Over a year has passed since tragedy struck the small city of Parkland, yet locals are still grieving. Following the February 14 one-year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, members of the Coral Springs Memorial Planning Committee announced the creation of a memorial labyrinth and a walkway project in the Coral Springs Community Garden, for residents seeking an emotional outlet.
Judy Gulko, psychologist and garden organizer, says this community project will be constructed next to the 17 bamboo trees planted at a memorial service last November. Gulko, as well as the project's seven other volunteers, are hoping the labyrinth will be a safe space for reflection, healing, and inspiration.
What is a Labyrinth?
A labyrinth is a meditative walking path set in a unicursal pattern. This means that the labyrinth features just one singular walking path from the entrance to exit, which takes you to the center and back out again. Often confused with mazes, labyrinths can appear foreboding from the outside as they are frequently constructed with high hedges or trees. However, unlike a maze, which has multiple paths with dead-ends, a labyrinth requires no figuring out or maneuvering.
Once you set foot in a labyrinth, getting back out requires just putting one foot in front of the other, following the designated path. This simplistic design evokes a peaceful and spiritual state of mind. There are no rules - no right or wrong way. For this reason, many people use labyrinth walks as an alternative to seated meditation.
The History of Labyrinths and Meditation
The Coral Springs Community Garden memorial labyrinth will not be the first of its kind to utilize a labyrinth's path to provoke a sense of healing and meditation. In fact, labyrinths have been used as tools for personal, psychological, and spiritual transformation for nearly 3,000 years. The ancient Greeks utilized labyrinths as a symbol of wit and cunning, and Roman churches created decorative labyrinths to encourage both group and private meditation. Today, labyrinths are used therapeutically in hospitals and hospices.
Labyrinth meditation promotes focus with the intention of solving a problem, or coming to terms with a situation you may be having difficulty with. For example, the labyrinth in Coral Springs can be used as a tool for those grieving - allowing the soothing setting to help them overcome intense feelings of sadness, denial, or anger. Labyrinth walks can be completed alone or as a group, both with their own advantages. Walking alone allows you to set your mind on a goal or positive thought when entering, and focusing on that the entire labyrinth. Walking with a group allows all individuals to focus on a shared goal, and come to a resolution by the time they reach the exit.
How to Meditate When Walking a Labyrinth?
A labyrinth walk can appear intimidating at first. This is especially true if you have never meditated before, or are unsure how to start. However, the beautiful thing about labyrinths is that they essentially solve this problem for you. The singular, winding path of the labyrinth immediately allows your mind to clear - you're not focusing on direction, or which way to choose. You simply allow one foot to follow the other, all the way to the exit.
To meditate while walking a labyrinth:
- Before entering the path, take a few deep breaths to clear your mind and settle any nerves.
- Close your eyes, and tell yourself what you want to focus on. For example, an issue that could be bothering you at work, the loss of a friend or family member, and so on.
- Continue deep breathing while gently repeating this goal to yourself.
- Begin the labyrinth walk, going at whatever pace is comfortable for you.
- If you are in a group, don't be scared if you get a bit ahead or behind. You are all headed towards the same unified goal. Let this idea wash over you.
- Allow your thoughts to come freely, and embrace any emotions that emerge.
- Continue deep, even breaths until the exit. Once you are ready to exit the labyrinth, exhale deeply - allow stress, anxiety, and grief to gradually slip away.
Soothing the Mind and Body in Coral Springs
The Coral Springs Community Garden is currently being constructed. Both Coral Springs Memorial Planning Committee volunteers, as well as local students, are gathering to lay down the bricks, soil, and mulch that will form the path. They are also painting and writing on the pavers that will constitute the walkway. The Community Garden is located at 2915 Sportsplex Drive in Coral Springs, and is free for all to enjoy.
If you are located in Coral Springs, Parkland, or any surrounding Broward County city, the Coral Springs Community Garden is an excellent place to soothe both the body and mind. Allow yourself to be enveloped by the lush greenery, and feel at one with your emotions. In addition to the labyrinth walk, consider other soothing therapies, such as acupuncture or therapeutic massage.
Life can be difficult, and calming destinations such as the garden exist to help you clear your mind of worries and fears. We hope you'll take the opportunity to visit once the addition of the labyrinth memorial has been completed.