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Effective, Short-Term Therapy Utilizing Finger Labyrinths To Promote Brain Synchrony
By Neal Harris, LCPC, DAPA
(published in the Annals of the American Psychotherapy Assn. September/October 2002)
click here to read and download a pdf version of:
Off The Couch: An Introduction To Labyrinths & Their Therapeutic Properties
By Neal Harris, LCPC, DAPA
(published in the Annals of the American Psychotherapy Assn. March/April 1999)
click here to read and download a pdf version of:
Using a 2-handed/2-person Intuipath
By Neal Harris
TEXT VERSIONS OF SOME OF THE PUBLISHED ARTICLES BELOW:
Labyrinths: Catalysts For Therapeutic Growth
By Neal Harris, LCPC, DAPA
(published for the International Labyrinth Society website, August 2008)
Looking back on over a decade of using labyrinths in counseling, all indications point to the powerful role they can play in facilitating the therapy process.
The use of finger labyrinths also help breakdown the “professional barrier” that we as therapists are taught to put solidly in place (in graduate schools throughout the country), and keep sacred. By keeping that barrier in place, clients are kept from feeling on an equal footing with their therapists and therapists therefore can maintain the mental illusion that they don’t have any of the problems their clients are having difficulty with. This separation or hierarchy between client and therapist, in my experience, only serves to put the therapist on a pedestal in the client’s eyes which down the road has great potential for dependence on the therapist, which can lead at best to long-term therapy and at worst to an abuse of power (consciously or unconsciously) on the therapist’s part.
In my practice, I opt to create a healthy footing between myself and my clients by letting my clients know up front that he or she has his or her own strengths and weaknesses and I do as well. I model this when I work with a finger labyrinth right alongside them. In this more equal environment, the barriers to effective communication tend to break down which leads to mutual trust. It has been my experience that rather than hope that trust builds over time (sometimes months or years) finger labyrinth usage tends to speed up this process significantly as the barrier to trust and effective communication (through establishing this hierarchy) is not raised and fortified in the first place.
With the emergence of managed care insurance guidelines in the counseling field, clients are allotted a certain number of sessions to “get better” (usually somewhere between 8-12) and those counseling sessions are paid for by insurance. If a client needs more than 8-12 sessions, he or she is on their own (once that number of sessions has been used up) to pay for their own therapy or for a therapist to petition the insurance company for more sessions. This, in my opinion, makes the use of finger labyrinths that much more valuable, especially to those counselors who are directly tied to managed care for their financial survival. In my experience, finger labyrinths tend to foster issue resolution in a speedier timeframe in conjunction with conventional talking therapies.
I believe (on a more mysterious level) it is also incredibly important to acknowledge the unseen forces that are present in the therapy room (that assist with the unfolding of issues and the therapeutic process). It is through the use of finger labyrinths that help both client and therapist tune into these forces (via the relaxation the pathways afford) to receive the “aha” answers to problems both are carrying with them into the therapeutic relationship.
The following is an example of using a 2-person, mirror-image, wood finger labyrinth design in therapy. Clara, a very shy, forty year old, woman from Scotland, came to the first session saying in a very meek-sounding voice, “I don’t know what I expect from this, I have nothing to say.” I proceeded to ask her basic questions about her life and family and found that I was getting one or two-word answers. I decided to try using an IntuipathÒ with her (a mirror-image, 2-person, 2-handed, double wood finger labyrinth design). I took a few moments to explain that it was a relaxation device that might help her to communicate with me. She agreed, and we both took a few deep breaths and began to fingerwalk our own labyrinth design (connected by the same piece of wood) each at our own pace. Clara began to talk about how her colleagues, (schoolteachers) were very social with each other and how she felt like an outsider with them, and found it hard to make friends. She smiled after several, descriptive, paragraph-like responses ushered forth from her lips, and she added, “I guess I do have something to say.”
