Walking in circles can help people find their path

April 04, 2006|by FEDORA COPLEY

In this day and age, there are no limitations to spiritual quests. It is acknowledged that everyone's metaphysical journey will be individual. For some, meditation is key to spirituality.

For Diana Foley, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Hagerstown, walking a labyrinth can be a great canvas for a meditative mindset.

A labyrinth is similar to a maze, but different. A maze has many dead ends and alternate courses to challenge a person's intellect. In a labyrinth, there is one path to the center. Foley says mazes work the left side of one's brain and they use logic and common sense, whereas labyrinths cultivate the right side of the brain, the side associated with creativity and spiritual growth.

Foley's husband John describes the labyrinth as "a purposeful walk without purpose." The steady, intentional rhythm of walking lets your mind relax, perhaps into a form of meditation, or just a peaceful place.


For another member of the church, Sue Stoner, it's hard to come to a meditative state while walking the labyrinth. Instead, she uses the peaceful setting to think about problems.

The church boasts two labyrinths, one outside and one inside. The outside labyrinth is a Cretan pattern, named after its island of origin. In 2003, church members got together to lay the bricks outlining the path of the labyrinth, according to church member Yvonne Pfoutz.

The church hosts a monthly "open house" at which the public is invited to walk its labyrinths. This month's open house is from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 9, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Hagerstown,13245 Cearfoss Pike (Salem Ave.), about 1 mile west of I-81, exit 7B. The event is free.

Pfoutz says she has seen labyrinths made out of all sorts of materials (including construction tape), but permanent ones are usually made by placing bricks in the ground. The church's indoor labyrinth is a big square of cloth with purple paint outlining the path.

Foley says church members painted the labyrinth in the Chartres style, but instead of the full-sized, 36-foot-across Chartres labyrinth you would see in big churchs, this is a 22-foot labyrinth called a petite Chartres.

Buddhists use an expression called the "monkey mind" to describe the mental state of a person when thoughts keep coming into their mind, moving from one thought to the next. Yvonne Pfoutz said it's hard to get rid of that mindset, but walking a labyrinth is a retreat from the monkey mind.

Like meditation, you can concentrate on filtering out your thoughts so you may become for relaxed. That's a lot easier said than done. Thoughts come into your mind and won't leave until they're been pondered over.

Whether or not you are able to escape your "monkey mind," walking a labyrinth offers a chance to slow down, to relax, maybe to gain some insight into a problem you're facing, or maybe just make you a little more aware of life.

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