The straight dope on labyrinths

Do any of you dopers walk a labyrinth?

If so, do you experience anything “special” as a result of doing it?

Is it just as effective to trace you fingers around a hand-held labyrinth (as it is to walk one)?

Are labyrinths just a bunch of bull?

Contestant #3

Oh, I’ve done it, at Grace Cathedral here in S.F. Lots of fun. It’s like any meditative practice: what you get out of it depends on what you don’t bring to it.

What do you mean by “special”? Please elaborate.

“Is it just as effective to trace you fingers around a hand-held labyrinth (as it is to walk one)?”

Oh yeah!

“Are labyrinths just a bunch of bull?”

What effect do you expect?

By “special” I mean…you know…kinda “mystical”…something like a solution to a tough problem comes to you, or you get a flash of enlightenment, etc…

I’m looking for something here besides leg cramps or sore bunions…

Contestant #3

Just did a maze in Angel Fire, NM ~ 10 days ago (there are others like it - it’s called A Mazin, or something like that). No mystical breakthrough for me, but this was more aimed at the 12 year-old set, I think.

Sue from El Paso

By previous agreement, because the first thing that comes to mind I CANNOT say, I am removing myself from this thread. I will let the rest of you do what I now cannot.


Mazes sound like fun too, but I think there a difference between a maze and a labyrinth. I believe a labyrinth has but a single way in and out and that there are no dead ends, etc…

BTW, I hadn’t gotten around to telling you, but I really liked your way of thinking displayed in your responses in the “Is science it?” thread…If only more people, especially those in the medical industry thought like you!..

Contestant #3

Most of he dictionaries i checked basically agreed that a labyrinth was a kind of maze,without telling me the distinguishing characteristics.
Con, I think agree with your difference.(huh?) Except the dead end part.
I may be confused,and no one will be amazed by that, but I always thought you could find your way out of the most intricate maze by putting one hand on any wall and keep it there as you walked out, if there was a dead end you just walked around the ‘room’ the three walls made. no matter how many entrances it had. Whereas a labyrinth may have deadends but the main difference is it has ‘islands’ and intersections that will have you going in circles. That’s why Theseus had to take a sting with him. I could be totally lost, this could be a load of bull, and I think the difference is merely a convention anyway.

I sometimes run in the East Bay Regional Parks near Berkeley and Oakland, CA, US. There is a labyrinth in Sibley Park. I don’t run it (or walk it), but when I was over there the other day, there were quite a number of very contented cows just resting around it (nothing to graze on there). “Got Milk?” “No, just contentment.”


Con, the lab is a concentration device. I’ve never done one. When I meditate I concentrate on a natural object.I have seen some lab’s that had walls some were patterns on the floor. Most are inside a circle.With the intrance and exit side by side. You work your way to the center and then back without doubling back. One long path.(I missinterpreted your maze-lab thought)Steno is right ,it is 'what you don’t bring to it.'Don’t expect anything at all. Concentrate on the lab or other object for the first few times. I think some lab walkers have a certain ‘ritual’ at certain places, where they contemplate certian things. Something like the stations of the cross.There is nothing magical or mystcal about the lab or any other aid to meditation,contemplation,or prayer.
(I shoulda condensed this but nano’s uncanny remark threw me off)

      • When I was in junior-high school, around 4th of July we used to get into the storm drain pipes and run around. Nothing real mystical about it; we just found out that the storm drains were great places to launch bottle rockets from at unsuspecting BBQr’s. - MC

That reminds me of the tunnels under the University of Houston. They are access tunnels for the steam/water/electrical conduits for the campus. When I was student there almost 20 years ago, my friends and I used to sneak into them and explore the hidden underworld of the campus. It was very spooky; because the steam pipes constantly hissed, almost all sounds were masked by this white noise. You couldn’t really get a “sound picture” of what was around you, so we were were nervous and a bit paranoid in the tunnels. Combine this with the two illegal activities we were also undertaking (breaking into the tunnels and, ahem, certain illegal substance taking), and you had a pretty adrenalin filled night.

Whenever I drive the Chicago highways, especially around the Loop where 94, 90, 290, and 55 all circle and spiral together like so much spaghetti, I feel like I’m trapped in a labyrinth.

At the risk of trying to put this discussion back on topic, Contestant #3’s OP related to whether anyone walked labyrinths and if they did, was anything “mystical” experienced. To begin with, labyrinths are as old as the Middle Ages in Europe and were intended as foci for spiritual meditation in monasteries and convents. One could walk the path of the labyrinth and meditate in the same way that one could pray the rosary. But as with any spiritual experience, what one gets out of it depends upon what one brings into it. If one goes in with the expectation of having a mystical experience, one is likely to have one. If one walks the labyrinth just for the sake of walking it, I doubt anything will happen other than the aforementioned leg cramps and bunions.

I’ll refrain from commenting on C#3’s unintentional(?) joke about labyrinths being “a lot of bull”.