Not many people know there is a meditation labyrinth in the Centennial Parklands. Many more would consider it a useless waste of time to walk it, it being a single winding path in a relatively small circle.
Those people would be wrong. Walking the labyrinth is an incredibly powerful experience, and was a journey I recently took in the midst of my own personal turmoil. Before I tell you about that, let me first tell you about labyrinths.
Labyrinths are ancient structures dating back to the Neolithic and unlike a maze, there is only one path with no dead ends. Early labyrinths were carved into stone or can be seen painted on pottery. For the Romans they were a symbol of protection and a popular decorative motif in mosaic floors.
During the Medieval period, labyrinths became more complex and intricate as a result of the new notions of faith, life, and philosophy which were becoming more prominent at the time. The church started laying out marble labyrinth paths on cathedral floors and high class churches. Because of the advent of the church system, labyrinths came to symbolise a spiritual journey or pilgrimage.
In Buddhist-type religions, the labyrinth is a tool for reflection and walking a labyrinth is to engage in a personal medative journey. In fact, the quiet, reflection which occurs from walking a labyrinth is similar to the effect of engaging in mindfulness; another eastern philiosophy focusing on harmonising internal self with the extrenal world.
Regardless of the religious and symbolic aspects of the labyrinth design, it’s purpose has always been to aid in some kind of contemplation. You don’t have to make choices when walking a labyrinth, the only thing you can do is walk.
I decided to walk the Centennial Park labyrinth one extremely wet Monday. I could have have waited for a sunnier day, but then I would have just stayed at home and been miserable. At the time I was in the midst of a days long fight with my partner, and had also had people bombarding me, telling me what to do.
I was feeling crushed, alone, and insignificant. Nothing I did was helping. One of the few things I find helpful at such times is walking, but doing my usual and walking around the city was just too intimidating; too many people, too overwhelming, too much busy, too much distraction. I needed calm.
I’d never been to the labyrinth before. The only reason I knew it was there was because I had seen an ABC documentary last year describing it’s construction. Hence, I found myself in my green parker jacket standing in a thunderstorm under my rainbow golf umbrella at the entrance to the labryinth.
I admit for a moment I did consider walking away; trudging through pooling water along a narrow path contained in a giant circle seemed a little stupid. The moment passed, and I sucked it up and took the first step of what proved to be an hour and a half journey.
You quickly lose time in a labryinth. The eye is drawn to the bordered path which stretches on seemingly unendingly. You lose your sense of direction as the path wends towards the centre and twists back in a completely different direction. When you get to the centre you have no idea how you got there. And then you just stand because by now, in your mind, there is nothing but the path and the only way out is to turn around and go back the way you came. Time is once again lost until you are released back onto the entrance stone.
It was only until I had exited that I realised I was freezing and my jeans were completely soaked. Despite this, I was calmer and although the effect didn’t last very long, it was definately helpful.
For anyone wishing to walk the labyrinth or simply find out more about it, follow this link: http://www.centennialparklands.com.au/things_to_do/centennial_park_labyrinth