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Labyrinth Work

"The labyrinth is a spiritual tool that has many applications in various settings.  It reduces stress, quiets the mind, and opens the heart.  It is a walking meditation, a path of prayer,  and a blue-print where psyche meets Spirit." 

-- The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress 

Labyrinths are an ancient walking meditation tool. They're different from a maze which is a puzzle constructed to confuse you. A labyrinth is a single path that leads the walker from the outer edge of the circle pattern to the center. Labyrinths are designed to help you find your way. There are many different labyrinth patterns throughout various cultures. The most well-known pattern is that of the medieval or Chartres pattern laid in the Chartres cathedral in Chartres, France. 

Labyrinths have many uses and a variety of ways to walk the path. Walkers should use the time to connect with their bodies and breath by walking at a natural pace. The simple pattern quiets the mind, relaxes the body, and refreshes the spirit. As you walk, often times the path begins to "mirror" where you are in your life. The walker should use anything that happens in the labyrinth as a metaphor, i.e. the turns of the labyrinth represent the turns in life.  As a trained Veriditas labyrinth facilitator, my role is to introduce the labyrinth in an articulate, professional, and effective way. 


It is these basic aspects of the meditative walk that draw me to the uses of a labyrinth in actor training.


How can we use the meditative aspects of the walk-in combination with body and breathwork? Can an actor use the "magic if" and walk the path "as if" they are the character they are studying (what discoveries would be made)? Can a labyrinth walk deepen an actor's connection to the text and creative process?

Due to online learning in the 2020/2021 academic year, my work began experimenting with the finger labyrinth and using the labyrinth to explore students' personal ideas of creativity and artistic truth as artists via the Zoom classroom. A finger labyrinths allow the user to "walk" the path by tracing their finger along the pattern. 

Creating a Finger Labyrinth


Using the classical seven circuit pattern (below), students were asked to choose two colors: 


one for the seed pattern; the other for the rest of the labyrinth

The color chosen for the seed pattern should be the color that speaks most to their creative self, as the center of the labyrinth is representative of who they are as artists/actors and their truth.


Labyrinths are referred to as right-handed or left-handed, depending on the direction of the first turn after you enter into the labyrinth. Right-handed turns are associated with feminine energy or the earth. Left-handed turns with the masculine energy or the sun (seed pattern above is a "masculine" labyrinth.) 

Students were asked to close their eyes and breathe into the place where they feel their creative spirit lays, and determine which direction their labyrinth is.  Using their second chosen color students follow the steps listed above to create the corridors and pathways of the labyrinth. 

 To create a “feminine” path loop 1 is drawn to the left instead of to the right as shown in the above directions.  

Students are encouraged to remember that this is their creative labyrinth. Loops don’t need to be curved as pictured, they can be square or a combination of both.  Whatever feels right to the student. 


Students are reminded when creating pathways to make an effort to keep the width of the paths consistent and at least as wide as a finger.

Draw your Footprints

Students were then asked to draw their footprints about two inches before the entrance to represent their grounding of creative knowing and creative freedom.

Students are encouraged to make their footprints as simple or complicated as they want, colorful or not — whatever they think their footprints would look like if they could stamp them on a piece of paper. Footprints are a symbol for everything they have lived and created. These footprints represent every step they have taken through life that brought them here to this moment on their creative journey as artists.


Footprints before the mouth of the labyrinth represent the conscious and unconscious assumptions, beliefs, and expectations about what they think it means to be creative or how they identify with being creative.


Footprints also serve as a reminder that they cannot “think” their way through the creative spirit. They must act, move, keep moving even when they aren’t certain where they are or where the next steps lead in their creative journey or process.

Drawing a Threshold

Next students are asked to draw a threshold at the opening of the labyrinth. The threshold should be wide enough to completely cover the opening to the labyrinth. It should be high or awesome enough that you would have to pause before it and not simply walk around or over it before entering the labyrinth.


The threshold can reflect the creative spirit, creative guides, or anything else related to the artistic self, it should be a clear and awesome entrance.


Thresholds are universal, architectural symbols of transition and transcendence. They represent the separation of two works: the known and the unknown, the mundane and the sacred.


Students are then given time to draw their thresholds. 

Once all students have finished their labyrinths, it is explained that we will have 10 minutes to explore the labyrinth. The three stages of a labyrinth walk are given to the students as suggested guide to their walk. 

From the three stages of a labyrinth walk are:

Releasing (letting go) [walking into the labyrinth]

This is a time to quiet the mind, let go of the details, distractions and extraneous thoughts. Open your heart to feel whatever it might feel. Become aware of your breathing. Relax and find your natural pace. 

Receiving (listening) [standing/sitting in the center]

When you reach the center, sit or stand there as long as you like. This is a place of reflection and meditation. Receive what is there for you to receive. 

Returning (reflecting, resolving, reclaiming) [walking out of the labyrinth]

When you are ready, follow the same path back out. Walking out, integration of your experience can occur. You take back out into the world that which you have received.

Walking the Labyrinth

Meditative music is played and students are encouraged to mute their video and speak freely if inspired to do so during their walk.


Students might first trace around the out edge of the labyrinth clockwise to "open" their walk.


It is suggested that while tracing the path to the center they are asked to let go of the "shoulds" of their creative identities. As they reach the center they might ask their deepest questions, or be open to listening to what their creative self wants to tell them. As they trace the path out they might reflect on who they are as artists or the answers they received. 

Reflection Session

Students are asked to spend 5 minutes and jot down notes about their experience.  notes could include a list of feelings, or questions that came up, differences between how they felt before and after their walk. They might also answer the following questions:

  • What did your inner artists tell you?

  • What metaphors jumped out to you? 

  • Did any words or phrases come to you?

  • How did your body feel during your walk? 

  • How did/did not your breath change?

  • Other discoveries?

All experiences are welcome, even if they are not positive. 

Students are asked to share their experiences or how they feel after the walk with the group. 

A discussion about what creativity means in relation to acting follows. 

Student Labyrinth Examples

"I wanted my threshold to feel pretty and welcoming. And to have elements that would remind me of being calm.

...I always need to remind my creative self that she has room to breathe. And that small steps are ok. I just have to be willing to walk forward, like I needed to be willing to walk the labyrinth."


"I struggle a lot with control and perfection in my acting.  While making my labyrinth I was annoyed that my lines weren't perfect and I hated how my feet look. They look like weird hands. As I walked I tried to let go of those ideas and embrace how messy my labyrinth looked. As I was finishing my walk I realized that this was the metaphor for my performance work as well. Embracing the mess and allowing myself to be open to all emotions instead of trying to control my performance so much. 

- Jade

Plans for Further Classroom Integration


Using the process above students will create a finger labyrinth for a specific character they are working on. Specific questions or ideas will be given as a guide for students to use as they walk the path. 

In-Person walking 

Drawing a path on the floor, scene partners can walk the path together while rehearsing their scene. Remembering that everything that happens in the labyrinth is a metaphor, students should take note of how their paths cross, impulses that come to them ie. turning back around in the pth, crossing over, starting in the center. etc. and what that might signal for the emotional life of the character (are they stuck in the center of this issue? Are they lost in their life? Do they sidestep the issue?) and the scene as a whole. Peer observations can also be helpful in this exercise to help explore the scene more deeply.  

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