Experiencing a Labyrinth for the First Time

Labyrinth walking in D R Congo
Labyrinth in Sister Bay, Wisconsin
Walking the labyrinth in Chin State, Myanmar

The Labyrinth is easy to use. Here’s what helpful to know:

  1. There is just one path that leads to and from the center in a labyrinth. You cross the threshold, follow the path in to the center, enjoy your experience there for as long as you like, and take the same path back out across the threshold.  (This is not a maze—there are no dead ends in a labyrinth, only turning points that lead one closer to the goal.)
  2. Feel free to walk around other people if their pace is different, or if they stop. It’s okay for other people to move around you. If you feel “tippy” or dizzy, it may be helpful to slow down, speed up, or focus on a point in the distance. Some find it helpful to stop at each turn. The path can be a two-way street. Do what comes naturally when you meet someone else, just as you would if you were walking on a narrow sidewalk.
  3. Take advantage of this opportunity to pray with your whole body. Give yourself permission to follow the intuitions and desires that come. Be open to your body expressing itself through gestures, movements, or the flow of tears. Don’t be trapped by the thought, “I can’t do that, other people are watching!” Other people are busy with their own labyrinth experiences.
  4. You can’t get lost on a labyrinth, but you can get turned around. If you move off the path and forget which way you were heading when you step back on, you will either end up at the threshold or the center.  From there you can decide to continue or end your experience.
  5. You may choose to walk the path from the threshold to the center and from the center back out, or to explore the labyrinth pattern in another way.  For instance, you may wish to walk around the labyrinth, experience it by witnessing other­s as they move on it, sit beside it—the possibilities are limitless! If an idea comes, try it! For some ideas see Living the Labyrinth.
  6. Many have experienced the labyrinth as a mirror where it is possible to view one’s life internally and externally at the same time. Open your heart; open your mind to what you may notice. Be compassionate with yourself; judging yourself isn’t helpful!
  7. Labyrinth experiences are seldom “done” when one leaves the pattern. You may wish to journal, walk around the labyrinth, use art supplies to explore the meanings of your time on the labyrinth, or sit quietly to let what has begun continue to grow. You may not become aware of all the meanings of your labyrinth encounter for hours, days or even months!
  8. Witnessing others as they move in prayer can be a very meaningful way of readying yourself for your prayer on a labyrinth. One of the many gifts the labyrinth offers us is a place to practice watching others with eyes of prayer rather than eyes of judgment.
  9. Before you enter, let go of any expectations about what may happen during your labyrinth experience.  Pay attention whatever develops as you move in prayer. Try to let go of thoughts that distract you from being present to the experience.
  10. It is often helpful to respond to your labyrinth experience by writing, drawing, or using some other creative process.
    People of faith have been walking this prayer path for centuries. Now it is your turn.