Readings

The Labyrinth for Health and Wellness

Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Enter the Labyrinth for Health and Wellness

The labyrinth—it’s not a maze

When I suggest entering the labyrinth, I’m not talking about the maze of Western health care. The term labyrinth refers to any spiral-like pattern (there are many, both ancient and modern) which can serve as a metaphor for a journey—such as a healing journey. Like a maze, the path of a labyrinth begins at the outer edge and takes you through many twists and turns on your way to its center; unlike a maze, there are no blind alleys, no false paths, just one leading you inexorably inward to the center.

At the center of the labyrinth

Any number of things may be found at the center of a labyrinth:
• an experience of your own center
• an appreciation of your power, strength, wisdom
• an abiding peace and calm
• joy and delight
• a sense of wholeness (which is the root meaning of the word health)

The outmoded paradigm of health care

Most older adults in the United States grew up with the assumption that if, God forbid, we ever got sick, our doctors, employers, health insurance plans, and government would work together to make sure we became healthy again. The recent movie “Sicko” brings into stark relief the fact that this assumption, whether or not it was once valid, is no longer so.

Many doctors unwittingly opted into a system which largely takes the choice of how to practice medicine out of their hands, let alone those of their patients. Insurance companies spend enormous amounts of time and subscribers’ dollars trying to limit the coverage they provide, no matter what your policy says. The result is a system which is so expensive that many employers can no longer afford to provide any health care insurance at all. And the government seems unable or unwilling to effect useful change.

A new paradigm for health and wellness

Many people are choosing to take matters into their own hands. Some do this by availing themselves of as much information as possible about their own perceived or diagnosed ills before visiting an M.D. Some people go to alternative health care providers, and some take mountains of supplements every day. While these methods work extremely well for some, for many it may simply be a change in the geography of what remains a largely paternalistic attitude—that the source of healing/health/wholeness resides outside of the individual and in the hands of some presumably benevolent caretaker or the pills which they recommend.

I propose an even more radical paradigm in which each of us takes 100% responsibility for our own well-being. Even though there are times when I lose my enthusiasm for practicing the healthy life-style I prefer—the good food I enjoy preparing, the forms of exercise to which my body responds well, the spiritual practices which give my life meaning and value—I still take full responsibility for this. I know that if something goes awry, it is very likely due to my own inattention and is my body/mind/spirit’s attempt to help me notice this fact. So I begin listening again to see if I can discern what wants to happen. This may include a change in diet (e.g., giving up cold foods for the winter) or exercise (e.g., giving up swimming in a pool because my body didn’t like the chlorine), a renewed spiritual practice, or even a trip to just the right health care practitioner, which I can judge by my response to the treatment or support which is offered.

Using the labyrinth as a wellness coach

The labyrinth helps me with this. Sometimes I walk or trace it for peace and relaxation, sometimes for the joy it brings, sometimes for focus, sometimes for answers: I enter with a specific question, and wait in the center for the answer, which is not always immediately forthcoming. Ssometimes I walk the labyrinth as a prayer, with a mantra connected to my breath. Each day that goes by without accessing my own inner landscape in this, or some other, fashion, I am left feeling less centered, less whole, less balanced. And each day that I do go within, I feel healthier, happier, more alive.
Would you use a labyrinth or some other wellness coach if. . .
• it allowed you to feel more in charge of your own health and well-being?
• it reduced your reliance on health care practitioners?
• it reduced your consumption of pills?
• it left you with more time and money for things which are fun and nourishing?
• it allowed you to listen more effectively to your own inner wisdom?

Your next step to wellness

I encourage you to find out what your wellness labyrinth/coach is and use it regularly. For a walkable labyrinth near you, check out the world-wide labyrinth locator at: www.wwll.veriditas.labyrinthsociety.org. For finger labyrinths which go where you go, see my quilted lap labyrinths. I also provide wellness coaching.