Recently, I have taken an interest in mazes and labyrinths. When I was young, I found the movie Labyrinth fascinating. This was something I never forgot even though it has been over twenty years. Although I could not fully appreciate the movie then, I watched it again a few months ago and enjoyed myself thoroughly. But it was only yesterday that I realized the error in the movie’s name. You see what the movie depicted was a maze, not a labyrinth. Labyrinths are not supposed to confuse people; they are actually for healing and centring the mind.
What is the Difference between a Maze and a Labyrinth?
For many of us, the word labyrinth is synonymous with maze. But in truth, they are slightly different. A maze is a complex branching (multicursal) left-brain puzzle with choices of paths and directions. Making the wrong choices could lead to dead ends and frustrations. In a maze, it is hard to find your way and easy to become lost.
On the other hand, a single-path (unicursal) labyrinth has a single, non-branching path, which leads to the centre and back. The route is unambiguous and is easy to navigate. A labyrinth is not a complex puzzle. Instead, it can be a great tool for contemplation. But here I am getting a little ahead of myself; let us first look at the background of labyrinths.
Background of Labyrinths
Labyrinths have been around for a few thousand years. They are not exclusive to a culture or country but appear throughout the world. Some of these places include Europe, North Africa, India and America. In fact, many ancient cultures like Greek, Celtic and Mayan used labyrinths for their own ends. But that is not all. Labyrinths also played a part in major religious traditions. During the crusades for example, labyrinths were symbols of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
We can divide labyrinths according to the period that they appear. The earliest types of labyrinths belong to the classical group. They are famous for their simplicity and symbolism. In the classical design, a single pathway loops back and forth to form seven circuits. Eight walls bound the goal that lies in the middle. While seven circuits are common, there are also eleven, twelve or more circuits. Other types of labyrinths are of Roman, Medieval and Contemporary designs.
The Benefits of Walking a Labyrinth
When you walk a labyrinth, you will find that the twist and turns cause your awareness to shift from the right to left-brain. This helps to open your mind to ideas. Personally, I enjoy using a labyrinth to relax. I find that tracing my finger along the many loops helps to take my mind off matters. Here are some other uses of walking the labyrinth.
How to Walk a Labyrinth
Walking a labyrinth is as simple as tracing your finger or cursor along the path. As I move towards the centre, I clear my mind of thoughts. Upon reaching the centre, I take the time to be aware. After which, I begin my journey outwards to finish the process.
I am no expert on using the labyrinth since this is all rather new to me. Here are some of the links that I found helpful concerning the use of the labyrinth.
Have you ever used a labyrinth for contemplation? What are your thoughts about it? Do you have any other views about the labyrinth? Do share your views and comments below.