Walking the season at Unity
Why do people walk labyrinths? More to the point, why do people walk labyrinths at certain times of the year? And what is a labyrinth anyway? From its shape, it looks like a puzzle, or a maze. Are there actual benefits to labyrinth walks, or is it just walking in circles?
It may help to define it, and look at the history of labyrinths, which take us back 4,500 years ago to some of the earliest discovered constructed labyrinths of ancient Egypt. A labyrinth is unicursal, meaning it has only one entrance, goes in one direction, and has a heart center.
Often mistaken for a maze, a maze it is not. Mazes are multicursal, meaning they have more than one entrance, dead ends and a bizarre, Cretan, mythical history because of its intention to trap humans as a sacrifice to the monster Minotaur.
While the Egyptians built labyrinths outside of tombs to keep evil spirits from entering, the Romans created turf labyrinths in open fields to test and hone the skills of horsemanship. Scandinavia can boast more than 500 ancient stone labyrinths. Many labyrinths were destroyed, or removed in the 17th century, but interest in labyrinth walking grew again in the 1990s.
Unity Spiritual Center of Westlake, 23855 Detroit Road, has one of the largest outdoor labyrinths in this area. On Thursday, Dec. 21, from 6:30-8 p.m., there will be a labyrinth walk to honor the Winter Solstice, when the Earth's position is farthest from the sun. We will honor and celebrate the light and the dark inside of us, and each calendar day and night that envelops us. There is also an indoor labyrinth available.
Prayers can take on many forms and flavors, the most common being "talking prayer," but there is also "walking prayer," and that is where the labyrinth comes in. Like rosaries or prayer beads, the labyrinth can be counted as a spiritual tool. Dr. Jean Houston, director of The Foundation in Mind Research, has presented the labyrinth in seminars as a tool for spiritual growth that can lead to your spiritual center.
Studies show there is a suspension, a temporary relief of left brain activity. So logical thoughts, facts, identification, judgment and analysis lessen, while your intuition and imagination soar. Many labyrinth walkers experience a greater sense of peace or calm. Some experience a greater sense of connection with their history and ancestors, while others feel a loving connection with their fellow walkers. Come join this celebration of light, and the beginning of the solar year; all are welcome!
I enjoy writing about USC's events. Everyone is welcome at Sunday services, or at our numerous classes, and worshops! Walking the labyrinth is free.