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Life Arts    H3'ed 10/29/09

Exploring Portland Labyrinths: An A-Mazing Journey

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Note: This is the second in a series of Opednews articles by Meryl Ann Butler about labyrinths.  Previous articles are listed at the end of this article.

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Portland, Oregon, is home to at least 50 labyrinths, according to The Labyrinth Society's Labyrinth Locator .

Labyrinths differ in design from mazes, and are nearly opposite in function. A maze offers several paths to choose from, and making one's way through a maze therefore engages logic and analytical processes, and is focused on achieving a particular outcome. Mazes often have walls designed to obscure the view of the correct path.

A labyrinth is has only one path, so there are no choices to be made. Therefore, there is no need for walls or hedges to obscure the view, and most labyrinths are flat, or relatively so. Walking the labyrinth is not done to achieve a goal, but in order to experience the journey. Most people report experiencing a feeling of peace, joy, or wellbeing as a result of walking the labyrinth's path.

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Although there are two primary types of labyrinths, Classical and Chartres-style, many new designs have sprung up from the creativity of labyrinthophiles in the last two decades.

The annual TLS Labyrinth Society Gathering was held in the greater metropolitan Portland area at McMenamins Historic Edgefield, in Troutdale, Oct 8-10, 2009. Attendees were offered the opportunity to tour five local labyrinths on the day following the event.

Parkrose Community Peace Labyrinth

12003 NE Shaver St, Portland 97220

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The creation of a labyrinth can bring members of the community together, as evidenced by the Parkrose Community Peace Labyrinth project. It was built in 2007-2008 on the grounds of Parkrose High School, which has a diverse student body of over 1000 students speaking over 30 languages.

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Built as a joint effort between students, staff and community members, over 200 volunteers worked on the 78' diameter outdoor labyrinth, which offers views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens.

The design is a replica of the World Peace Labyrinth, which was developed for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Students and community members painted rocks to decorate the paths.

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The Parkrose Labyrinth was built in an area that had frequently been a site of vandalism. The volunteers noticed that the vandalism decreased significantly after the labyrinth was created.

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TLS Gathering Committee member, Christiana Brinton, drummed as participants walked the labyrinth.

Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center

10180 SE Sunnyside Rd, Clackamas 97015

(503) 571-4001 (Jim Gersbach, Kaiser's Senior Communications Consultant)

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Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center, with more than 300 beds, is one of the larger hospitals in the Portland area. Their outdoor labyrinth was the inspiration of Director of Volunteer Services, Bonnie Morgan. Built in a garden courtyard using colored concrete stones, it was completed in August, 2007, and was paid for with proceeds from the sales in the volunteers' gift shop.

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Jim Gersbach, Kaiser's Senior Communications Consultant, said that the labyrinth is open to all to walk, free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Hospital chaplain, Rev. Susan Freisinger, noted that "illness, itself, is a spiritual journey," so the opportunity to physically experience the spiritual journey of the labyrinth walk helps patients and their families come to terms with the steps on their medical path. She noted that their labyrinth is often walked by women in early labor, by ambulatory patients and their families, and was the site of a Blessing of Hands ceremony for new nurses.

The chaplain told a touching story of a young woman who required serious surgery and was unexpectedly hospital bound on her planned wedding day. She and her groom decided to get married that day, anyway. Trailing her IV tubes behind her, they had their ceremony on the labyrinth.

The American Cancer Society states that walking labyrinths "may be helpful as a complementary method to decrease stress and create a state of relaxation."

"Research studies conducted in a variety of settings has consistently shown that walking a labyrinth reduces stress. In fact, over the past few years, this has been the most commonly researched topic related to the so-called "labyrinth effect,'" says John W. Rhodes, Ph.D. Chair, Research Committee, The Labyrinth Society.

Franciscan Spiritual Center,

6902 SE Lake Rd #300, Milwaukie 97267


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The Franciscan Spiritual Center is sponsored by the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia, who first came to the eastern part of Oregon in 1885. The first retreat center, the Franciscan Renewal Center, was opened in Portland, OR, in 1981. When this center closed in 2000, the sisters established the current spiritual center in Milwaukie, OR, in 2002.

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This indoor labyrinth is made from teal and brown carpet, in the Petite Chartres style. It was designed by TLS founding member, Robert Ferre, of Labyrinth Enterprises, LLC., St. Louis, MO.

The Sisters had originally rented a a portable canvas version painted by TLS founding member, Judy Hopen, of Labyrinth Enterprises, who has been involved in making more labyrinths than anyone in history.

The canvas labyrinth was so popular that the Sisters had the design translated into carpet for a more permanent installation.

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This labyrinth is 25 feet in diameter and has seven paths, or circuits. Sister Mary Jo Chaves notes that it is open during business hours for anyone who wishes to walk it.

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

147 NW 19th Ave, Portland 97209


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The historic Trinity Episcopal Cathedral traces its history back to the 1840s.

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Their labyrinth is inlaid in cherry, curly maple, and rosewood in the oak the floor of Kempton Hall.

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The Labyrinth Guild offers public walks on the third Monday of every month and on New Year's Eve and Good Friday. When the Cathedral is open and Kempton Hall is not in use, anyone is welcome to walk the labyrinth.

Kinnie Private Garden Labyrinth

Northwest Portland (Zip: 97231)

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This labyrinth is located in a grassy meadow at Craig and Cindy Kinnie's home in the western area of Portland. It is a 7-circuit, classical style labyrinth, approximately 65' x 60'. Cindy Kinnie is a Veriditas certified labyrinth facilitator.

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The generously-sized 30" paths are made of crushed rock, and planting beds filled with over 750 plants form the 18" "walls" that separate the paths.

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The center of the labyrinth includes a water feature, and places to sit for quiet reflection.

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The gazebo near the entrance of the labyrinth provides shelter and a place to sit and relax.

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There are many other labyrinths in the Portland area as well as around the world.

One of TLS's greatest contributions has been establishing The World Wide Labyrinth Locator, where anyone can go to find private labyrinths, like the Kinnie's, or public labyrinths, that are available to walk.

Find a labyrinth near you, and you can discover whether you are like most people who report that they feel a sense of enhanced wellbeing after their journey.

Even the driver of the tour bus, who needed coaching in pronouncing the word "labyrinth" at the beginning of the day, had walked two and become a convert by the end of the tour, saying, "I felt so peaceful when I walked it " The Parkrose Labyrinth is near where I live, and I'm definitely going back to walk it, and I'm going to bring my wife, too!"

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All photos in this article are by Meryl Ann Butler.

 Previous article in this series:

May 2: First Annual World Labyrinth Day   (05.01.09)  

click here

Labyrinth Network Northwest ( organized and hosted the tour, held on Sunday Oct . 11, 2009, and which was sponsored by TLS. Grace Cushing was chair of the committee which also included Betty Hawkins, Crystal Dawn Walker, and Kay Kinneavy. Much of this info in this article is from Grace's tour commentary.


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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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