What is a labyrinth?
It is a single path that meanders throughout a usually circular form, leading finally to the center. As the body moves, the mind quiets – freeing the spirit within to lift images and feelings to the conscious mind. Within the safe, gentle container of the labyrinth, release of pain and sorrow, of negative ways of thinking, or of the difficulty of making a tough decision gives way to the loving, healing presence of God. The center provides a place to meditate, pray, and bask in the assurance that God is there for us, full of understanding, compassion, strength, and guidance for the rest of our journey.
The labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool
In response to the spiritual hunger of our times, the labyrinth has emerged as an effective tool for spiritual feasting. Why are so many of us drawn to it? It is a divine imprint, an archetype of the spiritual journey. Upon seeing it, some deep part of us responds with the knowledge that walking it can bring healing for our soul, relief from our aloneness, and a sense of the peaceful, nourishing presence of God. The Labyrinth Guild at Good Samaritan Church offers this accessible path of pilgrimage prayer to the public in the hope that we may help others to a deeper, more satisfying relationship with the Holy, gracious and loving God, who is ever more ready to give than we are to receive.
Where did it come from?
This ancient tool has been known to diverse cultures and religions for hundreds of years, from Cretans and Celts to Hopis and Mayans. In the ninth century Santa Lucca Cathedral in Italy had a labyrinth on the wall for people to trace with their fingers before they entered the cathedral. This was understood to be a way of quieting the mind before entering sacred space. During the Middle Ages great Gothic cathedrals in Europe were built with a labyrinth in the floor to allow Christians to fulfill their vow of pilgrimage when the Crusades had made it too dangerous for them to travel to Jerusalem. Labyrinths are now finding their way into churches, hospitals, community centers and onto private property, due largely to the work of The Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, Canon at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco.
Our 36-foot diameter portable canvas labyrinth is modeled on the Chartres Labyrinth which was laid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral around 1201. Its single, circular path leads to the center and back out, acting as a metaphor for our journey through life.
Stages of the walk
Dr. Artress suggests that many walkers experience three distinct, but overlapping stages of the walk: “Purgation—releasing, a letting go of the details of your life. This is an act of shedding thoughts and emotions. It quiets and empties the mind. Illumination—is when you reach the center. Stay there as long as you like. It is a place of meditation and prayer. Receive what is there for you to receive. Union—is joining God, your Higher Power or the healing forces at work in the world. Each time you walk the labyrinth you become more empowered to find and do the work you feel your soul reaching for.”
When you walk the path it is helpful to focus on your breath to help quiet the mind and find the pace that is natural for your body to go. Feel free to pass others and to allow others to pass you. Those going in may meet and pass others coming out. There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth. Please do what feels natural to you. Allow at least 20 minutes to walk and have some time in the center. Warm socks are encouraged.
Please come and experience this path of prayer for yourself. Our labyrinth is open to the public at various times and is offered in a workshop setting for groups. As we add more walks, they will be posted on this website. You may also call the church office at 541-757-6647.
More about walking the labyrinth:
In today’s fast-paced and materialistic world, people are seeking ways to feed their growing spiritual hunger. The Church offers a variety of avenues, such as communal worship, prayer, study, and opportunities for ministry to others. One of the newer avenues for spiritual sustenance is the labyrinth.
After visiting Chartres Cathedral and walking the labyrinth there in 1991, The Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress and others at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco created a labyrinth by painting one on canvas modeled after the one at Chartres. The first time it was open to the public, 140 people came to walk it; and since then hundreds of thousands have walked it and the two other, more permanent labyrinths at the Cathedral. Many people who have felt drawn to this ministry have attended pilgrimage weekends and training workshops led by Dr. Artress, and have installed labyrinths in their own communities. We continue to learn and share our experiences through a network of these trained facilitators. God seems to be creating an explosion of opportunity to draw us nearer to Himself, fueling as well as satisfying our longing for a deeper, more direct experience of communion with Him, with Creation, and with our real selves.
Spiritual hunger involves the need for healing of the soul and psyche, our quest for self-knowledge, and our desire to be co-creators with the Divine. “Walking the labyrinth gives comfort to the aching heart and solace to the weary soul. It can go beyond the bounds of comfort that another human being can give,” states Dr. Artress in her book entitled Walking A Sacred Path. In our quest for self-knowledge it helps quiet the mind and loosen the ego so that we can see more honestly the thoughts and ways of being that separate us from our true
selves, each other, and from God. Dr. Artress states further that “much of our spiritual seeking is driven by the desire to manifest our unique and individual gifts in the world…Something within us carries a deep, sometimes buried, sense that we have a special task…Many people find their way to the labyrinth in the process of searching for their own special talents…We are longing to contribute creatively to our society…This is the longing of co-creation, the search for wholeness through service. This is the essence of spiritual transformation. Our work in the world can become a Holy Act…The modern pilgrim seeks a passionate connection to his or her individual gifts, and the grace to use them to better humankind.”
Peace and blessed communion to you on every labyrinth you walk.
Special links to consider for more information:
Gina Halter, Labyrinth Guild