Looking to be an antidote for the rushed, the busy and the overwhelmed Lynn Valley United Church has turned to the ancient labyrinth to offer locals a space to look inward, reflect and spiritually connect.
New building, historic idea
On the floor of the new contemporary church building is a very old tradition. Marked on the new floor is a labyrinth based on one of the world’s most famous in Chartres, France. The design in that cathedral is thought to have been built in the early 1200s. The four-quadrant design holds a path leading meditative walkers into the centre and back out.
Lynn Valley United Church invites anyone to come an used the peaceful walk to slow down and reflect. It is open to walk anytime the office is open (10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday) and during several special sessions throughout the month.
“We live in a culture where so much is coming at you – that is driven by ego. Anytime you can put aside the ego and listen to the inner you – I would say it is a spiritual moment,” said Kimiko Karpoff, Minister for Faith Formation at LVUC.
“The labyrinth is where you can bring your deeper questions and longings to the inner wisdom that exists in in each person. Walking a labyrinth is a spiritual practice – it can take you into deeper conversation. For some people it resonates with, that can be a deeper conversation with God. If that doesn’t resonate with you – a deeper conversation with our essential self,” she said.
“You can come and walk it as you are and approach it as you need to.”
Labyrinths exist in the history of just about every culture across the world. Just about as universally they are used for reflection and connection. Despite their wide symbolic appeal they are relatively rare in the Lower Mainland. A small handful exist in other churches and while there is an outdoor labyrinth at The Bridge Church in Deep Cove, there is no other indoor labyrinth on the North Shore.
“One of things about a labyrinth is that people often mistake it for a maze,” said Karpoff. “A maze is designed to trick and fool. Whereas a labyrinth is actually a singular path where you can’t get lost. It is one single path that takes you into the centre. When you look at the pattern it switches back and forth, so when you are walking you don’t know where you are but the labyrinth knows where you are.”
She says that this is liberating because your mind must be occupied enough to follow the path and but still allows focus on other things.
“It is contemplative, so some people meditate,” said Karpoff. “You are paying attention, but it’s so simple you don’t have to think about it. Your body is doing something but your brain is given space to be creative.”
LVUC has more information on the history of the practice and how one can meditate in the labyrinth on their website. Traditionally, the labyrinth is walked slowly at the pace you need in order to be reflective. Mentally it is approached in four steps:
- Remembering – Acknowledge the people and things you are thankful for; be grateful to yourself for taking this time out, and your feet for getting you to the labyrinth.
- Releasing – Let go of the negative, and the chatter that busies our minds, open yourself
- Receiving – During the walk open yourself to the guidance, interior silence, peace, or a creative idea; whatever it is your soul chooses to nourish itself, however unexpected this may be.
- Return – as you exit the labyrinth honour your insights and try to find space for them in world.
“I would love to see people have that time for peace,” said Karpoff. “It doesn’t necessary take a lot of time to do a spiritual practice. It is a simple as sitting and being or walking and being. If all you have is 20 minutes you can walk the labyrinth.”
There is more information on hand at the church on the labyrinth and how it is used and staff are happy to answer any questions labyrinth walkers may have.
“At Lynn Valley United Church we want people feel comfortable to come and be,” said Karpoff. “Some come and walk the labyrinth and go. Others come and connect and talk – that can be simple chit chat or deeper conversation.”
Special walks throughout the month:
First Wednesday – 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. – Walk with hymns and sacred music played on the piano.
Second Wednesday – 9 a.m. – Parents are encouraged to stop by for self-care after dropping children off at school.
Third Wednesday – 7 to 9 p.m. – Walk with contemplative music.
Fourth Wednesday – 4:45 p.m. onwards – Walk the labyrinth during Mid-Week Moments, an event for families of all shapes and sizes that integrates a shared meal, gathering for all-ages community worship and activities to stimulate spiritual connection, reflection and curiosity… which includes a playful and exuberant exploration of the labyrinth!
For more information reach out to Lynn Valley United Church at 604-987-2114.