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Minding the Labyrinth: Finding Creative Inspiration in This Circle of Life

“The labyrinth offers a sacred and stable place to focus the attention and listen to the longing of the soul.” Rev. Dr. Lauren Artess, Veriditas, The Worldwide Labyrinth Project

Have you ever walked a labyrinth?

Spirals tend to show up in my art work. Life circles I call them.  Mandalas are often part of our equine-assisted learning programs. The experiences in the round pen between horse and human are wonderful metaphors for the mandala — the sacred circle of life.

A little over a year ago my daughter Sarah and I built a stone labyrinth on our property. It was an impulsive decision on a very hot day, but we persevered and after a few hours of hauling stone had the foundation finished. I was in the midst of completing a 12-month Mandala Magic on-line program offered by Julie Gibbons. I found myself drawn to this particular stage and the symbolism of transformation that the labyrinth represents. With no shortage of rocks on our property, we methodically created a natural spiral walking course using the classic labyrinth design made up of seven circuits.

“In sacred geometry terms, where numbers are assigned with a spiritual significance, all evidence leads towards understanding of the number seven as a symbol of self-transformation. And so we can see the labyrinth as a device in which we may experience a transformation of self,” says Gibbons.

In his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, author Daniel Pink notes that labyrinths free the right brain. “When you enter, your goal is to follow the path to the centre, stop, turn around, and walk back out – all at whatever pace you choose,” he writes.

“In an age when many are looking beyond the church pulpit for spiritual experience and solace, a growing number haveIMG_2521 rediscovered the labyrinth as a path to prayer, introspection, and emotional healing,” reports The New York Times.

“A labyrinth is an escape for the right brain,” says David Tolzman, who designed and built the John Hopkins labyrinth. “As the left brain engages in the logical progression of walking the path, the right brain is free to think creatively.”

Pink recognizes the work of Lauren Artess, an Episcopal priest at Grace Cathedral Church in San Francisco for putting labyrinths on the cultural map. She’s set up a ministry called Veritas that provides training and labyrinth kits to churches and other organizations.

“We live in such a left brain world…and there’s this whole other world that we must integrate inorder to meet the challenges of the next century,” Artress has said. “When people walk into a labyrinth, they shift consciousness from the linear to the non-linear and bring to the surface the deep, intuitive, pattern of ourselves. The circle is an archetype for wholeness or unity. So when people walk into the labyrinth, they begin to see their whole life.”

According to Pink, there are now more than 4,000 public and private labyrinths in the United States.  They are also showing up at hospitals and other medical facilities. About 40 hospitals and medical centres now have labyrinths – many for the same reasons that empathy and narrative have begun infiltrating the medical world. “There’s a growing recognition that the analytical approach to healing, while absolutely necessary, is not always sufficient,” writes Pink.

IMG_2522There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. There are generally three stages to the walk:

  • Releasing on the way in
  • Receiving in the centre and
  • Returning when you follow the return path back out of the labyrinth.

Today, the walls of our labyrinth have been reinforced with a variety of coloured rocks from across our property. Herbs like lavender and thyme are planted along its path, adding to the sensual richness of the experience. There are a few weeds too because life is not perfect. The journey begins with a stone gifted to me by a very dear friend that reads: Be Bold. Along the way, a few other stones have been inscribed with the words:  Create, Faith, Wisdom and Believe. Visitors are encouraged to choose one of these words, and then repeat it, like a mantra in meditation, as they circle to the center.

Anyone who participates in a workshop or session at The Mane Intent is encouraged to visit our labyrinth. At the end of the day, participants are asked to write a word that summarizes their experience with the horses on a rock and place it within the labyrinth to inspire others on a similar journey. I love that there is a growing collection of stones and that every stone has a personal life story attached to it.

I particularly like Pink’s observation: “The ideal life is more like walking a labyrinth, where the purpose is the journey IMG_2521 itself.” Like Pink I have a short attention span and lack the ability to sit still – so I find the movement of walking our labyrinth calming. It’s a place where I can quiet my mind and experience peace while being surrounded by the sound of nature. For these reasons, the labyrinth at The Mane Intent is becoming one of my favourite spaces for creative inspiration. Where do you go for creative inspiration?

Jennifer Garland is the Program Director/Owner of The Mane Intent. At The Mane Intent, we help people gain self-knowledge and personal coping skills required for a healthy and fulfilling life at home and work with facilitated equine experiential learning (FEEL). By engaging in ground work with horses in a controlled setting with the support of a professionally certified facilitator and coach, we learn how our attitude, body language and intent impacts our relationships and the world around us. Our programming prompts lasting change, enhanced individual and team effectiveness, and improved mental health and wellness. No previous horse experience is required. For information contact jgarland@themaneintent.ca

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