After a few sessions, we addressed her low self-esteem and the way her alcoholic father contributed to its formation by discounting everything she said as a child in public. This subjugation to her father’s will (and to a degree, her mother’s as well) continued into adulthood on her yearly visits to Scotland. Using the double labyrinth (around the fourth session), she spontaneously verbalized the negative affirmation “I am a weak and uninteresting person.” We fingerwalked a bit more after that, and I asked her to “allow” a positive affirmation to make itself present to her conscious mind. What presented itself was “I am competent in all social situations.” I asked her to say this out loud and see how it sounded…she said it quietly, with a slight crack in her voice. I suspected (because of the difficulty she had in saying this statement with decisiveness and gusto) that we had hit upon some early, negative self-statement that was replaying itself often in all of her social interactions, causing her to feel weak, uninteresting and therefore socially inept. I asked her to take several deep breaths and after each, say the positive version again loudly like she meant it. She did so, and her voice became stronger after each utterance of it. Between sessions, as she was instructed to do, she used this positive affirmation throughout each day, and when she returned to session (after several weeks hiatus which allowed her to return to Scotland for her yearly visit), she reported great changes had taken place in her courage and competence in social situations. She even reported that her relationship with her father shifted to a more satisfying and equal emotional footing. In total, I saw Clara for 12 sessions, and her improvement in self-esteem was maintained as reported by her in a six-month, one-year and two-year follow up.
Utilizing the power and grace of her own intuition and wisdom (elicited in large part through the use of the Intuipath® design), Clara was able to marshal new strength and understanding, and as a result, rapidly change her adaptive responses to gain greater satisfaction and meaning. With her newfound self-esteem and confidence, she was able to gain a sense of clarity and mastery over other issues as well.
While finger labyrinths are a terrific catalyst to most therapeutic issues, some clients will refuse to try them. For instance, those who’ve been brought up in a particular religion or belief system that associates the labyrinth pattern or relaxation techniques in general, with fear and misunderstanding. Other potentially difficult situations for using finger labyrinths is with those who are actively psychotic, clinically depressed, in the manic phase of Bipolar Disorder and those who have Borderline Personality Disorder. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use a finger labyrinth with any of these diagnostically-labeled clients, it just means that more caution should be used as each (with the use of a finger labyrinth) may come face to face with the underlying issues they’ve been trying to consciously or unconsciously avoid dealing with.
In addition, working with finger labyrinths, as part of a therapeutic strategy, can also present a potential challenge to both newer and more experienced therapists. As I see it, labyrinths are an intuitive playground for the spirit. They involve intuition and a willingness to allow whatever comes up in the process of fingerwalking to surface without judgment or censorship. Therefore, therapists who think they “know” what each of their client’s need and have a theoretical road map of how to get each there using his or her favorite structured therapeutic modality (i.e. Transpersonal, Humanistic, Jungian, Freudian, Cognitive-Behavioral etc.) may find using a finger labyrinth in therapy rather disorienting and sometimes a struggle at first. With experience, most therapists using finger labyrinths report clients are resolving their issues more quickly while the therapists themselves are experiencing heightened intuitive gifts and better listening skills; the cornerstones of every successful therapist.
Having used walking labyrinths numerous times in therapy situations as well, it is clear that they, like finger labyrinths can have a profound effect on both relaxation and trust. It has been my experience that walking labyrinths (especially when walked by more than one person at the same time) tend to hold up a hypothetical “mirror” in front of a client where he/she can see the truth behind any ages old defense mechanisms made up of unproductive thoughts, attitudes or beliefs that are held in the client’s mind. As a result, clients seem more ready to look at and potentially release some of these in lieu of developing new, more satisfying ones.
For example, a couple came to me to learn relaxation techniques to better cope with the anger and frustration they felt when dealing with authority figures. I invited each to walk the labyrinth that was on my premises; the wife did so, the husband refused to take part. After briefly discussing her experience, the couple went on their way. The following week when they returned, the wife was very excited and proceeded to talk about how “nice” those in authority positions seemed to be that week in their interactions with her. Her husband said they still treated him “just as badly”. I noticed that her face had a soft smile on it (almost an inner glow) and her body language was much more open than during the previous week. His face and body features continued to look like that of an angry person (much like hers looked the previous week.) She said that it seemed like a miracle the way everyone was so nice to her and I suggested to her that maybe the world didn’t change, but that her expectations of the world did and that was enough for the people in authority to look at her and treat her differently. This was a very eye opening statement for her and it immediately began to unravel long-held beliefs about how she was powerless to have positive relationships, especially with those she perceived to be in authority positions. As a result of incorporating the walking labyrinth early in the counseling process, this woman went from being angry and closed to confident and open when dealing with authority figures.
