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Why the Labyrinth?

While planning the design of this website, I always knew that the labyrinth would be a part of it. The white circular image you see in the left-hand corner of my website is known as the classic eleven-circuit Chartres Labyrinth. In its centre is a stylized flower with six petals that stand for various realms of existence – Mineral, Plant, Animal, Human, Divine, and Unknown. Labyrinths differ from mazes in that they have one path that always leads to the centre, rather than having “blind alleys” that force you to back-track and find the “right” way.

Walking the labyrinth is a lot like life – you choose to step in and have to trust that you are on the right path. Sometimes you may be walking a straight line for a long time, feeling like things are set in their ways and unlikely to change. You may be surprised by a sudden turn that requires you to go in a new direction, maybe even to double back in the direction you just came from. You may feel disoriented, annoyed, like it’s not fair!  Or you may be excited and relieved, as the direction you were going in a moment ago was not where you truly wanted to go. At times you’ll feel like you’re close to the prize – the centre of the labyrinth where you can rest, hang out, watch the world go by. However, the winding path will turn on itself and will spin you back out to the very edges before you know it.

While walking the labyrinth, you will encounter other walkers. You may be overtaken by those that are faster, or may have to step ahead of those who are slower. Some walkers may intrigue you because they have something you want. Others may annoy you because they’re doing it “wrong”. Maybe they walk too fast or slow, their feet make too much noise as they walk, or they look at you funny. Just based on an impression, you may form judgements about who they are and what it’s like to interact with them. You may worry about the judgements they form about you, and the assumptions they make about what it’s like to interact with you. Yes, walking the labyrinth is a lot like life…

As a psychologist, I find the labyrinth a powerful metaphor for what happens in therapy. The client and therapist have to trust that they are walking somewhere meaningful, that each step will deepen the process, and that insight or growth will happen when the destination (or centre) is reached. They then walk out again, preparing to take the meaning into the “real” world, where change truly matters.

On a personal level, the labyrinth is a very meaningful image for me. I walk the labyrinth regularly to clear my head, get in touch with my own intuition, and remember that change happens, and the path is not always straight-forward and predictable.

Do you have any images or practices that give you perspective on life?
Something in nature, a symbol, a word, or a story?
Do you remember its lessons when life is challenging?

 If you are interested in finding out more about labyrinths, you can check out the following:

  • Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool. Book by Dr. Lauren Artress.
  • To walk a labyrinth in Vancouver’s West End, look for the Labyrinth tab on http://stpaulsanglican.bc.ca. Please note that while this labyrinth is in a Christian church, labyrinths are not associated with a particular religion and can be walked by anyone.
  •   To find other Labyrinths internationally: http://labyrinthlocator.com