Monday, 7 July 2014

Why a labyrinth…?

A received a wise and gratefully received question yesterday … Sarah said she didn't know much about the spirituality of labyrinths, and what does a labyrinth mean to me? Great questions! So here goes, the best way I can…

The Chartres cathedral - and Tree House - design.

Labyrinths go back thousands of years - some say as far as 6000BC. It is so long ago that there is no one definitive answer to the question of age, but they do seem to have been found in almost every country in the world. The Romans, the Native American Indians, the Aborigines, Maori, Celts, and many, many more seem to have had them etched in rocks, laid out in stone in the ground, stitched into garments, and more… It is said that monks used to draw them on the floor of their tiny cells and walk them to portray their walk to Jerusalem; the path of a labyrinth is the longest path possible within the circumference of a circle. The popularity of labyrinths has waxed and waned over the centuries, but they are enjoying a another rise in this early part of the 21st century - maybe in response to humanity's desire to come out of the head and reconnect to the spiritual blueprint.

This ancient labyrinth was etched into rock at St Nectan's Glen, near Tintagel, Cornwall. UK

The labyrinth is one continuous path from the start to the centre - you cannot get lost - and the twists and turns activate the right brain. A maze is designed to get you lost; it has many dead ends, this to get you thinking which activates the left brain. Put simply, left brain activity is very stimulating, and right brain activity is very calming - the side activated in meditation. The labyrinth path is symbolic of our walk through life as we search for guidance, meaning and purpose. There are as many designs as paths through life, and this Chartres labyrinth design was laid down in Chartres Cathedral in circa 1200.

A maze is designed with dead-ends in order to get you lost and get you thinking. (And stressed out!)

The labyrinth can often be seen as a 'magical tool', and indeed magic often seems to happen, but it this is really from the spiritual practice of stepping up to the plate; of humility, of taking responsibility and setting intention for something to change in our life, of coming before something bigger than our human self and agreeing to be open to something new. This might be coming before God to some, before the Buddha to others, before The Great Central Sun, our own Higher Power or Soul - each to their own place - but to come in with open heart and empty mind. Thus it becomes a spiritual practice, and one that isn't in our logical brain, but in our wisdom brain.

What does a labyrinth mean to me? For some reason - as I wrote in blog #1 - the labyrinth has fascinated me long before I even saw one! There's been a sort of inner memory - a bit like knowing you just have to visit a certain country or place, but have no idea why. There is something about the geometry of the design that speaks to something deep within; the order amongst the chaos, or the chaos within order. I was always drawing patterns when I was a child - maybe this was why! When I first saw the labyrinth in Grace Cathedral, tears pricked at the corners of my eyes and all I can say is that I felt I was greeting an old friend. It was as if something inside me knew I needed this ancient and powerful presence for my growth - something seriously big to get me out of my head and into my heart!

The Tree House labyrinth nearing completion….

As the labyrinth here at Tree House grows and becomes ever closer to being fully finished, I feel more and more grateful that this great gift came into my life. This evening, as I walked it in the moonlight, I felt an overwhelmingly full heart, and humbled beyond belief. Another day I felt a clarity pour into a difficult situation, and on another, a peace and 'ok-ness' that was most welcome. Each day brings a new gift, some more noticeable than others, and my part is simply to take myself there as often as possible and put one foot in front of the other with an open heart and empty mind. And that others will be able to come and walk this path, too, warms my heart greatly.

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