Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/29/05: Pathes of Peace: Labyrinthsput Meditation in Motion
- Subject: [cg] Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/29/05: Pathes of Peace: Labyrinthsput Meditation in Motion
- From: "Alliums" email@example.com
- Date: Sat, 29 Oct 2005 13:20:40 -0400
- Thread-index: AcXcp7ayRX/7ndrFQ6qMDmMOB96JbA==
Philadelphia Inquirer Outdoors Columnist Don Sapatkin visited our labyrinth
last Sunday as part of his review of area labyrinths. The printed copy
includes a nice photo of the community garden's labyrinth on the 2nd page of
today's "City and Region" section - unfortunately, the photo is not included
on the website. However, it's worth following the link for the lovely
picture of Sarah Boote and the St. Asaph's labyrinth - both Sarah and St.
Asaph's Church provided invaluable help when St. John's United Church of
Christ was creating the Phoenixville labyrinth.
Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden and Labyrinth
A mission of
St. John's United Church of Christ, 315 Gay Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460
Based on ancient designs, labyrinths put meditation in motion.
By Don Sapatkin
Inquirer Staff Writer
Think of the journey in three parts: the way in, the center, and the way
Walking tip at a labyrinth
Adhering to the path, mowed in narrow spirals through a suburban lawn, meant
going back and forth and in and out and all around en route to the center.
Gazing out 360 degrees, it was impossible to see the full contours of the
walk in. They were visible in pieces, and as metaphors: A turn that had
blocked a career, and opened another. The seed that had sprouted a family
The 10-minute trip back out was yet to come.
Ancient, mystical, often geometrical designs known as labyrinths are
frequently described using the modern concept of a maze. But a maze
challenges the brain to act; success is finding a fast way to the end.
Following a labyrinth's single, circuitous path in and then out requires
only the feet. The goal is to experience the journey.
Old stone formations are still being unearthed around the world,
particularly in the East, even as spiritual yearnings have sparked an
explosion of labyrinth-building in the West.
Over the last five years, more than a dozen outdoor labyrinths have been
created around the region, like little hiking circles in open courtyards.
The Church of St. Asaph occupies a busy street corner in Bala Cynwyd. Within
low rock walls, a path of grass edged in brick makes 11 circuits to the
center in a precise mathematical pattern. Children skip along it; artists
walk it; businesspeople bring problems along at lunch hour.
"If you're having a really terrible morning, walk the labyrinth," advised
Sarah Boote, a parishioner who spearheaded the installation. "So many times,
people have described getting some kind of insight."
St. Asaph's labyrinth is based on one at Chartres Cathedral, constructed in
France around 1200 and believed to be the oldest existing labyrinth of
A simpler, classical design, based on a pattern first documented on a clay
tablet from Pylos, Greece (circa 1200 B.C.), inspired the flowing 7-circuit
path of mulch bordered by river stones beside St. Luke's Episcopal Church in
The South Jersey labyrinth opened just before Sept. 11, 2001. One by one,
the Rev. Mantelle Bradley recalled, people spontaneously walked the path.
She views the experience as universal. On her tip sheet are Buddhist mantras
to deepen the labyrinth's meditative power by focusing on oneself in the
present moment, as Christians might focus on Jesus or Jews on God, "clearing
your mind of the worries of the world."
How labyrinths were seen by the ancients is largely guesswork filtered
through myths. "[B]ut in all the labyrinth seems to symbolise the path to be
followed, in daily and seasonal cycles, in life and in death and in
rebirth," British authority Jeff Saward writes on his Web site,
Today's renaissance may have as much to do with technology as with interest
in the mystical.
Surfing the Web, Dorene Pasekoff read that labyrinths offered "all the
benefits of meditation, but you didn't have to sit still."
Without ever having walked a labyrinth, she persuaded her husband to
reconfigure, to exact geometric proportions, the fine specimens he'd found
through Google image searches. (He used an Excel formula.)
Then Pasekoff got her Phoenixville church's community-garden volunteers to
build the uncommon "turf" design - winding shallow trenches, framed by low
mounds topped with herbs - based on one of England's eight surviving
historic turf labyrinths.
A labyrinth south of West Chester fits its setting, known as Bournelyf
(Middle English for "spring of life"), as well as its church, whose worship
space - shared with a synagogue - is a barn dating to the 1720s. The
classical circuits eschew geometry in favor of nature's rougher road,
meandering in among the shade trees, over roots and under crabapples. They
form the outline of a leaf.
To a walker pausing at the center, a pond seemed near. Sunlight presented
mini-Rorschachs through the branches. Birds chirped. The inedible fruit
mysteriously disappeared on the journey out, replaced by pine cones - all in
all, a pleasant 20-minute voyage.
Turning clockwise and then counterclockwise, spiraling in and then out, is
said to represent a moving toward and a moving away that is analogous to
On a bench in Souderton, behind the narrow path mowed in spirals through the
grass, a watertight jar held a brief note:
Thank you... . Since my daughter passed away (May 24, 2004) it has been very
helpful coming here.
Locating a Labyrinth
The independent Labyrinth Society offers extensive background on history,
meaning and design. Its worldwide labyrinth locator contains more than 2,000
Call 1-877-446-4520 or go to www.labyrinthsociety.org.
How to find a labyrinth near you
For a list of all labyrinths in the region, go to the Web-based locator tool
and enter partial zip codes 08, 18 and 19.
Here are outdoor, public labyrinths, with full details online:
Bala Cynwyd: Church of St. Asaph, St. Asaph and Conshohocken State Roads.
Limerick: St. James United Church of Christ, 321 S. Limerick Rd.
1 Morrisville: Snipes Farm, 890 W. Bridge St.
Mt. Pocono: Trinity Episcopal Church, off Route 611.
2 Norristown: St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 6 Hancock Ave.
Philadelphia: Center for Human Integration, 8400 Pine Rd., Fox Chase.
Phoenixville: St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden,
412 Fairview St.
Souderton: Side yard of residence, 508 Noble St.
West Chester: Church of the Loving Shepherd, 1066 S. New St.
Longport: Church of the Redeemer, 108 S. 20th Ave.
Trenton: Trinity Cathedral, 801 W. State St.
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