Walk the labyrinth for meditation, stress relief

April 15, 2012
Cost: $22-$26, $15-$18 (determined by date)

Life coach Kathy Igoe isn’t one to sit, hands palm-up on knees, and meditate. Nevertheless, she knows the benefits of meditation and connection with one’s unconscious mind. Labyrinth walks provide the body-mind connection she needs to let go of conscious thoughts.

“It speaks to me because I could never just sit and meditate, yet I find the need to find myself,” Igoe says. “I appreciate the fact that (labyrinth walking is) actually an assistance for those of us who need to move to connect.”

Igoe, who’s trained in guiding labyrinth walks, is hosting a series of labyrinth walk sessions on select Sundays through April at the Farmington Hills Costick Center at 28600 Eleven Mile Road. The Sunday, Jan. 15 walk runs 2 to 6 p.m. and includes a visioning process for a positive New Year goal. The cost is $22 for Farmington and Farmington Hills residents, and $26 for non-residents. The Feb. 19, March 18 and April 15 sessions run 2 to 4 p.m. and cost $15 for residents, and $18 for non-residents.

A labyrinth walk is an indirect, yet certain, circular path toward a destination. “Unlike a maze, it has a singular entrance and exit,” Igoe says. So it allows participants to find themselves in a safe place, without the uncertainties a maze brings. “You can release as you walk.”

In fact, releasing is one of the three “r” words involved in labyrinth walking. The first is to release, or make space for the unconscious mind to speak. Second is to receive messages or insights. “When you’ve opened space into yourself, it’s amazing what shows up,” Igoe says.

Third is to return to conscious thinking and then reflect on what happened.

Igoe’s guided labyrinth walks include an introduction about the experience, pacing people into the 36-foot labyrinth so there’s space between them and then a reflection session at the end, which could include journaling about your experience.

“It’s self-directed,” Igoe says. “People can make of it what they want to. It can meet them where they are.”

What’s so meditative about walking in circles? For one thing, the labyrinth design, which is thousands of years old, is all in proportion to itself, which promotes sensory calmness, Igoe says. For another, it includes multiple 180-degree turns, which prompts interaction between the right and left brains.

Igoe’s large canvas can go anywhere – in a gym, in a park, in a field. And she says no matter where it is, it promotes a meditative state. “Once you set up the space and people are in it, it becomes a sacred space,” she says. “I’m often surprised about what comes out of the experience.”

Once, Igoe conducted a labyrinth walk in the parking lot of a church, which turned out to be quite rocky. She typically instructs people to take off their shoes to walk the labyrinth, but this time she told her participants they could keep their shoes on if they liked, because you could really feel the rocks through the canvas.

Some participants did keep their shoes off, and it proved to enhance their experience, Igoe says. “They talked about how they used feeling that discomfort,” she says. For example, some wondered why they remained in situations that hurt them or caused them extreme discomfort, and that became part of the meditative process.

Whether the labyrinth walk is focused on resolving a conflict or envisioning a goal, or simply a means toward inner calm, it’s very effective. Give it a try at the Costick Center by calling (248) 871-2400 or registering online at www.fhgov.com.