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The labyrinth is a tool for prayer, a walking meditation. This is a personal tool, just one among many used for prayer and meditation. As with any other tool, continued practice produces more and more comfort with its manner of “speaking” to our lives. Using everything that occurs on the walk as a metaphor, the labyrinth becomes an effective mirror for life, a reflecting pool of sorts.

A labyrinth is an ancient design, which has been found in all religious traditions in various forms. Its history spans the globe as well as thousands of years. The Christian labyrinth was first developed around the fourth century and is believed to have provided a “pilgrimage” experience for those unable to make the dangerous and expensive trip to Jerusalem.

Unlike a maze, a labyrinth offers no tricks, puzzles or dead-ends. The design forms a winding unicursal path which leads toward the center and back out again. This sacred path in a sacred circle simply leads to a deeper connection to God, others, and ourselves.

There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth, but one time-honored method seems to have proven effective for many in walking the labyrinth. This method is the Christian mystical three-fold path of purgation, illumination, and reunion. We also call this the three R’s — Release, Receive, and Return.

Release, the initial stage, begins as you enter the labyrinth and continues all the way to the center. This is an opportunity to release the details of everyday life, the lists, the busyness, and the countless thoughts. Facing the palms downward, allow all of these thoughts to just float away. This act of shedding works to quiet the mind and still the soul, opening it up to the silence of the Spirit.

Receive, the second stage, is found at the center of the labyrinth. Walking in with an open mind and open heart, you can receive whatever is there for you. Staying as long as you like, you may sit, stand, or even lie down. This is a place of meditation and prayer. When you feel “ready” or “full”, as after a wonderful meal, you simply follow the same path back out of the labyrinth.

Reunion, takes place once you begin the path back out of the labyrinth, joining with God to bring into your life what you have received in the center. With each step, there is a sense of gaining strength and integration, encouraged by the experience to walk into new areas of growth and awareness.

There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth. Walk with an open mind and an open heart and receive whatever is there for you. Release your expectations. Focus on your breath. Find your own individual pace. There is one way in and one way out. Those going in will meet those coming out. You may pass others on the path or allow them to step around you, do whatever comes naturally. Use everything as a metaphor.

Labyrinths in or Near East Tennessee

In alphabetical order by city/location

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chattanooga, TN
Our Labyrinth
Limited Public Access, Outdoors

St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Elizabethton, TN
Visit St. Thomas website
Public Access, Outdoors

Church of the Nativity, Ft. Oglethorpe, GA
Visit Nativity’s Website
Public Access, Outdoors

Buckhorn Inn Bed & Breakfast, Gatlinburg, TN
Rachel’s Labyrinth
Public Access, Outdoors

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Kingsport, TN
Visit St. Michael’s Website
Public Access, Outdoors

Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Knoxville, TN
Visit Ascension’s Website
Public Access, Outdoors

Thankful Memorial Episcopal Church, Chattanooga, TN
Visit Thankful’s Website
Public Access, Outdoors

St. James Episcopal Church, Knoxville, TN
Visit St. James Website
Public Access, Outdoors
Limited Public Access, Indoors (Nave)

St. John’s Cathedral, Knoxville, TN
Visit St. John’s Cathedral’s Website
Public Access, Outdoors

UT Gardens, Knoxville, TN
Visit UT Garden’s Labyrinth
Public Access, Outdoors

Church of the Good Shepherd, Lookout Mountain
Visit Good Shepherd’s Website
Public Access, Outdoors

Maryville College, Maryville, TN
Visit Maryville College Website
Public Access, Outdoors (House in the Woods)

St. Francis Episcopal Church, Norris, TN
Visit St. Francis Website
Public Access, Outdoors

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Oak Ridge, TN
Visit St. Stephen’s Website
Public Access, Outdoors

St. Timothy’s, Signal Mountain, TN
Visit St. Timothy’s Website
Limited Public Access, Indoors (Narthex)

St. Mary’s – The Ayres Center for Spiritual Development, Sewanee, TN
Visit St. Mary’s Website
Public Access, Outdoors

St. Joseph the Carpenter, Sevierville, TN
Visit St. Joseph’s Website
Public Access, Outdoors