Labyrinths: Find Your Path to Mindfulness & Reflection

Last updated February 28, 2024

Originating more than 4,000 years ago, labyrinths have led many people on an enlightened path to mindfulness, spirituality and reflection. For others, it may simply be one way, if only temporarily, in achieving peace and clarity in their lives. 

Labyrinths can provide a welcome reprieve and allow you to meditate, pray, question or just relax as you walk to the center.  

David Gallagher, Executive Director and Founder of The Labyrinth Society, had his first labyrinth walking experience back in 1995 during a tumultuous period in his life. 

The walk was transformative and prompted a deeper understanding of labyrinths and a study of metaphysics. “For me, walking the labyrinth is an experience for raising questions,” says Gallagher.

Thus began a life-long journey of questioning and studying and in the process created The Labyrinth Society (TLS) based in Trumansburg, New York, in 1998. 

TLS’s mission supports those who create, maintain and use labyrinths while being part of a global community educating, networking and providing opportunities to experience them.

There are TLS regional representatives throughout the United States and around the world who can provide information on labyrinth locations, FAQs, history, events, readings and resources.

TLS promotes events throughout the year and for the annual World Labyrinth Day held the first Saturday in May each year.

Evolving World of Labyrinths

Labyrinths differ in design and purpose from mazes. They are unicursal with a single path leading to a center and then venturing back out. 

Mazes may have various entry points and even trick you on what path to take. A labyrinth’s purpose with its serpentine-like design is the journey itself and not reaching an endpoint.

The Labyrinth Society lists more than 6,100 of them in 85 countries in its World-Wide Locator. In reality, there could be hundreds if not thousands more around the world which yet to be documented. 

Classical Labyrinths have existed for almost 4,000 years. A seven-circuit design in either a circular or square form, these popular labyrinths are found throughout Europe, North Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Indonesia but can be found now throughout the world with varying pathways.

The stone-constructed Chartres Labyrinth located inside the famous 12th century Chartres Cathedral just south of Paris, France, is one of the most visited in the world. 

This is an example of a Medieval Labyrinth with eleven circuits or pathways. For centuries and continuing today, Christian pilgrims have flocked here and walked the Chartres Labyrinth path. Many believe the path is a symbol for the journey from human sin to redemption and the Holy Land. 

Sacred Designs

Labyrinth designs could be seen in coins, petroglyphs, wall paintings and sculptures from centuries ago. Many churches have built them inside. Labyrinths may have a few as three circuits to more than 15 circuits.  

Jeff Saward, an England-based leading historian, author, designer and builder and co-founder of Labyrinthos, says, “There has been an explosion of new designs in the last 20 years or so, many inspired by the old designs from the past, but also a considerable number that has introduced interesting new patterns, even a few that challenge the conventional view of what a labyrinth should look like – this is a fascinating time in their history.”

Today you see labyrinths being constructed in prisons, health care and mental health facilities, resorts, beach destinations, fields and parks and forests. Some even build them in their backyards. 

Benefits of Walking the Labyrinth

The benefits of walking the path are as individual as the person who walks the path. Simply put, it’s personal. However, there are common benefits experienced by millions of people.

“The major benefit is that it brings about a quiet mind, “says Lauren Artress, a San Francisco area-based author and spiritual leader of the movement and founder of Veriditas, a World-Wide Labyrinth Project. 

“There are so many of us who consider ourselves failed meditators, but that’s because we have been attempting to quiet our minds in sitting meditation. It is easier to quiet the mind when one’s body is moving.”

Lauren Artress

Artress cites other benefits: insights when you explore challenges in life from the position of a quiet mind; questions can be answered, intentions strengthened, and the meaning of dreams can be discovered through active imagination methods used during the walk. 

Mindfulness and even a renewed spirituality are possible benefits. Others report slower breathing, heart rate and lower blood pressure.

Walking slowly through the pathway with a clear mind can bring clarity to a problem or a question. But for some, labyrinth walking may simply be a way to temporarily escape stress. You may not even feel any benefit at all. And that’s ok too. 

Four Stages of Walking the Labyrinth: Remember, Release, Receive & Return

You are unique. Each walking experience will be different, and don’t compare yours with others. There is no right or wrong experience. If others are walking the same pathway, let them pass. Go at your pace, not theirs. This isn’t a race.

Artress, after decades of leading individuals and groups and training others how to walk the path, offers the following guidance.

1. Before Walking

Be thankful. If there’s a specific event or issue troubling you, bring it to mind and form a healing question if possible.

2. Walking In

Quiet the mind. Release any mind chatter and troubles. Open your heart to feel whatever it might feel. Become aware of your breathing. Take slow deep breaths. Relax and move at your own pace. Don’t rush.

3. Standing or Sitting in the Center

This is the place of reflection. Stay as long as necessary. Open yourself to your higher power. Listen to the inner voice. Have a heart-to-heart with yourself.

4. Walking Out

Only when ready, walk out the same path you followed in. Walking out, integration of your experience happens. You may feel a sense of well-being, healing, excitement, calm or peace. 

Gallagher from The Labyrinth Society adds, “Approach the labyrinth and give yourself time to become more introspective and examine yourself and stay with it. Who knows what can happen.”

Labyrinths are fully inclusive and don’t discriminate based on age, sex, sexual preference, creed or religion. Designers and builders are increasingly making them more accessible to those with a disability.

Labyrinths can provide a pathway to a greater understanding of yourself, the world we live in and life’s bigger questions. 

Why not plan a wellness holiday visiting labyrinths from different parts of the world in settings from rolling green countryside to seaside locations or by type from Classical, Medieval and Baltic to Contemporary?

Contemplate this on your next walk.


World-Wide Labyrinth Locator 
A user-friendly database with information on locations, pictures, contact details and more. Just plug in your area of interest. There are currently more than 6,100 locations (and counting) in 85 countries.

An excellent resource created by Jeff and Kimberly Saward with a particular focus on the history, design and construction of labyrinths (and mazes) and an extensive photo library.

The Labyrinth Society 
The main resource site for the international group of enthusiasts with contact information for regional representatives, FAQs, types of labyrinths, readings and resources list, events and more.

Organization founded by Lauren Artress and dedicated to training and supporting labyrinth facilitators around the world. Information on events, pilgrimages (e.g., Chartres Cathedral in France), and understanding the labyrinth as a tool for personal and community transformation.

World Labyrinth Day
World Labyrinth Day is an annual event sponsored by The Labyrinth Society (TLS). Every year on the first Saturday in May, thousands of people around the world participate in this moving meditation for world peace.

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