Monhegan Labyrinth

Last November, I visited Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachussettes. My husband and I participated in a mindfulness meditation retreat. During the retreat we learned a variety of methods for meditation including a walking meditation that I enjoyed very much. As a group we did not walk the labyrinth on the property but I so enjoyed the walking meditation that I decided to try for myself. It was a brisk, cold day; the grass was brown and there were a few flurries in the air. I walked down across the property and paused for a moment to get centered before entering the labyrinth. This was my first time in a labyrinth, instinctually, I paused before entering and then walked mindfully and meditatively, winding my way into the center of the labyrinth, pausing and then winding my way back out. I did not enter the labyrinth with anything in particular on my mind, but as I wound my way in and back out, thoughts of my best-friend’s mother whom had recently passed came to mind, I felt sad for my friend and her family, but as I came to the center I felt a great inner peace and as I continued the journey back out of the labyrinth this sense of peace and calm became all encompassing and I felt almost elated and happy as I exited. I returned to my room at Kripalu and wrote in my journal about my experience.
Later I was explaining the transformation I went through during my time in the labyrinth to my husband and I said that we must go home and build a labyrinth for our community on Monhegan Island, Maine. My husband’s response was that Monhegan is already a labyrinth with its 13 miles of hiking trails that wind through the heart and around the outskirts of the island. Initially I thought, by-goodness, he’s right. I went home and walked the trails of Monhegan and was indeed able to find this inner sense of calm. But does this mean that I can call Monhegan a natural labyrinth?
What is a labyrinth? The classic definition of a labyrinth is a single path that has an entrance or mouth, winds in a circular pattern to the center or goal and then the participant exits by the same route. It is a tool for personal, psychological and spiritual growth. This can be a walking path or a path that is traced with a finger.
Some of the effects of using a labyrinth are:
• Decreased agitation
• Less anxiety
• Feeling more open
• Feeling more peaceful
• Feeling calm
• Feeling more centered
• Greater sense of clarity
• More reflective
• Less stressed
Labyrinths have a history dating back into antiquity, across cultures, and across religions. They are used as a metaphor for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.
So, is Monhegan’s trail system a labyrinth? According to David Gallagher of The Labyrinth Society, by strict definition, the trail system would not constitute a labyrinth. We chatted for a bit and he encouraged me to explore my thoughts and draw my own conclusions. I asked him about his experience with labyrinths and how he got involved with the society and he said that his story is not much different than any other’s in that once you have an experience with a labyrinth, a person is drawn to them and they want to know more and understand why these ancient paths are so powerful.
In that case I would like to make an argument for Monhegan Island’s trail system to be considered a labyrinth. If walked with mindfulness and making all right or left turns, a person could enter the trails and find their way back to the heart of the village every time. The profound experience is in trusting that the paths will keep you safe on your journey and if you stay on the path you will find your way back to where you started in the heart of the village. Walking the Monhegan trail system with these things in mind would lead to the good effects of labyrinth walking, including a sense of calm, less anxiety, and deeper sense of clarity.
What are your thoughts? Have you had a positive experience with the Monhegan trail system? Are you interested in coming to Monhegan to experience our “labyrinth”? What is your labyrinth experience?