Naturally, not all labyrinth experiences facilitate happy endings like the two case studies above. After all, labyrinths (be they walking or finger ones) facilitate people’s awareness of their shadow self (the parts of our personality and experience that are perceived to be so painful, we consciously or unconsciously have chosen to hide these parts from our awareness.) It should therefore be common knowledge that using labyrinths in counseling can lead to clients coming face to face with their darker side and this shouldn’t cause the therapist to feel blame for causing clients to temporarily feel worse about their lives. This is a natural part of therapeutic growth and the labyrinth experience acts as a powerful catalyst for that growth.
Labyrinths have their definite place in the counseling arena. As more and more therapists across the globe are adopting the use of finger and walking labyrinths in their practices, we will be seeing an upsurge in the effectiveness of those practices and the satisfaction those clients feel for the unfolding process and issue resolution they experience. Since finding out about labyrinths 13 years ago, I have incorporated them as a large part of my counseling repertoire. Other counselors have done the same, mostly using the Intuipath® double finger labyrinth design. The labyrinth, in it’s many forms, has proven to be a valuable tool in the counseling room especially when therapists hit a brick wall and need a catalyst for moving their clients towards greater balance and health. At these times, labyrinths can open new doorways to growth for both clients as well as their therapists.
Neal Harris is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, with a Master’s Degree in Applied Psychology, and a diplomat of the American Psychotherapy Association. He has practiced the art of psychotherapy for the past 28 years. He is also the managing director of Relax4Life, a holistic education and services center and has been a workshop leader in the holistic health and self-enrichment fields since 1985.
Neal’s experience stems from training in both the United States and India. In addition, he was also a member of the first bodywork team invited to China to study Tuina, a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine and massage. Neal has been teaching traditional Usui Reiki for over 17 years and been providing Reiki therapy for over 27 years. As a certified Quantum-Touch® practitioner for 12 years and instructor for 10 years, he provides both treatments and classes.
Besides his book, “Pocket Stress Manager”, Neal is the author of both a relaxation CD and videotape program. He is also the originator of the Earth-Wisdom Labyrinth; Illinois’ first permanent outdoor labyrinth located in Elgin. This labyrinth is a huge outdoor rock structure, open to the public, and patterned after the famous cathedral labyrinth located in Chartres, France. Neal is a creator of other public labyrinths, fabric traveling labyrinths, wood finger labyrinths, kits/manuals for creating outdoor labyrinths and leads labyrinth workshops. He is a founding member of The Labyrinth Society and a Certified Veriditas Facilitator.
In his private therapy practice, Neal assists those individuals who are experiencing a variety of concerns including life-affirming conditions such as Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease as well as anxiety and more general concerns. To promote healing on many levels, he uses relaxation and meditation training, EFT, Reiki, Quantum-Touch® as well as his own modality “labyrinth counseling” (using his patented 2-person, 2-handed finger labyrinth design known as the IntuipathÒ). This work explores integrative medical options, as well as the psychology and spirituality of illness and recovery.
Neal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For labyrinth classes and Intuipath® information visit www.relax4life.com
Effective, Short-Term Therapy Utilizing Finger Labyrinths To Promote Brain Synchrony
By Neal Harris, LCPC, DAPA
(published in the Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, September/October 2002)
A labyrinth is a path for assisting mental focus, group cohesion, and spiritual connection that has been used by many cultures and religions at different times throughout history. Labyrinths are considered by many to serve a holistic function, namely to further those who are on the path to a more balanced psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical well being (Torrez, 1994). Labyrinths have been, and continue to be used at hospitals, schools/universities, prisons, churches and parks.
