Sunday, June 29, 2008

Come Into Our Labyrinth

Today I helped make a labyrinth, although this didn't involve planting hedges or building stone walls. It was a contemplative labyrinth: a pattern on the ground with a single twisting path but no forks or dead ends. A person walking through this maze focuses on her footsteps and stills her mind as she walks towards the centre. There's a famous example on the floor of Chartres cathedral.

My meditation group will introduce meditation to the pilgrims at World Youth Day using a number of contemplative exercises. We wanted to include a labyrinth, which saw me travel to Peter Hawes' flat in Coogee this morning to help make it. We reproduced the 7 ring Gracefield labyrinth shown above, rather than the 11 ring Chartres design, to allow for wider paths in limited space.

Peter had sewn velcro straps to a king size sheet, which we stretched across his living room floor. We taped the edges and ironed it very flat (particularly in two spots where I dwelt too long on a particular wrinkle and melted the carpet). Then we used a string and pencil attached to a central pivot to trace concentric circles on the sheet, drew some radial lines and erased bits of the circles to create a plan of the maze.

Fellow meditator Rosemary and Peter's brother Jeff arrived to help with the next stage, slicing 15mm wide strips of adhesive felt. We removed the backing and laid the felt along the pencil outline to form the "walls" of the labyrinth.

Next we cut pieces of black cloth with a floral pattern to fill gaps and round the corners of the path for a more pleasing aesthetic effect. Here's Peter gluing down the cloth for the first rounded corner.

Here's Peter surveying the final product. Well almost final: he plans to sew the felt and cloth to the sheet since the glue may not survive hundreds of scuffing feet. The smaller floral designs don't show up in this photo but you can see large red flowers in the central enclosure, the big gap and a couple of the turns.

The design is pretty, and has a clever way of creating stillness. The last stages in the centre have tighter and more closely spaced turns, so the walker has to slow down to navigate them. It's fortunate that we're using it for World Youth Day: older people might turn their ankles!

No comments: