Walking the Path
This past summer I had the opportunity to visit the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth to walk it for the third time. Giant in size, it is a walk of heart. In fact, the first time I set foot on it, I was unexplainably moved to tears. Labyrinths have long since been used as a spiritual practice tool to move consciousness from the mind to the heart, from the external world to the internal world. So, given that I have been drawn to walk these beautiful paths to center and back again and again, I thought I would share it with my fifth grade students.
The Finger Labyrinth: Perfect for Home and School
In preparation, I went online to find some beautifully colored finger labyrinths that the girls could use by following along the paths using pencil erasers or a stylus. I found these wonderful laminated examples at at http://www.celticartstore.net
What I love about these cards is that they include the history of each particular labyrinth on the back. I introduced each one to the students by letting them know the part of the world that it was from. Such diverse origins! Also, included was a mindful thought, or an invitation for a particular kind of relaxation or mindfulness to practice while completing each one.
Ely Cathedral Labyrinth in the west tower floor of the Ely Cathedral in England.
Native American Labyrinth, a symbol of the Tohono O’Odham Nation (Papago Indians) of Southern Arizona.
Labryinths are not linked to only one religion. Native Americans have this tool as well. Ancient Greek mythology is thought to have originated the idea.
So with a deep breath, and an invitation to be completely focused, calm and mindful, together we journeyed into the world of the Labyrinth. I played some soft music in the background. When finished with one, the girls traded with one another to experience the different feelings of the different paths to center.
I explained the difference between a maze, which has the intention of confusing the path or mind and a labyrinth in which all paths lead to the center. And we practiced several deep breaths before beginning the circuits.
I invited the students to think about things they wanted to let go as they traveled into the center, to breathe deeply several times at the center, and to think about things they want to call in or to remember on the way out. The next journey we thought about releasing stress on the way to center and embracing love on the way back from center to the exit. The possibilities are endless!!
Writing About the Labyrinth
After using the cards, we attached a paper and pencil labyrinth within their journals so that they could use a pencil to trace the paths to center and back out again. I also invited them to write about their experience in their small group journal. They liked the labyrinth so much that they asked me to make them some to take home!
Relaxation practice, I believe, is about offering a multitude of options to kids so that they can find what resonates with their own self, what they are drawn to. In this way, when they encounter the bumps of life, they will have an entire assortment of tools at their fingertips (literally in this case ), to choose from. Relaxation, when it is fun and engaging, allows the heart, mind, and body to unite in letting go of unwanted thoughts, tensions, and emotions, in order to truly melt into the present moment, where all is naturally relaxed and effortless.
The Journey Onward
As you might imagine by this point, the labyrinth is one of my personal tools that I am passionate about. I love to allow myself to let go, relax, and mindfully meander through the path to center. I explained to the students, that I often, like in life, encounter many obstacles in my path. At Chartres, it was the occasional unaware tourist who was stopped in the middle to look at the wondrous stained glass windows above, oblivious to the labyrinth under foot or the others intentionally walking the path around them. These obstacles allow us to breathe deeper, to pause for reflection and re-connection, and to continue along the path once again. Life is the same. We hit a bump that causes us to re-calibrate our energy, to re-focus our thoughts, to renew our dedication to relaxation and taking care of ourselves once again. We breathe. And then we continue along the way to center. In and away from center and back again and again living out each moment. I’m on a mission to visit as many labyrinths as possible–and even recently found one in my town!!
Here are some additional resources for labyrinths. Consider this my personal invitation to you and your child to explore the labyrinth’s path. It’s a new experience every time you set foot on it.
108 Ways to Use the Labyrinth in Schools
Ladybug Labyrinth: a journey home
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