Unlike a maze, which has many dead ends and wrong choices designed to trick the mind, a labyrinth is a design with a single, winding, unobstructed path from the outside of itself to the center. The labyrinth user makes no choices in direction. Therefore, the labyrinth path (because there are no choices in direction to be made) naturally fosters mental relaxation and introspection, and is frequently viewed by it’s users as a metaphor for our spiritual "life" journey. In other words, like life, labyrinths contain many twists and turns but no dead ends. There are always other options (Artress, 1995).
The process of organizing sensory information in the brain, in order to make adaptive responses to life situations, is known as "Sensory Integration." An adaptive response is defined as an "Appropriate action in which the individual responds successfully to some environmental demand; it implies dealing with environmental stressors in creative and useful ways" (Ayres, 1979). This author believes that the above quote sums up the challenges and goals of effective psychotherapy: to assist our clients to think and act in more adaptive ways to their personal obstacles. This author suggests that one way to shorten the time for clients to gain the confidence to delve into the deeper realms of their issues and bring them to resolution is to promote relaxed brainwave activity in both the client and therapist. In this author’s experience, an Intuipath® a two-person finger labyrinth (henceforth referred to as a "two-person finger labyrinth") can facilitate this brainwave shift to more relaxed states. Before getting into the therapeutic value of finger labyrinths, it is important to lay some groundwork in brainwave research to support this contention.
From biofeedback studies, we know that mental and physical relaxation occur when the brain is generating a wave of either 9-14 cycles per second (cps) known as "Alpha" (gentle relaxation), or a 5-8 cps wave known as "Theta" (a deeper form of relaxation and creative, non-linear thinking). However, unlike Alpha and Theta, Beta brainwaves (15-40 cps) represent our normal, busy, linear-thinking state, that which is involved in everyday thought and physical activity. As brainwaves shift from Beta activity down to Alpha and Theta activity, there is a corresponding increase in the balance created between left and right hemispheres of the brain (Fehmi & Fritz, 1980). This balance is referred to as "Brain Synchrony." Brain synchrony, such as seen in those who meditate regularly, has been shown to result in "deep tranquility, flashes of creative insight, euphoria, intensely focused attention, and enhanced learning abilities (Hutchison, 1994)." Brain synchrony therefore creates an opportunity for greater intuitive awareness (Fehmi & Fritz, 1980).
If the findings of Ayres (1979) on Sensory Integration and adaptive responses are applied to this discussion of brain synchrony, it is suggested that as clients become more relaxed in the presence of their therapists, they move towards achieving brain synchrony. In that state they are more likely to receive intuitive flashes that promote self-understanding, greater problem-solving ability and a more creative interaction with their environments. This often results in greater ease in making adaptive responses, reducing the time needed for continued therapeutic intervention.
Taking this a step further, in the experience of this author, when the therapist and the client are both working from a more integrated brain activity perspective, they can respond to one another with less guardedness, and use a combination of intuition and logic to address an issue. A tool that promotes enhanced relaxation (therefore increasing the chances for brain synchrony) for both the client and therapist is a two-person, finger labyrinth design.
The two-person finger labyrinth design is a mirror-image labyrinth pattern. Although prior brain wave research has not been done on finger labyrinths per se, it is this author’s premise that moving or gliding a finger through a single, continuous, inlaid path (referred to as fingerwalking) quiets the mind, relaxes the body, facilitating a single-minded focus, which in turn acts as a catalyst to the formation of both Alpha and Theta brain wave states. From the discussion on brain wave activity earlier in this paper, achieving these states facilitate brain synchrony. As a result of this enhanced relaxation and synchrony, It has been this author’s experience that finger labyrinths seem to enhance both interpersonal and intra-personal forms of communication.
