One of my favorite spiritual practices is walking a labyrinth. I was introduced to it years ago at a New Year’s Eve candlelight labyrinth walk. I’ve been hooked ever since and would do it more often if we had an accessible one nearby. On Sunday we put out our fabric one (similar to the picture) for the Sunday morning service. I’m the Chair of our Spiritual Practices Council which planned the service. I was the main speaker and my sermon was titled: “Finding Your Center in the Midst of Chaos.” After the service one of our congregation members, psychology professor Dr. Robert Thayer, came up to me and we talked about walking the labyrinth in relation to his research. He was familiar with labyrinths but it was his first time actually walking one.

Since I’m drowning in reading for my studies right now, I was glad to find this article in Spirituality & Health magazine by Stephen Kiesling that summarizes Dr. Thayer’s work (also here with pictures).

“The best and most reliable way to improve your mood is to take a brisk, ten-minute walk. No kidding. If you are in a bad mood (and perhaps semiconsciously craving a sugar snack, a call to a friend, a trip to the mall, a cigarette, a cup of coffee, a shot of tequila, or whatever) the most reliable way to immediately start to feel better is to take a brisk walk. Taking a walk may not come to mind as the best choice, but the research says that it is best.”

Through my own experience I discovered the importance of walking in terms of health and stress-relief. Dr. Thayer gives us specific language which describes states of energy and tension that work together for optimum happiness and effectiveness. Not surprisingly, high energy and low tension is the best combination. In the next article, Kiesling makes a more direction connection to spiritual practices such as walking a labyrinth.

“The beauty of Robert Thayer’s mood research is that it is so firmly grounded by the documented experience of thousands of people. He can say with authority that the best ways to improve mood are to take a walk or talk to a friend or meditate or pray. Meanwhile, other researchers, such as James Rippe, M.D., at the University of Massachusetts, have expanded on that work to test combinations: Are walking meditation, prayer-walking, and mindful exercises such as Tai Chi more effective at boosting energy and reducing tension than walking alone? The answer, not surprisingly, is yes. Combining prayer or mindfulness with walking turns out be a “double dip” of happiness.”