Frequently Asked Questions about Labyrinths
What is a labyrinth?
A labyrinth is a simple contemplative pathway used for walking meditation. It has been described as a stress management tool and a watering hole for the spirit. Walking the labyrinth is a detour from the everyday path of our lives – an opportunity to slow down and reflect. Its an easy way to meditate - to simply quiet the mind and open the heart.
How do you walk a labyrinth?
Generally speaking, there are three phases to the walk: Releasing on the way in – letting go of distractions and that which no longer serves you. Receiving a sense of peace and calm as you pause in the centre. Returning as you follow the same path back out of the labyrinth, preparing to engage with the world in a different way.
To prepare, you may want to sit quietly to reflect before walking the labyrinth. Some people come with questions, others just to slow down and take time out from a busy life. Some come to find strength to take the next step. Many come during times of grief and loss. Its winding path becomes a metaphor for our journey and where we find ourselves on the path. There is really no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth.
Is it like a maze?
No. A maze has several different paths and lots of dead ends. A labyrinth has only one path and no dead ends, so you can’t get lost. A maze is an intellectual exercise and a labyrinth is a spiritual one.
Is it a Christian thing?
Yes and no. It has been used in Christian Cathedrals in Europe since the 13th century, but there are simpler versions of the labyrinth which are more than 4000 years old. Ancient examples have been found in Europe, India, China and North and South America.
So is it a Pagan thing?
Its broader than any one particular religion. It is a universal and non-denominational symbol – an inclusive sacred space which welcomes people of all faiths.
If its so old why haven’t I heard of it before?
Use of the labyrinth in Europe fell out of favour around the end of the 17th Century, coinciding with the cultural shift in emphasis to rational, linear thinking. The labyrinth with its slow meandering path has lain dormant for the last 300 years.
So what’s changed?
In the last 15 years there has been a revival of interest in the labyrinth and a return to this lovely ‘slow cooking’ form of contemplation. Perhaps it was in response to the frenetic pace of modern life, but also because it addresses the spiritual hunger of our times. People are looking for ways to centre and calm themselves. Walking the labyrinth is the easy way to meditate – to quiet the mind and open the heart.
How is the labyrinth being used today?
In the last decade in the United States, more than 200 labyrinths have been built in hospitals alone. They are also being built in universities, parks, schools and thousands of people are building them in their gardens and backyards. There are many different therapeutic applications for the labyrinth apart from the general well-being of the community. Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington DC has recently installed a labyrinth to help veterans dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Westmead Children’s Hospital recently installed a Chartres style labyrinth. It is also a powerful tool for dealing with grief – a way to walk your sorrow and begin to integrate it. There are schools using the labyrinth to help children deal with Attention Deficit Disorder. The labyrinth helps them centre and calm themselves and concentrate for longer periods of time. People use the labyrinth as a ceremonial space to hold weddings and other threshold celebrations.
Where can I find a labyrinth to walk?
There are a few labyrinths around Australia and thousands around the world. Here is a link to the worldwide labyrinth locator http://labyrinthlocator.com/ They list both public and private labyrinths.
Why not just go bushwalking?
Bushwalking is a wonderful way to quiet the mind and open the heart. The difference is that walking the labyrinth is a specific contemplative practice distilled over thousands of years. The labyrinth is a powerful metaphor for our journey through life.
Why is it going to cost $500,000?
This labyrinth will be the definitive example in Australia – a landmark labyrinth. The site will be Centennial Park, home of Australian Federation on lands bequeathed by Governor Macquarie, so this labyrinth needs to be something really special – and it will be. Aesthetically, it will be a thing of great beauty – a significant work of public art. The Centennial Park Labyrinth will be a sandstone replica of the most famous labyrinth in the world, which was built in the Chartres Cathedral in early 13th century. This iconic park demands a work of international standard – on a par with the superb limestone labyrinth in the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. We have made a strong commitment to the integrity of the original Chartres design according to the principles of sacred geometry with which this labyrinth was originally created. It will be constructed using the highest quality, heritage grade Wonderbyne sandstone, ensuring quality, density and durability. For more information click here
Why is the path the width that it is?
The Chartres labyrinth was created using the principles of sacred geometry, wherein every measurement and ratio is in proportion to each other. This generates the sense of harmony we feel when we look at and experience walking it. The path is approximately13 inches wide (34cm) and 860 feet long (262metres). The width of the path determines the intensity of the experience. If you made it wider it may seem easy to navigate the turns, but it would detract from the transformational possibilities offered by the original, more concentrated design. For more information, go to http://www.labyrinthos.net/chartresfaq.html
What direction does the Centennial Park Labyrinth face?
These are desk top labyrinths which were originally created for people in hospital. You run your finger along the path and it has a calming effect similar to walking the labyrinth. You literally ‘walk’ the labyrinth with your fingers…
Here are some websites from which you can purchase finger labyrinths:
For more on labyrinths see: