Add the winding path of a labyrinth to your journey and you have a perfect scenario for self-discovery and self-mastery.
When most of us think of meditation, we think of sitting down, closing our eyes and staying in stillness to the best of our ability. While this is clearly a time tested and beautiful way to meditate, it is not always the easiest process, especially for the beginner. Instead, a walking meditation is a beautiful way to practice mindfulness and a quieting of the mind, while allowing the body movement at the same time. Add the winding path of a labyrinth to your journey and you have a perfect scenario for self-discovery and self-mastery.
A labyrinth differs from a maze in that there are no dead ends or tricks. Symbolic of taking a pilgrimage, the labyrinth offers a single path that weaves through the entire mandala into the center where you stay until you feel complete and then follow the same path back out. Rather than causing you to get lost, the labyrinth is designed to help you find yourself and your center.
There are a few pieces of information that greatly enhance the experience. Without this understanding you may emerge from the labyrinth thinking it was interesting, or perhaps of no value at all. When you understand these ideas, the path is a powerful experience and different every time you walk.
Practice self-observation. When you are observant of what you are thinking, what you notice, and how you feel you become self-aware. When you are aware, you discover you have choices. If what you are doing is not serving you, or is not the quality you want to practice on your spiritual journey, then that awareness allows you to make other choices. Choices make you powerful.
Be present. As with all meditation, the practice is about bringing your attention to the present moment. When your mind starts to wander off on other thoughts, past, future, or elsewhere, reel it back to the here and now. Allow your senses to help you. Notice your breath. Notice each step. See what you are walking on and where you are. Feel the breezes around you; smell the scents of earth, of flowers, of rain, hear the sounds of birds, or wind or even traffic. Whatever is in the moment, notice. The present moment is the doorway to peace and stillness.
Know that you are walking the labyrinth to learn about yourself, not the labyrinth itself. When we don’t have this understanding we think that our conclusions about the labyrinth are the point. But when we know that we are actually learning about ourselves the experience becomes transformational. For instance, if you think the labyrinth takes too long you may actually be learning that you have a tendency to be impatient. Once you have this awareness, the labyrinth provides an opportunity to experiment with other choices that may serve you better. Explore what happens when you let go of your resistance to how long the labyrinth takes and practice acceptance that it will take you 15-30 minutes to complete. This acceptance will set you free from annoyance. If you don’t have 15 minutes, you can make another choice—only walk part way, go straight to the center without walking the path, save it for another day. If peaceful, powerful mindfulness is your goal, set yourself free by taking responsibility for your choices.
The language of the labyrinth is metaphor. Meaning that what you experience on the labyrinth is what you need to look at in yourself. It is said that “How you do anything is how you do everything” and again, this self-awareness allows you to make different choices.
The labyrinth at The Sacred Garden on Maui is made of bricks and gravel. Occasionally as one walks they will encounter a brick that is out of place. Metaphorically this is a great opportunity to explore what is out of place in your life. Or, perhaps even more interesting, what do you do about the brick out of place? Are you a fix-it person, immediately replacing it? Do you ignore it or complain about it? Do you obsess about the one brick regardless of the hundreds of others that are perfectly placed? As you observe your reactions on the labyrinth you will gain greater understanding and mastery of your responses off the labyrinth.
While a labyrinth is a great place to practice and the twists and turns add some metaphorical magic (look up the labyrinth locator online to find a labyrinth near you!), the beauty of a walking meditation is that you can extend that practice to anywhere, with each and every step through life, with each and every breath.