Sunday, December 21, 2008

Labyrinths and the Creative Process

I've studied labyrinths for many years, and I've always focused on their spiritual use. But on Friday, as I walked a candlelit labyrinth for Advent, I had a flash of insight about a poem that had been percolating.

Actually, it was about several poems that I'd been working on, all of them giving me fits. On Friday night, my mind said, "Stitch this bit to that bit, and then you've got something interesting." Yesterday was hectic, so I haven't tried it yet, but it's an insight that excites me. I wonder if I would have had that insight if I hadn't been walking the labyrinth.

I've heard of people having similar insights as they solve various problems while walking the labyrinth. What is it about walking that shape that helps the brain in its problem solving mode?

I know that there are many theories, and many of them are similar to the theories that explain why we often solve problems when we're driving a cross-country trip or exercising. The activity gives the brain something to focus upon, which quiets the chatter that often clutters our mind, and that allows solutions to come forward.

There might be fancier neurological explanations, but in the end, who cares? It's a process to add to our toolkits.

And before you say, "Oh no, labyrinths are too New Agey for me," I'd just remind you that actually, they're very medieval. To find out more, go to the Labyrinth Society website.

And to find a labyrinth near you (and you'll likely be surprised at how many exist; lots of school and hospitals have started building them), go to the labyrinth locator. Go to a labyrinth and think about a poem that's presenting you with problems that you don't know how to solve. Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised at the ideas you have while walking.

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