UUCA's Labyrinth Project


UUCA’s Labyrinth Project

In the fall of 1995, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, welcomed a new dimension to the life and spirit of its congregation and to the greater Washington, DC community with the dedication of a large floor cloth containing the pattern of a labyrinth. This circling design, painted on canvas, is an ancient tool for meditation replicated from the floor stones of Chartres Cathedral in France. Inspired by their minister, the Rev. Joan Gelbein (now Minister Emeritae), members of UUCA created this labyrinth by following a set of instructions purchased from Veriditas, an organization founded by Lauren Artress of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The UUCA labyrinth is currently open to the public for Walking Meditation on a quarterly basis.

Labyrinth Background

The labyrinth is an archetype, a symbol found in ancient cultures around the world, dating back at least 4000 years. A classic labyrinth composed of seven circles appeared on every continent. During the Middle Ages, an eleven-circuit labyrinth pattern emerged and was designed into the floor stones of many cathedrals in Europe. This pattern was in place in Chartres no later than 1220. It is this classic labyrinth containing eleven circles which has been duplicated at UUCA.

Psychologist Carl Jung called the labyrinth an “archetype of transformation.” Walkers along its sinuous path find they are often deeply affected. Rev. Artress writes that people in transition periods find a calmer perspective; those with untapped gifts to offer have their creative fires rekindled; walkers dealing with grief experience peace. For millennia, the circling path that evolved from the simple spiral brought centeredness and healing to untold numbers of walkers. After lying dormant for several centuries, this ancient design is making a comeback, as a variety of institutions and individuals re-create it on floors, lawns, and canvas.

Sometimes the words “labyrinth” and “maze” are confused. While both refer to circling patterns, the two are actually totally different. A maze is a puzzle and thus designed to confuse; walkers must use their reasoning and cunning to escape. A labyrinth is a single path which leads the walker to the center and back out. The point is not to use reasoning powers, but rather to turn these off and to go into a “right brain” or imaginative mode. In an open, receptive frame of mind, the walker simply follows the path and experiences a deep, refreshing form of meditation. The average walk takes about half an hour, though walkers move at their own individual pace.

For more information on UUCA's Labyrinth Project

E-mail Leah P.

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