Brittany Ledwell writes about how FoodFaith’s Rock on Spring Day celebrates labyrinths as part of our spiritual and meditative connections with the land.
Labyrinths have an ancient, rich cultural and spiritual background, and are also therapeutic for people of all different faiths and backgrounds, according to labyrinth expert, Sally Longley.
“My first walk in a labyrinth had a powerful effect on me,” says Sally of her first experience with labyrinths over 12 years ago.
Sally is the spiritual director of labyrinth-centred retreats at Canisius Centre for Ignatian Spirituality in Pymble, a role she has thrived in since 2004. Despite her work with labyrinths coming from a Christian spiritual context, she says that labyrinth-walking can be a transformative experience for people of all religious backgrounds and for people who consider themselves atheists.
Labyrinths, such as the one shown here at Nathanael's Rest Retreat in Western Australia (a personal favourite of Sally’s), have been used as a therapeutic physical and spiritual escape for many people, including refugees, and victims of trauma and abuse. Sally emphasises the meditative effect of walking labyrinths, which can help to gain a sense of relief from emotional and spiritual baggage.
“If you walk a labyrinth, it mindfully slows you down,” Sally explains.
If you’re unsure of the difference between a labyrinth and a maze, you’re not alone. Sally stresses that while mazes are puzzles in which one can get lost and encounter “dead ends”, labyrinths have only one pathway in and one pathway out.
“You are never lost, all you have to do is just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and that’s a metaphor for life,” she says.
“Every turn that you’re led on is not a mistake, but it’s just part of the turns and twists in life.”
Sally has also written a book, Walking the Labyrinth as the Beloved in John’s Gospel, and is both the President of the Australian Network for Spiritual Direction and part of the Australian Ecumenical Council for Spiritual Direction.
Words of wisdom about labyrinths, journeys and connections to the land from our spiritual gatekeepers:
Buddhism (From Her Holiness Shinso Ito) “You may want to know first—before acting—what we can do to make our lives fruitful and fulfilling, but it is not always possible to know from the start what will be rewarding, or its opposite: fruitless. Sometimes, we just have to try—and stop being afraid of failure and continue taking on challenges. For me, having to keep trying is not a sign of failure; rather, the repeated experience nurtures a strong conviction to carry through with my goals. At times you will be disappointed or want to give up, but you will soon see that every experience is invaluable. Even disappointment can be helpful, but do not dwell too long on it, for it is important to be resilient. There are no rehearsals in life. All too often you will only get one shot, so it is natural to encounter failure, but the experience will build character. If you stumble and fall, you can always get back up again.”
Hinduism “Earth in which the seas, the rivers and many waters lie, from which arise foods and fields of grain, abode to all that breathes and moves, may She confer on us Her finest yield.” (Bhumi Suktam, Atharva Veda xii.1.3)