What is a Labyrinth?

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The Labyrinth represents a journey to our center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have a long history as meditation and prayer tools.

A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is like a puzzle to be solved. A labyrinth has only one path. The way into the center is the way out.

Walking the safety of this path allows us to focus on how God guides our lives.

By trusting the path, giving up conscious control of how things should go, and being receptive to our inner state, we can be opened up to new thoughts and feelings.  Through the beautiful flow of their sacred patterns, labyrinths help us become grounded.

Walking the labyrinth may be a way to see our whole lives as a journey of faith.  Following the path becomes a metaphor – not always knowing where we go, but trusting God’s hand to lead us and God’s love to support us.

How to Walk the Labyrinth

There is no right way to walk a labyrinth. You only have to enter and follow the path. That said, some people focus on these three stages as they walk:

  • Releasing – letting go of the details of life.  This is the act of shedding thoughts and distractions, a time to open the heart and quiet the mind.
  • Receiving – when you reach the center, stay there as long as you like.  It is a place of meditation and prayer.  Listen for God.  Listen for what God might be giving you, or inviting you to do.
  • Returning – As you leave, join God at work in the world.  Each time you walk the labyrinth, you become more empowered to find and do the work to which Christ calls you.

For some variety, consider these ideas:

  • Your walk can encompass a variety of attitudes. It may be joyous or sad. It might be thoughtful, prayerful, or playful.
    • It helps to choose your attitude intentionally before you start.
    • Choose a different attitude from time to time.
  • Try playing music or singing while you walk. Try praying out loud. 
  • Walk alone and with a crowd.
  • Notice the sky. Listen to the sounds. Pay attention to your experience.

May you be nourished and blessed in your walking.

Valpo alum and author Travis Scholl (‘96) writes eloquently about the creative gift of the labyrinth:

“We can chart the history of our lives by the spiritual clichés with which we live them…The problem is these clichés so quickly wear out, a heap of broken images.  And so we need to find a new platitude, over and over again, feigning a feeble order in the latest cliché of our lives.

“The way, the vocare, of the labyrinth turns such piety on its head.  The labyrinth orders disorder not by the straight line of the cliché but by the unending circle of a paradox.  It makes its way not by stringing tight the shortest possible distance from one point to another, but by finding the longest way possible to get from the entrance to the end.  It orders disorder by imitating disorder, by finding a holy artistry in life’s accidents, by designing chaos.

“Which is why the center of the labyrinth is empty, a void.  It is empty not so that we can fill it with whatever pious platitudes are trending at this moment, but so that it can mirror the emptiness of all of our pieties, the disorder inherent in the order we try to make of it, the chaos in our feeble plans.

“And then it asks us – simply – to open our eyes.  To walk into the vocare of the labyrinth is to open our eyes to the wondrous gift of this path of a day, of the way one fleeting moment can break into timeless epiphany.  To this, and for this moment, I have been called.”

From Walking the Labyrinth: a place to pray and seek God. p.97

Travis recorded a video presentation based on his book for Valpo’s 2024 MLK Day Celebration.

A Memorial

The Resurrection Labyrinth at the east end of the Chapel of the Resurrection is given to the glory of God in memory of Nicole Unrath, class of 2003, by her family and friends. Nicole died in a car accident in September 2003. 

A canvas labyrinth was inside the Chapel during Lent of Nicole’s sophomore year. Nicole and many others found the experience of walking the labyrinth very uplifting. She and Pastor Cunningham spoke about having a permanent labyrinth.

Nicole was an Elementary education major and a Christ College associate. She took a leading role with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and was the president her junior year. Nicole was also active in the Chapel ministry, serving on the Morning Prayer staff her senior year. She desired all Christian organizations on campus would work together to spread the gospel. She loved the Lord Jesus and lived her life to His glory. Her favorite saying was, “Smile big because God loves you and so

After graduating from Valpo, Nicole taught first grade at Tinker Elementary School on MacDill AFB in Tampa, FL. She had attended Tinker from kindergarten through the third grade when her father, an Air Force chaplain, was stationed at MacDill.