When my friend told me that they’re building a labyrinth in Sydney’s Centennial Park I had grand visions. Firstly I thought of David Bowie in a Rod Stewart wig prancing around. The next thought was of the hedge mazes of England and the time I got lost in one. However, these flights of fancy were wrong, wrong, wrong.
A maze is about finding your way through despite the many dead ends designed to frustrate you, whereas a labyrinth is a single path that weaves in and around itself.
The Sydney Labyrinth Organisation is raising money to build a sandstone labyrinth, a replica of the 800 year old one in France’s Chartres Cathedral, in Centennial Park. In the meantime, the Parklands have agreed to maintain a white outline labyrinth painted on the grass until the beginning of next year. It is situated between Lachlan’s Swamp, the duck and willow ponds.
It seemed ironic that I got us lost trying to find the labyrinth (I put a map I found later at the end of this post.) When we got there, I have to say, we were kind of underwhelmed. It’s smaller than we expected and really it’s just a couple of lines on the grass, but something happened when we started to walk it. It took me a little while to get over the self-conscious feeling that I am following a squiggly line in a paddock, but after a while the labyrinth started to work its charm on me and that is when I realised that there is more to a labyrinth than initially meets the eye.
The labyrinths in the cathedrals of Europe were used as pilgrims’ walks, paths of contemplation or walking meditations. The idea is that, “Not having to make any decisions quietens down your left brain – the logical, rational side. So your right brain – your imaginative, intuitive side – can open up a bit,” says Emily Simpson, from the Sydney Labyrinth organisation. This is probably why labyrinths are often, “Recommended as a form of meditation for people who have difficulty with the traditional sitting meditation.” Apparently, the aim is to try and clear your mind while you walk, weave your way into the middle and back out again. Some people use the time to ask a question or have an intention at the beginning and observe the thoughts drifting through, sifting for answers.
The thing that surprised me the most about the whole experience was the reaction of the children. Several family groups wandered past and pretty much all the kids had to have a go. Something about it sparked their curiousity and particularly the boys had to follow it all the way in and back out again. Even Little H lasted a lot longer following the lines than I thought he would.