|Walking the Labyrinth at Chartres Catherdral by Daderot|
I think of that story every time I walk a labyrinth. Luckily, there are many where I live. They can be found in chapels and green spaces, even backyards. Whenever I travel, I look to see if there will be one near my destination.
The labyrinth combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but meaningful path. It is a powerful metaphor for life's journey, but it also provides a particularly satisfying neurological experience. Our brains operate differently in a labyrinth, it seems, and therefore, we become different people, even for just a few minutes.
To understand labyrinths, you must first understand that a labyrinth is not a maze. Mazes must be solved, a left brain activity that involves choices and an active mind and logical, sequential, linear thinking. A maze is multicursal, with many paths. If you don't pay attention, you can get lost in one.
Not so with a labyrinth. It is unicursal – one way in, one way out. There are no decisions, no choices, no thinking required. The only choice is to enter. To walk one is a right brain activity involving intuition, creativity, and imagination, and it requires a receptive mindset. You must trust the path, surrender to it.
A labyrinth is not a puzzle; it is a mystery. Theologian Diogenes Allen illuminates the difference: "When a problem is solved, it is over and done with. We go on to other problems. But a mystery, once recognized, is something we are never finished with. Instead, we return to it again and again and it unfolds new levels to us. Mysteries, to be known, must be entered into. We do not solve mysteries. The deeper we enter into them, the more illumination we get. Still greater depths are revealed to us the further we go."
With a labyrinth, the journey really is the destination. We've all heard that old saying, but sometimes it seems little more than an admonition to enjoy the scenery, like life is a train ride, with all the countryside of Life just flying by unless one pays attention.
The labyrinth offers a different truth. It teaches that life is lived step by step. In the metaphorical labyrinth, like in real labyrinths, there is only one way in and one way out, so you can't get lost. And unlike the labyrinth of Greek myth, you will find no monster in the middle – only yourself.
You'll find yourself at the end too, only not the same you who went in. And likewise, the labyrinth has changed too, by your presence within it, so the only thing to do is go back inside, again and again and again.
If you're interested in exploring a labyrinth yourself, you can find one in your location by using the World Wide Labyrinth Locator. It lists the locations to over 5200 labyrinths; it's also a good place to learn about different types of labyrinths and other fascinating tidbits.