For some, the word labyrinth conjures up images of David Bowie fraternizing with Muppets.
But a labyrinth is also a circular design dating back thousands of years. Its intricate, curving paths are seeing a resurgence for meditative walking purposes at hospitals across the country.
At the University, the Mayo Memorial Building’s concrete courtyard is now adorned with a newly painted labyrinth of its own – a project completed by the Center for Spirituality and Healing.
“Labyrinths are often used as a part of self-care,” said Jean Larson, project coordinator for the labyrinth. “We were thinking it might be a good thing for physicians and nurses and other care providers here to have something so that they can kind of recharge their batteries.”
Larson, the coordinator of therapeutic services for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen, said the labyrinth is designed for students and the public’s use as well. Labyrinths lack the dead ends and confusion of a maze and have a specific entrance and exit.
The walking meditation technique is also an active alternative to still meditations such as yoga, Larson said.
“Walking can be very meditative,” said Mary Jo Kreitzer, director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing. “And a labyrinth is just a structured process for walking through usually a series of circles.”
The courtyard is the future location for a patient-focused healing garden planned by the center, Kreitzer said.
“I think in the middle of a busy university, in the middle of a busy academic health center, it’s wonderful to have a space where people can come for quiet reflection and contemplation,” Kreitzer said.
One part of becoming a good health care provider and healer is not just the acquisition of knowledge and skills, Kreitzer said, but a process of internal growth and transformation.
Though the plans for the garden are not yet complete, the labyrinth lends the courtyard a more useful purpose.
“I thought it was a great way to use the space during this interim time before we create the whole healing garden space,” Kreitzer said.
Beverly Pierce, the center’s outreach coordinator, saw the benefits of walking a labyrinth while working at Abbott Northwestern – where a portable labyrinth exists.
“Some people say they’ll enter a labyrinth with a particular question in mind,” Pierce said. “And then just walk the labyrinth in a meditative frame of mind and allow thoughts to come up as they will.
“And very often they’ll find they have an answer to the question or they see it differently.”
Mike Zacharias welcomes comments at [email protected]