On the left side of your chest is your heart. Imagine, on the right side, an open space—your heart space. Gently close your eyes, and as you do, bring your awareness in from outside, feeling it centered around your eyes or forehead and allowing it to drift down like a feather, through your jaw, through your throat, down the right side of your chest to the area where your heart isn't—a soft, embracing, velvet space. Let the awareness of your whole being enter the heart space and remain there as if returning home after a long journey. Rest in this safe, velvet peace, and visualize your body's cells drinking in the calm, enjoying the deep silence for as long as you need. When you're ready, slowly open your eyes as though you're waking from a wonderfully restorative sleep.
For anyone not sold on the idea of meditation, walking a labyrinth is another avenue to restfulness, coaxing you into flow as you yield control. Across the country more than 3,000 labyrinths are open to the public, 225 of them in hospitals or wellness centers, where they're used for everything from weight loss to pre- and postoperative care to support for cancer patients. The phenomenon is so new that clinical studies on potential health benefits are just getting off the ground, but according to converts, the unique power of labyrinths lies in walking along a predetermined path, where it's easy to become mindful of one's breathing patterns, the repetition of footfalls, and the continual reorientation of body. "I came to labyrinths through my own meditative practice," says Lauren Artress, an Episcopal priest and psychotherapist largely considered responsible for sparking the movement here when, 16 years ago, she re-created the labyrinth in the cathedral of Chartres, France, in her own parish, at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral. "I could sit still and meditate fine when my life was calm, but once I was under any kind of stress, I needed to feel that I was physically moving forward," she says.
Unlike mazes, labyrinths aren't puzzles to be solved. "The practice presents an exercise in receptiveness," Artress explains. Describing what you might feel, she says that as you begin to walk within the lines, you start to accept that you're on a path. Looking around you, seeing others doing the same thing, you think about the fact that you're not alone. "You're all going the same way, and you're all in it together," she says. Noticing that each person is at a different point on the map, yet everybody is working toward one center, you're surrounded by images of a journey. From there, you may want to interpret the experience on any level—from a lesson on a particular challenge you're facing to a life metaphor. At Wwll.Veriditas.LabyrinthSociety.org you can learn more about different types of labyrinths and find the one closest to you.