Walking the Labyrinth: A Spiritual Practice with the Four Paths

Last week, in my class on the mystics with the Creation Spirituality Communities program, I met a woman doing a very useful thing, I believe. 

Dunure Labyrinth, Dunure, Scotland. Photo by Rob Tol on Unsplash

Her name is Mary Ann Wamhoff and she is a serious practitioner of the Labyrinth, having studied with Lauren Artress and taught courses herself over the years—in addition to being a regular practitioner of that ancient practice.

But she is also a student of Creation Spirituality and has taken it upon herself to tweak the practice slightly so that the Four Paths of CS become the basis of the practice.  With her permission, I reproduce a summary of her “Creation Spirituality Walk of the Labyrinth” here. 

1.    Via Positiva: First, Circle the labyrinth, preferably three times in a clockwise direction—the Celtic way, focusing on your blessings, especially the awesome goodness of Creation! Embrace the Via Positiva and thank the minerals, flora, fauna, ancestors, stars, supernovas, original fireball, angels, and Unknowable. Connecting to the whole.

Plasticine labyrinth mold. Photo by potter Peter Shanks on Flickr.

2.    Via Negativa: Release.  As you enter and proceed to the center, focus on letting go of your grief, sadness, anger, rage, confusion. Enter the silence of your soul. Perhaps listen to the sounds of nature if you are outdoors. Feel the Via Negativa. Scream the psalm of lament silently or out loud if you are so moved. 

3. Via Creativa.  Receive.  Stay in the center as long as you desire, ready to take in Spirit, inspiration, insight, creativity! Invite the Via Creativa so that you can better co-create with Spirit and the Evolutionary Consciousness. Embrace your role as Mystic and Artist. Celebrate! As Merton says, it’s “the creative action of love and grace in our hearts.” Envision future possibilities.

Walking the labyrinth together. Photo by LaggedOnUser on Flickr.

4.    Via Transformativa: Return.  As you leave the center and proceed to the exit (which is the same as the entrance), await information regarding your Sacred Action. Do you need to speak truth to power? Do you need to get into good trouble? This is the Via Transformativa and speaks to you of your role as Prophet. This is where we participate in evolution to create a vibrant, just, compassionate world.

Mary Ann is an Advanced Certified Labyrinth Facilitator, a member of Veriditas Council​ and Veriditas International Association of Professionally Trained Labyrinth Facilitators, a member of The Labyrinth Society, and a board Member of the Labyrinth Resource Group of Santa Fe.  Her web page is: www.virginialabyrinths.com

The Four Paths are laid out in Matthew Fox, Original Blessing and in Fox, Meditations with Meister Eckhart, and in many other of his works.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral. Photo by Erez Attias on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you practice walking the Labyrinth?  Does this essay assist you to practice it and the Four Paths in a fuller fashion?

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10 thoughts on “Walking the Labyrinth: A Spiritual Practice with the Four Paths”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you introduce us to one of your students, Mary Ann Wamhoff and she is a serious practitioner of the Labyrinth–she is also a student of Creation Spirituality and has taken it upon herself to tweak the practice slightly so that the Four Paths of CS become the basis of the practice. From here you lay out her version of the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality: the Via Positiva, Via Negativa, Via Creativa and the Via Transformativa. You ask us: “Do you practice walking the Labyrinth?” I must say, its something that I used to do, but haven’t done in a long time. Then you ask: “Does this essay assist you to practice it and the Four Paths in a fuller fashion?” Yes, in deed. and we have a labyrinth in the town where I live, so I can even start tomorrow!

