We don't know about you, but we've been finding it increasingly difficult to keep calm these days. Since we've already looked to the Quakers for tips on staying chill, now we're turning to labyrinth spirituality, a form of meditation and prayer that you may have never heard of that could completely change how you deal with stress.
Labyrinths — which aren't mazes but usually symmetrical circuits made of concentric circles — have been around for a really, really long time. They've been found outside of ancient Egyptian gravesites, as massive stone structures in Scandinavia, and in Roman mosaics. Their purposes range just as widely as their countries of origin — labyrinths have been used for Pagan rituals, templates for basket design, and even horseback riding training.
It was only in the Middle Ages that labyrinths took on distinctly spiritual purposes in Christianity. Western Europeans who couldn't make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem embedded labyrinthine paths in their cathedrals, so that they still could walk a sacred path of some kind.
Since then, labyrinths have become pretty non-denominational. You can still find them in churches, but they're now also part of some schools' wellness programmes, and they're even available to rent from traveling companies, too. Rather than performing a fertility rite or a symbolic pilgrimage to the Holy Land, people now walk labyrinths to get in touch with themselves — and it's a great alternative to regular meditation if you just can't sit still. A normal labyrinth meditation consists of walking to the center of the circuit (also known as the rosette), pausing there in silence, and then leaving the way you came. Your inner work should mirror your physical journey:
Start by looking inward and letting the world beyond the path ahead of you fall away. When you reach the rosette, stop and decide if there's anything you'd like to let in, maybe a spiritual force or something more specific to your personal life — whatever you're reflecting upon, take as much time as you need. When you leave, do so with a newfound sense of power and purpose, so that by the time you're outside of the labyrinth, you feel refreshed and ready to resume your everyday life.
Labyrinths are an incredibly versatile spiritual tool — they aren't problem-solvers, but they provide people with a template for meditation and prayer they might not have thought of otherwise. Research has found that labyrinth walking can be helpful as part of couples and family therapy, for stress management, and to aid with recovery from trauma. They're often used to help young people explore their spiritual needs, but labyrinths can serve that purpose for anyone, regardless of age.
If you're still on the fence, find one near you and take a stroll for yourself. You just might leave feeling recharged and focused — and, if nothing else, you'll have gotten a little peace and quiet, which is about as chill as it gets.