Living Labyrinths for Peace – By Ron Kipling Williams
The symbolism of walking a path and then re-tracing one’s steps can be powerful when reflecting on how the past informs the present and future.
Subbasement Studios, one the most progressive art galleries in Baltimore, just finished hosting a unique installation called Living Labyrinths for Peace.
Adorning the studio walls are fabric and photo pieces and images of peacocks with superimposed images of nude figures, the symbol of peacock referring to transformation amongst Native American and other indigenous cultures. But the real star of the show is not on the walls, but rather the floor; a huge computer-controlled electronic labyrinth has been constructed there by artist Sandra Wasko-Flood.
Wasko-Flood, who has been a visual artist for the past 35 years, began this work in 1986. Her journey into the labyrinths began during her time spent at an Anasazi (ancient Native American tribe) cultural center in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The Anasazis were an advanced Indian culture that flourished before the European colonial invasion in the southwest region of the country (900 through 1130 A.D.).
“I was sitting in a great kiva , and saw figures coming out of walls,” said Wasko-Flood, who shared that over the last 4,000 years, labyrinths have been found in churches, manuscripts, on coins in baskets, and on stones. In the modern era, they have also been found in hospitals, parks, schools, prisons, and other places.
She went to a bookstore and purchased Labyrinths: Ancient Myths and Modern Uses by Sig Lonegren, who is known as one of the founders of the modern labyrinth movement. Wasko-Flood became an integral part of the movement in 1991, finding spiral designs wherever she toured. “Spiral designs are found everywhere in the universe, from DNA to the galaxies,” she said, “it is a major life form.”
Since that time, her work has shown in schools, churches, hospitals, parks, and over 50 galleries, museums, and exhibitions, including ones in Washington, DC, Moscow, and Buenos Aires.
Her newest work is “Dance of the Labyrinth,” an interactive installation of computer programmed light box images designed to be walked. It is a three-fold path of life, death, and rebirth, all encompassing transformational change.
A labyrinth is different from a maze, which is designed to confuse the traveler. Labyrinths, on the other hand, are simple, with three common designs: Classic 7-Circuit Labyrinth, Concentric Labyrinth, and Chartres Labyrinth, all with only one path that leads to the center and back. Labyrinths are intended to create the effects of slowing the breathing, focusing the mind, and creating a peaceful state within each participant. The symbolism of walking a path and then re-tracing one’s steps can be powerful when reflecting on how the past informs the present and future.
Before one enters the labyrinth, she must remove her shoes and focus on her meditation, a wish to resolve a conflict, or any other internal work. “Listen with your heart and your mind,” said Wasko-Flood.
The responses to the experience walking the labyrinth vary from person to person. However, peace, power, and mystery are recurring themes. “People are walking away feeling more empowered and at peace, feeling awe and mystery – a powerful tool,” said Wasko-Flood.
Upon returning to Washington, DC from New Mexico, Wasko-Flood began working with students in local schools in the visual arts, teaching them how to create labyrinths. In 1998 she helped found the International Labyrinth Society in St. Louis. Through the International Labyrinth Society, Wasko-Flood orchestrated a walking demonstration of a labyrinth for peace on the east lawn of the US Capitol building.
In 2005 she created Living Labyrinths for Peace, Inc. The group creates interactive labyrinths using art, science, technology, and nature in the interest of developing programs for learning to foster peace. They promote labyrinth-walking to enhance inner as well as global peace.
Working in schools in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area, Wasko-Flood wants to create permanent labyrinth programs into their system. “I want to get the youth to think of specific peace ideas and try to relate them to school values,” said Wasko-Flood.
Deeply embedded in the labyrinth movement for almost twenty years now, Wasko-Flood believes labyrinths possess something for everyone. “It is a spiritual tool that relates to all races, cultures, disciplines, and institutions,” said Wasko-Flood. “There is a spirit in there that unites everything.”
Taos, New Mexico: A New Center for the Renaissance of the Ancient Labyrinth. This Summer Taos Invites Visitors to Return to Sacred Places; A Tool for the Contemplative Practice of Walking Your Spiritual Journey
66-Foot Diameter Labyrinth at Taos Adobe & Pines Inn – Photo Courtesy of Adam Schallau
Today, labyrinths are being constructed around the world as a tool for personal growth and spiritual transformation
TAOS, NM (VOCUS) MAY 17, 2010
In this region of the American Southwest where spiritual traditions have been practiced uninterrupted by the Taos Pueblo Indians for at least 1,000 years, another ancient tradition is gaining acceptance; the contemplative use of the labyrinth.
