By Judith Joyce

A labyrinth is an ancient, sacred, archetypal pattern that has one true path to and from its center. The labyrinth has become a metaphor for finding one’s correct path through life, bypassing many misleading side ways. Labyrinths have been found in every part of the world and used in many cultures for the past 3,500 years. They are being used now primarily for walking meditation and exercises in centeredness: helping people to become centered or aiding them in finding their spiritual/mental center.

A common interpretation of the labyrinth journey is expressed in three phases:

“Surrender” – the beginning of your journey is a time to release, let go of the daily struggles, worries, thoughts and fears. This act of shedding what blocks you or holds you back allows the mind to quiet, open and begin emptying.

“Illumination” – being open upon reaching the center of the labyrinth you touch your center and receive the guidance and light that God/Goddess, Spirit or Source has for you.

“Integration” – As you follow the path away from the center of the labyrinth the light/guidance received begins to integrate into your life and service. You are now bringing your light and talents out into the world to do the service you are called to do, to take action, to make a difference!

How can the labyrinth help me with forgiveness?

The path to forgiveness follows a similar pattern to a centering labyrinth journey. The first steps on both paths are willingness and release. Nothing can happen until you are willing to release whatever you are holding onto. Before you enter the labyrinth, the only choice needed is whether to begin the journey or not.. Once you choose to begin, the journey unfolds one step at a time - a wonderful metaphor for our life. When the chakras, or energy centers in the body, are superimposed on the classical 7-path labyrinth, the path on which you enter corresponds to the third chakra or Solar Plexus. This is our power center - the place of our will, the place from which we must be willing to surrender to the path.

In my experience, willingness is frequently a large hurdle. Being willing means I open myself to change. And change is scary!! When my resistance is great, I ask myself if I am willing to be willing! My lack of willingness is connected to my strong will and need to tenaciously hold onto whatever belief or feeling I am clinging to. I have held onto a deep need to be right which has definitely affected my ability to let go and forgive others and myself. I believe that need for rightness is a mask for my fear of making mistakes, being wrong, or appearing to be a failure. I have since come to believe that there is no right or wrong, good or bad, success or failure. Changing that belief has allowed me to become less judgmental and more compassionate towards others and myself.

As noted above, the first part of the labyrinth journey is about releasing. Gerald G.Jampolsky, M.D., in his book, Teach Only Love, lists seven principles of “Attitudinal Healing.” The seventh principle is: “Forgiveness is the way to true health and happiness.”

By not judging, we release the past and let go of our fears of the future. In so doing, we come to see that everyone is our teacher and that every circumstance is an opportunity for growth in happiness, peace and love. As I practice seeing each person whom I encounter on my path as a teacher and mirror, I am able to release judgment and learn so much more about myself. One of the great insights I have gained on the labyrinth is the realization that we are all pilgrims treading both the same path and distinctly individual paths simultaneously.

One of my most powerful experiences with this concept of oneness occurred when I had the privilege to take the labyrinth concept to Russia in 1997 to present at a conference on Exploring Creativity, Spirituality and the Arts in the Helping Professions. An exercise during my workshop involved everyone walking the labyrinth. After some remarks about the history and symbolism of the labyrinth, some 40 to 50 Russians and I began our walk. During my walk, I marveled that I was across the world walking the labyrinth in a country I had learned to fear deeply during my childhood in the 1950’s. As I looked at those who were walking with me, I realized that once we stepped onto the labyrinth, all the barriers of language, customs, belief structures, and culture disappeared. We were simply and wonderfully just people, sharing these moments of our life paths together, deeply connected at the heart. Our sharing after the walk further confirmed my realization. It was something I will never forget.

During the early years of my conscious growing process, my focus around forgiveness was on forgiving others, especially my parents for what they had done or not done to or with me. Once I detached from them as my parents and saw them as people with wounds, history, baggage, and fears who were doing the best they could at the time, I let them off the hook I had hung them on for years.

Later I learned the importance of forgiving myself. What a concept! In many ways self-forgiveness has been much harder for me because the harm I do to myself is often much subtler and hidden by my blind spots. My inner critic or judge has always been quite harsh, keeping my self-esteem low and my guilt high. My perfectionist tendencies and my belief that I’m not good enough, smart enough, helpful enough, thoughtful enough, capable enough etc. etc. etc. are the result of the frequent comments of my internal judge.

In order for me to stop or at least slow down my judgement of others, I first needed to release my need to put myself down. Now all of this is a process—a life process. Again, the labyrinth is helpful here. As I walk the circuitous path, experiencing the ebb and flow of the pattern and my own internal rhythms, I see that the truth becomes clear as I open myself to the process of life rather than focusing on a particular goal or outcome. One of the truths about forgiveness is that whatever hurt or anger I hold onto about another person or event only hurts me and keeps me from achieving inner peace. Forgiveness brings peace of mind, which creates health, according to Gerald Jampolsky’s first principle of Attitudinal Healing.

To me, the labyrinth supports us in regaining our balance and finding our center, bringing inner peace. Each time we walk the labyrinth and are willing to release our fears, grudges, and hurts, we open ourselves, allowing more light into our lives and ourselves and then shining that light into the world. There is no greater joy than to serve others from the heart with the talents and gifts only you were given. Forgiving yourself and others allows you to release into peace.

May joy and peace fill your journey.

Judith Joyce founded Spirit Matters to support people, organizations and communities in realizing their visions. She is Vice President of the Labyrinth Society, a Labyrinth Consultant and Educator, workshop and seminar leader, speaker, dowser and Reiki Practitioner. She can be reached at 802-496-9237; email:; website:

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