Twelve years ago, when I was in treatment for alcoholism, I attended a workshop on the History and Meaning of the Labyrinth. This was a half-day workshop organized by the Spiritual Advisor at the treatment center. I was very depressed at that time and being at the workshop was a requirement, so I was there, in attendance, as I was expected to do. I assumed, as many people do, that labyrinths and mazes were synonymous and before the workshop began, I was engaging in negative reflections, equating my entire life as being stuck and lost in a maze. The Facilitator began by explaining the difference between a labyrinth and a maze. She said that mazes have many entrances and exits, many paths with dead ends and cul de sacs but that labyrinths, although resembling mazes upon cursory observation, have only one path. In spite of the winding nature of the labyrinth, there is no way to get lost if you follow the path. When I heard this my interest was piqued and I listened with more interest.
When our lecture about the history and meaning of labyrinths was finished, we were invited to walk a large labyrinth painted on canvas in an adjacent room. I cleared my mind and set an intention of just being open-minded as I began my walk. I found myself reflecting on my life and letting go. When I reached the center, I was calm and able to receive an intuitive message that my life was not wasted and not a dead end. The paths I had taken were the ones I needed to travel in order to be at the center of that very labyrinth, right then and there. I felt the freedom of a release of psychic burdens that I had been carrying for a very long time. I meditated, mindfully, in the center of the labyrinth and when I felt ready to leave, I experienced a mounting sense of energy, forgiveness and joy. In the space of two hours, my whole perspective had changed from one of despair to hope. I had experienced something transformative.
I recently attended a workshop in order to become a Trained Labyrinth Facilitator and the woman leading the workshop was The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, labyrinth scholar, Episcopalian Priest and Therapist. Dr. Artress is the person most responsible for renewing interest in the labyrinth as a meditative and spiritual tool in 1991. I’m certain that the labyrinth facilitators that put on the workshop that I attended in 2007 were influenced and inspired by Dr. Artress and her work and here I was attending her workshop! I felt as if I had come full circle – from someone in need of the transformative powers of the labyrinth to someone helping others along the way.
“The labyrinth, in its strange and uncanny way, offers a sacred and stable space to focus the attention and listen to the longing of the soul.”
~Dr. Lauren Artress