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Sacred Imagination
October 2000 Column & Gallery

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Dana's Current Column

by Dana Reynolds

Each month, Dana Reynolds shares her life-transforming thoughts, ideas, and sacred imagination based around our "theme of the month."  She also presents the story and creativity of one chosen reader, whose spiritual journey can touch all of our lives.  Dana is a visionary Spiritual Midwife, who devotes herself to helping women birth their creative gifts into the world.

"Journey to the Center - The Sacred Mystery of the Labyrinth"

Solvitur ambulando….  It is solved by walking….  ~Saint Augustine

The spiritual journey is a spiral journey. The labyrinth offers us a sacred geometric form, a divine imprint, as a meditative tool. Walking the labyrinth helps quiet the mind as the body moves along the singular path leading from rim to center and back to the rim again. The movement of the body diffuses the energy that challenges the process of quieting ever-constant thoughts. The labyrinth is ancient…as ancient as human imagination itself.

"The product of the creative imagination, found inside ourselves, not "out there" or above us—-this is what people are discovering in the labyrinth. It is the container for the creative imagination to align with our heart’s desire, it is a place where we can profoundly, yet playfully, experience our soul’s longing and intention." These are the words of Dr. Lauren Artress, in her book, Walking a Sacred Path. Dr. Artess is an Episcopal priest at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and founder of Veriditas, The Worldwide Labyrinth Project. Her work has played an important part in the rediscovery of the labyrinth around the planet.

Portable canvas labyrinths, stone labyrinths carefully placed in backyards, temporary labyrinths mowed into grassy fields, labyrinths drawn in the sand on beaches, these are only a few examples of the creative ways the labyrinth is being experienced in modern culture.

Labyrinths differ from a maze because there are no tricks or dead ends. A labyrinth has a singular path leading from the entrance to the center, the same path is followed as we return to where we began.

Labyrinths are divine imprints holding great mysteries because we don’t know their exact origin or how they facilitate insight in the human heart and mind. They have been known to exist for over four thousand years. Labyrinths are archetypal forms of transformation. Dr. Artress states, "When we contact an archetype, it is like releasing a time capsule in the psyche. We contact the power of the numinous."

Nearly every major religious tradition has a labyrinth. Examples include the tree of life, an elongated labyrinth, found in the Kabbala, the Jewish mystical tradition, Tibetan mandala sand paintings, and Hopi Indian medicine wheels.

The Cretan labyrinth is the oldest labyrinth design recorded. One of the great labyrinth mysteries is that even though early civilizations had no contact with one another, only one archetypal labyrinth design appeared over thousands of years.

The labyrinth’s proportion and power come from an ancient understanding of sacred geometry. Its roots stem from music, mathematics, astronomy, and geometry. According to Robert Lawlor in his book, Sacred Geometry, "geometry" in ancient terms meant contemplating forms (spirals, circles, forms found in nature), "…a way by which the essential creative mystery is rendered visible."

Labyrinth maker, Robert Ferre, quoted by Melissa Gayle West in her book, Exploring the Labyrinth says, "I think the power of the labyrinth is that it takes us back to a prescientific time when our minds didn’t rule our bodies, spirits, or souls. The labyrinth speaks directly to the proportions that we are all actually even made of. The idea of sacred geometry was to discover the sacred building blocks of creation itself. There’s something very elemental about the labyrinth that speaks to who we really are at our deepest level…"

In the Middle Ages it was customary for Christians to vow to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem sometime during their lives. History offered obstacles to this desire when the Crusades made travel dangerous and Jerusalem became a place of religious upheaval. Because of this, the Catholic church designated seven cathedrals to represent Jerusalem to pilgrims. The labyrinths in many of these cathedrals symbolized the entrance into the Holy City.

In 1998 I had the privilege to make a modern day pilgrimage to the magnificent Chartres Cathedral in France. I was part of a group facilitated by Dr. Lauren Artress and The Very Reverend Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral. The labyrinth became a part of my life when I first experienced it through Dr. Artress as part of a Transpersonal Psychology Conference some years before. I was later inspired to become a labyrinth facilitator through the training offered by Veriditas. The pilgrimage to Chartres was fulfillment of my heart’s desire to return to one of the world’s sacred taproots of the labyrinth.

Entering Chartres Cathedral for the first time on that steamy August afternoon stirred something deep in the core of my cellular memory. As my eyes adjusted from the bright sunlight outside to the dark diffused light inside the ancient cathedral, I was overcome with a sense of "remembering." At my feet was the great stone labyrinth inlaid into the floor of the nave, covered by folding chairs and the busy movements of tourists. But for an instant, it was as though I had a glimpse to another time, an ancient time, when pilgrims entered on their knees to crawl reverently and prayerfully to the center.

