Combining movement and awareness into a deeply inspiring practice.
Labyrinths are perhaps one of the oldest, and certainly one of the most mysterious symbols known to mankind. This unique symbol is a geometric shape that does not occur naturally and yet feels very much at home in the landscape. According to Rev. Lauren Artress, founder of Veriditas, where I received training in labyrinth facilitation, “a labyrinth is a spiritual tool that has many applications in various settings. It reduces stress, quiets the mind, and opens the heart. It is a walking meditation, a path of prayer, and a blueprint where psyche meets Spirit.” Labyrinths have been part of indigenous cultures for thousands of years and Native American cultures have depictions on their artwork, pottery and petroglyphs. The Man in the Maze symbol is actually a labyrinth, not a maze. Unlike a maze, the labyrinth has one circuitous path in and out where there are no secret passages, no trickery and no goal. Each person walks the labyrinth at their own pace and in their own time with no expectations.
Labyrinth walking is a moving meditation that can be healing, inspirational or simply calming. Walking meditation, which Thich Nhat Hanh describes as “a profound and pleasurable way to deepen our connection with our body and the earth,” is a meditation practice wherein “we breathe, take a mindful step, and come back to our true home”. Labyrinth walking uses mindfulness to engage the body and mind in present-moment awareness as we journey.
|Labyrinth Walking for Families|
• A labyrinth can be walked with feet or fingers. The following practice can be used for either of these journeys. Finger labyrinths can be found on the web in a wide range of designs and complexity. My experience with children is that they love the labyrinth so have fun with your family labyrinth meditation.
• Pick a labyrinth (printed or in-person) that works for the age range of your family. Each person will follow their own journey through the labyrinth. Begin by explaining what a labyrinth is (the article above is a good place to start).
• Explain that everyone will be following the labyrinth path at their own pace. Children like to see who will get to the center first so be sure everyone understands that this is not a race.
• If you are journeying a labyrinth in person, encourage children to walk or skip instead of run so that they may be more aware of where they place their feet.
• The same thing goes for finger walking. Explain that the point of walking a labyrinth is to go slow and to be mindful. A fun option is to use a finger of the non-dominant hand when finger-walking.
• Before embarking on the labyrinth walk, take a few deep breaths together to release any pent-up energy and emotions. (Children can wiggle their jitters away). A short meditation is also helpful to set the tone.
• The entire labyrinth journey is done as quietly as possible. No talking, laughing, or loud noises so that each person can have their own journey in peace and without distraction. Background music may help with creating a relaxing ambiance.
• As you journey, notice the path, and when walking with feet, pay close attention to the plants, the rocks, or whatever is in or around the labyrinth. Stop at the curves and look up at the sky or the landscape and breath in nature and the environment.
• Whether you are walking with fingers or feet when the center is reached, it’s nice to stop for a couple of moments, take a few slow breaths and reflect on anything that has come to mind and look back over the path taken so far. When everyone has completed their walk, I recommend holding hands and taking some deep breaths together. If comfortable, participants can share their labyrinth journey with each other. If time allows, the family can do some coloring or journal writing.
Anne-Marie Emanuelli is the founder and Creative Director at Mindful Frontiers LLC, an education-based mindfulness meditation center offering workshops, classes and coaching for children, families, classrooms and individuals. For more information please visit our Linktree page.
Article originally published in The Taos News, July 14, 2022, as the Families Meditate Together monthly column.