Labyrinth project gets off the ground at Oak Crest

Created date

July 26th, 2010

Magical! That s how Martha Clasby describes her pilgrimage from Baltimore to Chartres Cathedral in France. Clasby is among the thousands who have traveled to the [caption id="attachment_13166" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Walking labyrinths has been proven to elicit what is called a relaxation response. (file photo)"][/caption] medieval town 50 miles outside of Paris to walk one of the oldest, most well-known labyrinths in the world. I traveled with a group from the Bon Secours Ministry in Marriottsville, says Clasby, who lives at Oak Crest. I had attended a few workshops about labyrinths hosted by Lauren Artress, author of the book Walking the Sacred Path, and she sponsored a trip to the cathedral in France. We went in the evening when the cathedral was only illuminated by candlelight, Clasby recalls. A group of musicians from Paris played while we walked the labyrinth. It was an experience I ll never forget. Labyrinths, like the one at Chartres (built in 1205 A.D.), were an ancient feature in many European Roman Catholic churches throughout the Middle Ages. They were initially used by pilgrims to become closer to God. Today, labyrinths are making a comeback popping up in community centers, hospitals, and schools as a tool to relax, reflect, meditate, or just enjoy. Now, Clasby and a handful of her friends and neighbors are working with Oak Crest Pastoral Ministries Manager Jim Truitt in hopes of bringing a labyrinth and its therapeutic benefits to the community. We had a number of residents who expressed an interest in labyrinths, says Truitt. It s something I ve always wanted to do, but up until now could never get off the ground. We ve rented a portable labyrinth on occasion in the community and have finally secured enough funds from the Oak Crest Treasure Chest to purchase our own, he says. The wonderful thing about having a portable labyrinth made of canvas is you can literally roll it up and take it with you to libraries, churches, community centers you name it. Margaret Ingram is one of the Oak Crest residents rallying to have a labyrinth in the community. We held an initial meeting to introduce community members to the labyrinth because a lot of people had no idea what a labyrinth even was, says Ingram. There was a guest speaker who gave a lecture on labyrinths from a historic perspective. We also had workshops where people could walk the portable labyrinth. We had 100 people show up, and we thought if there s that much interest, we should really buy our own. Ingram was introduced to labyrinths during a meeting she attended with the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalists Association. I thought, Hmmm isn t that interesting? but I didn t walk it, says Ingram. Then some time later, I visited the National Cathedral, and they had a labyrinth there, so I walked it. At the time, I had a problem I was struggling with, and it helped me reach a resolution. [caption id="attachment_13171" align="alignright" width="280" caption="An Oak Crest resident walks the portable labyrinth rented by the community on different occasions. (photo by Jeff Getek)"][/caption] But don t be misled, cautions Ingram: Walking the labyrinth won t give you magic answers to your problems. The answers are inside of you, she explains. But it does help you dig deep and clears your mind as you walk slowly around. For me, it was a very emotional experience. I really felt the power of using a labyrinth.

Health benefits of walking the labyrinth

According to Herbert Benson, M.D., the power Ingram described has health benefits. Research from Harvard Medical School s Institute for Mind Body Medicine has found that focused walking meditations are highly effective in reducing anxiety and eliciting what Benson refers to as the relaxation response. This response leads to lower blood pressure, reduction in chronic pain and insomnia, and even improved fertility. Reaping the healthy benefits, Clasby continues to visit labyrinths in the area at least monthly and hopes others will discover the meditative power of this ancient tool. You never know what you ll find when you walk a labyrinth, she says. Sometimes you can find the answers to whatever is bothering you. Other times, the answers come later. And sometimes, you never do find an answer; it s simply a pleasant walk. For more information on labyrinths or to locate a labyrinth near you, visit