At UVic we’re into our 10th year of making a labyrinth available for students to walk during the stressful exam period. A canvass labyrinth, based on the design found on the floor of 12th century Chartres Cathedral, is placed on the floor of the chapel and made available to students and members of the community for meditation, reflection, and stress relief. Many students take advantage of the opportunity. Judging from the entries in the Comments Book, students are overwhelmingly appreciative of this form of meditation and report significant shifts in stress and ability to cope. What is going on?
Labyrinth at UVic CHapel
Some students talk about the experience of entering the labyrinth as being so dramatically different from their student life that it helps them to get a new perspective on their experience. Entering the labyrinth is about stepping into a sacred circle with the expectation that the experience will help in bringing about an inner shift – a new insight, an understanding about self, a connection with the sacred, a deeper appreciation for what simply presents itself in the moment.
Other students report that walking the labyrinth allows them to let go of the surface tensions of mind – their worries about papers due, anxieties about upcoming exams, the stress of navigating difficult relationships and life challenges. It creates an inner space, a moment of reprieve, a sanctuary of the heart in which the wounds of life can find healing.
Dr. Lauren Artress, who has had a major influence on bringing the practice of the labyrinth back into the Christian community, writes of the power of the labyrinth in this way: “Walking the Labyrinth has re-emerged today as a metaphor for the spiritual journey and a powerful tool for transformation. This walking meditation is an archetype, a mystical ritual found in many religious traditions. It quiets the mind and opens the soul, evoking a feeling of wholeness.” It is this feeling of wholeness that brings students back again and again to the UVic Chapel to walk the labyrinth.
The labyrinth at the UVic Chapel is open to the public for meditation and prayer, Monday – Thursday, 8:30 – 5:30pm, December 6 – 9 and December 13 – 16. A Labyrinth Workshop giving the history of the labyrinth and instruction on how to use it for prayer and meditation will be held December 2, 7:00 – 9:00pm. The Labyrinth by Candle Light will be held December 16, from 6:00 – 9:00pm
Originally appeared in the Times Colonist on November 30, 2010.