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  The Labyrinth     

Walking the Way of Wisdom


A Path of Spiritual Growth


A Tool for Inner Work

HISTORY OF THE LABYRINTH

The labyrinth has been featured in cultures worldwide as a pattern of initiation and transformation.  It has been used in many different religious ways by many peoples.  The development of the high medieval Christian 7-circuit labyrinth with it's path of 7circles was shaped like a cross and thus incorporated the central Christian symbol.  Use o the labyrinths flourished in Europe throughout the 11th and 12th centuries.  Medieval pilgrims, unable to fulfill their desire to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, went instead to many pilgrimage sites in Europe and Britain.  In many cases the end of their journey was a labyrinth formed of stone and laid the floor of the nave of one of these Gothic Cathedrals.  The center of the labyrinths probably represented for pilgrims the Holy City itself and thus became the substitute goal of the journey.
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WHAT IS THE LABYRINTH?

The labyrinth offers us a way of journeying, inviting us into a sacred quiet place.  It is a place where we can experience profound silence.  It is a place where we can abandon the busyness of life, to escape the fast lane, to take a daily mini-vacation.  It is a place that offers us the opportunity to be present to the Holy One and to our inner selves.  To walk the labyrinth is to make a pilgrimage to discover something about ourselves and God.  The labyrinth is not magic, but it is full of mystery.  It produces different results for everyone - or perhaps none at all.  To walk the labyrinth is to take a precious "time out" - to be refreshed.  There is no dogma associated with the labyrinth.  A person simply brings his or her personal thoughts, spiritual needs - maybe a specific problem, or an important life decision to be made.

There are some issues related to our human condition and to our destiny that require contemplation.  Humans need to set aside their usual tasks and take the tie to seriously reflect on these issues.  Such contemplation has at least two prerequisites: it takes time, and it requires some modicum of silence.  The labyrinth is a perfect vehicle to satisfy both prerequisites.  Moments of silent contemplation allow the profound truths of life to sink in.

The labyrinth is divided neatly into four quarters around a cross, standing in the medieval mind for the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and also for the four stages of the Liturgy, the Word, Offertory, Consecration, and Communion.  Walking the labyrinth may also model the classical 3-fold spiritual path.

Purgation: Walking in, emptying, or letting go.

Illumination: Time in the center, clarity, insight.

Union: Walking out, initiative, integration, and action in the world.

The labyrinth is also a symbol of the individuation process.  Walking into the center can help us deal with obstacles that hinder our growth.  In the center we can dialogue with the Divine and receive insight, freedom, joy.  Walking out, we become someone new and experience energy as CO-creators for making God visible.  Walking the labyrinth gives us the opportunity to rid ourselves of anger, it can soothe us, open our minds to imagination and creativity.  It slows us down.  It enables us to connect mind, body and spirit.

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SUGGESTIONS FOR WALKING THE LABYRINTH?

The labyrinth is a path for prayer and meditation.  Collect yourself before you start.  Sit and rest at one of the benches for a while.  Take off your shoes if weather permits.  Walking barefoot on sacred ground is a rewarding experience.  Think of different people, events, situations, places or things in your life to develop a specific intention as you walk.  Get centered.

There are many ways of walking: Two are the WAY OF SILENCE and the WAY OF IMAGEIn choosing the way of silence it might be helpful to focus on breathing.  The way of image might be done by reciting a prayer or a name for God over and over to yourself.  Ask yourself: How am I loved?  How do I love?  In either way or in some other manner best suited to you, be open  to your heart and mind.  Pay attention to your thoughts as they rise and then let them go.

The labyrinth is a place of presence; allow yourself to be present to yourself and to God.  The labyrinth is a teacher; let it teach you through the mysterious power of God.  As you walk the path, thoughts and ideas may rise up for you and in you - often in refreshing and startling ways.

One way to feel more connected to the experience is, again, to walk barefoot and slowly.  There is no need to rush.  Some people feel a sense of confusion as they first start; remember there is only one path in and one path out.  You will not get lost.  For some people walking as quickly as possible to the center, resting there, and then walking quickly out is a powerful experience.  You set your own pace and pattern for your journey.

Here are a few suggestions in ways of walking the labyrinth:

Gracious Attention:  Let all thoughts go.  Allow a sense of attention to flow through you.

Ask a Question:    Focus on a question.  Walk with a listening heart.

Use Repetition:    Repeat a word, mantra, or phrase over and over.

Offer petitions:   Bring to mind persons or issues for which you wish to pray.

Honor a Benchmark:   A birthday, a life-style change, an anniversary.  A memorial can be the focus of your walk.

Body Power:    Move spontaneously as your body wishes.  Dance the path.  Move your arms and legs, bend and sway.

To inquire about the RCIA, email AL GARROTTO @ alg@blsinc.com

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