verse.
RECEIVING is a gift at the center of the labyrinth. Having emptied oneself, there is now spaciousness within to receive creative Spirit. Receiving guidance, interior silence, new insight, deeper wisdom, a sense of peace are only a few experiences that can occur on a labyrinth walk. It is diﬀerent for everyone. You may sit or stand in the center as long as you like. Receive what is there for you to receive and accept such as a divine gift.
RESOLVE, begins when you leave the center and return on the same path back out of the labyrinth. There are many aspects of this: you can resolve to take a next step in your life, or come to a resolution about something bothering you. Rejuvenation often occurs, or a feeling of rebirth begins. Or, on your way out, you reclaim those responsibilities you set down on the way in, but for which you have new strength to carry them. Often, feelings of strengthening and integration occur. Symbolically, you take back out into the world what you’ve received.
HISTORY OF THE LABYRINTH
The labyrinth at First Church is an eleven-circuit labyrinth, modeled after the one at Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France, built in 1220. The project at First Church’s Healing Arts Ministry group began exploring the possibility of a labyrinth ministry in 1996 and opened it on October 1, 1998.
Dr. Lauren Artress, founder of Veriditas, the World-Wide Labyrinth Project, and Canon Emeritus of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, said: “labyrinths are patterns, usually circular, based on principles of sacred geometry. They have been called ‘divine imprints’ because they are found around the world as sacred patterns, and have been passed down through the ages for at least 4000 years in various forms.” They are found in almost every religious tradition around the world.
The tradition of pilgrimage is as old as religion itself, according to Dr. Artress in her book, Walking a Sacred Path (Riverhead Books, New York, 1995). “Worshippers traveled to holy festivals and high holy days or to journey to the Holy land – back to Jerusalem. However, by the 12th century, when the Crusades swept across Europe and Jerusalem became the center of religious struggle, travel became dangerous and expensive. In response …, the Roman church appointed seven pilgrimage cathedrals to become the ‘Jerusalem’ for pilgrims. The walk into the labyrinth in many of these cathedrals … served as a symbolic entry into the spiritual realms of the Celestial City,” Dr. Artress explains. The labyrinth again appears during the reformation period in churches, she continues, “in the Christian tradition, walking the labyrinth represents journeys … we take in our lives.”
St. Augustine said: “It is solved by walking.” The labyrinth is a walking meditation. In a time when many people are seeking ways to integrate psychology with spirituality, the labyrinth creates a safe, open space where the inner and outer meet and become one. Here is space where meaning is recovered, self-knowledge is discovered, comfort is restored, and healing can take place. The labyrinth is for those on spiritual journeys, for anyone seeking healing of one sort or another, for people in transition, for times when there is a strong felt need for such things as clarity, letting go, reconciliation, meaning/purpose, understanding, and peace.