Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Walking in Circles


Last week my Red Hat ladies and I went on another field trip. We attended a workshop about labyrinths at the county Mental Health Center . Some folks confuse them with mazes, which spring up in corn fields all over the country this time of year. A maze has a separate entrance and exit. A labyrinth, if you'll note from the illustration above, has a single entrance and exit.

From their website:
The Labyrinth, located adjacent to the Mental Health Center to the north, is a circuitous path that leads to the center and out again. Its various twists and turns provide a metaphor for life and its challenges. Labyrinths are designed to help us find our way. There is no right or wrong way to use a labyrinth, but most believe the labyrinth provides the opportunity to clear ones mind, find peace, manage stress, and make decisions. Some believe that the labyrinth can also help a person heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The Labyrinth of the Mental Health Center is available to the public during daylight hours, 7 days a week including weekends. It's use is free of charge but donations are accepted.
We learned some of the history behind labyrinths, going all the way back to the island of Crete and the myth of the Minotaur. It has been used in numerous cultures for about five thousand years and is present in modern-day Christianity. According to the speaker, many churches house labyrinths, the most famous being the one in the Chartres Cathedral in France.

The Mental Health Center's labyrinth is patterned after the one in Chartres, which is illustrated above. The eleven circuits are a half mile long and depending on your pace, it can take from fifteen to forty-five minutes to walk. Constructed of grass with stones outlining each circuit, it's best experienced by walking it barefooted. And the instructor noted there is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth or no right or wrong reason for walking it. After you've reached the center with its six petals (which represent the six days of creation), it's customary to spend some time there. Some folks carry in a pebble to represent a burden and then leave it in the center so they can shed the burden. Some folks walk accompanied by music from an iPod. Some blow bubbles even. The labyrinths in churches will often have candles or holy water in the center.

In 2010, the local Labyrinth Keepers are planning to have someone walk the local labyrinth every single day and they're currently looking for volunteers for not only that project, but others such as upkeep and public relations as well.

Labyrinths are often used in grief therapy and the instructor said they use the one here with children who have ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome.

As I listened to her presentation, I came to the conclusion that the labyrinth might have some applications for writing. I can't count how many times I've been unable to focus on the task at hand and could use something to help me gather my thoughts and center myself. Or what about being stuck on a plot point and needing time to sort it out? Walking a labyrinth could be helpful (and a lot cheaper than retail therapy).

For labyrinth enthusiasts who want to find them wherever they travel (and there was a woman attending the workshop who'd walked labyrinths all over the United States) the Labyrinth Society has a locator feature on their website at http://www.labyrinthsociety.org/ .

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? If so, tell us about it. If not, would you try it if there was one near you? Check the locator on the website posted above and tell us if there's a labyrinth near you.

P.S. Our very own Problem Child is guest blogging today at I Heart Presents. Please hop over and tell her hello.

13 comments:

Angel said...

I've often heard of people walking outdoors to help get them unstuck when the writing isn't going well. This sounds really neat! I'd never heard of labyrinths until I read about a character walking one in one of Mary Jo Putney's books.

Angel

Playground Monitor said...

I read that same book -- The Spiral Path -- and that was my first exposure to labyrinths too. Great book by the way.

Problem Child said...

The labyrinth is something I've heard of -- and I even saw the ones at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco (but only AC walked it; DG and I were too tired)-- but I'm hoping we can get a speaker to our chapter and learn more about them.

But the movie with David Bowie was always one of my favs! :-)

Problem Child said...

Oh, and the IHP blog hasn't been updated yet, so keep checking back..

Playground Monitor said...

One of the ladies in this workshop said she'd walked the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral. And PC's CP posted on my Facebook that she'd walked the one in Chartres while they were in France. It's only open on Friday and they planned their trip to be there on Friday. That's just way cool.

Instigator said...

I've never heard of a labyrinth and without the definition I would have lumped it in with a maze. This sounds really cool!

Instigator

Smarty Pants said...

I've never really considered a labyrinth before and knowing there's one nearby is surprising. Sounds theraputic, although in my mind, I expect it to have muppets and David Bowie inside.

Playground Monitor said...

The labyrinth experience can be whatever you want it to be -- including Muppets and Davie Bowie. ::grin::

gigi said...

I have never had the pleasure to walk in a corn maze but would love the chance to do it one day.

When I was a kid I loved to do the mazes in those puzzle books.

Problem Child said...

SP, you remind me of the babe.

Sorry PM for hijacking your thread, but now I'm singing that song. Must go watch Labyrinth again...

Problem Child said...

And IHP is now updated and ready for you to come vent on etiquette!

Jane said...

I have never walked a labyrinth, but I would like to try.

Kathy said...

A labryinth sounds AWESOME. Ideas... ooo, ideas are perculating. :)