(This article is part of a series on labyrinths. Additional information, especially about the history of labyrinths, is available in many of the previous articles listed below. Author, Meryl Ann Butler, is a founding member of The Labyrinth Society and has been building labyrinths since 1992.)
Dancing the maypole in the classic labyrinth at Whitewater Mesa Labyrinths, NM, 2012. by photo credit David Thornburg
Saturday, May 2, 2015 marks the seventh annual World Labyrinth Day (WLD). The global event is sponsored by the Labyrinth Society (TLS), an international organization of labyrinth enthusiasts. TLS invites people around the world to share in a symbolic walk designed to encircle the world with peace. Individuals or groups can participate by holding private walks or public events on a labyrinth.
Labyrinths may be temporary or permanent, round or square, indoor or outdoor, and may be made of a wide variety of materials from canvas or carpet to rocks, sand, paving stones or masking tape. Many are wheelchair accessible. And labyrinths have even been built for horses!
Labyrinths are walked for many reasons, including to enhance relaxation, to create ceremony, as prayerful/meditative movement, and to promote wellbeing, and their paths of comfort have found their way into hospice programs as well.
World Labyrinth Day logo by Lars Howlett
TLS says that walking a labyrinth is thought to enhance right brain activity, and uses include: problem solving, conflict resolution, walking meditations and modern day pilgrimages. The American Cancer Society states that labyrinths "may be helpful as a complementary method to decrease stress and create a state of relaxation."
Labyrinths and mazes have essential differences.
A maze offers several paths to choose from, and making one's way through a maze therefore engages logic and analytical processes, and is focused on achieving a particular outcome. Mazes often have walls designed to obscure the view of the correct path.
A labyrinth has only one path. Therefore, there is no need for walls or hedges to obscure the view, and most labyrinths, unlike mazes, are flat, or relatively so. Walking the labyrinth is not done to achieve a goal, but in order to experience the journey. Most people report experiencing a feeling of peace, joy, or wellbeing as a result of walking the labyrinth's unicursal path.
Two of the primary labyrinth patterns include Chartres and Classical styles.
Two main styles of labyrinth designs by Meryl Ann Butler
"As mindfulness and meditation have gone mainstream, people around the world have been turning to labyrinths as a spiritual exercise or for stress relief," says WLD coordinator, Lars Howlett. He noted on Thursday that at least "one hundred World Labyrinth Day walks for peace are now planned according to our online survey. We're now counting at least 30 US States and 12 countries."
WLD walk, labyrinth at Stillpoint at Beckside, Bellingham, WA. Constructed by Myra Ryneheart. by Stillpoint at Beckside