From Spirit to Action:Labyrinth

LabgfLast weekend 5 tons of cobblestones were delivered to my meadow. Over the next three days a small team of three carved a space out of the woods (no trees were sacrificed!) and created a Chartres Cathedral style Labyrinth.  It was very hard work carrying all that stone and laying it down — my hamstrings still ache from pushing that wheelbarrow around.

When we completed the 11 “circuits” and walked the path for the first time, I emerged with some insights about a challenge in my life I’ve been confronted with. It felt like magic.

Now for the skeptics among my readers let me just say that I was where you are, and not so long ago. For a few years I really didn’t get Labyrinths at all.  My friend Joe Miguez has constructed temporary Labyrinths at the CPSI and CREA conferences for many years.  It was something to do, so I walked them — and didn’t understand what all the buzz was about.  I felt no transformation, I had no brilliant insights.  I thought I was “doing it wrong” and then rejected it for a few years as a result.

I had a change of mind over time. It probably helped that I removed “big expectations” from my mindset. Orientation, courtesy of Joe, also helped. I now view the Labyrinth experience as something that is highly useful.  It works to bring you closer to your own spirit and desires, and you have ideas about what you might do. It’s another thinking tool in my pocket for creative effectiveness.  Couple this tool with the simple tools of journaling and idea note-booking and you are amplifying creative effectiveness.

How? That’s harder to say, but let me orient you.  Labyrinth enthusiasts may disagree, but here’s my view.

A “lab” of the classic medieval variety has four quadrants and they are accessed in sequence.  It is not a “maze” to figure out, you simply walk the pre-defined path.  The first quad is for Awareness, the second is for Letting Go, the third is for Vision, and the final quad is for Realization (source: Joe Miguez).  You enter the lab with an intention, or a problem to solve, a challenge to meet. As you pass through each quadrant, walking the path, you steer your thoughts in the direction of Awareness, Letting Go, Vision, and Realization.  It’s a very organic method that blends meditation with physical movement. The magic is in the mix of kinesthetic action and a combination of right and left brain thinking. It’s relaxing. New thoughts and insights tend to arrive (like taking a sort of spiritual shower).  Once walked, sit with a notebook and jot down ideas and notice your thought flow, “think about your thinking”.

It’s not fool proof of course. One can walk a lab and come up empty at the end.  What have you lost? A bit of time.

So what’s the value? In a word, insights. Innovators are often blocked by too much left brained thinking. Trying to work something out logically in your head is natural, and, sometimes it’s not logic that gets us to a solution.  So, for those cynics and skeptics who think of this as too touchy-feely to be useful, let me suggest that you try it  before you knock it. Creative effectiveness happens when a person bridges what their spirit desires into action — and a labyrinth is a good tool for doing just that.

And by the way, if you need help building your own lab, don’t call me, call Joe Miguez (Joemiguez@aol.com).  Joe is also the man to talk to for a lab workshop experience.

I’m quite happy the building of it is all done.  If I have to pick up another 5 inch cobblestone I may have a heart attack on the spot.

    • Janice Francisco

      Hi Greg

      congratulations on your labyrinth and developing an appreciation for it as a creativity tool.

      You may be interested in this article written about the labyrinth and creativity. It came about from Masters level research I conducted to make the linkage between creativity and the labyrinth more explicit.

      http://www.brainreactions.com/the-labyrinth-an-ancient-and-emerging-tool-for-idea-development.html

      Additionally, you may want to reference the Creative Walker’s Guide to the Labyrinth – available through amazon.com

      • Thanks Janice, that’s a very informative piece in the link you provide. I’m sure readers who want to know more will refer to your excellent book on the topic “Creative Walker’s Guide to the Labyrinth” http://tinyurl.com/mqd8lh. Warmest regards, Gregg

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    • Great site, how do I subscribe?

      • Click on ‘Subscribe to my Blog’ — underneath my picture.

    • Ozlem Yagcioglu

      Hi Mr. Gregg Fraley,
      Many thanks for this nice blog and the wonderful information in this blog. It seems really interesting and useful.
      Sincerely yours,
      instructor of English
      Ozlem Yagcioglu
      Dokuz Eylul University
      School of Foreign Languages
      Modern Languages Department

    • Our church has had a labyrinth for a few years; at the moment it’s in the process of being rebuilt. Previously it was in an open field and was just mowed into the weeds, but we are building it into the lawn with some donated bricks.

      • Bricks work well, particularly if you set them into the ground an inch or so. We set rocks on top of the ground and are finding that animals move them around to find insects underneath! Best of luck with your efforts. Where are you located?

    • Sounds quite a bit like Walking Meditation… except you don’t look like a zombie when you do it.

    • It really is walking meditation. I think some people think more quietly when they are actually moving.

    • Yeah, I can see how this happens. Sometimes I get my best ideas when out walking. The movement seems to get my brain going. The labyrinths that I’ve experienced so far were just too short of of a walk for me, but guessing they’re supposed to be walked more slowly than I wanted to do them. Never imagined how much trouble they were to actually carve out, so that’s probably the reason for them being too small for me. Good thing I don’t have property, or I’d be tempted to make a HUGE one!

    • This one is actually bigger than the one on the floor at Chartres cathedral. The paths in Chartres are only 14 inches across, so, it’s very “tight”. The paths on ours are about 18 inches and it’s easier to walk that way. It’s about 50 feet across, so, it takes up a lot of room.

      It takes quite a while to walk it, it seems like a long time when you are doing it anyway. You can also walk all the way into the center and then walk the same path back out which doubles the time. Or you can step out once you reach the center… options!

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    • Alex

      I recently discovered labyrinths too and as you said it is more of a journey than a puzzle.

      And funnily enough, when I discovered them, I was at the Chartres Cathedral in France ( http://www.chartrescathedral.net ). A wonderful place and a very good inspiration for your own labyrinth.

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