The point of a maze is to find its center.
The point of a labyrinth is to find your center.
The animal I chose for this week was a snail. Not because it is one of the slowest moving creatures on earth, having a top speed of about 45m per hour – try mindful walking at that pace! Rather, I chose the snail because of the beautiful spiral pattern on its shell. It is the perfect example of a natural labyrinth. Mother Nature offers us many other natural labyrinths such as a chameleon’s tail when curled, the center of certain plants, the cochlea in each of our ears, even the milky way!
When many of the children entered the studio this week and saw the labyrinth I had created for them to walk, they exclaimed: “Wow! A maze!”. But in fact, a maze and a labyrinth are not the same thing.
A labyrinth is unicursal, which means that it has only one entrance and leads in only one direction. There is only one way to go. When walking a labyrinth, one can trust that the path will always lead to the center. This is such a comforting thought! This allows us to stop “thinking” and gives us more capacity to focus on our breathing and the repetition of our footsteps.
Walking the labyrinth is often seen as a spiritual practice with an inward journey to the center, a pause for reflection or meditation at the center, and the return journey. The circular shape is said to represent wholeness while the spiral represents a meandering but purposeful path. Many people feel a wonderful sense of inner peace or calm when walking a labyrinth.
In the classes this week the children started by tracing different A4 sized labyrinths with their fingers or a pencil. This is a great exercise to do in a classroom setting. It can be done before an exam, or after the children come in from playtime, or even to settle them before they leave for the day. It really helps to relax, ground and focus a child. In the younger classes, I offered the children some footprint stickers to stick on their labyrinths. This was great fun! While the children were busy with the smaller labyrinths, I invited them to walk the larger labyrinth if they wanted to. Each child then took some time out of the group activity to walk the labyrinth on their own, at their own pace, with no-one watching. It worked really well and some children ended up walking it a few times.
There were some interesting comments afterwards about how the children experienced the labyrinth walking. Most children said it felt relaxing and calming. One child said that she just couldn’t wait to get to the middle and it was hard for her to walk slowly. Another child said that even though she knew the path was going to end up in the middle, it was hard for her to trust that it actually would. I thought that was a valid concern and some insightful reflection on how she was feeling. Some say that walking a labyrinth can be a metaphor for one’s journey through life…
The older children then had some time to continue working on their mosaic pictures which are starting to take form. A wonderfully relaxing and calming mindful art activity that they are loving.
So, if you aren’t able to do any labyrinth walking in nature this week, try some finger labyrinth walking. It is also a great calming tool. Simply print out or copy a traditional labyrinth design and then trace it with your finger. Have fun!