The next evening our group was invited to the cathedral after hours for a private walk through the crypt. We continued our procession upstairs around the interior perimeter past the Virgin on the Pillar, and the reliquary containing, what is believed to be, the veil the Blessed Virgin wore when Christ was born. Our walk at last brought us to the labyrinth. Stepping barefooted onto the cool stone pathway instantly connected me on a cellular level with all the countless pilgrims who had walked here before me. It was an experience that I have revisited countless times in my memory as a meditation, as a prayer.

When one walks the labyrinth there are many ways to approach the process. Melissa Gayle West, in her book, Exploring the Labyrinth, gives the following guidance. "The labyrinth invites us to show up. Our best response to this powerful invitation is mindful preparation for a walk. The more consciously we prepare for the walk, the deeper and more transformative that walk will be….

By being fully conscious of our intentions for any particular walk, we harness the power of the labyrinth. We can frame those intentions as either a question or a statement; the power of the intention is not in how it is worded but in that it is consciously chosen and walked into."

Intentions may come in the form of a question, "How can I resolve difficulty in my relationship? Or "What might a creative solution be for my project?" Intentions can also be in the form of statement or prayer. "I am asking for guidance. I am asking for healing."

When the intention is set, take a few deep breaths to begin to quiet the mind. The labyrinth invites the creative/sacred imagination to present guidance. The images that begin to emerge often appear from a metaphor encountered on the path. Everything that happens on the walk, when experienced through the intuitive and the sacred imagination gives the journeyer whatever he/she needs to learn from a place beyond the everyday ego.

Find your own rhythm as you walk. You may encounter others on the path. Follow your instinctive guidance. Pass another if you feel guided to do so. You may feel the urge to cry, laugh, sing, or dance. Allow your body to move freely.

Dr. Artress suggests that the labyrinth walk can be seen from the perspective of three stages defining the process. These are derived from the Western Christian mystical tradition known as the Threefold Path. The three stages leading us to an ultimate sense of union with the Divine include Purgation, Illumination, and Union.

Purgation is the first stage of the walk. It is the emptying of the self as we walk from the entrance to the center. This is a time of letting go.

Illumination, the second stage, may be found in the center. When we have quieted the mind during the walk we find the center to be a place for meditation and prayer. This is where we have the opportunity to discover clarity. Coming to this place with an open heart and mind enables us to be receptive to what is there for us.

Union, the third stage, is defined as communing or communion with the Holy. This stage enlivens us to return to the world, renewed and guided. The melding of contemplation and action leads to transformation. This is what makes the labyrinth such a powerful spiritual tool and meditative practice.

We are pilgrims in the new millennium. We are seeking ways to connect more deeply to our spiritual centers while living in the midst of hurried everyday life. Perhaps walking the labyrinth offers us a portal to sacred dimensions. Perhaps the ancient path of the labyrinth will carry us to a place of remembering why we are here.

To learn more about Veriditas, and labyrinth facilitator training and pilgrimages visit www.gracecathedral.org/labyrinth or call Chris Rodgers at 415-749-6358.

You are invited to submit your story and accompanying photos to be considered as a feature for the Sacred Imagination column. E-mail me at dana@sacredimagination.com for details.

Copyright© 2000 Dana Reynolds. 


Sacred Imagination’s Story of the Month

by Tricia Kibbe, Sudbury, Massachusetts

This summer was a perfect time for landscaping our front yard. The whole family was enrolled in the project and we decided to do it ourselves. The end result is beautiful, but after six weeks, we were all exhausted. It was at this point that the backyard began to call to me, "Don’t forget the labyrinth!" Oh my, how could I now go to everyone and ask for more help?

I asked anyway. They all looked at me as though I must certainly have heat stroke. "Maybe next year," was the universal cry. I couldn’t argue so I quietly retreated to the backyard.

Standing very near the space where my husband and I were married, I marveled at how strong the pull was to put in a labyrinth. I had been secretly wanting one for a long time. As a labyrinth facilitator I am blessed to have two canvas indoor labyrinths to use for workshops. How different it would be though to have a meditative path to walk outdoors whenever Spirit called. I could settle for a circle of stones that I could do myself this year, and bring the sacred energy to the spot in anticipation of the right time.

"Don’t forget the labyrinth!" continued to ring in my ears. My son, Mark, agreed to help wheelbarrow the stones we’d found into the backyard. He helped find the circle’s center in the yard’s most level and mossy spot.

