Years ago I fell in love with labyrinths. I embedded them in my art. I taught workshops on drawing them in sand and doing walking meditations. Then the season of labyrinth enthusiasm seemed to be gone. Registration numbers dropped and though I still drew their patterns and took my beloved labyrinth stick to the beaches at low tide, I did it alone.
Then in December 2012 I was asked to create a labyrinth for a Winter Solstice Celebration at the CorUnum Yurt. Weather being uncertain and days being short, I asked if I could create one on the floor of the yurt. Out of that grew a plan to have participants use colourful scarves to build a heart labyrinth and then walk, dance and sing in it. The experience was wonderful; a celebration of the beauty of the temporary. A reminder that time is never still, that beauty is here and then gone but can be created again.
Winter Solstice is about bringing back the light, renewal of love and growth. Renee Lindstrom, one of the Solstice facilitators, let me know that the Labyrinth Society is holding their annual gathering in Parksville, in September this year. When I looked up the poster I discovered that I was on it, standing in a labyrinth I had drawn 5 years ago with Star Weiss at Tower Point. The photo was taken by Star when I was interviewed for her book Havens in a Hectic World: finding sacred places. Another reminder…
A labyrinth creates a sacred place wherever it is. It is an ancient tool. To walk one is to physically experience a metaphor for life’s journey. It always takes you where you are going, there are no blind alleys or wasted efforts for everything has a purpose. Sometimes it may feel like you are going in the wrong direction, but if you trust the path you can surrender to it with faith and when you have found what you are seeking you can turn around and the path will take you back to where you began with a renewed sense of self. Over the years labyrinths have been co-opted by many religions. Yet, they remain pure, simple and pagan. No one religion can own them for they are older than all religions.
This past weekend I facilitated an Art as Spiritual Practice workshop, through Royal Roads Continuing Studies. One concept was to use drawing to engage in seeing and being without words. I wanted the participants to draw long lines on big papers, to use their arms and shoulders and sway their bodies. I know it can be very intimidating to draw large, so I came upon the idea of drawing labyrinths. They have a key, a structure, and a pattern that emerges and they are beautiful. I drew the key on a paper and we drew the labyrinth together, step-by-step. I was totally astounded at the profound effect it had on the students. The freedom to move their bodies, the freedom to make the marks, the structure and confidence having the key gave them… It resonated on levels far beyond my expectations and much more quickly than my imaginings. We then went into the Ballroom at Poet’s Cove on Pender Island to create and walk a labyrinth on the floor with strips of coloured cloth. It became a centering experience for the weekend.
As the days grow longer and lilies show their curled leaves, my love for labyrinths has been renewed, serendipitously though a chain of events… Life is like that.
Joanne Thomson is a full time visual artists living in Victoria BC
This article was first publishe in the Times Colonist print edition March 2 2013.
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