Now that I have had some time to pause and reflect I wanted to take a little time to talk about Labyrinths, their healing and meditative powers and how useful and appropriate they can be as a tool for the Highly Sensitive Person.
A little background history:
|The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France-- possibly 900 years old|
Photo by Lars Howlett, biomorphic.org, used with permission
I have had labyrinths in my life for a long time. When I lived in Texas, we had a guest house with a flat concrete roof, and created a simple labyrinth there-- outlined in native limestone rocks. That was over 15 years ago. We're currently building a labyrinth in our back yard.
So what's the big deal? What's the attraction? What's the "magic?" And what is it that makes labyrinths such a "perfect fit" for HSPs?
Of course, I can only speak from personal experience, here... your own experience may differ.
Labyrinths and HSPs:
Labyrinths are far more than just "a pretty garden pattern," and should not be confused with "mazes," which are-- possibly-- better known, as designs or puzzles we've seen, at one time or another. The primary difference between a labyrinth and a maze is that a labyrinth has only one path to the center-- a maze is a "puzzle" with blind alleys and multiple "solutions."
|Building the labyrinth in our back yard|
And that's one of the great healing aspects of walking a Labyrinth: it is a meditation. If meditation isn't your thing, it can be a walking prayer. Either way, for HSPs it's a particularly suitable one-- most labyrinths are set in peaceful outdoor locations, or in indoor meditative spaces like churches or temples. Or, of course, you can create one in your own back yard.
The Labyrinth can be-- and often is-- a powerful teacher. I have heard it said that everything that happens in the labyrinth is a metaphor... and I believe this is a very appropriate and true statement.
Another way in which Labyrinths are "HSP friendly" is that walking them is generally a solitary pursuit. Yes, you can absolutely walk a labyrinth with other people... and there's a whole set of lessons associated with that... but most of the time you are walking alone; just you and your thoughts.
You move through a labyrinth at your own pace-- there's essentially no "right" or "wrong" way to go; slow, fast, skipping, dancing.
What Labyrinths Teach Us:
In the broadest sense, the circuits of a labyrinth are a metaphor for the journey of life. The path sometimes take us very close to our goals (the center of the labyrinth), only to lead us back out and back in, several times. Some look at the path through the labyrinth as similar to the path to enlightenment or self-realization-- we think we're getting close, but we're not; we get closer, we move away... and then suddenly we are there. If we walk a labyrinth with a friend-- starting at different times-- we will sometimes come very close to each other, sometimes be far apart, illustrating how we're all "on our path" but not necessarily in the same place.
|Labyrinth at the Hudson Hospital, Hudson, WI|
On a more subtle level, the labyrinth teaches us how to "move towards" something, with purpose. Many people's life strategy is based on "moving AWAY from" things they don't want, rather than towards things they do want. In the labyrinth, movement is towards the center, and the fixed path allows no deviation.
Labyrinths also teach us to be mindful and to listen. Like many spiritual and healing tools, me must be "present" and open to whatever messages are coming our way... or ti simply will not "work." Or, at least, we will not derive significant benefit from the experience.
The Healing Power of the Labyrinth:
Some people say that walking the labyrinth is as direct an experience of God (or a higher power, or "the Source") as you can get. At the same time, walking the labyrinth-- to meditate on a problem, issue or desire, for example-- is an intensely personal experience. There is no "prescribed way," and no book of laws or Scripture to guide you. In many ways, the labyrinth is a place where you get to "be alone with yourself."
|Raked leaf labyrinth at the 2012 TLS Gathering|
What the labyrinth offers is a peaceful and effective way to "problem solve." When I walk a labyrinth, I almost always get answers-- not always the ones I was looking for, mind you, but the ones I needed. You may start walking with one particular "issue" in mind-- and come out with a solution to a completely different problem, and might wonder "why?" Often you'll discover that using the "off topic" answer you were giving "opens space" to address the issue you were originally concerned about.
And often the labyrinth will give you answers in ten minutes that you could not have gotten from three months of psychotherapy. All that's needed is an open mind and an open heart... and a willingness to truly listen.
Maybe this all sounds rather "structured," but I want to reiterate that there's really no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. Perhaps nothing at all will happen-- or perhaps whatever is going to happen will happen later. Perhaps all you'll "get" is 15 minutes of calm that will leave you better equipped to deal with the day ahead.
More About Labyrinths:
There is lots and lots of information about labyrinths online.
The Labyrinth Society (TLS) web site is a good place to start. TLS is a large international organization promoting education and friendship between labyrinth enthusaists worldwide. You might also check out the Veriditas web site. Veriditas is another worldwide organization for those interested in labyrinths. In addition, there are a number of regional and country-wide labyrinth societies around the world.
If you want to find a labyrinth near you, visit the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator-- a joint project of The Labyrinth Society and Veriditas-- which currently contains information about more than 4000 labyrinths in over 70 countries.
Biomorphic.org is Lars Howlett's very interesting and informative site (Facebook page) about many aspects of labyrinths, as well as an ongoing "news stream" about events relating to labyrinths.
Thanks for reading!
This post is a little bit of a departure from the writing I usually do here-- however, this last trip to the Labyrinth Society Gathering (I've been before) really reminded me that Labyrinths are a perfect "match" for HSPs.
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This HSP is also absolutely smitten with labyrinths. Thanks for this sweet ode to them!ReplyDelete
Any time I encounter one, I'm drawn to stop and walk it, or at least admire it if the time for enjoying it fully isn't quite right.
I particularly like looking for roses or pebbles just outside the labyrinth to add to the 'ceremony' of it. I collect rose petals or a few pebbles (or even shells or other small trinkets from Nature) and carry them with me as I walk, and notice, and contemplate. I like to walk into the labyrinth with an intention sometimes, something that I want more of for myself or someone I love or the world. These trinkets help to remind me of my intentions and my connection with the world around me, and help to "carry" my intention as I hold them as I walk. When I reach the center, I leave the trinkets as a sort of offering and blessing, to myself, others who encounter the space, those whom I love and the world.
I LOVE the point that you've made about the labyrinth's power to pull us into our physical bodies. SO important for HSPs as we tend to be or move out of our bodies and into the ethers or our thoughts so much of the time. This level of "being in the body" is exactly why I practice and teach yoga.
Long live the Labyrinth!
Thanks for your comment, and for sharing your labyrinth experience! I also carry a few "ceremonial" items into the labyrinth sometimes-- and I know quite a few have small "shrines" at the center.ReplyDelete
For HSPs, the "getting into the body" is extremely important... and the beauty of the labyrinth is that you don't have to "learn" anything for this to happen, you simply GO.