Photo: Harvey Beery
The first Saturday in May has been established as World Labyrinth Day, a global day of celebration of the labyrinth. Falling on May 2 this year, enthusiasts around the globe are invited to "Walk as One at 1" by walking a labyrinth at 1:00 p.m. in local time zones, creating a wave of wellbeing flowing around the world.
A labyrinth has a single (unicursal) path that is walked in order to enhance physical, psychological, or spiritual wellbeing. The American Cancer Society states that walking labyrinths "may be helpful as a complementary method to decrease stress and create a state of relaxation."
Labyrinths differ in design from mazes, and are nearly opposite in function.
Hedge maze, St. Louis Botanical Gardens. Photo: Wiki/public domain.
A maze has many paths to choose from, some are dead ends, and generally only one path leads to the goal. Making one's way through a maze is a competitive game engaging logic and analytical processes, and is focused on achieving a particular outcome. Because it is a game of skill, a maze usually has walls designed to obscure the view of the correct path.
There are some mazes that have been cut out of cornfields. These are, of course, the Amazing Maize Mazes! (http://www.americanmaze.com/)
In the right brain-left brain model, walking a maze is a left-brain experience.
Lanser Labyrinth, Cave Creek, AZ. www.lanserlabyrinths.com
A labyrinth is unicursal (having only one path), so there are no choices to be made. Therefore, there is no need for walls or hedges to obscure the view, and most labyrinths are flat, or relatively so. Walking the labyrinth is not done to achieve a goal, but in order to have the experience. This type of journey engages the right brain, and is often characterized by right-brain experiences such as contentment, a meditative mood, or a creative, joyful and/or altered state.
The circular rings are called "circuits," and labyrinths may have three or more circuits.
Paxworks' award-winning labyrinth at Fatima Retreat House, Indianapolis
Some people walk the labyrinth slowly, some have crawled it on hands and knees, and others even dance their way through it.
"Research studies conducted in a variety of settings has consistently shown that walking a labyrinth reduces stress. In fact, over the past few years, this has been the most commonly researched topic related to the so-called "labyrinth effect,'" says John W. Rhodes, Ph.D. Chair, Research Committee, The Labyrinth Society (TLS).
TLS is one of the leading groups responsible for promoting the international labyrinth movement. (http://www.labyrinthsociety.org).