Your Life-Path: Labyrinth or Maze?

Your Life-Path: Labyrinth or Maze?

There’s a profound spiritual difference
By Rev. Barbara Allen, CMP

“Your life is a sacred journey… about change, growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your intuition, taking courageous challenges at every step along the way. You are on the path… exactly where you are meant to be right now… And from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing, of courage, of beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, and of love.”  Caroline Adams.


I believe that we’re all on the path… exactly where we need to be, whether we’re conscious of this, or not. The labyrinth, an ancient symbol relating to wholeness, is a model, of that path.  Labyrinths are usually rounded (as are most things in nature), and combine circular and curved lines in what appears to be a random meandering, but is actually a purposeful, path.  Think “life-path” here, because labyrinths are a metaphor for journeying within ourselves, then back out again into the world. Labyrinths are recognizable sacred and spiritual symbols used as meditation and prayer tools, from earliest pre-historic times, ancient “archetypes” we can experience today.

You can’t lose your way in a labyrinth.  Labyrinths are not mazes (although sometimes people confuse the two).

The most ancient labyrinth, found cross culturally, throughout time on our planet is this one:

Ancient Labyrinth

If you take a stylus, and beginning at the opening, “guide” it through the labyrinth, you’ll see how it works.  In addition, below, a Native American southwest labyrinth that is part of Hopi spirituality is called “Human in the Maze”.

Hopi Labyrinth

The Hopi design is hand drawn on the side of my motor home, to remind me of my spiritual path, wherever I travel.

With a labyrinth there is only one choice to be made: to enter or not.  A metaphoric choice of whether or not to walk a spiritual path and journey to the center of your deepest self, and then back again into the world with a deeper understanding of who you are.

There’s no right way to walk a labyrinth. You enter and follow the path, choosing first your approach: happy or sad, thoughtful or prayerful. You could use it as a walking meditation. Adults are usually serious, children run in and out as fast as they can, playing. You get to choose how you’ll walk each time you do it: listening to music, singing, praying out loud, alone or in company, noticing everything around you, sky, plants, birds…but most of all, being in touch with your own personal experience.

Guidelines for walking a labyrinth include:

Focus: wait at the entrance until you become quiet and centered.  (Some acknowledge the gift of the labyrinth with a bow, or other gesture or ritual, before entering.)

Experience:  Observe your inner process. When at the center, stop and focus for a few minutes. Leave the center and begin the path outwards again when it feels right. Continue to observe your process as you exit.

Exit: Turn around and facing the entrance, quietly acknowledge ending the journey.

Go within:  After walking the labyrinth think about your experience.  It may help to journal or draw what you think, sense, see, or feel.

Travel the labyrinth as often as possible, as a precious gift to yourself.

Mazes are entities to be solved, with twists, turns, and blind alleys found in puzzles of different kinds whether printed on paper, or of tall dense evergreen plants (hedges) as in formal European gardens (Hampton Court), or carved out of contemporary northwest corn fields in late summer for paid public amusement.  Once within a walking maze of this type, it’s difficult to avoid becoming lost, because you can’t see anything other than the sides of the tall corridor you’re in.

Hedge Maze

The most famous hedge maze in the world, planted in the Hampton Court Palace Gardens in 1702, covers a third of an acre, with paths half a mile long. At first glance it’s deceptively simple. Thousands learn each year from throughout the world however, that it’s easy to get lost in there.  Try it yourself.  Using a stylus start into the maze at the small triangle by the opening in the line, and make your way to the center dot.  Then imagine a dense, impenetrable English hedge perhaps ten feet tall as the solid line, through which none can see.

With a maze many choices must be made. An engaged, reasoning, active mind is needed to solve the problem of finding the center, and then trying to get back out again.

Some maze puzzles are printed, to be solved by using a pencil, but in either case or dimension, mazes are puzzles meant to confuse so that you lose your way.

You can’t lose your way in a labyrinth, because labyrinths are not mazes.

We each get to choose whether to walk our life-paths in a maze, or in a labyrinth.  Sometimes it’s a daily renewed choice and decision.

A labyrinth will be created at the Rev. Barbara Allen Foundation in 2014, in the entry courtyard.  If you would like to participate in this spiritual place, please let us know via “comments” on our website, and by subscribing to our mailing list.

Let’s create and walk the labyrinth together in love, peace and friendship.

Blessings all, and Blessed Be,

Rev. Barbara Allen, CMP