How to Walk the Labyrinth

One Christian approach to walking the labyrinth is based on the threefold path of Purgation, Illumination and Union.

Purgation: The journey inward. During this stage you let go of concerns, and empty and quiet the mind. Take your time.

Illumination: The time in the center. This is a time of openness and peacefulness; you experience, learn or receive what this unique moment offers. Take your time.

Union: The journey outward. You choose when to leave the center. The path out is that of becoming grounded and integrating the insight. It is being energized and making what was received manifest in the world.

There are three stages, but one path, and it is different for everyone and different each time you walk.

Palms Down, Palms Up

Palms down symbolizes release or letting go, while palms up indicates receiving.

Enter the labyrinth and walk to the center with palms down while centering your thoughts on letting go of conflict and concern.

Upon reaching the center, turn your palms up to be receptive to insight.

As you walk out of the labyrinth keep your palms up to receive strength and guidance to make your insights manifest. As you leave the labyrinth turn to face the center and bring your palms together for a prayerful end to your walk.

Other Approaches

Intentional walks: where you address a specific intention, issue or concern as you walk.

Intercessory walks: offer prayer for people or needs, perhaps praying for a different person at each turn on the path.

Meditative walks: meditate on a specific word or passage, or pray repetitively, such as the Jesus prayer (Lord, have mercy...) or the universal prayer for world peace (Let peace prevail on Earth).

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St. Paul's Labyrinth

St. Paul's labyrinth is a Classic Seven Labyrinth, a simple design often called the 'Cretan,' referring to the design found on ancient coins on the Island of Crete. It is also the oldest style, found in many cultures as early as 1500 BCE. Actual usage theories vary depending on the time and culture. Its distinguishing features are: 7 circuits, and egg-like shape and the turns are in the lower part of the labyrinth. Unlike a maze, the labyrinth is unicursal, having a single path leading to the center with no loops, cul-de-sacs or forks. They all share the basic features of an entrance or mouth, a single circuitous path and a center or goal.

Medieval Christians visited Chartres and other cathedrals and walked the labyrinth as an alternative to taking a hazardous pilgrimage to Jerusalem to walk in the footsteps of Christ. Modern 'pilgrims' walk the labyrinthine path as one of many tools to enhance prayer, contemplation, meditation and/or other personal growth.

Labyrinths are used by modern mystics to help achieve a contemplative state. Walking among the turnings, one loses track of direction and of the outside world, and thus quiets his/her mind. The result is a relaxed mental attitude, free of internal dialog - perfect for listening to the small, still voice of God.

To walk the labyrinth, begin by setting the environment. At organized walks, your facilitator prepares by perhaps selecting music and saying opening prayers. Set your personal environment by dropping your 'physical baggage' such as key chains, pocket change, cell phones, watches and dangling jewelry. We suggest you remove watches to remove the temptation to measure your progress chronologically. Enjoy the sounds of the outdoors and experience a walk (barefoot, maybe?) on our labyrinth. You are welcome to walk the labyrinth at St. Paul's whenever you would like.