Jenna Petersen, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

February 21, 2021

THE LABYRINTH | ANCIENT PRAYER & RELAXATION TOOL

When discussing Intuitive Eating and eating well, discussing stress is inevitable. Stress levels greatly impact eating, as people often engage in eating in order to meet emotional needs and have a hard time responding to physical hunger.

Stress is ubiquitous. Often, having too much to do and not enough time means that we are chronically sleep-deprived, caffeine-fueled, and hungry. It’s easy to skip out on meals. It’s rare to take the time to tune into how hungry or full we actually feel while eating.

Enter the Labyrinth. While using a Labyrinth will not eliminate the stressors in your life currently, it may help you take the time and space you need in order to get in tune with your body, emotions, thoughts, and needs. The Labyrinth is a great option for managing your stress. It is simple and free. Labyrinths have helped people successfully remind themselves of what matters most in trying times for thousands of years.

So what exactly is a labyrinth? You may have glanced at the image above and been reminded of the concept of a maze. Maybe you solved mazes as a kid. My brother drew complicated ones in a plethora of fun shapes. Mazes involve multiple pathways with the possibility of going down a dead end. Labyrinths, on the other hand, have one path. There are no false directions. They take you around every turn on your way into the center, and they guide you around every bend on the way out. The purpose of the labyrinth is multi-faceted. You can use it to help you relax, pray, answer a question, memorize scripture, or listen to the Lord.

There are several different kinds of labyrinths that you might come across. Sometimes, labyrinths are outdoors and constructed of a variety of materials, such as concrete, grass, hedges, shorter plants, stone, or soil. They can also be indoors, and either permanent or transportable. You don’t have to be able to walk to use a labyrinth, either. Relax using a finger labyrinth like the one pictured in bamboo, or print an image to trace with your finger at home. Pictured below are a few types of labyrinths.

I was first introduced to the Labyrinth through the outdoors one at Crossroads College in Rochester, MN. My sister enjoyed praying outside and relaxing using the labyrinth. It is meant to be walked slowly, intentionally, and quietly. She enjoyed it so much that I drew her a picture of the experience to commemorate the special place and experience of rest that she enjoyed.

The Cedar Valley boasts of two outdoor labyrinths. I have been told that one is located in Cedar Falls on Seerley Boulevard, although I have not been to this labyrinth. There is also an outdoor one at the Cedar Valley Arboretum, which I used once a lovely summer evening. Outdoor labyrinths such as these can be a welcome respite in warmer weather. During the colder months, I would suggest an indoor option, especially the finger labyrinths which are easily accessible to anyone reading right now.

You can use an online tool known as the World Labyrinth Locator to find labyrinths across the globe to help you manage your stress while traveling.

Labyrinths are not always used by people of faith, but they can be. Just like a cell phone can be an instrument of both the darkness and the light, the labyrinth is a tool that can be used for many purposes. It has been used by Christians for many years as a tool for worshipping God and has been displayed on the walls and floors of churches since 1000 AD.

Labyrinths offer the opportunity to detach from the everyday stressors of life, center yourself, and emerge ready for the rest of your day. People sometimes follow this three-part sequence:

  1. Releasing. As you enter the labyrinth and make your way to the center, let go of the day so far and set aside all of the things left on your to-do list.
  2. Receiving. Pause in the center. Listen to the Holy Spirit and what He may be speaking to you. Does any Scripture come to mind? How might God be leading you today? How can you trust Him with whatever is going on?
  3. Integrating. As you return to the rest of your day, reflect on what you learned, being relaxed and energized for whatever comes next.

Interested in using a labyrinth right now? Take a screenshot of the image below, and create your version of a finger labyrinth. For fun, you can map out your path using the color tool on Instagram stories and tag @womeneatwell. We look forward to seeing your labyrinths!

Paper cut labyrinth on dusty, sage background. This symbol is often used in Christian tradition (etched onto the marble floor), like in medieval cathedrals.

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