Take a Walk Toward Hope & Healing
The labyrinth at Johns Hopkins Bayview is a spiral walking course that leads into the center and back out. There are no dead ends or false turns. It offers community members, patients, visitors and employees a peaceful, quiet and "healing" space. Labyrinths have served for thousands of years in many world cultures as symbols of hope, healing and spirit. Many who walk these paths say they discover a deep sense of peace.
What is the History
Many religious traditions incorporate labyrinths. In Judaism, the Tree of Life, called the Kabbalah, takes the form of an elongated labyrinth. The Hopi medicine wheel is another example of a labyrinth. Labyrinths are being rediscovered and can now be found not only in places of worship, but also in retreat centers, hospitals, prisons, parks, airports and community centers. There are around 2,000 permanent labyrinths in the United States alone. Temporary and semi-permanent labyrinths may be laid out with stone, tape, fabric, sticks, chalk, plants, and many other materials.
What is the evidence?
A recent article about the labyrinth at Mid-Columbia Medical Center in Oregon quotes CEO Mark Scott as stating that the labyrinth complements the use of chemotherapy and radiation in cancer treatment. In verification, a cancer patient agreed that walking the labyrinth gave her a sense of confidence and control over her treatment. Attitude towards one's treatment process (inner healing) has been shown to be a significant factor in the efficacy of that treatment (outer healing).
Three Rivers Community Hospital, also in Oregon, invites the local community to use their labyrinth. Programs have included a women's cancer support group, hospice butterfly release, survivors' labyrinth walk, holistic nurse’s retreat, candlelight memorial service, Spears Cancer Center walk, Day of Renewal walk, domestic violence awareness walk, Rotary Club walk, volunteer chaplaincy program, and more.
The labyrinth at California Pacific Medical Center is just outside the waiting room. Inside, there is a sign and brochures describing how to walk the labyrinth. Surgeons sometimes walk the labyrinth before performing an operation, to calm themselves. Nurses send anxious patients and family members to walk the labyrinth, reporting that they return more relaxed and focused.
Labyrinths can be used by both individuals and groups, either without guidance or as part of a specific program, such as dealing with AIDS, supporting the cancer journey, relieving grief or loss, or examining one's priorities. There is a portable canvas labyrinth in use at St. Luke's Hospital, St. Louis, MO.
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