At the Rolling Ridge conference center there was a double labyrinth, each a bit different. But one thing I found interesting about them is their use of standing stones along the path. They seemed to me to be silently watching sentinels guiding your journey. (I tried not to think of them as gravestones but that might be another message!)
It was early in the season of course so the paths were not raked of their autumn leaves but I actually liked walking on the fallen leaves; leaves that were returning to their source which we all must do in the end. There was quite a bit of moss as well...soft and inviting and I felt compelled to reach down and feel it.
The biggest challenge to these labyrinths was the fact that they were built around trees. You had to step over or around the roots and at some points it was a bit unclear where to go even though a labyrinth is usually a clear path.
The following are the five parts of labyrinth walking as I define the process. If you set out on this form of walking meditation you might like to try them.
Letting Go: Spend a few minutes before you actually begin your walk shedding the concerns you might be carrying with you. Symbolically wrap them up and let them stay to one side. You can pick them up later when you return from your inner journey. You might want to focus your walk on one idea, one thought that is weighing on your mind. Make it your intention. Spend a moment imbedding it in your heart and try to quiet your mind to all other thoughts.
Concentrated walking: Walk into the labyrinth, into its sacred space with reverence. Set your own pace. This is not a race to the center! Walk slowly and with intention; feel the freedom to stop from time to time. I keep my eyes on the path right in front of my feet. I don't look at my "goal" and I take it one step at a time. I will sometimes repeat a phrase or word that is linked to my intention for the walk. Some people like to listen to music as they walk but I just like to hear my footsteps, the wind in the trees and any birdsong that might be there. I try to welcome them all into my experience.
Centering Illumination: When you do reach the center, spend some time centering yourself and opening your heart to hear any illumination you might receive. Some people like to sit down and spend some time in the center...do what feels right for you. Do not be concerned if no grand insights are forth coming. Labyrinth walking is like all forms of meditation. You become more proficient at it the more you do it.
Journeying Back: The journey back is, in some respects, as important as the journey to the center. It is a time to integrate what you have come to know during your walk and process any feelings that might have arisen. In pilgrimage, and a labyrinth can be seen as a pilgrimage, this stage is sometimes referred to as "bringing back the boon". You want to incorporate any new thoughts you've gathered into your everyday life.
Crossing the Threshold: The moment you step out of the sacred space of the labyrinth you must acknowledge this liminal moment. I turn back and face the center and honor it in some way. It might just be saying thank you...find a way to show your gratitude for the experience. Pick up those concerns you left when you entered but you might, as I often do, simply leave them behind. They sometimes don't feel all that important to me anymore.
You can visit my labyrinth locator in the right side bar under links to find one near you. Visit my my board on Pinterest for more labyrinth inspiration if you'd like...