We took a rope and measured a 24’ circle. Mark went back into the house. If this stone circle were to happen, it was up to me. I began to place the stones and an amazing transformation took place. My husband, Adam, came to see what was happening and began to help. The area immediately took on a sacred quality. It was exhilarating. Just placing the stones in a circle had created a sacred space. I was delighted with this beginning.

I was satisfied, but Spirit had something else in mind. Amazingly, when I went inside, my husband was measuring a picture of the Santa Rosa labyrinth on the computer. He was laying out the path’s and stone’s measurement on a paper labyrinth he had created. How wonderful! I was so grateful for his effort and willingness to talk about how the construction might work.

We discussed how to begin by marking the four directions using string and a compass. I wanted the entry path to face eastward allowing us to walk into the rising sun. Next, we discussed the seven concentric circles and the material we would use to make them. My friend Billy had sprinkled lime to create a labyrinth in the woods, perhaps we would do something similar. We decided to outline the paths with a medium-sized light purple gravel, leaving the moss to walk on. We were really beginning to create and birth this labyrinth. What was going on?

Clearly, Spirit was moving this project ahead despite any thoughts to the contrary. Only a week later my friend Barbara and I had the seven circles laid out using grain rather than lime. It took about 15 pounds of wheat, bran and corn and some tired backs but we were on our way. Again, the transformation was remarkable. The next day Adam and I laid the gravel over the grain. As we began, I lit candles and placed them in the center and around the circle. With sacred music playing in the background, we began to birth our labyrinth. We graveled in the lines and turns first, saving the center and altar for last. When it was complete, we walked it together with great joy and gratitude for its existence. Reaching the center and looking at what was created was a very special and emotional moment to be cherished.

Our labyrinth is a constant reminder of the sacredness of the Earth. Friends have come to walk the path and one remarked of picturing "lovely fairies" surrounding it and filling it with light and love. What a gift to have it where we can walk it anytime! Just seeing it from the window can cause one to take a deep breath and slow down a bit. I encourage each of you to consider a sacred space somewhere in or on your surroundings, it is truly magical.

May your path be filled with blessings!!!

Tricia Kibbe lives in Sudbury, MA. She is a Veriditas certified labyrinth facilitator trained at Grace Cathedral in 1997. She facilitates labyrinth workshops and walks around the Northeast. In May 2000, Tricia co-coordinated the "Let Us Walk With Mary" retreat sponsored by Veriditas at Chartres Cathedral in France. She would love to help in any way those who might wish to create a sacred path in their space. 

Please feel free to contact her at: kibbe@aol.com.
Visit her website at: www.spiraltouch.com.


Read Dana's Soulful Living Feature Articles:

Visual Prayers

Intuition and the Sacred Imagination: The Dance of Co-creation

Read Dana's Past "Sacred Imagination" Columns:

November 2000 "Cultivating Gratitude: Heart-Hugs and Prayer Leaves"

September 2000 "The Heart and Craft of Healing"

August 2000 "Transforming Life’s Challenges into Beauty and Story"

July 2000 "Sacred Spaces Invite the Muses of the Soul"


For ten years, Dana Reynolds has been facilitating women’s spiritual presentations and retreats nationwide. Her work as a Spiritual Midwife, one who assists women as they birth their creative gifts into the world, is the foundation of all her endeavors. Her background as a visual artist and writer enriches her Spiritual Midwifery: Birthing the Feminine Soul workshops.

As the creator of an art making process known as visual prayer, Dana teaches women how to combine ritual with sacred intention to create altars, collages, spirit dolls, and other touchstones. The creation of sacred spaces is also paramount to the Spiritual Midwifery experience. Her web-site http://www.sacredimagination.com offers samplings of her visual prayer collages, poetry, and a workshop catalogue.

Dana is the author of the whimsical and colorfully illustrated book, Be An Angel, a co-creation with illustrator and graphic designer, Karen Blessen, (Simon & Schuster). Her essay, Visual Prayers is included in the anthology, Our Turn, Our Time: Women Coming of Age, edited by Cynthia Black, (Beyond Words Publishing).

A trained labyrinth facilitator, Dana incorporates the labyrinth and other spiritual wisdom into her retreats and workshops. She recently traveled to Chartres and Vezelay Cathedrals in France to gather information pertaining to ancient sacred mystical traditions. She currently lectures on such topics as spiritual midwifery, sacred journal keeping, feminine spiritual wisdom, and the early Christian women saints and mystics.

Dana’s life follows the spiral path from rim to center and back again. She looks for the sacred in forgotten places and openly embraces the great Mystery of life. Guiding women to the discovery of their creative inner gifts is the passion that fuels her soul.


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