Walking the Labyrinth: A Meditative Journey
The Labyrinth at St. Luke's in Ottawa. This labyrinth was installed as part of the church renovations in 2013.
Generally, a labyrinth is a complex and circuitous path that leads from a beginning point to a center. Some people consder mazes, which have branching paths, some of which lead to dead ends, to be a type of labyrinth. Others consider labyrinths to be distinct from mazes, where a labyrinth is not a puzzle to be solved but a meditative journey. The path winds its way from beginning to end, the turns taking one alternately toward and away from the centre or goal. A single-path labyrinth is also called a 'meander.'
Labyrinths are ancient and are found in many cultures. The modern name comes from the myth of the Minotaur, a monster who lived in the centre of a labyrinth. When I visited Knossos, near Heraklion in Crete, I was told that the word labyrinth was derived from labrys. Labrys is the word for the double-bladed axe that was essentially the logo of the city of Knossos. Some think that the city (or palace) of Knossos was itself the original 'labyrinth' because it was a single large building that included residential apartments for the citizens, as well as craft shops, storehouses, a market, and the royal court, with hallways and corridors for getting around rather than streets.
I think of labyrinths as a mindfulness practice or perhaps as a metaphor for navigating the world or making a time for contemplation. You can walk a labyrinth alone or with others. There are a number of labyrinths in the Ottawa area, including one that is part of the pavement in the courtyard at All Saint's Anglican Church in Westboro (see photo).
There is a fine indoor labyrinth at St. Luke's Anglican Church on Somerset west of Bronson. Their original labyrinth was laid out on the floor in the church basement in 2007. Their current labyrinth was installed during renovations to the sanctuary, completed in 2013. This new labyrinth is shown as the background on the St. Luke's website. For several years, the original labyrinth at St. Luke's was featured as part of Jane's Walk Ottawa-Gatineau. The 2013 walk description can be viewed here.
Another Ottawa-area labyrinth that has been featured in Jane's Walk is an outdoor labyrinth installed in the W.J. Bell Rotary Peace Park in Stittsville. The walk page for that tour is here.
You can experience another kind of labyrinth meditation by downloading a labyrinth diagram and using your finger to follow the path. You can learn more about using a finger labyrinth here. This video shows a labyrinth app that can be downloaded for iOS or Android.
A video showing how to draw your own classical labyrinth patterns based on various shapes is here.
More information on labyrinths can be found at these sites:
The Labyrinth Society: https://labyrinthsociety.org/about-labyrinths
The Contemplative Mind: https://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree/labyrinth
The Theosophical Society: The Labyrinth: A Brief Introduction to its History, Meaning, and Use
World Labyrinth Day for 2022 is Saturday, May 7.