The fingerwalk takes an individual from the outside of the labyrinth design to its center. Getting to the center is not the object or goal of the experience, such as in a game; rather it is the communication that "bubbles up" from the depths of each person’s awareness along the fingerwalk journey to and from the center which is most valuable as a therapeutic catalyst (West, 1999). Because these designs contain no blind alleys or dead ends, which promotes active thought and decision making, the fingerwalk journey becomes one of relaxation and introspection that can foster greater self-awareness (intra-personal communication). This process can also facilitate more relaxed, interpersonal communication, especially since both parties are engaged in a physical task that helps each be less self-conscious or aware of the presence of the other. By tending to "magnify" or bring into fuller awareness the thoughts, attitudes and emotions of both client and therapist, the finger labyrinth assists self-awareness. This, in turn, can foster more mutual, honest communication. This results in greater ease and mutual trust. The combination of movement with introspection is powerful and therapeutic in the experience of this author.
The two-person finger labyrinth design (henceforth referred to as a "double labyrinth") can be used at anytime in the therapy session to enhance the aforementioned forms of communication. The client sits face to face across from the therapist with their knees close together so that half the double labyrinth rests on the client’s knees and half on the therapist’s knees. They must be seated close enough to one another to allow for easy and total arms-length access of their portion of the board, without any strain.
With the two people seated together in this manner, the therapist briefly explains the process and purpose of using the double labyrinth. It is introduced as a relaxation device designed to enhance the communication process and explore further the counseling issue to be examined. The therapist and the client take several slow deep breaths and both begin the fingerwalk to the center, with eyes open or closed, at whatever pace each person feels comfortable. During the journey, the client is instructed to say out loud any thoughts that come to her or feelings she experiences without pre-judgement. The therapist may facilitate this dialogue by first asking the client open-ended questions that help the client delve deeper into a particular issue. The therapist may also allow the client to lead the session by responding to the client when appropriate, but otherwise remaining quiet and calm.
As the fingerwalk continues, it has been this author’s experience (as well as other psychotherapists who’ve reported using the double labyrinth design) that the communication between the client and therapist deepens, and notions of heirarchical roles begin to dissolve ("I’m ok, you’re ok" rather than "I’m ok, your getting there"). Each person feels more comfortable and intuitively "tuned in" or "linked" to one another (mentally and emotionally) as a result of the relaxation and single-minded focus. This author suggests that this linking process, or empathy, can lead to more effective issue resolution, resulting in shorter-term therapy than one might achieve without it.
In some therapeutic approaches, we are taught that self-awareness precedes conscious, productive change. Sometimes, it may take several months or years before a client develops this. The establishment of trust and comfort with the therapist also takes time to build. This author suggests that this process can be shortened with the use of a double labyrinth. Therapeutic models that avoid face to face interaction may diminish the sense of interpersonal connection as neither party is positioned to observe the expressions and body language of the other. In the absence of this feedback, trust may take longer to establish. By sitting across from one another and having their "energy" connected through fingerwalking the same piece of wood, people report a sense of tapping into fields of common thought and emotion. It is in these energy fields that combined self-awareness, personal insights and interpersonal flow is manifested. This author has witnessed this phenomenon during the relaxation/meditation classes he teaches. When two or more people are performing the same relaxation or meditation technique, the ability of each person to perform the technique seems to be significantly enhanced and the process becomes more enjoyable for all.
Case Study: Clara, a very shy, forty year old, tall and thin-looking woman from Scotland, came to the first session saying in a very meek-sounding voice, "I don’t know what I expect from this, I have nothing to say." I proceeded to ask her basic questions about her life and family and found that I was getting one or two-word answers. I decided to try using a double labyrinth design made of wood with her. I took a few moments to explain that it was a relaxation device that might help her to communicate with me. She agreed, and we both took a few deep breaths and began to fingerwalk, each at our own pace. Clara began to talk about how her colleagues, (schoolteachers) were very social with each other and how she felt like an outsider with them, and found it hard to make friends. She smiled after several, descriptive, paragraph-like responses ushered forth from her lips, and she added, "I guess I do have something to say."
