Labyrinths, in their true, non-maze forms, have existed for thousands of years in numerous places around the world and have served as spaces and symbols of contemplation, protection, and liminality. Global interest in labyrinths has ebbed and flowed, but there is something about these ancient symbols that keeps revitalizing that interest.
Scientific research has shown that meditative activities have significant long-term health benefits. Mindful awareness of the present moment can reduce stress, tension, and anxiety, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and encourage relaxation and insightful introspection.
The labyrinth can be a mindful experience, a path of introspection or prayer, and an archetypal symbol of psychological and spiritual exploration and transformation. Labyrinths appear in many forms and can provide a kinesthetic, tactile, or visual meditation. A continuous, meandering path leads only to the center and back out again, often by the same path. Unlike a maze where you can lose your way, the labyrinth is a spiritual tool for finding your way.
Visit The Labyrinth Society for more information, resources, and community.
Yadina Clark, MFA
Over the past several years I have focused my artistic work on sacred space, liminal aesthetics, and regenerative design: environments and activities that support spiritual, psychological, physiological, and community well-being. This has included hand-held meditation tiles and finger labyrinths, walkable labyrinth installations, sacred circle dance, drumming, and permaculture gardens.
Since childhood, I have been enchanted by pathways and enjoyed mowing, snow shoveling, raking, or otherwise creating tracks, paths, mazes, and eventually labyrinths. I came to labyrinths through an interest in ecovillages, environmental art, and earthworks. When I first saw an earthworks labyrinth, I was captivated. There was something so appealing about the merging of natural materials and constructed space, and the choreographed movement within the embrace of the land.
Labyrinths of New England started out as a research and mapping project as part of my work toward an MFA in Intermedia at the University of Maine. Initially, I created the map in order to facilitate my own travel plans. However, as I met more people interested in labyrinths and explained what I was working on, some of them expressed interest in seeing the map. I eventually offered the link to both the Labyrinth Guild of New England and the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator and both websites posted the link (originally at www.communitywalk.com/labyrinthsNE; now on Google).
As I progressed toward my thesis paper and exhibit, I visited over 50 of these labyrinths, sketched and doodled, designed 2D and 3D computer models, created temporary and permanent labyrinth installations, facilitated walks, and gave presentations about labyrinths. My thesis exhibit included photographic documentation of my site visits and major labyrinth installations as well as multiple interactive components including a sand table with laser-cut wood labyrinth templates, pebbles, and styluses for tracing the paths in the sand.
Since completing my MFA, I have offered consultation and design services, led workshops and taught courses on labyrinth history, design, and use, and facilitated labyrinth walks and rituals incorporating labyrinths and spirals. I also have a series of finger labyrinth cards for visual and tactile meditation. I have continued visiting labyrinths and am up to about 90 of the 250+ sites on the Labyrinths of New England map.