Labyrinths are ancient mazelike symbols that have been found all over the world for thousands of years. They are present in art, architecture and landscaping in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. From the floors of 12th century Gothic cathedrals in France to the Mediterranean to Scandanavia, this enchanting symbol has been prevalent since prehistoric times.
The labyrinth is also a time-honored symbol used in Eastern religions in walking meditations and as a contemplation tool. While labyrinths have been compared with mazes, there are no tricks or dead ends involved. There is a single winding path from edge to center that meanders and spirals its way through – and then back out again.
The following are some of the main benefits of labyrinths:
1. A Beautiful Metaphor For the Spiritual Journey
The design of the labyrinth is representative of the journey within to our own true Buddha Nature – and then back out into the world. Walking a labyrinth or reflecting on one is symbolic of the journey of the spiritual seeker. Life may have many twists and turns, yet we take a single path one step at a time.
2. Being More Present and Mindful
Walking always takes place in the present moment. This is unlike “thinking,” which can pull us into the past or future. A labyrinth facilitates being more in touch with Buddha Nature, or the “Watcher” dimension of our thoughts and emotions which transcends them all.
3. Reduced Stress and Improved Mood
When walking or reflecting on a labyrinth, the mind is cleared and anxieties are calmed. Feelings of stress are dissipated and released, and Buddha Nature can shine through more brightly.
4. Physical Health Benefits
A Harvard Medical School study out of their Mind/Body Medical Institute found that walking meditations yielded the following health benefits:
- Increases the “relaxation response”
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases focus and concentration
- Reduces chronic pain sensations
- Insomnia relief/better sleep
- Improved fertility
5. Enhances Creativity
Walking or reflecting upon a labyrinth involves the right brain, which is creative and intuitive. This can help to activate imagination, innovation, and inspiration that comes from a deep, authentic place.
6. Available in Many Forms
Labyrinths can be found on the grounds of Zen gardens, Buddhist monasteries, spiritual centers, and parks. Check your local area for the closest walking labyrinth that is open to the public.
You can also find the labyrinth symbol on a range of personal meditation tools and products. These include prints, wall hangings, desk labyrinths and even pendants and jewelry. While full-size labyrinths give you the experience of a walking meditation, smaller labyrinths can serve as a powerful symbol, reminder, totem or meditation tool at any time.