After a few sessions, we addressed her low self-esteem and the way her alcoholic father contributed to its formation by discounting everything she said as a child in public. This subjugation to her father’s will (and to a degree, her mother’s as well) continued into adulthood on her yearly, one-month visits to Scotland. Using the double labyrinth (around the fourth session), she spontaneously verbalized the negative affirmation "I am a weak and uninteresting person." We fingerwalked a bit more after that, and I asked her to "allow" a positive affirmation to make itself present to her conscious mind. What presented itself was "I am competent in all social situations." I asked her to say this out loud and see how it sounded…she said it quietly, with a slight crack in her voice. I suspected (because of the difficulty she had in saying this statement with decisiveness and gusto) that we had hit upon some early, negative affirmation that was replaying itself often in all of her social interactions, causing her to feel weak, uninteresting and therefore socially inept. I asked her to take several deep breaths and after each, say the positive version again loudly like she meant it. She did so, and her voice became stronger after each utterance of it. Between sessions, as she was instructed to do, she used this positive affirmation throughout each day, and when she returned to session the following week, she reported great changes had taken place in her courage and competence in social situations. She even reported that her relationship with her father, during her yearly return home, shifted to a more satisfying and equal emotional footing. In total, I saw Clara for 12 sessions, and her improvement in self-esteem was maintained as reported by her in a six-month, one-year and two-year follow up. Utilizing the power and grace of her own intuition and wisdom (elicited in part through the use of a finger labyrinth), Clara was able to marshal new strength and understanding, and as a result, rapidly change her adaptive responses to gain greater satisfaction and meaning. With her new found self-esteem and confidence, she was able to gain a sense of clarity and mastery over other issues as well.
In summation, this writer suggests that finger labyrinths combine the sensation of movement with introspection, which can lead to greater mental, emotional and physical relaxation. This, in turn, can facilitate left/right brain hemisphere integration or brain synchrony. Brain synchrony leads to heightened intuitive awareness and learning capabilities. When both the client and therapist are in this heightened state, both interpersonal and intra-personal communication is enhanced, leading to greater trust. Rapid establishment of trust can result in fewer therapeutic sessions. Only with those clients where relaxation might cause further emotional overload, would the use of finger labyrinths be contra-indicated.
For further information on labyrinths and double finger labyrinths, contact the author: email@example.com or visit www.relax4life.com.
1) Artress, L. (1995). Walking a sacred path: Rediscovering the labyrinth as a spiritual tool. New York: Riverhead Books.
2) Ayres, A.J. (1979). Sensory integration & the child. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.
3) Fehmi, L., & Fritz, G. (1980). Open focus: The attentional foundation of health & wellbeing. Somatics, 2, 34-40.
4) Hutchison, M. (1994). Megabrain power. New York: Hyperion.
5) Torrez, K. (1994). Labyrinths what are they: Prehistory to the 21st century. Arizona: Labyrinths Unlimited.
6) West, M. (2000). Exploring the labyrinth: A guide for healing & spiritual growth. New York: Random House.
OFF THE COUCH: AN INTRODUCTION TO LABYRINTHS & THEIR THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES
by Neal Harris
(published in the Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, March/April 1999)
A labyrinth is a vehicle for assisting mental focus, group cohesion and spiritual connection, that has been used by many cultures and religions at different times throughout history. In present day, it is believed that labyrinths serve a holistic function; to further those who are on the path to a more balanced spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical well being (Torrez, 1994).
Unlike a maze, which has many dead ends and wrong choices designed to trick the mind, a labyrinth is a design with a single, winding, unobstructed path from the outside of itself to the center. Therefore, the labyrinth path (because there are no choices in direction to be made) naturally fosters introspection, and is, according to Dr. Lauren Artress, (Canon Minister at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and one of the principle pioneers responsible for the resurgence of mainstream interest in labyrinths) often seen as a metaphor for our spiritual "life" journey; many twists and turns but no dead ends. In other words, we always have the opportunity to make another choice in life or "turn" in the labyrinth (Artress, 1995).
