Find Your Center In A Local Labyrinth
By Jamie Larson
Mazes are made to confuse you and lose you down many paths. A labyrinth is built with one meandering, spiraling path designed to draw you methodically to the center — the center of the design and the center of yourself. While your mind may jump to some of the well-known dangerous mythical and pop culture labyrinths, the RI region actually has many real labyrinths and they are all soothing and pleasantly contemplative experiences.
These circular walking patterns, which originated in ancient Greece but were later adopted as Christian and Eastern meditative practices, are characterized by the Labyrinth Guild as a “three-fold path. Upon entering, one begins the symbolic path of purgation, or releasing and letting go. The center represents illumination and opening to the divine (and) the return path is union, taking the walk’s benefits back into our lives.”
All of the local labyrinths, whether built by a Christian church, yoga center or a group of old college chums, were designed thoughtfully to help pull one away from external stresses and focus inward. Though they may be crafted with different motivations, there is no denying that the act of slowly and deliberately walking any of them is effective at helping to peel away some of the layers of our outward-facing selves, even if for just a moment.
For your consideration, we’ve compiled a list of just some of our wonderful local labyrinths. It should be noted that some of these are on facilities only open to guests, so please follow the links to check times and availability.
Omega Institute For Holistic Studies
Rhinebeck, New York
Omega’s labyrinth is a great example of the lasting beauty of a simply constructed pattern made of field rocks and following the traditional seven circuit design. In a 1993 edition of Jeff Saward’s Caerdroia: A Journal of Mazes & Labyrinths, Paul Devereux — author, lecturer and researcher of “archaeoacoustics” (the study of sound at ancient places) — discussed the original construction of the labyrinth at Omega in 1987. He posited that it may be the oldest public stone labyrinth in the eastern United States. Devereux said the location of the site was selected using “authentic geomantic methods” which do not require dowsing rods. The labyrinth was made by an earthworks class led by Devereux and each member selected a potential site independently. According to Devereux, 70 percent of the class chose the same location.
Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health
Like the rest of the grounds and trails here, the labyrinth at Kripalu is fabulous. Though it was originally constructed in a similar modest low stone style, the inclusion of little, manicured evergreen saplings meant the labyrinth would slowly grow and change with time. Now the pathway is lined with tall, shapely trees, connected by berms of colorful wildflowers. While this is the most elaborate entry on the list, the beauty of Kripalu’s labyrinth isn’t a distraction; rather it helps to further immerse you in its meditative power.
St. James Church
Hyde Park, New York
The labyrinth is used with some frequency in the Catholic church. The meditative intention of walking a labyrinth in a religious context puts emphasis on prayer, but the language used to describe the experience is often surprisingly similar to the more Eastern-based meditation practices. The labyrinth at St. James is nestled beside the church’s small cemetery. Inlayed into the grass, it’s a powerful place for reflection.
Our Lady Of Hope RC Church
Copake Falls, New York
Like at St. James, the labyrinth here is inlayed in the grass behind the church. The peaceful spot is surrounded by an old stone wall that opens onto a bucolic field beyond. It is hard not to feel somewhat transported by the unmistakable influence of the church’s Irish lineage. There’s an interesting, incidental synergy between the traditional design of the labyrinth and Celtic knots common in church iconography.
Philmont Village Park
Philmont, New York
The labyrinth in the Philmont Village Park was built by old friends from Emerson College looking to mark their 14th anniversary gathering with an element of community service. In partnership with the local Walking the Dog Theater Company, the group used one of the oldest-known labyrinth designs in the Christian context, from Chartres Cathedral outside Paris, France, which some in the group had visited. This design is recognizable by its central flower. The mosaic-style labyrinth in the village grass echoes the way the design is inlaid on the floor of the French cathedral.
Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center
The labyrinth at this interfaith retreat center comes from the traditions of the Daughters of Wisdom, who still live and worship here. Continuing in the tradition of Saint Louis de Montfort and Blessed Marie Louise Trichet, the aim of the congregation is to seek Divine Wisdom, and the labyrinth is used in the pursuit. Now open to worshipers of all faiths, the labyrinth, made of alternating rings of stone and brick, expands its usefulness.