The Labyrinth, An Ancient Tool Of Spirituality From The Past

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The Labyrinth, An Ancient Tool Of Spirituality From The Past

by Bernadette K. Schwab

Areas in Minnesota to walk a labyrinth and for use by the public:

*Assisi Community Center grounds in Assisi Heights in Rochester by appointment only. 1-507-280-2180

*Carondelet Center grounds, adjacent to College of St. Catherine, off Fairview Avenue in St. Paul, open always, 651-690-8830

*Clare's Well Spirituality Farm, 5 miles south of Annandale, by appointment only, 1-320-274-3512

* Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511 Groveled Ave. Minneapolis, Thrus 3-9 p.m., indoors, 612-871-5303.

* Our Lady of the Lake Cemetery, off Commerce Boulevard in Mound, open always. 1-612-472-1284

* St. Thomas Becket, 4455 S. Robert Trail, Eagan, first Thurs. of every month 8 am to 8 p.m., indoors, 612-455-1848

* United Theological Seminary, 3000 5th St. NW., New Brighton, always open, 651-633-4311.

*Benedictine Center of St. Paul's Monastery, 2695 Larpenteour Ave. Maplewood open any time, (groups should call ahead of time). 651-777-7251

To actually pin point the date in time when labyrinths were first used is difficult, because they are lost in prehistory. Labyrinth designs have appeared in many cultures from carvings on pillars of old Pompeii, to ancient vessels from Syria.

The classical labyrinth design consisting of seven rings of paths within eight concentric walls is the most common and found everywhere throughout history. It appears on Roman pavements and in Greek mythology. The earliest appears to be mystical, symbolizing the riddle of life with a womb at the entrance and reincarnation at the egress. On the other hand, Medieval Christian mazes, like the surviving blue and white marble pavement in the nave of Chartress Cathedral (1235), might represent the path of life or a journey to Jerusalem. According to designer Randoll Coate, who designed a labyrinth for Lincoln Cathedral in England, "the labyrinth is the most ancient symbolic design in the world. It calls to both the eye and the mind."

In the past few years, many varieties of labyrinths having sprung up at churches, retreat centers, colleges, spiritual conferences and work shops. People walk them inside or outside. The benefits of walking the labyrinth are deep calm and introspection, and this process is difficult to explain by those who have performed the ritual. Some people become a little mystified by the experience.

The tapestry at Grace Cathedral, in San Francisco, is based on the labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral in France. Underfoot, the tapestry has the feel of a thick pile carpet. It has eleven concentric circles, with a twelfth forming a six petal rosette at the center. The trip from the entrance at the outside edge to the center and back covers a third of a mile and takes about twenty minutes to complete at a casual pace. The methods of walking the path are varied and there is no right way or wrong way to walk it. Some walk normally, others carefully place one foot in front of the other, while others dance. The only main requirements are to remove your shoes to walk the path and resting in the center of the labyrinth to meditate or pray.

There are also different ways to approach the labyrinth. One way is to use it as a walking meditation to quiet the mind. You can repeat a phase as you go or keep your mind tightly focused on following the twists and turns which keeps the restless mind occupied. Another is taking the opportunity to talk to God or ask for help. You can also enter the labyrinth with a question that needs to be answered, tuning in to your intuition as you walk. Some walk the labyrinth as a way of solving personal problems such as issues of finance, physical health, emotions, spiritual and so on. Many people reportedly have heard an inner voice of wisdom while on the spiritual path, while others have found healing in the labyrinth, to overcome the loss of someone or an illness to themselves or someone they know.

As the popularity of labyrinths catches on, we find they are as enjoyable outside as they are inside. Some are made of stone and others are made of turf, surrounded by gardens or woods, which aid in meditation. Reverend Lauren Artress, Grace Cathedral's Canon, created the Labyrinth Project. She travels the country with a portable canvas labyrinth, giving workshops and creating more interest in the spiritual tool. Artress feels by spreading the use of this tool for transformation she is building a cross-cultural spirituality that will serve the planet well in the future.

Grace Cathedral resources offer to the public, a labyrinth making kit for about $130. If you are interested in purchasing a kit or for further information on the Labyrinth contact: The Labyrinth Project Quest; Grace Cathedral, 1051 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA, 94108 or call (415) 749-6300. Visit their web site at ( They have updated and added a Labyrinth locator to find a labyrinth in your area.




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