The lighting was subdued in the fellowship hall of the Dundee Presbyterian Church as tea light candles flickered around the edge of an unusual canvas covering the floor. Soothing Celtic meditation music wafted from the CD player as a handful of Champions (Our Town RoCKS steering committee members) journeyed the canvas pathway carrying essential oils (air), candles (fire), water and salt (earth) to the center of the labyrinth. All this was used in a ritual to cleanse and bless the new community labyrinth before offering it to the various groups in the community.

A labyrinth is a single, circular path that leads, reliably into the center and back out again. The path is not a puzzle to be solved or a maze with choices to be made. There are no wrong turns in a labyrinth. Walking the geometric pattern of the path is a journey that is used as a tool for reflection, discernment, transformation, healing, and wholeness.

The Healthy Behaviors Workgroup of Our Town RoCKS also known as Barrington, Starkey, Dundee Health Improvement Project seeks to promote healthy personal behaviors. The labyrinth project came about when the Workgroup considered ways to engage neighbors in regular physical activity, manage stress and create a sense of community. Our Town RoCKS received a grant from the Presbytery of Geneva to create a permanent labyrinth in the community. During the planning process and training of labyrinth facilitators, it was decided that the “next right thing to do” in the process was to purchase a portable, canvas labyrinth for introducing the concept and the many benefits of a labyrinth to the community.

The labyrinth measures 24 feet in diameter and is made of hand-painted canvas. The pattern is called “Chartres Essence” and is a smaller version of a pattern found in the stonework floor at Chartres Cathedral in France. There is a long history of labyrinths being used and many can be found on hospital and school campuses as well as churches. Walking a labyrinth is “highly effective for reducing anxiety and producing what’s called the relaxation response,” says Dr. Herbert Benson, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. It can lower blood pressure and breathing rates, and decrease chronic pain. Labyrinth walking can also help with conflict resolution, grief, and depression. At its heart, the labyrinth offers time and space for people to be more reflective and quiet; something that is sorely missing in fast-paced lives.

A newly trained group of labyrinth facilitators is ready and eager to share the labyrinth with any interested group in our community. For more information about labyrinths in general, visit www.labyrinthsociety.org or for information or scheduling a time for your group call 315-573-2919 or 607-329-2210.