In the mindfulness tradition, meditation may be done seated, laying down, standing or walking. Walking meditation is especially beneficial for those of us who are less comfortable with the idea of sitting still.
As someone whose original career was based entirely on movement and activity, I know how challenging seated meditation can be. For me, moving meditation feels inviting, flowing and welcoming. Looking back, I can see how walking meditation served as a gateway to yoga and seated meditation, allowing me to become more and more comfortable with silence and stillness.
In walking meditation we simply practice the art of slowing down, releasing the drive to “get somewhere.” All that’s needed is an intention to arrive in the present moment and a willingness to abide in simple wonder and curiosity; this can be done virtually anywhere you have a few feet of room to move about, indoors or out.
Guided instruction helps us concentrate the mind on what is happening in the present, whether it’s the small, steady movements we are engaged in, our breathing, or the coming and going of thoughts. This exquisite practice of noticing small details – how the surface of the ground or the mat feels under the foot, the sounds heard in the environment, how the arms are held or swinging – is an opportunity to be fully present in the moment. I would like to express my deep gratitude to Addie deHilster for introducing me to the profound pleasure and simplicity of walking meditation.
Labyrinth: A Walking Meditation
The sacred path of the Labyrinth is an ancient form of walking meditation. I was first introduced to the labyrinth with my family. My sister and mother invited me to walk a labyrinth at a local church. The moment I stepped onto the labyrinth I felt as though this was what I had been searching for my whole life. A simple, rhythmic way to soothe the mind, bring ease to the body and provide deep inspiration to the spirit.
The path of the labyrinth is an ancient design, based on the universal pattern of a spiral. The classical labyrinth looks a bit like a brain, and echoes the labyrinthine structures found in our bodies – the inner ear, the intestines. While mazes are commonly thought of as paths that can deceive us, the labyrinth has no dead-ends or blind alleys; only one path to the center and back. It is said that mazes are designed for us to lose our way, but that labyrinths are designed for us to find our way.
Labyrinths have been found around the world as ancient representations of the journey of life. They are found in religious and non-religious settings. The labyrinth may invite us to face our greatest fears, to soothe our soul, or to inspire us to bold action. No two labyrinth walks are the same.
There are several different types of labyrinths, all with varying symbolic elements. I work with a Petite Chartres-style labyrinth, 7-circuit, that is based on the design of the full sized, 11-circuit labyrinth. The Chartres-style labyrinth of the Notre Dame de Chartres Cathedral in France, was designed for the cathedral floor (in early 13th C.) by the enlightened leaders of the Chartres Mystery School, offering a way for people to safely journey on pilgrimage at a time when it was dangerous to travel to the Holy Lands.
The center depicts a 6-petalled rose, each petal representing one of six aspects of creation: mineral, vegetable, animal, human, divine and unknowable. The center can also be seen as the palm of God’s hand or the hand of the Divine Mother. The labyrinth is rich with symbols of the sacred feminine, including the moon energy of the circular boundary of lunations at the edge of the labyrinth. The word labyrinth comes from “labyrs” the two-headed axe that was used by Theseus to slay the Minotaur and rescue Ariadne in the legend from Greek mythology.
The metaphorical journey of the Chartres-style Labyrinth invites you to experience: Release, Receive and Return:
Release what no longer serves you, your cares or burdens as you enter and walk to the center;
Receive that which gives you strength and inspiration in the center;
Return with renewed energy to fulfill your purpose and service in the world as you follow the path back out.
As a Veriditas trained labyrinth facilitator, I continue the tradition ignited by Lauren Artress, through Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and now through Veriditas.org. It is my delight to have a portable, 7-circuit canvas labyrinth. For more information on walking meditation or scheduled labyrinth walks, please contact me.
With great appreciation to Lauren Artress, author of Walking a Sacred Path and all of the Labyrinth seekers and facilitators around the world.
For more information on upcoming Labyrinth walks, please contact me.