Moving Meditation and Prayerful Walking on the Labyrinth

People who are encountering the labyrinth for the first time often ask how to walk the path the ‘right way’.

My answer: “there is no wrong way”.

What you are called or led to do on a labyrinth is about you, not me. While events with many people sharing the path at the same time call for courtesy and consideration, solitary walks are as diverse as the people walking.

Phrases like ‘prayerful walking’ and ‘moving meditation’ and ‘walking meditation’ are useful. They have some value in my attempts to convey the nature of the labyrinth, and yet I find that while true, they can be equally hard to understand.

The labyrinth is an experience

There is no language that can teach the experience of labyrinth walking: it must be done and it will be felt, and only then is there comprehension.

An Internet search for the phrase “Moving Meditation” led me to the discovery that many yoga practitioners take this title for focus during movement from one pose to another the contemplative state is held at the centre while the body moves and stretches. Walking a labyrinth is infinitely less of a physical challenge. Making the choice to dance a labyrinth, travel it kneeling, or otherwise vary the physical interaction is entirely personal.

Prior to the Information Age daily life was physically demanding. Agrarian life required planting crops and tending meat animals’ gathering fruit; scything grass for feed; grinding grain and kneading bread. Each a tiring exercise.

To be still and prayerful was a respite

In the Industrial Age workers engaged in whatever lifting and reaching and stretching and shovelling their industry required. The ‘labour-saving’ machines still needed active operators. A train can revolutionize how people and goods move around, but for the smiths and metal workers and manufacturers; for the rail-bed builders; the people laying track and for the engineers moving coal into the steam furnace, labour was far from ‘saved’. For people living such exhausting days, the opportunity to be still and prayerful was a respite.

Meditation engaging the physical self

In our time, in the millennium, as we move into the Conceptual Age, the use we make of our bodies is quite different. We sit at desks. We work with lap-top equipment; we drive in cars or sit on aeroplanes and trains. When we are ready to engage with other dimensions of life, being still is unappealing.

Suggestions about meditation are often resisted or outright rejected. The perception of meditation is of a lone person seated in the lotus position for hours at a time: not attractive to someone who has spent the day in a cubicle.

To find that place of inner quiet, then, there must be a different approach, and a meditation which engages the whole physical self in a walk is a good start.

Prayerful Walking can be defined in a number of ways. Some advocates speak of walking through a neighbourhood finding and praying for people who can benefit.

Any kind of walking can include an ongoing dialogue (prayer) with Spirit, and in some cases that conversation can be targeted. It is perfectly reasonable to walk for peace, or for healing, or for Drew and Robin's family. Walk for insight into a problem you struggle with; walk for clarity around a decision you want or need to make.

A labyrinth provides a more private path, where you can walk in a small space. There is only one route: there are no junctions; no decisions to make or choices to process. The very structure leads you to the centre effortlessly via curves and corners taking an unexpectedly circuitous way from entrance to centre.

While walking along roadways or out in nature provides an opportunity to be with the world, the container which is the labyrinth provides an opportunity to be with Self.

Since Ancient times, around the globe

Walking Labyrinth paths has been practiced since ancient times by many different peoples and traditions. The word is Greek and comes to us from the island of Knossos. Labyrinths are found in the Hopi nation, and in the Hindu culture. Christians installed labyrinths into cathedral floors in thirteenth century Europe. Penitents could travel the path on their knees as they repented their sins or congregants might walk the path as a metaphor for pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

In modern times, labyrinths are found in and out of Christian churches. They are installed at hospitals and schools, at jails and in private gardens. Facilitators carry portable canvas labyrinths to be used anywhere, any time.

There are paths cut into turf; painted on floors; outlined with rocks or shells or plants or candles. They are temporary or not. They can be acres of land, groomed and tended to maintain the open path, or they can be drawn or sculpted or embroidered, the size of a dinner plate, travelled with the finger.

This article notwithstanding, it is impossible to describe what happens in a labyrinth. Every walk is different. Even for the same walker on the same path, a second walk is different because it is not the first.

For those already convinced; for the slightly experienced; and for the curious I issue an invitation to seek out ways of experiencing labyrinth. We live in a time when the Labyrinth is available in myriad forms and places and ways. You were led to read this: the labyrinth is calling you!

Jo Leath has been practicing Numerology since the early 1980s and since then has studied expressions of synchronicity, and various ways of accessing Cosmic Wisdom.

In 2008 she added Labyrinths to her practice, and has become a Certified Labyrinth Facilitator with Veriditas: Worldwide Labyrinth Project.

Journey Into Alignment is a program which combines all these disciplines and helps clients to access wisdom which can align them with their Intended Life.