When using a labyrinth with others, I have found that the path tends to magnify our thoughts, attitudes and emotions to where we see how our thinking may not be the most productive at times which provides an opportunity to change for both client and therapist. This magnification occurs as we watch and judge others as we walk the path. For example, while teaching a class on labyrinths, and introducing the students to a fabric walking labyrinth by walking it with them, I had the impression that a few of the students had lost their way since they were not walking in the same direction I was. For some reason the thought occurred to me that I was somehow superior to these students because I was following the path "correctly" and they were not. It wasn’t until a few steps later that I realized that I was the one who had somehow made a wrong turn and was heading back to the entrance rather than towards the center. What a revelation! At first, I was upset with myself regarding my attitude and misjudgement toward those who were supposedly "lost" on the pattern. Then I found this situation very humorous. This experience taught me that if others don’t appear to be traveling the same "path" in life that I am, it doesn’t make their paths any less valuable than mine and vice versa. I guess it was a lesson in humility and equality that the labyrinth was willing to teach me.
A labyrinth is also a powerful tool to help your mind and body relax. There is anecdotal research by a psychiatrist, Dr. Wayne London, which indicates that a labyrinth positively effects the brain wave activity and neurological responses of some of its users. This occurs after walking or "fingerwalking" (to be discussed later) a labyrinth. This research shows a short-term increase in mental clarity in some people with Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia, and Dyslexia, as well as greater mobility in some who are suffering with Parkinson’s Disease (London, 1998). These effects, however have not as yet been studied long-term. In addition, those people who find it difficult to sit still and meditate or pray will find the perfect outlet in the moving contemplation that is the labyrinth experience. It is both kinesthetic and introspective, a complete mind-body integrative activity (Harris, 1998).
Labyrinths have been and are continuing to be considered, "Sacred Space" by many cultures and religions. The greatest interest from traditional religious circles seems to be coming from the Episcopal Church (Harris, 1997). To clarify and paraphrase, "Sacred Space is a site where people go to contact the non-physical realms that lie just beyond the grasp of the five senses. This realm is the suspected home of intuition and ancient wisdom (Lonegrin, 1996). In my own practice, and from a more psychological perspective, I believe that labyrinths are ancient archetypes that seem to help some people tap into Jung’s notion of the collective unconscious. Thus, greater insight and understanding may become consciously available to them as they are working on their issues.
In addition, many people use labyrinths as oracles or places to receive answers to life’s troubling questions. For example, in a relaxation class, where I showed the students how to use a finger labyrinth, (a labyrinth design drawn on paper or carved into wood in which a finger traces the path from the outside to the center) one middle-aged woman told the class what she experienced. She reported that she had been told that morning that she was being let go from a job that she had held for almost 25 years. She stated how angry and frustrated this made her feel and, as a result, her plan was to walk out of the class a few minutes after it started. She was so upset that she couldn't sit still, but as she began running her finger through the design, a tiny edge of her anger seemed to leave her; so she continued to fingerwalk (trace the design with her finger). As she came close to the center of the design, she heard this voice inside her which said, "Now you will have the time that you need in order to take your grandchild to the pool this Summer". She said at that point, all of her anger left her. She revealed that this was an answer to an issue that
she had been praying about for months; "How can I spend more time with my grandchild and not miss his formative years because of my heavy work schedule." With the layoff, now she could! What a powerful and elegant tool for personal peace and transformation.
A very specialized type of wooden finger labyrinth (developed by the author), that is designed to be used by two people simultaneously, is known as a "Therapist Board". I utilize the Therapist Board with my counseling clients to assist in the creation of a more intuitive bridge between us. The process is simple; while my client discusses a pre-selected or spontaneous issue, he is fingerwalking his portion of the Therapist Board (a full labyrinth design) while I am fingerwalking mine. The client is instructed to keep breathing and to go at his own pace as he traces the path. Because of the finger-deep grooves that make up the path, the client can keep his eyes open or closed while tracing the path. During this activity, the client and therapist are both relaxing and creating a singular mental focus that can begin tapping hidden awareness’ within each person (possibly activating or energizing the notion of the Collective Unconscious that was discussed earlier) and allowing an intuitive "flow" to pass between them. Consequently, the usual client to therapist hierarchy can begin to dissolve. This can lead to greater intuitive intimacy within the therapeutic relationship and a reduction of the time required for effective therapy.
