Healing Environments

The Hospital Labyrinth: A Path to Healing

Last weekend we celebrated my wife’s birthday. One of the things she decided we would do as a family was help our friends build a labyrinth in their backyard. As a family we have walked labyrinths in various locations around the country, including a beautiful example at the Stowe Flake Resort in Stowe, Vermont. I’ve also seen labyrinths at a number of hospitals across the country. (For a list of hospitals with Labyrinths, go to http://www.labyrinthproject.com/hospitals.html.) Hospitals are incorporating these meditative paths into their healing gardens. Walking a labyrinth can still the mind, provide clarity, reduce stress and promote tranquility. They seem to have wonderful therapeutic qualities and have been around for nearly 6000 years! They are apparently undergoing a revival.

So, as a family we’re familiar with labyrinths and their meditative properties, but we’d never help to build one. We used a huge fabric template that our friends had ordered from the Labyrinth Company (www.labyrinthcompany.com). And then, following the template, we laid flat stones to create the pathways. The process took the better part of the day. It was an amazing experience to share with good friends. Here are a couple of photos of our labyrinth project:

For more information on Hospital labyrinths, here are a couple of articles:

Labyrinth Construction at St. Vincent-Jennings Hospital

Here’s a quote about labyrinths from “The Transformation and Healing Power of the Labyrinth: An Emerging Vernacular Belief Community” by Maida Owens (http://tinyurl.com/2eoqc2d):

“Today in the United States, labyrinths are located in sacred settings, including churches and synagogues, and secular settings such as hospitals, hospices, schools, prisons, and parks. The labyrinth itself can be located indoor or out, permanent or temporary. Installations can feature different patterns to walk and can be simply a path mowed into grass, painted on a portable canvas, or created with pavers or granite.

Because labyrinths have primarily been located in churches, they are generally presented as a practice for spiritual healing. Progressive, mainstream Christian churches often embrace a labyrinth ministry in an effort to return to mysticism or introduce a contemplative tradition. More recently, they are found in new settings, such as hospitals and parks. In secular contexts, less spiritual language is used, and the labyrinth’s power to reduce stress is emphasized along with its role in mind-body healing. In settings such as faith-based hospitals, both spiritual and scientific arguments are used. The Labyrinth Society (2006) says that “labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity,” meaning that a labyrinth is a tool that accesses the intuitive, creative modes of thinking. Mazes, on the other hand, require linear, logical, rational problem-solving.”

Finally, below is an interesting time lapse video that shows a group building a labyrinth at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay. It is pretty cool to watch this labyrinth develop:

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

3 comments on “The Hospital Labyrinth: A Path to Healing

  1. What a wonderful idea! I’m thinking this could be a fantastic motif for the hospitals that have labyrinths to incorporate into their marketing materials. Would a labyrinth as part of a graphic design have the same tranquil qualities?
    At the very least, it would be a relief from smiling medical professionals stock photography.

  2. Labyrinths have begun to show up in hospitals because someone has seen their value… as I do.. There was just a small finger one in the chapel that I sat to grieve the loss of my mother, but it was amazingly helpful in restoring me to a place of calm in order to deal with what had to be taken care of, without loosing the soul of mourning. I also know that they are sadly underused. It is my purpose to help all labyrinths be used as often as possible.. they are wonderful tools of peace. Thank you for the links to other hospitals that have installed them.

  3. Outdoor labyrinths using natural materials certainly have their place, but what about outdoor labyrinths in a hospital setting that use more durable materials for a permanent installation that is ADA-compliant/wheelchair accessible. Painting on ashphalt or concrete is one solution. Can anyone direct me to others?

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