On Sunday, September 11, 2011 the women attending Women’s Weekend 3, honored those whose lives were forever effected by 9/11 in a Peace Ceremony during the unveiling of Camp Manitowa’s Labyrinth. The women who attended the weekend retreat were asked to bring a stone no smaller than their fist and no larger than their head for use in the powerful ceremony. Just before walking the labyrinth together to meet at its core and stand shoulder to shoulder, supporting each other, each lady decorated her rock with one word that meant peace to her. We left the rocks in a pile at the core of the Chartres replica labyrinth.
A labyrinth is a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation. Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity. You enter a labyrinth through the mouth and then walk on the paths or circuits. The goal is in the center of the labyrinth. When you reach it, you have gone half the distance – you now need to turn around and walk back out. Walking the path of a labyrinth, stepping on every bit of its path before entering the labyrinth core or center, and then retracing back to the beginning, can represent a journey to one’s own center and back out into the world again. It can be healing.
Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School’s Mind/Body Medical Institute found that focused walking meditations are highly efficient at reducing anxiety and eliciting what Dr. Benson calls the ‘relaxation response’. This effect has significant long-term health benefits, much-needed benefits, which in turn have inspired a resurgence in the popularity of labyrinths. Hundreds of hospitals, churches, health care facilities, spas and even prisons have installed labyrinths in recent years.
Labyrinths are ancient. The labyrinth was a central feature in many of the European Roman Catholic churches in the middle ages and many of these still exist today. The most famous of these remaining labyrinths is at Chartres Cathedral near Paris, France. The labyrinth at Chartres was built around 1200. It was walked as a pilgrimage and/or for repentance. As a pilgrimage, it was a journey to become closer to God. When used for repentance, the pilgrims would walk on their knees. Sometimes this eleven-circuit labyrinth would serve as a substitute for an actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The cross is at the center of the pattern of the labyrinth and is used in the construction as a guide. Even today, churches with labyrinths encourage people to walk the labyrinth during Lent and Advent.
People walk labyrinths for many reasons. Some do it to relax, some as a walking meditation, some just for fun. There are benefits to walking a labyrinth, and many will walk ours. If you are interested in visiting the Camp Manitowa labyrinth, contact Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-375-6766. The labyrinth has areas surrounding it that would be perfect for pitching tents, or stay in our yurts and have us cater your retreat with our dining hall and other facilities.
Williams College has the same type of labyrinth as Camp Manitowa’s
The Labyrinth Society
A St. Louis operation that has built labyrinths all over the world: