HWS Memorial Labyrinth

Memorial Labyrinth on the Grounds of Perkin Observatory

The Office of Spiritual Engagement plans to construct a walking labyrinth on the site of the HWS Perkin Observatory on King Lane. Walking a labyrinth has significant benefit as part of spiritual practice and personal devotion in many traditions, and as a secular meditative practice. Because of its presence in many traditions and cultures, the labyrinth fits well with the inclusive culture HWS seeks to build and the multifaith emphasis of the Office of Spiritual Engagement. The labyrinth could also become a locus of memorial rituals-public and private.

Our student leaders emphasized a desire to connect with nature. The labyrinth will be located in a largely undeveloped setting and constructed of fieldstone with gravel walkways for a natural aesthetic.

We plan this as a student-driven project, with students doing most of the hand construction after site preparation is complete. Student volunteers will also perform the minimal maintenance required annually as part of stewardship of the site.

We are current engaged in raising the estimated $6000 needed for materials and site preparation.

labyrinth

The Chelsea à la Chartres design follows
the five-circuit design of Medieval Christian
labyrinths from France. It includes a single
entry/exit point and a six-fold central space
suitable for individual seating and a central
focus piece.

What is a Labyrinth?

A labyrinth is a designed pathway that takes participants on a journey from the exterior of a created space, to its center, and back to the outside. A labyrinth differs from a maze, which is designed to confuse and misdirect. A labyrinth has a single, winding path, symbolic of winding journeys of our lives.

Combining movement and meditative focus, labyrinth walks promote integration of mind, body and spirit (Monroe, 2008). Moving through a labyrinth can cultivate mindfulness, spiritual growth, stress reduction, and healing (Curry, 2000). Labyrinths can be part of communal rituals and individual meditative practice. Labyrinths situated in natural settings, like that at HWS, have the additional benefit of allowing journeyers to bathe in and reconnect with the natural environment. These two qualities—a meditative space in nature—is a central goal of the students proposing this project. In combination, meditative activities in nature are shown to promote healing, wellness, growth and community (Monroe, 2008; Dudeja, 2018; Josephine and Briggs). Reflective metacognition is a particularly powerful tool in higher education, where labyrinths have found a variety of applications (Sellers & Moss, 2016).

Why Memorial?

During the college years, young adults begin to taste loss with adult hearts and minds. It may be the death of a grandparent, a lost relationship, a childhood identity set aside, or shifting academic goals. As a community and society, we also mourn many things: social injustice and violence, and so many losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. A sacred, non-ecclesiastical space in which to remember, grieve, heal, and be refreshed would be an important addition to our community today and in the future. Such a space is particularly appropriate for an institution that justifiably prides itself on a developmental and growth-oriented approach to student success. With its structural emphasis on a journey inward and a journey outward, the labyrinth mirrors the HWS curriculum with an emphasis on exploration and action in the world. A labyrinth also provides an ideal space for personal practice and community ritual at times of remembering, and programs designed to promote growth.

Location and Design

The HWS Memorial Labyrinth will be located immediately south of the Richard S. Perkin Observatory. The entrance to the labyrinth will face north and open at the edge of the maintained lawn. The area is not visible from Kings Lane, offering peace and privacy for labyrinth users. Furthermore, the juxtaposition of the labyrinth - a symbol of reflection, meditation and spirituality - with the observatory - a scientific facility - highlights the integrated nature of the whole person in the HWS liberal arts tradition.

In choosing material for the construction, we plan to follow the natural aesthetic of the current observatory landscaping. Our labyrinth boundaries will be created using natural field stone with crushed stone pathways.

This creates a low maintenance surface to which rocks can be added over time as part of rituals of reflection and remembrance. A large boulder will mark the center of the labyrinth to be used as an informal seat or ritual centerpiece. Pollinator friendly species will be planted in the area surrounding the labyrinth for additional environmental sustainability.

Fundraising

We estimate the labyrinth will cost approximately $6000 to construct. We are currently engaged in fundraising to support this project. Click here to donate.

Literature Cited

Curry, H. 2000. The Way of the Labyrinth: A Powerful Meditation for Everyday Life. Penguin.

Dudeja, J.P. 2018. Labyrinth walking: Origin, patterns, significance, walking procedures and spiritual benefits. International Journal of Yogic, Human Movement and Sports Sciences 3.2 Part K:666-673.

Josephine P., Briggs M. Exploring the Power of Meditation. [(accessed on 9 October 2018)]; Available www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth

Sellers, J. and B. Moss (eds.) 2016. Learning with the Labyrinth: Creating Reflective Space in Higher Education, Macmillan International Higher Education.

Monroe, M. 2008. Labyrinth: Walking the path of the heart: Could this centuries-old meditation help you or your clients explore body-mind connection? IDEA Fitness Journal 5:81–84.

 

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