What is a labyrinth?
Evidence of labyrinth designs have been found all over the world, carved on cave walls, on coins or painted on pottery artefacts; the earliest dating back to 2000BC. In the 18th century the labyrinth was a feature of many French cathedrals, English village greens and Scandinavian sea shores. The design is marked out on the ground in turf mounds, mosaic paving and stones from the shoreline. It looks like a maze but is not. A maze has twists, turns and dead ends and can be frustrating, frightening or challenging. The labyrinth, unlike a maze, has no dead ends. There is only one path and even though it twists and turns you cannot get lost.
To some the analogy of a maze, in which much of life’s journey leads to dead ends and about turns, may seem a better metaphor of life than the labyrinth. However, by changing the concept of our journey through life to the labyrinthine analogy, we can begin to see the positive side, to even to the worst scenarios that life throws at us. By applying the labyrinth analogy to our lives we can be positive and work towards turning our darkness into light.
The labyrinth has been found to be a valuable psychological and spiritual tool enabling people to get in touch with their inner-selves. By walking the labyrinth or just by watching others walk the labyrinth you can slow your inner world down enough to enable the inner and outer worlds to connect. Walking the labyrinth is an excellent way to combat stress. It is an oasis of calm, in an otherwise frenetic life.
Why do we use it?
As a school we continue to work towards the further development of spiritual awareness with staff, students, families and friends of the school. Walking the labyrinth has been shown to promote:
• attention and concentration
• sensitivity to areas of awareness, mystery and values
• calm and a feeling of well being
• a sense of valuing relationships with others
• the ability to reflect
• respect for the environment; and
• an awareness of ‘something bigger than ourselves’ (God/Creation)
The labyrinth can be seen on the lower lawn at the front of the school and can be used at any time by the school community including taxi drivers and escorts. It is also available, by arrangement, for schools, church groups and other interested organisations within Surrey to use for meditative walking, contemplative prayer and worship. St. Joseph’s offers a guiding service for the labyrinth, enabling the local community to make the most of a walk on the labyrinth. Walking the labyrinth is accessible to all, for those of a religious faith and those of none.
If you are interested in using the labyrinth please contact the school office. The research paper gives extended detail on the labyrinth and how it is used with students.