Thursday, 2 September 2010

Labyrinths Are Not Mazes


Many people use the words "labyrinth" and "maze" interchangeably. But they are not the same thing at all.

A maze is deliberately designed to fool and confuse the walker. There are twists, turns, dead ends. You can get lost in a maze. A maze is multicursal -- it has multiple paths but only one path gets you to the destination. A maze is a puzzle to be figured out.

But you can never get lost in a labyrinth because it only has one path. The path may twist and turn, but there are no dead ends or misleading alleyways. A labyrinth is unicursal -- it has a single path that leads to the centre and back again.

That's why a labyrinth can be used for meditation -- you don't have to use your left brain to figure out the correct path. Knowing that you cannot get lost, you can turn off your left brain. Your right brain is then free to take over and conduct a truly meditative experience for you.

22 comments:

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

Aha! Didn't know that. I always think of "The Labrynth" movie and there were lots of choices for her in that one. And David Bowie was so distracting... ;)

Jabacue said...

Thanks for this Debra. I was wondering about that. Meditating and trying to 'get through' the path....very distracting.
Question: Do you know anything about numerology? We have a number that keeps reappearing over and over, and it's a significant number to us as well.
Can you recommend a book or two? Thanks.
Jim

Jeanne said...

Hate mazes! Am never able to figure them out. But then, I am right brained challenged anyway.

mxtodis123 said...

To me, a maze is a game. A labyrinth is for real.
Mary

Diandra said...

Learn something new every day... in German, we use "labyrinth" for both structures, and I didn't know the differences in English.

(Strictly speaking, there is "Labyrinth" in German for unicursal structures and "Irrgarten" for multicursal structures, but "Labyrinth" is used for both even by specialists, whereas "Irrgarten" is considered slightly oldfashioned. I think.)

City Wiccan said...

I find it tricky to be meditative in the labyrinth because there's always people around the ones we have here. It's hard to get one all to yourself and feel free to give way.

faerwillow said...

~mazes can lead to frustration and it seems only calm soothing feelings come to be when walking a labyrinth...thank you for sharing this! much l♥ve and light upon you and yours~

Wendy said...

I know when I walked the Labyrinth's that I did, I felt very safe and kept consciousness unlike a maze as you said which is meant to lead you astray. I hope everyone gets the chance to meditate with a maze. They were both so powerful and changed my life!

Judy said...

Wonder where I can find a labyrinth around my place???

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Hi Judy -- You can try searching the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator found at this website:

http://labyrinthlocator.com

Just fill in your city, province/state and country in the search box and hopefully one or more nearby labyrinths will pop up!

Little Messy Missy said...

Twice a year I make one in my back yard using sand. After about a week it fades. Very cool!

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

5bucks I'd still get lost.

AlbertaMama said...

That's what I love most about the labyrinth, it's a journey, a set path, not a confusion! It's a journey where reflection and growth can take place. The mind and heart can open in such a safe enviroment

Lyn said...

Thanks for the labyrinth link, Debra. There's one about a mile away from me and I had no idea. Guess where I'm going to be dragging my husband tomorrow?

K(Banterings of a Basketcase) said...

you tell them! Lyn at witch blog had to write about how gargoyles are not grotesques- I called a grotesque a gargoyle all my life. But I did know about the labrynth/ maze thing. LOL- I just realized Lyn is above me in the comment section

Sara said...

Mazes can be incredibly frustrating... a labyrinth never is. Such peace can be found.

mistress maddie said...

I love LABYRINTHS! We have one in New Hope not far from here, and Pan's Labyrinth is one of my favoriye movies!

cherenkov said...

Well how 'bout that ... I never knew the difference. Now: is the library at the University of Winnipeg a labyrinth because it has one primary path, or a maze because each row of books is a dead end? (Or has it completely changed since I was in there a hundred years ago?)

Cameron said...

Oh you bet I am following this series of posts! As if my blog isn't called Walking the Labyrinth! Whoohoo! Excellent! Looking forward to it!
The first time I ever walked a Labyrinth, it completely took my breath away and became a deep part of the journey of my life, metaphorically. The day after I wrote a song about the experience...here is the last verse and the refrain...

"Every step a painful journey
A throb of sorrow, a laugh of pain
Every tear you shed of gladness
Cleans the heart in bitter rain
Surrender therefore to your living
Dying daily, born again
Walk the spiral to the ending
To the Heart where it began.

Refrain:
Spiral in, the journey takes us
Larger, greater, deep within
Than it's outer boundary marking
The lines upon the hearts of men"

Looking forward to more posts, as always!

Magaly Guerrero said...

I just learned something new! That would teach me to read my posts in order. I guess I don't miss Illinois' labyrinths after all, for what they have are mazes!

I feel extra intelligent right now ;-)

Laura said...

Clear and true explanation, like a labyrinth! If only daily life were less a maze! I suppose sometimes that is a matter of choosing too...do we see the twists and turns as learning ops that lead us to exactly the point we need to be at in our lives or frightening dead ends and cruel trickery (the universe has it in for me! attitude) I'm choosing to see life as labyrinth, a path of trust.

Lynette Killam said...

Wonderfully explained..I do love labyrinths but find no joy in mazes. Thank you for the locater link...I'm going right there once I've checked out your other posts!