In sum, when at the entrance to a labyrinth, the labyrinth poses a question to our rational minds, "Can the intuition come out and play?" If the rational mind agrees, it then relinquishes control to that something that is far more knowing than it can ever aspire to be. What better place than this space of "knowing" to start or continue a therapeutic relationship with your clients? Discover for yourself why many throughout the world consider a labyrinth to be "Sacred Space", a locale where the physical and esoteric worlds meet. I encourage therapists to begin to utilize finger labyrinths (especially the Therapist Board) in their practices. For information on acquiring them, call (847) 842-1752 or visit www.relax4life.com.
Torrez, Kay. Labyrinths What Are They: Prehistory To The 21st Century. Arizona: Labyrinths Unlimited, 1994.
Artress, Lauren. Walking A Sacred Path: Rediscovering The Labyrinth As A Spiritual Tool. New York: Riverhead Books, 1995.
London, Wayne. The Spiritual And Healing Aspects Of The Classical Seven Path Labyrinth: A Work In Progress. Vermont. London Research, 1998.
Harris, Neal. Meanderings & Musings On The Path To Transformation. First published in the Monthly Aspectarian, p. 34, April 1998.
Lonegrin, Sig. Labyrinths: Ancient Myths & Modern Uses. Great Britain. Gothic Image Publications, 1996.
Harris, Neal. Labyrinth: Playground Of The Spirit. Talk given at Alexian Brothers Medical Center, Elk Grove, Illinois, June, 1997.
Using The 2-Person/2-Handed Intuipath®
by Neal Harris
The versatile Intuipath is based on the premise that through quieting the mind and slowing down the body through relaxation, enhanced interpersonal (between 2 or more people) or intra-personal communication (communication that occurs within individuals to help them become more self-aware) occurs.
Due to the nature of the Intuipath design, either an individual moves a finger of both hands though the double pattern at the same time (often bringing greater balance to the functioning of the right and left sides of the brain) or two people, sitting opposite each other, move a finger through a complete labyrinth design; this action is known as "fingerwalking". The fingerwalk takes an individual from the outside of the design to its center. Getting to the center is not the object; rather it is the insight that occurs along the "journey" to and from the center that is most valuable. Because these designs contain no blind alleys or dead ends, the fingerwalk journey becomes one of introspection and self-awareness (intra-personal communication) yielding greater interpersonal communication as well.
The process of using the Intuipath as a 2-person communication enhancer follows. One person sits (face to face) across from the other so that half the Intuipath rests on one person’s knees and half on his partner’s knees. They must be seated close enough to one another to allow for easy and total arms length access of their portion of the board, without any strain.
With the two people seated together in this manner, they both take several, slow deep breaths, and afterwards, begin the fingerwalk to the center at whatever pace each person feels comfortable with. During the journey, each person can feel free to say out loud any thoughts that come to her or feelings he experiences. Each person may choose to facilitate this dialogue by asking each other open-ended questions (questions that help deepen the interaction because they require more than a "yes" or "no" answer) that help each delve deeper into their own sense of each other. Each person may choose to talk and reflect in this manner or remain quiet.
It also becomes clear as the fingerwalk continues, that out of the relaxation that occurs with both individuals that the communication between them has deepened and become more equal ("I’m ok, you’re ok") rather than hierarchical ("I’m ok, your getting there"). Each person feels more comfortable and intuitively "tuned in" or "linked" to one another (mentally and emotionally) as a result of the relaxation afforded by the Intuipath.
The process of heightened communication among members of a group (3 or more people) can also be realized with the use of a 3 or more person Group Intuipath. Developing "group cohesion" (how well members of a group understand one another and work together towards a common goal) is directly related to how relaxed each person in a group feels when communicating with one another. The Intuipath, as stated in detail earlier, facilitates relaxation and introspection for each person, thereby leading to more effective communication between group members.
Two examples of typical groups that would use a Group Intuipath either prior to or during their meetings are, corporate or not-for-profit Board Members; (to set the stage for increased cooperation through more effective communication), and Project Teams (needing to come up with more intuitive/creative ideas to further their joint venture.) An example of a therapeutic group that could benefit from a Group Intuipath would be an Anger Management Group, run by a hospital or church.