Found in cultures spanning the globe, the earliest known labyrinth design was discovered on a clay tablet in Pylos, Greece, dating from 1,200 BCE. The Greek isle of Crete is also known for its labyrinth, the maze used to entrap the mythical Minotaur. During the Middle Ages labyrinth designs were incorporated into the floor patterns of Europe’s grand cathedrals, most notably in Chartes, and in the Renaissance, “branching” garden mazes became popular in the palaces of royalty. labyrinthsociety.org/
Today, labyrinths are being constructed around the world as a tool for personal growth and spiritual transformation. Practitioners use these sacred, earth-based paths to conduct walking meditations, focusing on an issue or concern that is addressed through contemplation or prayer.
This Summer in Taos, eight labyrinths will be available to walk, without charge, in connection with the town’s “Return to Sacred Places” travel destination theme. Beginning July 1st, and continuing through October, visitors are invited to be part of the reawaking of this spiritual tradition.
“New Mexico is one of the centers for this transformative spiritual energy,” says Sandra Wasko-Flood, visionary artist and founder of The Living Labyrinth Center for Peace (https://livinglabyrinthsforpeace.org ). “And Taos, with its 1,000 year old Pueblo, is at the heart of this blossoming Renaissance.”
Wasko-Flood is curating many of the labyrinth-related activities including a photo exhibit of labyrinths from around the world that was first exhibited in the rotunda of the US House of Representatives in Washington, DC.
Rev. Wayne Mell, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Taos, is also an advocate for this form of walking prayer and has supported the construction of a labyrinth in the church’s front yard that will be dedicated on July 18. “Walking the labyrinth can be symbolic of a journey to the sacred center,” he says. “It’s a practice that can appeal to all ages and faiths, as more and more people explore their spiritual pathways.”
Katherine Costabel, who with her husband own the Adobe and Pines B&B, have constructed a beautiful 66-foot diameter labyrinth made of 4,670 pieces of slate and rimmed by 225 native plants. Having experienced her first labyrinth in Sedona, Arizona, Ms. Costabel believes that walking the path reminds one of her earthly journey. “Take something into the circle,” she says. “Walk, think and pray and see if you can come to a conclusion.”
Taos Labyrinth Events
June 14 – July 31, 2010
Classic Seven-Circuit Labyrinth at El Monte Sagrado Resort and Spa
Open to the public day and night
317 Kit Carson Road, Taos, NM
July 1 – October 31, 2010
66-foot Diameter Slate Rock Labyrinth at Adobe and Pines Inn. Open daily dawn to dusk. Yoga every Saturday with Paul Kelly at 10 am. 4107 N.M. 68, Ranchos de Taos, NM
July 1 – October 31, 2010
Stone Labyrinth at San Geronimo’s Lodge, 1101 Witt Lane, Taos, NM
Full moonwalks during summer months (June – Sept)
July 1 – October 31, 2010
Labyrinth Sacred Space at the First Presbyterian Church
Dedication of Medieval-style labyrinth by Rev. Wayne Mell on Sunday, July 18 at 11 am.
215 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, next to Kit Carson Park, Taos, NM
July 4, 2010, 3 pm
Drumming Labyrinth Walk in the Cretan Labyrinth at Touchstone Inn facing Taos Mountain
110 Mabel Dodge Lane, Taos, NM
July 4 – August 31, 2010
Santa Rosa contemporary labyrinth at the Blumenschein Museum
222 Ledous Street, Taos, NM
July 19 – August 1st
Labyrinth Sacred Space at Kit Carson Park. Hopi Labyrinth design
July 29, 2010, 10 am – 1 pm
“Labyrinths for Creativity and Peace Childrens’ Workshop.”
July 29, 2010, 7- 9 pm
Introduction to Labyrinths: Lecture and walking
238 Ledoux Street, Taos, NM
July 30, 2010
“Birth of the Labyrinth”
Light box and labyrinth-inspired fine art and etchings of Sandra Wasko-Flood
Harwood Museum of Art
238 Ledoux Street, Taos, NM.
August 23 – October 1, 2010
“Labyrinths for Peace: 2000” Photo Exhibit. Exhibit of photos of labyrinths from around the world first exhibited at the Rotunda of the U. S. House of Representatives.
Free opening reception; August 28th, 5:30 to 8 pm
Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, NM.