I’d like to thank Jan Sellers for taking the time to contribute this blog about Labyrinths. I hope you will all find it thought provoking. Do get in touch with Jan if you’d like more details (her website details are below). Warm wishes, Caroline.
I spent last Friday evening crawling around on a church roof in the rain, lending a hand with the installation of a labyrinth of light: a light projection onto the ground, an open space immediately in front of St. Giles Cripplegate Church at the heart of the Barbican, London. A faulty projector or bulb has now delayed this project, but if you are in the vicinity between dusk and 10pm before 23 March, it is well worth a look to see if Jim Buchanan’s beautiful installation is up and running.
This is just one of the intriguing places I’ve found myself in recent years, exploring labyrinths (see the World Wide Labyrinth Locator for labyrinths in your neighbourhood). Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has just one path to the centre, with the same path to return by. The labyrinth path offers a peaceful, meditative experience. Some colleagues will remember labyrinth walks at the University of Westminster, the University of Kent and other academic settings in recent years. Often regarded as a path for spiritual development, the labyrinth can also be used to deepen reflection and support the creative process. It can offer a place of quietness and tranquility, an apparently simple yet powerful contrast to the haste and noise of everyday life.
I first encountered the labyrinth in 2007, when I read that the Chaplain at the University of Edinburgh had introduced labyrinth walking as a contemplative space for students and staff of all faiths and none. Building on this example, with funding through my National Teaching Fellowship, a labyrinth project came into being at Kent. Just as in Edinburgh, interest grew to the extent that a permanent labyrinth was built. I love this link between the two universities and two very different, peaceful spaces: the Edinburgh Labyrinth and the Canterbury Labyrinth.
In 2010, we hosted a labyrinth facilitator training event at Kent with an American organisation, Veriditas, and I have since trained with them to advanced level. I have recently been accepted to lead their one-day “pre-qualifying” workshops, completion of which enables participants to apply for their facilitator training weekends (currently the best short course training available in this field). I am offering my first such workshop in Birmingham on 30 March at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre (which has residential facilities), immediately followed by a highly informal ‘Labyrinth Study Day’ on 31 March, when I’m bringing along my growing collection of labyrinth books and articles for people to browse, on themes including health, education, wellbeing and spiritual development. I’ll be there as a friendly guide!
Over the last ten years I’ve found many examples of innovative practice. This has inspired a new book, coming out April-May: Learning with the Labyrinth: Creating Reflective Space in Higher Education (Jan Sellers and Bernard Moss, eds; Palgrave Macmillan, Spring 2016). We are delighted that this book is part of Palgrave’s Teaching and Learning Series. Around 30 contributors have shared their experiences of introducing labyrinths in university settings in seven different countries, in disciplines ranging from Midwifery to Media Studies.
There will be an opportunity to find out more at the Contemplative Pedagogy event at Queen Margaret University this April. Or you could explore my website, jansellers.com where you can find my contact details.