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    The new universe story mandated by T. Berry and Teilhard for us to tell has yet to be fully told, though the ingredients are there to assemble. It awaits a signature image (icon) that pulls those ingredients together, so inclusive of all other icons that it allows one to wring from it everything that creation has to offer at all scales. The labyrinth, as Matthew explains it, comes the closest to being that universal holy grail of archetypal images, inclusive of all the others. So inclusive, it must swallow them up the way Moses rod became the snake that swallowed those created by lesser Egyptian magicians. With more integral meat on its bones, it’s to reveal how inner (psyche) and outer (physics) realities are dynamically one, and by what universal connecting energy that harmonizes with all disciplines and religions. Such will accelerate the evolution of nations, tribes, and tongues, inching them closer to their Omega Point solidarity under one unifying energy and icon.

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    Thank you Mathew for sharing Mary Ann’s application of The Four Paths.
    I too have adapted this in my teaching of Sacred Circle Dance.
    In dancing the spiral as art as meditation we begin in a circle with the VP; spiraling inward is the VN; circling the center for divine inspiration spiraling the VC outward to return where we began, in a circle VT.
    In my Creation Spiritualty Sacred Dance retreats I offer three dances for each path/season totaling twelve dances.

    Gratitude for a template that offers so much opportunity for experiential exploration. Gratitude to my teachers for my repertoire of Sacred Circle Dances drawn from global religions and cultures, ancient, timeless, an alphabet of steps to create anew. I wonder if others are using The Four Paths in their practices too?? Please share.

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    I am grateful for all you DM’s and particularly appreciate your gentle and firm voice in the sound dimension as you speak. Mary Ann Wamhoff’s dancing kinesthetic movement brimgs the words shared into action/ritual. t Your bring that to us in words and visuals is healing in themselves. Perhaps two things that could be considered as additions: a video, sound and visuals of the kinesthetics together, if available, of her sacred ceremony. Also music you yourself feel represents what you have shared. Sounds, hearing, music, our primary sense modality, the first sense to develop in our Mother’s womb, the last of our senses to cease upon our death, is so important to us in healing. Even under anesthetic during surgery or people in a coma, still hear sounds/music. Beethoven said: “:Music is the Mediator Between the Spiritual and the Senses.” Thank you for considering my suggestion here.

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    In the contemplative spiritual tradition, besides having faith and being aware of the blessings of Mother Nature and All inner and outer Creation (via positiva), the spiritual journey inwards of stillness and silence in contemplative prayer (via negativa) is especially sacred to experience deeper healing and Loving Oneness with our Divine Source~Creator (via transformativa) in order to continue our inner/outer journeys of our evolving eternal souls transformed and compassionately graced with Divine Love and co-Creativity (via creativa)…. This is my way of understanding my contemplative faith with creation spirituality….

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      Oh yes! I so agree. I love walking the Labyrinth and do it as often as I get the chance. (There are none near me, so the opportunity is infrequent, but still cherished.) Walking it while keeping in mind Mary Ann’s practice makes it even more meaningful. Thanks to both she and Matthew.

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    Thank you for the integrative insight of walking a labyrinth with the thinking of both Matthew and Mary Ann. Such a gift from their collaboration with good intentions. Will make the walk more powerful in a subtle way for me.
    Monica Olinger

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    I encountered the labyrinth late in life and have never had the opportunity to walk it in a group. I haven’t reached out enough to find the guidance that would help me make better use of it as a spiritual practice. Because I find your four paths so meaningful, Matthew, and so helpful to me in my spiritual path, I think Mary Ann’s way of approaching a labyrinth will help my monkey mind settle into the experience and find refreshment and insight. A quick internet search brought up lots of labyrinths in Arizona, one at a Unity Church near me, and another I have walked and will again, at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, AZ. http://joeorman.shutterace.com/Bizarre/Bizarre_Labyrinths.html. Thank you!

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    Thank you, Mary Ann and Matthew! I’m eager to explore this way of walking the labyrinth. I’ve only engaged
    in labyrinth walking a few times and have never yet begun by walking the circle as a way of witnessing and
    giving thanks for the whole of creation. What a beautiful way to begin the walk! An amazing passageway into
    the next parts.

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