BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
A labyrinth is used to facilitate prayer, meditation and spiritual transformation. It has only one path that leads from the outer edge to the center. Its use as a spiritual tool can be traced back nearly 4,000 years.
Unlike a maze where you meet dead ends and can lose your way, labyrinths are designed to help you find your way through prayerful movement and mindfulness.
“It’s not a maze,” said Maj. Jeromy J. Wells, 9th Reconnaissance Wing deputy wing chaplain. “The labyrinth is a tool or a resource for religious or non-religious practices that help us become more aware of the present.”
There are many purposes behind the labyrinth’s symbolism and design, which can help Airmen with their spiritual fitness as they navigate their way through military life.
“In the military, sometimes it seems that it’s easy to categorize our lives,” Wells said. “The labyrinth helps me make sense of how I have categorized my life and realize at times I have lost a sense of who I am. It helps ground you, find a sense of calmness, peacefulness and gain clarity in the midst of the chaos.”
A labyrinth isn’t only for religious purposes, it can be used as a way to become grounded within the present and aid Airmen with struggles in their day-to-day life.
“It seems we are always living in a state of uncertainty while in the military,” said Dr. June Ruse, 9 RW psychologist with the Behavioral Health Optimization Program. “As we approach the labyrinth, it’s an opportunity to do something different with our worries and stress. It can be a great outlet to keep from burning out from daily life in the military.”
Wells proceeded to explain how the use of a labyrinth works by bringing self-awareness and intention to the ‘circle’.
“The labyrinth is the time to focus on one’s self,” he said. “It’s symbolic as you walk in the path with all the twists and turns that can resonate with what’s going on with your heart, soul, and emotions. Once I reach the center, I can let go of what I had brought to the labyrinth that day. Whether it’s anger, anxiety, or something good I am celebrating. As you walk out, there is something very symbolic about taking the same path out into the world.”
A type of comfort can be found behind this unique form of meditation.
“It can certainly provide a way to unwind and go to our center to develop a new perspective on where we are at in life, to see it through a different lens,” said Ruse. “That’s where I see the symbolism behind the labyrinth; it’s a journey, that’s the big metaphor for life.”