A labyrinth walk is an exercise designed to help us pause in our hurriedness. Here is how Terry Hershey describes it:
the outcome or impact or value of pausing...
to be at home in our own skin,
to be embraced by Grace,
to want what we already hold,
to let our souls catch up with our bodies,
to see the sacred in the ordinary … cannot be coerced.
We cannot force it.
We cannot “make” it happen.
But we can make space to receive it.
A labyrinth is laid out in a repeating pattern that is sufficiently complicated in its changes of direction to annoy and then bore our analytical minds. When analysis is suspended, the spirit is free to explore. Many call this release “meditation”.
Most labyrinths are pedestrian surfaces. They can be constructed of stone, wood, sand, grass – any walkable material. St. John's Cathedral has a permanent outdoor labyrinth in Cathedral Park on Church Street. Ours is constructed from cuts of the original granite curb stones used in early Jacksonville. The stones are somewhat rough, calling for comfortable walking shoes.
Perhaps the most famous European labyrinth is set in the floor of the nave of Chartres Cathedral in France.
How You Walk the Labyrinth in Cathedral Park
- Begin at the entrance, on the south side of the Park, near Taliaferro Hall.
- Slow down and ignore preoccupations as you follow the marked path.
Move as slowly as you can. The path curves, turns back on itself, and sometimes makes us feel as if we are retreating. But it leads toward the center (heart) of the labyrinth. When you reach the center, stop. Breathe deeply. Perhaps your receptive spirit will be offered a new understanding or insight. Breathe again and then begin the return, slowly. The return from the center to the outside of the labyrinth should find you moving with a more relaxed pace and calm breath.
Each labyrinth experience is different. You may feel nothing or have a powerful reaction. Whatever, listen to your heart and take all the time you need.
This is your time to pause and be available to the Spirit.
The labyrinth can be available to almost anyone.
For people who have difficulty walking, there are small wooden or fiber labyrinths which can be held while sitting, using a finger to trace the path. Children might enjoy using markers or crayons to color the path on a paper copy of a simple labyrinth.