Walking slowly round in circles in a suburban backyard seems a little pointless. But that's precisely why you walk a labyrinth, according to Tina Christensen, facilitator of a private labyrinth in Gardenvale. There is no particular 'point' to it.
Christensen believes that walking a labyrinth is a way to quieten the mind and cultivate a mindfulness practice.
Labyrinths are enjoying growing popularity as an aid to meditation or prayer. With origins dating back four centuries to ancient Egypt and Crete, there is evidence that labyrinths were built by many other societies, including indigenous peoples of North and South America.
The best-known Chartres Cathedral labyrinth pattern was created in 1200 - a symbolic way to complete a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Australia has around 90 labyrinths, with 30 in Victoria alone. Worldwide, labyrinths of many styles and materials can be found in Europe, the US and Canada, South Africa and Asia.
Labyrinth Lane entrance
Christensen created her 8.5-metre Chartres labyrinth to share with others. Its seven circuits are laid out on the ground and the walker follows them into the centre. You then turn around and follow the same path out.
Unlike a maze, the purpose is not to get lost nor to have fun (although fun is acceptable, too!). Labyrinth walking is restful, rhythmic, and a simple, beguiling aid to contemplation.
An art therapist and labyrinth facilitator, Christensen first encountered labyrinth-walking-as-meditation in San Francisco. In 2011, she built a turf labyrinth in her back garden, using gumnuts to mark the circuits. The current model consists of river pebbles and stone.
Centre of the labyrinth
Christensen offers labyrinth walks at four 'seasonal pauses': summer and winter solstice and spring and autumn equinox. Sunday morning gatherings occur once a month, and people who wish to walk alone may book private appointments.
Sessions begin with an introduction and meditation or guided imagery, then participants launch - at their own pace - into the labyrinth. A drum player marks the time and the sensory input includes flowers and candles.
Sculpture at labyrinth entrance/exit
Afterwards, you are provided with art materials to draw, write or paint your response, and a delicious, light supper. Overwhelmingly, people report experiencing a sense of stillness or clarity. 'Peace', 'rest', 'wellness' are other adjectives used.
Christensen recommends that walkers compose a question - a personal problem or knotty dilemma - before entering the labyrinth. She believes the 'walking meditation' can help provide an answer.
On the autumn equinox this year, March 22, Christensen will welcome all ages to a guided labyrinth walk from 7 to 8.30 pm. An acknowledgement of autumn, 'season of balance', Christensen offers the labyrinth experience as 'time during which to restore balance to your life'.