At UEA we are fortunate to have a 24ft Santa Rosa canvas labyrinth which CSED makes available for UEA staff, students and visitors to walk on a regular basis, usually once a month. Since February 2009 the venue has been the Meeting Room upstairs in the Multifaith Centre (formerly Chaplaincy), which is a large, airy but quiet space used for many kinds of worship or for individual meditation and prayer. It is an ideal location for labyrinth walks, situated just up from the Square, right in the centre of activity, yet being a place for stepping out of that buzz and taking a pause to contemplate or to just be still.
For those who do not know, a labyrinth is a (usually) circular pattern on the ground which at first sight may look like a maze, except that it has only a single path leading to the centre, there are no choices or dead ends. So all you have to do is follow the path until you reach the centre, then follow it out again, it really is that simple. The labyrinth does not present a challenge nor is it designed for you to lose yourself in, in a sense it offers a way of finding yourself.
You could certainly walk this labyrinth easily within ten minutes, but the point of walking is not just 'to get it over with', it is often to slow down and become calm, or to contemplate some issue, or to be with oneself. So usually visitors will slow down their pace and some take it very slowly indeed, often pausing for a while now and then when it feels right to do so. So allow at least 20 minutes for your walk in case you need it. Of course it is perfectly ok to pass someone who is going more slowly than you. In fact there is no one correct way to walk, it is all about what feels right, though you might like to consider the following suggestions.
It is helpful to pause briefly at the entrance to compose yourself and perhaps to think about why you are walking. It is best to enter with no expectations, but with empty hands and an open heart and mind, ready to receive whatever the labyrinth will give. Sometimes people will have an issue or problem they wish to mull over, or they simply want to be calmer. For some the act of labyrinth walking can be healing. For most it is a short period of time where you can escape from the buzz and busyness of your work day and find peace.
During the inward walk it is not unusual to find your mind racing at first, but after a while this should pass and you will settle into the walk. Sometimes at the centre people will receive an insight or have new ideas about problems, or for some they may feel exhilarated or experience a great sense of peace, or they may feel nothing special. A lot depends upon what you bring to the labyrinth with you, what is in your mind to start with. The outward walk is important too because it is then that people can assimilate what they have received or learned. It is also provides a gradual transition from the special space that is the labyrinth to the normal everyday world outside.Finally as you exit, it is customary (if you feel right about it) to turn to face and acknowledge the labyrinth for a moment, in a sense giving thanks for what you have received. This neatly ends the walk.
At the Labyrinth Walks we make available small cards with trigger words on (sometimes called Angel Cards) and you may if you wish take one of these to inform your walk. Either read it before walking and think about what it might mean to you, or look at it when you reach the centre, or when you exit. There is nothing magical about these cards, they just provide a focus for your thoughts and some find them helpful.
The labyrinth is experienced at a very individual and personal level, so each person's walk will be unique. Even the same person will find that their experience is different each time they walk. It seems to develop and enrich over time as an individual walks again and again.
It is also interesting to walk different labyrinths as they all have their own aura and personality. We are lucky in Norwich to have two public outdoor labyrinths at the Anglican Cathedral (in the cloister garth) and at Wensum Park, Oak Street. These are well worth a visit.
For those who would like to know more about labyrinths we have several fascinating books available for loan in the CSED Collection on Floor 1 of the Library. Staff may take these out in the normal way using their campus card (note that items from the LaRC have a shorter loan period than those from the rest of the library).
Steve Oldfield, February 2018.