Introduction to the Labyrinth
Stepping in the Sacred
Join the Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, Author of Walking a Sacred Path and Founder of Veriditas, as she explains what a labyrinth is, how to walk it, gives a little history behind it and outlines the benefits of walking the labyrinth.
The labyrinth is an ancient pattern found in many cultures around the world. Labyrinth designs were found on pottery, tablets and tiles that date as far back as 5000 years. Many patterns are based on spirals and circles mirrored in nature. In Native American tradition, the labyrinth is identical to the Medicine Wheel and Man in the Maze. The Celts described the labyrinth as the Never Ending Circle. It is also known as the Ka bala in mystical Judaism. One feature labyrinths have in common is that they have one path that winds in a circuitous way to the center.
The labyrinth design used by Lauren Artress is a replica of the Eleven-circuit Medieval Labyrinth from Chartres Cathedral in France. This pattern, made of Beauce quarry stone and an unnamed black stone to delineate the path, was inlaid into the stone floor in 1201. For the last 250 years, however, it has been forgotten and covered with chairs until Artress led a small group of people into Chartres cathedral to remove the chairs to experience the meditative walk first hand.
After her experience in Chartres, she returned home to Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, painted the design on canvas and opened it to the public. In 1994 the indoor tapestry labyrinth -- open during cathedral hours -- was installed and in 1995 the outdoor terrazzo labyrinth -- open 24 hours a day -- was installed in the Melvin E. Swig Interfaith Meditation Garden. Literally millions of people have walked these labyrinths. In the summer of 2007, Grace Cathedral replaced the tapestry labyrinth with a beautiful new limestone and marble labyrinth in the floor of the cathedral.
After introducing the labyrinth through the International Transpersonal Association in Ireland in 1994 and to Switzerland, Germany in 1995, her work began to focus intensely in both Grace Cathedral and Chartres Cathedral. She has led workshops around the United States, Canada, the UK and Europe. In 1997 she began to train facilitators to present the labyrinth in their communities. Now, over 4000 people have been trained in this transformational work.
Labyrinths are currently being used world-wide as a way to quiet the mind, recover a balance in life, and encourage meditation, insight, self-reflection, stress reduction, and to discover innovation and celebration. They are open to all people as a non-denominational, cross-cultural blueprint for well-being. The practice of labyrinth walking integrates the body with the mind and the mind with the spirit. Labyrinths can be found in medical centers, parks, churches, schools, prisons, memorial parks, spas, cathedrals and retreat centers as well as in people's backyards.
Lauren is the author of:
Lauren is a priest of the Episcopal Church, and her home parish is Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California. From 1986 to 1992, she served as Canon Pastor and then as Canon for Special Ministries until August 2004. In May of 2006, her rediscovery of the labyrinth was honored by Grace Cathedral and she was designated Honorary Canon, a lifetime title.
In 1991, while on a brief sabbatical, Lauren walked an informal taped labyrinth through the work of Jean Houston. The idea gestated for a few months and then she was compelled to go to Chartres Cathedral, where she moved the chairs and walked the medieval labyrinth. This courageous act has led to the rediscovery of the labyrinth. Lauren not only introduced the walking meditation back into the Christian tradition but also introduced the labyrinth back into Western culture. By December 1991, she had replicated the Medieval Eleven Circuit Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral beginning in canvas form. Due to the enormous response of people desiring to learn a walking meditation, the tapestry labyrinth was installed inside the Cathedral in 1994. The outdoor terrazzo labyrinth was installed in the Interfaith Meditation Garden in 1995. In 2007, Grace Cathedral installed a permanent limestone labyrinth in the floor to replace the tapestry labyrinth. Veriditas is storing the carpet until it can realize its vision of a retreat center where the tapestry labyrinth will once again have a home.
In 1995, Lauren created the non-profit Veriditas as a 501c3, with the initial vision of "peppering the planet with labyrinths". After successfully launching thousands of labyrinths in churches, hospitals, cathedrals, prisons, spas, community parks, hospices and other settings, a new mission for Veriditas emerged: To facilitate the transformation of the human spirit through offering the Labyrinth Experience.
Lauren travels worldwide offering workshops and lectures on the labyrinth, Hildegard of Bingen, Opening the Divine Imagination, Taking That Creative Leap ~ Navigating A Life Transition, and on other topics related to the spiritual journey and the mystical life. She creates large group experiences that nurture the connection between the human and divine such as Walking a Sacred Path held twice a year in Chartres Cathedral.
Lauren is a much sought after Keynote speaker, an Episcopal priest and licensed as a psychotherapist in the State of California. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Special Education from Ohio State University and a Master's of Education from Princeton Theological Seminary. She received her analytic training in Object Relations and Systems Theory at The Blanton-Peale Graduate Institute at The Institute of Religion and Health in New York City. Her Doctor of Ministry degree was granted in 1986 from Andover Newton Theological School in Boston Massachusetts in Pastoral Psychology.
Lauren is the Director of the Spiritual Direction program at Wisdom University. She is a Diplomate in the American Association for Pastoral Counselors and a Clinical Member in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists and a Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of California. She sits on the Editorial Board of Presence Magazine and is a Panelist for the On Faith series sponsored by Newsweek Magazine and the Washington Post.