A Guide to Walking the Labyrinth for the Jewish New Year

By Rabbi Joshua Lesser
woman sitting in a labyrinth outdoors

"You instruct me on the path of life…” Ps. 16:1

Walking the labyrinth is a meditative practice used by many traditions and cultures to rediscover our renewal and rebirth. This makes it a powerful practice to prepare for the High Holy Days on your own. There is no one right way to walk the labyrinth.

Below is a guide that is designed to start your new year well and to support your teshuvah practice. Find a labyrinth near you: https://labyrinthlocator.com/

The High Holy Days remind us of the importance of our lives. Bringing awareness to the quality of our lives, we can begin to listen for our sacred purpose and realign to what we most value. We begin anew with the birth of another year. As we engage in heshbon hanefesh, a soul accounting, to start the year, we face the larger existential questions.

Any one or a combination of these questions is a suggestion of what you could bring into the labyrinth.

How might I re-envision my purpose?
What might I release, repair, or change to sense a greater attunement with my purpose?
What kind of teshuvah is needed to begin my year with a fresh start?
Who do I need to seek forgiveness from and whom might I forgive?
What obstacles can I remove from my path for the sake of my spiritual growth?

As you approach the labyrinth, let your mind and vision soften. Even though it looks like a maze, there is no way to get lost; there is only one path. This invites a sense of trust. At the entrance, stop to take a deep breath, release. Call to mind what you rely upon in your life. What are the foundations that you can trust?

As you walk towards the center, take your time; let your body find its natural pace. Your pace may change during different stages of the walk. Walking in this direction, the focus is on releasing the past. What can you shed? What grudges might you let go? Which attitudes or beliefs no longer serve you?

When you arrive in the center, stand (or sit) prayerfully with your question. Bring your question to mind and listen. Listen for that still small voice to respond. Be patient and take as much time as you need. Let the heart of the labyrinth illuminate what there is to receive. You might offer up a prayer in the center.

As you depart the center, walk with a sense of wholeness. Bring focus on what healing and growth looks like in this new year. Notice if there is a sense of accompaniment, even a sense of Divine companionship. Pause at the exit and breathe. Allow yourself to become fully conscious of stepping out into the world.  Avoid over-analyzing your walk. Gently return to your routine.

Finger Labyrinth

Not everyone can access a labyrinth, thus many people have used the finger labyrinth as a tool. Finger labyrinths are convenient and accessible. People use them as meditative practices or to support reflective journal writing.

Use a finger from your non-dominant hand at the entrance to the labyrinth. Begin with a question, and as you “walk” the path with your finger, remain open to whatever presents itself. Some use a mantra, like “shalom” or “hineni” as they slowly trace their way. Pause when you need to be with a memory, an image, or a feeling. At the center of the labyrinth, feel a connection to your own center. Here you may chant or pray. Trace your way out, pausing to reflect on what emerged for you. Make your own finger labyrinth here, or learn to make a labyrinth pillow here, or or use this one, a Jewish inspired one called the Jericho Labyrinth:

 

 

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