Welcome to the Richland College Teaching-Learning-Community Building (TLC) Labyrinth. Our outdoor labyrinth is part of an inviting installation on the northeast side of the lake. Alongside the labyrinth is a memorial walkway, with bricks engraved in honor of deceased staff. An arbor, a heritage flower garden, and a well pump mark the homestead site of the farm that became Richland’s campus. Under the arbor are bricks honoring college staff who have served the DCCCD for 35 years or longer.
The Richland TLC Labyrinth provides students, staff, and community with an ancient meditation tool that has been rediscovered by the modern world. You are invited to experience the mindfulness, insight, and peace that come from walking the labyrinth. Found in almost every spiritual tradition, the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey of life and spirit. Our labyrinth is a valuable complement to Richland’s Mind-Body Health Program.
The Richland TLC Labyrinth is based on the classic pattern of the Chartres labyrinth, found in the thirteenth century French cathedral. Our outdoor labyrinth combines stones and plants to outline the gravel path. Though similar in appearance to a maze, the labyrinth has only one path, no wrong turns, and no dead ends. Walkers are led to the center and back out by the same path. The distance to the center and back is just over one half mile. Allow a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes for the walk.
There are no rules for how to walk the labyrinth, but these guidelines can enhance the meditative experience. Clear your mind and become aware of your breathing. Find the pace your body wants to go. Walking toward the center, let the path quiet your mind. When you reach the center, take time for illumination, reflection, or meditation. As you walk the winding path back out, be strengthened for your return into the world. The path is two ways, so those going in will meet and pass those coming out. Please remember to respect the plants, the earth, and others who may be on the path at the same time.
For visitors in wheelchairs, there is a finger labyrinth installed, which provides the opportunity to trace a path to and from the center of the Chartres pattern.
May your journey through the labyrinth be a meaningful one
A Short History of Labyrinths
Remarks by Lennijo Henderson for the Dedication of Richland College’s Teaching-Learning-Community-building Labyrinth
Walt Whitman said “all is procession; the universe is a procession with measured and beautiful motion.” And when I walk the labyrinth, I feel like part of a procession stretching far back into history, because humans in many cultures have been following the winding path to the center of the labyrinth for a long time. We don’t know why the symbol of a series of concentric lines, carefully connected, is so universal. Maybe it’s because we all have many labyrinths in our bodies. Think of your inner ear or the ten fingerprints on your hands. Whatever the reason, physical representations of this archetype go back 3500 years, and have been found all over the world.
The earliest traces of labyrinths are carved into stone, from Sardinia to Scandinavia, from Arizona to India to Africa. In Europe these spiral rock carvings date from the late Bronze Age, and the labyrinth spiral shows up on coins from Crete three centuries before Christ. In our own American southwest, the Hopi people used two square labyrinth patterns, one to represent Sun Father and one representing Earth Mother. The Pima tribe from that same area wove baskets with a circular labyrinth design that depicted their own cosmology.
Before recorded history in northern Europe, especially in Britain, labyrinths for walking were cut into the turf, usually in a circular pattern. These turf labyrinths were probably used for local fertility rites. Eleven examples of turf labyrinths survive today, including the largest one at Saffron Walden, England, which used to have a large ash tree at its very center.
Some time before the turn of the millennium in 1000 AD, the Christian church adapted the spiral labyrinth, making it less linear, with loops and turns that create the feeling of not knowing where the path goes next. They installed finger labyrinths, just like the one we have here, on church walls; and they constructed pavement labyrinths on the floors of many of the great medieval cathedrals. Six of the French cathedrals had labyrinths for walking just inside the west entrance. Some of those were octagonal and some circular. Of those six only the labyrinth at Chartres has been preserved, just as it was laid around the year 1200. Our labyrinth is based on the eleven circuit pattern of the labyrinth at Chartres.
For the medieval Christian, walking the labyrinth was probably seen as a symbolic pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It’s thought that some walked the labyrinth on their knees, as a substitute for actually participating in a Crusade. I like to think of those folks as thirteenth century peace activists.
After being out of use for a few hundred years, the labyrinth has reappeared in the last decade as a valuable tool for those seeking peace. The use of the labyrinth for meditation, for stress relief, and for celebrating the spirit has spread to many circles, including the wellness movement, and to many locations in this country and around the world. We are really privileged to have the opportunity right here on our campus to join the procession of labyrinth walkers down through history.
May we all walk in beauty.