Life List #82 - Labyrinth Walking

The movie The Shining has given labyrinths a bad name. Take a look at this video of the hedge maze.

I realized this misunderstanding when I spoke to two people about walking a labyrinth with me and they both asked these similar questions.

Would they get lost?

Would there be high bushes?

How long would it take?

Hmmm. These were questions that I did not expect. These are people who know me pretty well. I was surprised that they would think I'd want to walk through a bunch of scary mazes and that I'd subject them to the terror too!

It seems that the common understanding is that labyrinths are mazes and hedge mazes, like the movie. Absolutely not true!

Labyrinths and mazes are two different things. Here's a nice explanation from
"A maze is a puzzle in the form of a complex branching passage through which the solver must find a route. This is different from a labyrinth, which has an unambiguous through-route and is not designed to be difficult to navigate."
The Labyrinth Society has a great deal of information. Below is how they describe labyrinths.
"A labyrinth is a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation. Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity."
I first read about labyrinths a few years ago. I was so intrigued that I wanted to try it. I found one in Marblehead at the Church of St. Andrew and walked it several times.

The view is beautiful and I've found the practice to be quite relaxing. If you like yoga and the idea of meditation, you'd probably enjoy labyrinth walking. I consider it both a spiritual practice and creative exercise. Most labyrinths are found on church grounds.

When I wrote my life list, I decided to add this practice. #82 - Walk 50 different labyrinths.

I walked my second labyrinth yesterday at The Presbyterian Church in Needham and took these pictures.

What a peaceful place. Labyrinths feel very much like the process of life. Even though you've been to a very similar place, each one is slightly different. You're not sure how the path in front of you will wind, but you have faith that you'll make it to the center. Find your balance. Then go out again.

If you're interested in walking a labyrinth, you can search for one near you with the Labyrinth Locator. According to the website, they list around 3400 labyrinths in over 70 countries. I'm going through the list in Massachusetts.

Some labyrinths are by appointment only, especially the ones in private homes. Most of the ones that I've read about are open to the public on certain days for a short period of time. The two that I've been to so far are open all the time. But since they are outside, weather may be a factor.

Have any of you done labyrinth walking?

*Updated 11/11/10* Labyrinth walking went mainstream with a scene in Law & Order SVU last night. Pretty cool!

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alessandra said…
No, never, actually I thought that the two were the same thing, in fact in Italian we say labirinto to mean a maze too.
Interesting and informative post, thank you.
Tracy said…
I have walked a labyrinth twice--very meditative, I think! :o)
Mary Bergfeld said…
I've walked a maze but never a labyrinth. I found this post to be so interesting. This was my first visit to your blog and it was a wonderful introduction. I'll be back often. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary
Suldog said…
There's a labyrinth in Watertown that's somewhat interesting, and isn't on the list you linked. It's indoors, at an Episcopal church on Mount Auburn Street, near Watertown Square. I walked it a couple of years ago when attending the church for some Advent prayer. It is in a room off of the main chapel, and it is quite small, painted on the floor, thus it requires slow deliberate movement and small steps. It may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I found it a wonderful spiritual experience.
Sharlene T. said…
You have officially piqued my interest... I am going to find some labyrinths near me... Did walk the maze at Hampton Court and made it out in five minutes, then had to wait for my friends for 25 minutes!... I just did what was right... as an old king in a book once said... come visit when you can...
Lisa Johnson said…
alessandra - Interesting that it's the same word! And so similar to English.

tracy - Just curious. Did you walk them in the US, Norway, or somewhere else?

mary - Welcome! Thanks so much for the visit and comment. Glad you enjoyed the post. Look forward to seeing you back soon!

suldog - Thank you for letting me know about the labyrinth in Watertown! I wonder why it's not on the list? Interesting... I'll definitely make my way over there.

sharlene - I think you're the first person that I've "met" who's walked a real maze. Glad you lived to tell the tale! ; )
Hali Chambers said…
Hi Anali,
First time visit to your sweet blog! I have a passion for labyrinths & have one in my backyard. What's interesting about the labyrinth is that each walk is different, even when you're walking the same labyrinth. Energy, intention, season, & time of day all come in to play. I've walked several labyrinths--but not 50! I look FW to reading about your labyrinth adventures! All the BEST, :-) Hali
Lisa Johnson said…
hali - Thank you so much for your visit! I agree that each walk is different. That's so cool that you have one at home. If I ever get my "dream house" that will be part of it! ; )

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