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Destress, connect, reflect: Chapman labyrinth walk

A labyrinth is a networked path, often in a circle, with a single way leading to a center. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has only one way to go, so participants can’t get lost when walking the guided path. Dating back 4,000 years ago, labyrinths are a way of spiritual pilgrimage found many religious and secular places throughout the world – including Chapman.

Nancy Brink, the director of church relations at Chapman, brought the massive cloth labyrinth to Chapman almost two year ago. According to Brink, having the Chapman labyrinth in the Fish Interfaith Center offers a spiritual tool for community members to reflect, connect or grieve appropriately amid the anxieties of college life. The labyrinth is not associated with any one religion, so anyone, religious or not, can use it.

Labyrinth in Fish Interfaith Center, Wallace Chapel. Photo by Claire Treu

University life challenges students to exercise their brains, yet focuses little on their hearts, Brink said. She believes that the labyrinth is one way for students to reconnect with the heart, as they are challenged to slow down and look within.

“Whatever your feeling or your need is right now, you can bring it to the labyrinth and work on it. Be it a research question, anxiety, defeat or lack of connection, the labyrinth is a tool,” Brink said.

The Chapman labyrinth is open for the public to walk Mondays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the Fish Interfaith Wallace Chapel. Each Monday morning, two to three Chapman students docents roll it out. The labyrinth takes up nearly half of the Wallace Chapel.

Samantha Scherba, a junior psychology and integrated educational studies major, walks the labyrinth weekly to practice self-care and clear her head from the stress of school. Scherba believes in the power of mindfulness, but also likes to be moving. She often has trouble sitting in mindfulness meditation for long periods of time because of a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Scherba said. Walking the labyrinth is a great alternative for students like Scherba.

“It is a really good 15 to 20 minutes out of the day that can be taken for you, whoever you are. As students, we get caught up in due dates and waiting for grades, but the labyrinth lets you take a moment for yourself and not get caught up in everything externally,” Scherba said.

Samantha Scherba, a junior psychology and integrated educational studies major, walks the Chapman labyrinth. Photo by Claire Treu

Gail Stearns, dean of the Wallace All Faiths Chapel, knows it can be difficult to sit quietly when practicing mindful meditation. The labyrinth is a way to practice mindfulness, while giving your body and brain something to do. She sometimes uses the labyrinth as a mindfulness walk, grounding her feet on the earth.

“I have solved many problems walking a labyrinth. I walk in with something and by the end, I understand it. Sometimes it’s just a nice way to slow down and center (yourself). It’s always a different experience every time I walk one,” Stearns says.

Stearns shared her advice of “the three R’s” when walking the labyrinth.

  • When walking in, reflect. Think of anything you are carrying with you. See if you can let any of it go as you continue walking
  • Once in the center, refresh. Be centered in and stay for as long as you need
  • When walking out, release. Let go of whatever brought you in

Brink also shares three suggestions when walking the labyrinth.

  • Open your mind and heart.
  • Walk at your own pace.
  • Pay attention to what comes up.

Walk the Chapman labyrinth for yourself:

  • Mondays 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the Wallace Chapel
  • Sound Healing with Labyrinth Walk, group event Dec. 4

Contact the Fish Interfaith Center for more information.

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