I’ve been intrigued by labyrinths for a while and sometimes refer to them when working with clients going through separation and divorce.
A labyrinth is like a maze except it has one entry point, one route around it and one exit: a maze, by contrast, has multiple routes and dead ends. Labyrinths are usually square or circular and the patterns tend to be geometric.
My intrigue began when I read ‘Carcassonne’ by Kate Mosse. Exploring the city in southern France, I learnt that there were ancient and historic labyrinths all over the world: in gardens and masonry, churches and artwork.
Before the pandemic broke out, I attended some coach training. The facilitator had a ‘finger labyrinth’: that is a labyrinth carved into wood, to be traced with your finger. Tracing the labyrinth with your finger can be meditative, especially if you close your eyes. I was fascinated by this, having not seen one before (I am now the proud owner of a hand-carved finger labyrinth of my own). Finger labyrinths are commonly used as aids to prayer and meditation and visitors to my house are frequently intrigued by mine, for its tactile and aesthetic qualities as well as its deeper meaning. (Not that far from where I live is one of England’s last remaining grass labyrinths: it is said that penitent monks had to crawl it on their knees!)
So, what does a labyrinth have to do with separation and divorce?
I often use a labyrinth as a metaphor for the experience of separation and divorce (or any part of the journey): you embark on something with an idea of where you want to go, but, even in the most amicable of divorces, the route can seem convoluted and unpredictable. At times you may feel miles away from where you want to be, or get the sense that you’re back where you started. Just when you think you’re as far away from the end as you could possibly be, you turn a corner and finally the end is in sight.
Separation and divorce can be incredibly stressful. Even when you don’t feel like it, you need to be proactive in finding ways to restore a sense of calm. Tracing a finger labyrinth is one way to distract your brain when worries are overloading your thoughts. Using a labyrinth as a metaphor can help you feel confident that you’re on the right track, and help you to keep a sense of perspective.