The first morning there we walked a labyrinth (not to be confused with a maze). Dr. Lauren Artress, author of Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool, was in attendance to present the topic and talk about the spiritual importance of walking the labyrinth. Walking the labyrinth is an opportunity to meditate and communicate with God. She had several interlocking canvas pieces that she laid out on the floor to form this labyrinth (35 ft. in diameter) and then gave us the history of this form. Briefly, the labyrinth is an archetype, a divine imprint found in all religious traditions. It has only one path, so there are no tricks to it and no dead ends. The path winds throughout and becomes a mirror for where we are in our lives, it touches our sorrows and releases our joys, so we walk it with an open heart and open mind.
The Chartres Cathedral in France has a labyrinth inside the cathedral and many labyrinths in the United States are patterned after this one. Apparently it started out being a pagan ritual, and the churches decided to include it in their gardens to get the pagans to come to church. Unfortunately, what they discovered was the pagans came to the gardens and walked the labyrinth and didn't come into the churches. The next best thing to do was to actually make the labyrinth pattern on the floor inside the church, so in about the 1200's Chartres Cathedral did exactly that!
Three Stages to Walking the LabyrinthThere are 3 stages to our walk into the labyrinth. The first stage is Purgation, a releasing and letting go of the details of your life. The second stage is Illumination, when you reach the center, this is a place of meditation and prayer to receive whatever there is for you to receive. The last stage is Union, which 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.
This sounded really fantastic to do. As we lined up to go into the meditative walk, I knew I was supposed to be one of the first to go in. It just so happened that the lady in front of me pushed me forward and I went in first. I was trying to meditate but you also have to focus on the pattern and follow it, so I was breathing and focusing and doing really well. Then I came to the center and I literally got stuck there. My palms came out and I felt like I was holding light beams in my hands and I kept hearing the phrase "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first!" So I stayed in the center as the other 45 people came in and went out. Then I began to realize that some people were turning around and coming back for a 2nd and 3rd trip! Uh-oh, I told my guides, I didn't plan on staying in the middle forever and they'd better get done whatever needed to be done ASAP! About 15 minutes went by before I began to feel the light beams in my palms shut off, and about 2 more minutes went by before my feet got unstuck. I was then instructed to go to my room immediately and sleep for awhile after this. "No kidding" I said. I felt so blasted, yet so at peace. It was truly a wonderful experience.
According to bj, the first time we walk the labyrinth, we are balancing energetically the right and left halves of the brain. The more we take this walk, we begin to integrate the 4 quadrants of the Homo Universalis brain. bj believes we are evolving into a new species, from Homo Sapiens to Homo Universalis, which will have a 4 quadrant brain. So, walking the labyrinth many times is very helpful to achieving this balance.