A labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tradition dating back before modern culture. Like many indigenous (pagan) traditions it has been absorbed into modern Christianity. One of the best examples, and certainly the most famous, can be found at the Cathedral of Chartres just outside of Paris, France and was built circa 1220. During the violent Crusades spawned by the Catholic Church many early Christian pilgrims were encouraged to take a sort of mini-pilgrimage by using the labyrinth instead of risking their life by traveling to the Holy Land. The labyrinth can be used by anyone from any spiritual or religious tradition. The purpose is to allow the traveler of the labyrinth to contemplate life and God. When walking the labyrinth it is good to use this quiet time to contemplate, meditate, and even pray. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has only one path in and one path out. The path you walk to the center of the labyrinth is the same path you follow to get out.
In Los Angeles there are at least forty-three labyrinths within a fifty miles radius of the city center. Most of them are replicas of the Chartres labyrinth and average about forty feet across. A labyrinth is generally constructed on a flat surface and the path delineated through colored marble. The labyrinth can be outlined with most any material from pebbles and stones to marble inlay or hedge plants. A fantastic site for locating a labyrinth near you is www.labyrinthlocator.com. One incredible labyrinth that is open to the public everyday and is also a replica of the Chartres labyrinth can be found at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.
Another favorite local labyrinth can be discoverd at the Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens – www.peacelabyrinth.org. This amazing mulit-denominational seminary is located at the famous former home of directory and choreographer Busby Berkeley and the grounds are landscaped beautifully. You even have an incredible view of Los Angeles while walking on their labyrinth. It is entirely for you to determine how you walk the labyrinth and it can often be a metaphor for your life. Do you walk the path slowly and thoughtfully or do you speed ahead. Do you find it annoying or do you start to feel impatient? Do you wonder if you are doing it right. Like life, there is no one way to live and there is no one way to walk the labyrinth. It is recommended that you listen to your inner voice, say a prayer, contemplate change, or repeat a mantra while on the path. Many find it beneficial to walk into the labyrinth with a thought, feeling, emotion, problem that you want to release and then to metaphorically leave it in the center of the labyrinth; the center being the symbolic source of God or Universal energy. When you walk out you can move forward in the consciousness that you have let go of whatever burden you were carrying with you.
As you walk the labyrinth of your life following your singular path back to God, contemplate, if only just for a moment, what it is that you are doing on this fantastic journey of life. And, if you want deeper introspection, visit a labyrinth near you, take a deep breath, listen, and walk the path.