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The Prayer Labyrinth


The Prayer Labyrinth
 

What Is A Labyrinth?

The labyrinth is one of the oldest contemplative and transformational tools known to humankind, having been used for centuries for prayer, ritual, initiation, and spiritual growth.  It is unicursal, that is, there is only one route to the center and back out again: no blind alleys, dead ends or tricks, as in a maze.  Once you set your foot upon its path, the labyrinth gently and faultlessly leads to the center of both the labyrinth and yourself, no matter how many twists and turns you negotiate in the process.  Since the destination is assured, there are no obstacles to overcome, no muddles to figure out, no dead ends to retrace.  What remains for the labyrinth walker is simply the deeply meditative and symbolic discipline of setting one foot in front of the other, of honoring the journey itself and what it has to teach.  The mind can be stilled and attention paid to the body, the wisdom of the heart, and the graces of being rather than doing.   Walking the labyrinth, either individually or in a group walk, fulfills six important contemporary needs: deepening spirituality; inwardness and connection to the soul; access to intuition and creativity; simplicity; for integration of body and spirit; and intimacy and community.

Our labyrinth is based on the Chartres labyrinth, a permanent stone labyrinth set into the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France during the thirteenth century.  It has eleven concentric paths that wind through the four quadrants of a circle.  It is a distinctly Christian pattern with an equal-armed cross visible in its elegant layout.  Set in the center is a rosette, a six-petaled design representing a rose, a traditional symbol for the Virgin Mary.  The labyrinth is oriented so that you are facing East, the direction of the rising sun, as you enter the labyrinth.  Likewise, you are facing west, the direction of the setting sun, as you exit the labyrinth.

 

Participating in a Labyrinth Walk can be like:

Taking a thoughtful walk,

Going on a symbolic journey or pilgrimage, or
Taking part in a religious dance.

Stages in a Labyrinth Walk

There are three stages to the labyrinth walk, and you are free to make of them whatever you like:  Shedding, Illumination, and Union.

SHEDDING: As you are walking in, it is a time to release and let go of the details and tensions of your life.

ILLUMINATION: When you reach the center, be still, sit or stand.  It is a place of prayer, meditation, listening, feeling God's Presence.  Receive what is there for you to receive.

UNION: As you walk out you feel at one with God, neighbor, self, and nature.  Each time you walk the Labyrinth you become more empowered to find and do the work God is calling you to.

The Prayer Labyrinth becomes a mirror for our lives; it touches our sorrows and releases our joys.  So walk it with an open mind and an open heart!

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Suggestions for Walking

There is no "right" way to walk the labyrinth, but if you follow a few guidelines, your walk is likely to be more relaxed.

A walk in the labyrinth usually takes 20 - 30 minutes.  Please allow the person ahead of you to get "into" the labyrinth (2 - 3 turns on the path) before entering yourself.

If the person in front of you is slower, you are welcome to pass them.  Don't worry about appearing to be in too much of a hurry.  Your pace is your pace.

Because the labyrinth is one continuous path, you are likely to meet people on their way out when you are on your way in and vice versa.  Simply step aside to allow another to pass, but be mindful of where you were.  This is the one time it is easy to get lost on the labyrinth.


A Prayer for Walking

We offer the following as a possible prayer as you enter the labyrinth:
Holy Center of all that is, draw us in.
We yearn for the healing only you can give.
Empower us to walk in your truth.
Make us good companions on the journey.
Help us to put aside divisions and distractions,
So we can be fully present on our pilgrimage.
Source of all Love, call us to You.

                                    - Julie Howard


Questions to Consider as You Walk

When do I feel most connected to others?

When is it hard to honor another's path?
How do I feel God drawing me in?
Whom do I leave outside because of envy, pride, prejudice?
How could this labyrinth prayer change my life?
 

SOME OF THE LABYRINTH PHOTOS

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Photo Image (c) 2004.  Copyrighted by Mathews United Methodist Church. Photo Image (c) 2004.  Copyrighted by Mathews United Methodist Church. Photo Image (c) 2004.  Copyrighted by Mathews United Methodist Church.
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Last revised on 25 October 2008