RELIGION
09/01/2016 03:37 pm ET Updated Sep 20, 2016

8 Labyrinths For Restless Souls To Wander In Their Lifetimes

Walk these narrow paths to release, receive, and return.

The labyrinth is an ancient pathway constructed for meditation and spiritual reflection. The early Christian church adopted the symbol of the labyrinth from Roman culture. During the medieval period in Europe, labyrinths started appearing in churches and cathedrals and became destinations for pilgrims who could not make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Today, labyrinths are used by people of all faiths (and none) as a tool for personal reflection. 

Unlike mazes, labyrinths aren’t meant to make the walker feel lost. Mazes often have raised hedges that make it difficult to see into the center. They also give walkers a choice of pathways, which turns the experience into a giant puzzle. Labyrinths constructed for meditative purposes usually have just one single, flat path that slowly approaches the center, before returning back outside the circle. 

According to Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, who helped create a labyrinth at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, the narrowness of the path helps to focus the mind. 

“By walking the labyrinth your inner world becomes transparent to you. You become aware of what your thoughts and feelings are that you’re carrying inside,” Artress said in an interview with SF Gate

Grace Cathedral divides the labyrinth walk into three stages, each meant to open up a different avenue for reflection. Here’s an excerpt from their website: 

  • Purgation (Releasing) ~ A releasing, a letting go of the details of your life. This is the act of shedding thoughts and distractions. A time to open the heart and quiet the mind.
  • Illumination (Receiving) ~ When you reach the center, stay there as long as you like. It is a place of meditation and prayer. Receive what is there for you to receive.
  • Union (Returning) ~ As you leave, following the same path out of the center as you came in, you enter the third stage, which is joining God, your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world. Each time you walk the labyrinth you become more empowered to find and do the work for which you feel your soul is reaching.

HuffPost Religion has assembled this list of labyrinths to visit around the world. To find a spot near your hometown, take a look at this world-wide labyrinth locator maintained by enthusiasts at Veriditas and The Labyrinth Society. 

  • Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth (Indoor)
    France's&nbsp;Chartres Cathedral contains one of the world's <a href="http://www.ed.ac.uk/labyrinth/historical/origins" targe
    Sylvain Sonnet via Getty Images
    France's Chartres Cathedral contains one of the world's most famous labyrinths. The winding path, which is about 42 feet in diameter, was laid down in the cathedral's nave between during the early 13th century
  • Amiens Cathedral, Amiens, France
    This labyrinth was built into the nave of the <a href="http://www.luc.edu/medieval/labyrinths/amiens.shtml" target="_blank">A
    Insights via Getty Images
    This labyrinth was built into the nave of the Amiens Cathedral during the late 13th century. It is the second largest labyrinth in France.
  • Saint Quentin, France
    The&nbsp;labyrinth of Saint Quentin Basilica in France was <a href="http://www.luc.edu/medieval/labyrinths/st_quentin.shtml"
    LECLERCQ Olivier / hemis.fr via Getty Images
    The labyrinth of Saint Quentin Basilica in France was installed in the church around 1495. 
  • Grace Cathedral, San Francisco (Indoor)
    A labyrinth between enormous pillars and stained glass windows defines the interior of Grace Cathedral. It is a <a href="http
    Mathew Spolin via Getty Images
    A labyrinth between enormous pillars and stained glass windows defines the interior of Grace Cathedral. It is a replica of the Chartres labyrinth. 
  • Grace Cathedral, San Francisco (Outdoor)
    A man walks through the outdoor labyrinth&nbsp;at Grace Cathedral.
    George Rose via Getty Images
    A man walks through the outdoor labyrinth at Grace Cathedral.
  • Edinburgh Labyrinth, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
    Monks from the Tashi Lhumpo Monastary walk the Edinburgh Labyrinth at the University of Edinburgh on August 25, 2010 in Edinb
    Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
    Monks from the Tashi Lhumpo Monastary walk the Edinburgh Labyrinth at the University of Edinburgh on August 25, 2010 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The labyrinth is an exact copy of a the Chartes cathedral labyrinth. It is designed to take 20-30 minutes to walk through. 
  • Armenian Heritage Park Labyrinth, Boston
    The Labyrinth at Armenian Heritage Park is part of&nbsp;the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. The park commemorates the immigr
    Boston Globe via Getty Images
    The Labyrinth at Armenian Heritage Park is part of the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. The park commemorates the immigrant experience in America. The words art, service, science and commerce are etched into the labyrinth, in acknowledgement of the contributions that immigrants have made to American life. 
  • Land's End Labyrinth, San Francisco

    San Francisco state of mind 🤘🏻

    A photo posted by Amanda Damelio (@adameliophotography) on

    Visitors walk on the Eagle Point Labyrinth, also known as the Land's End labyrinth, on a cliff overlooking the fog-covered Pacific Ocean. The labyrinth is the work of San Francisco artist Eduardo Aguilera, who was drawn to create a shrine to "peace, love and enlightenment" on this spot.  It has been destroyed at least three times since it was built in 2004, and reassembled by volunteers.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story suggested that the garden outside of the Chartres Cathedral was a labyrinth. It is a maze.

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