Many people have asked me about my upcoming labyrinth walk. What is a labyrinth and what is the winter solstice? I thought that I would offer some insight and a bit of history about both so that anyone interested in joining us will feel confident and peaceful.
Ultimately, the labyrinth is a vehicle for meditation. It is a circular construction with one path guiding the walker from the entrance to the center …and then back to the entrance. The way is not concealed. In the case of my labyrinth, it is an 88’ circular garden with a stone path. The fact that there is only one path to the center and the path is clear, the mind can relax into accepting a simple journey. The mind’s only task is to stay on the path. A labyrinth is different from a maze; a maze being designed to have multiple twists and turns and including false starts and dead ends. The maze is, of course, a great metaphor for life; however, finding your way through a maze can lead to negative feelings and fear. In contrast, the labyrinth frees the mind to relax.
The origin of the labyrinth and its many variations are found way back in prehistoric rock art, widely across the globe, and represented in many of the world’s religions. The earliest examples of the walking labyrinth are found in southern Sweden and date from the Iron Age (c.0 – 500 BCE). A plethora of labyrinth walks through pavement appear around the Middle of the 13th century. Many of these walks are constructed in medieval churches and cathedrals. An amazing labyrinth is found at Chartres Cathedral in France. (This labyrinth was the inspiration for my labyrinth design, although my labyrinth has been greatly simplified.) More recently in the 16th century “turf labyrinths” became a popular garden feature in Britain and were used socially as a part of springtime celebrations (Easter, Mayday, etc.) symbolizing growth and renewal.
Today, in the 21st century, many Christian church groups continue to walk the labyrinth as a symbolic representation of the journey to the Holy Land. The most widespread use of the contemporary labyrinth, however, is as a walking meditation. I walk the labyrinth to reach states from peace to absolute presence, and to express things like gratitude and love. Every walk is a part of a journey and is uniquely personal to the walker.
So…What is the winter solstice and why do I want to celebrate it? The word solstice means “sun stands still”, because the sun appears to halt in the sky. Basically the winter solstice, December 22, 2012, is the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere it is the summer solstice, which is the longest day and shortest night of the year. (Our summer solstice for 2012 will occur on June 20th…save the date!)
The winter solstice has been celebrated since ancient times and in many cultures and religions. This celebration of the “rebirth” of sunlight can even be associated with the timing of Christmas and the birth of the son (sun) of God. This article in National Geographic talks in-depth about Christmas and it’s relationship to the winter solstice. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1220_021220_solstice.html.
December 22nd is the day that the shift occurs. For those of us, who know the “winter blues” for what it is…a deprivation of light and vitamin D. This is a day for celebration; promising the gradual return of the sun!
I welcome anyone interested in this celebration, or any celebration of rebirth and renewal, to join me…December 22, 2012 at 4:30pm. Send me a message for more information.
Namaste’ and I’m sending you love and wishes for an amazing holiday season and new year!