Walking the Labyrinth as a Meditative Process

Release, Receive, Return – An Introduction to Walking the Labyrinth with Sara Elderfield

The Labyrinth - which is not a maze!

The modern founder of the Labyrinth movement, Lauren Artress writes, “Labyrinths are usually in the form of a circle with a meandering but purposeful path, from the edge to the centre and back out again. Each one has only one path, and once we make the choice to enter it, the path becomes a metaphor for our own journey through life.”

Labyrinths are understood as meditation devices/tools like The Stations of the Cross or pilgrimages that allow us to bodily enter a story/narrative/mythological journey that we can trace with our feet as well as with our eyes. What we ultimately come to feel and know to be true for ourselves about our experiences in life and of Life must be grounded in the body to be truly ours. Thus, they are and we are embodied. I.e. When we know that something is true for us or right for us, it is never just a thought or an idea – we feel and know it with all of ourselves… it is visceral.

No special training, skill, level of fitness or beliefs are required for walking the Labyrinth as a meditative process. Rather, learning to listen to ourselves deeply while maintaining awareness of the ‘outer’ and responding to our experiences with curiosity and gentleness is at the heart of the work.

A Little Labyrinth History…

In medieval churches, labyrinths - once common, but now existing only in a few churches - were sometimes called Chemins à Jérusalem (Roads to Jerusalem) and the centre of the Labyrinth was the symbolic Jerusalem or ‘Heaven’. (Psychologically, this can be described as realizing an embodied experience of the self as being well-integrated, individuated and authentic). Although the historian of mazes and labyrinths W.H. Matthews cautions that there is no written evidence on their intended use, it is widely thought that labyrinths offered the possibility of compressing a long and potentially dangerous pilgrimage into the compact space of a church floor, with the challenges of spiritual and psychological progress represented by the twists and turns…

But Labyrinths are not merely Christian meditation devices, though they always represent some kind of journey, sometimes one of initiation, death and rebirth, courtship or salvation, sometimes of gratitude. Some seem merely to signify the complexity of any journey, the difficulty of finding or knowing one’s way in this life. They were much mentioned by the ancient Greeks, and although the legendary labyrinth of Crete in which the minotaur was imprisoned has never been found and probably never existed, the shape now called the Cretan Labyrinth appeared on Greek coins. Other labyrinths have been found carved in rocks in Sardinia; cleared in the stony desert surface in southern Arizona and California; made of mosaic by the Romans. In Scandinavia, there are almost 500 known labyrinths made of stones laid out upon the earth; until the 20th century, fishermen would walk them before putting out to sea to ensure good catches or favourable winds.

The Modern Practice of Labyrinth Walking

Each person’s experience of the Labyrinth is different, and each walk is also different because nothing is permanent including our states of mind or heart. For this reason, I do not want to pre-empt peoples’ experience by creating expectations of what may occur but I do like Lauren’s description below…

“Walking the labyrinth clears the mind and gives insight into the spiritual journey. It urges action. It calms people in the throes of life transitions. It helps them see their lives in the context of a path, a pilgrimage. They realise that they are not human beings on a spiritual path, but spiritual beings on a human path”. Lauren Artress in Walking a Sacred Path.

Sara Elderfield is a meditation and yoga teacher and Feldenkrais Practitioner. She began studying with her meditation teacher, Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche in 1993 and teaching yoga in 1996. In 2009, Sara graduated from the Feldenkrais Training and is the current organiser for the Perth Feldenkrais Practitioner Training Programme. She teaches weekly classes and sees private clients for yoga and Feldenkrais lessons at the Yoga Moves studio in Shenton Park. In 2016 and 2017, she travelled to Chartres to attend Lauren Artress’ retreats and Labyrinth Facilitator training course. Since 2000, Sara has been leading annual overseas retreats (Bali, Nepal, Vietnam, Tibet and France) sharing yoga, meditation, Feldenkrais and experiential and contemplative exercises which help to illuminate the inner journey of each participant in a way that enhances the quality of their everyday lives. In October 2017, our retreat group had the fortuitous opportunity to privately walk the Labyrinth in Chartres at night with author, photographer and teacher, Jill Geoffrion.

Saturday 6th January 1pm – 5.30pm Part 1: Introduction to Walking the Labyrinth

Saturday 27th January 1pm – 5.30pm Part 2: Walking the Labyrinth

Both days will include preparatory contemplations, guided meditations and some gentle bodywork as well as at least one Labyrinth walk.

Time: 1pm – 5.30pm with breaks. Tea and coffee provided.

Venue: Yoga Moves/Centre for Movement Studio, 45 Evans Street, Shenton Park (opposite Lake Jualbup, next to the Masonic Hall, 78 Herbert Road).

Pre-requisites: There may be some questions related to the topic to consider and perhaps a short reading or a YouTube video to watch pre-course, but I will let you know closer to the time.

Venue: Yoga Moves/Centre for Movement Studies Studio, 45 Evans Street, Shenton Park (opposite the lake).

What to bring: You will need to wear clothing that you can move and breath in (no tight waistbands, jeans or belts etc). Mats, cushions, bolsters and/or chairs are available at the studio for use but please bring your own if you prefer your own equipment.

Cost:  $88 per workshop or $77 per workshop early birds (paid by Tues 2nd January). Includes GST.

Bookings and questions: Please email Sara by return email. Numbers will be limited to 16. We will be using movement as our main ‘technique’ which means that the lessons may not be suitable for some people with chronic pain issues and indeed, I will need to discuss medical conditions and injuries with anyone unknown to me or not currently attending my classes.  Please register your interest in attending by contacting Sara: sara@yogamoves.net.au or 0415 363 313.