how to build a labyrinth

as some of you know, I have a labyrinth tattooed on my arm.

I trace it with my finger every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I love it, and I love everything I have learned about labyrinths before and since I got this tattoo. so of course I was thrilled to learn that there was a labyrinth here at kalani, made of lava rock, and that as part of my 8 days of agriculture work as a sabbatical volunteer, I would get to work on it.

why work on a labyrinth? well this one was totally overgrown and the wild pigs here have pushed the rocks every which way.

this week, that work happened. and yesterday was probably the hardest work day I’ve had here, because I cared about how it was done. I considered actually not working on it, because I knew I would get involved and it might disrupt my calm detached sabbatical self…but it was actually incredible to move through it, trying to show up in new ways.

in my experience and reading, labyrinths are built from the center, with blessings, slowly and with deep sacred intention.

for our effort, we had piles of rocks, 10 people, weeded space and rope, measuring poles, a set of instructions, lava rocks, weed trees, opinions, human feet, rolled eyes, gloved and ungloved hands, buckets, male brilliance and female brilliance…

when we discussed doing it, the suggestion came up to lay it out with flowers first, get the shape just right, from the center outwards, then finalize it with rocks. when we came to the layout part there were some rocks already laid out and we were told to connect the rocks with more rocks, each starting at a different part of the labyrinth.

confusion soon ensued, as well as resistance that we weren’t doing it as labyrinths are traditionally done.

our leader, who had built the original labyrinth in this space, had laid out these major points for us. and it probably would have eventually worked his way, but since he had us starting from the outside, several of us (all women) couldn’t comprehend it. he said lets just get the rocks out and adjust later, maybe leave a dead space on one side, make sure its wide enough to mow – all logical things.

but he was surrounded by empowered sacred feminine energy.

so we asked to approach it our way, build it from center. we took hours to figure it out, guided by the diagrams and a sense inside of when it was right or not. we committed to starting in the heart of it and rolling outwards as we’d all been taught in other places.

our leader, a very sweet and intelligent manly man, would occasionally jump in to show how what we were doing was exactly what he had already figured out, or start moving rocks around in impatience, but to his credit, he granted us that time and let us get there with fairly little interference or frustration.

in the process, this is what I learned about how to build a labyrinth:

1. you cannot discuss the labyrinth…unless you have agreed upon terms. ‘can that point there go around the switchback into the middle piece over here?’ is not necessarily a coherent sentence, even while pointing, and even while sometimes standing on top of each part and leaping about (unless you have agreed about what those terms mean).

2. you have to walk the labyrinth several times to know it is whole and right. sometimes you have to walk it as a group, sometimes you have to walk it on your own.
sometimes you have to walk it on your own in front of the group. sometimes the group has to walk it without knowing it. walking the labyrinth can and will change your comprehension.

3. almost right is not right enough. do not celebrate, or move the rocks, until it is truly right.

4. lava rocks are heavy to play with…start out with something light to trace the labyrinth, like leaves or flowers or vines or string. we used this invasive weed vine to burst through the mystery of the center of the labyrinth.

5. there are many ways to make a maze, technically – to make a sacred labyrinth, you start from the heart of it and flow outward, with no dead ends or dead spaces, only one path through.

6. being able to acknowledge mistakes and limitations is part of the way forward, even if it seems like doubling back. we had both masculine and feminine mistakes in our process, and the quick ‘a-ha, i see that, i was wrong’ enabled us to keep moving forward on the way to rightness.

7. if you can’t show others what you see, then you can’t get others to build what you see. no matter how right what you see may be. (this happened repeatedly with multiple people in charge until we finally asked the majority of folks to work on other projects til we could get it clear enough on the ground so as to not waste their time and effort piling rocks in wrong places.)

8. there has to be a way in. (it is also the only way out.)

9. masculine and feminine are truly different, and needed, energies. (we would not have completed the labyrinth design without both, although we each thought the other was doing it completely backwards)

10. if you aren’t laughing and relaxing and exploring and kind of lost, you are missing the whole point. journey, not destination, journey.


this learning is how I spent my last day of work here – now I relax for over a week taking classes and getting body work and going on adventures. then I go to kona for two weeks of beaching.

I started the day with a movement workshop that involved just moving my body in ways that felt good. I ended it by jumping in on a swimmer’s boot camp that left me exhausted and elated.

I love sleeping with every part of my body mind and soul feeling well-used and ready for rest.