walking the labyrinth
Art,  Education for Life,  Meditation

Building a Labyrinth with the Tools of Maturity

A Cucumber Seed has returned from our summer vacation. It is great to be back at school here at Living Wisdom School in Beaverton, welcoming new families and seeing familiar faces. Our Upper Elementary teacher, Matthew Fredrickson, shares here a story of one of the activities our school community was up to this summer.

Recently, a group of students from our Living Wisdom School created a labyrinth next to the garden at Ananda Center at Laurelwood, one of our favorite field trip destinations. The idea to construct a labyrinth, or a maze, or something occurred to me last spring while pondering soccer-field-sized overgrown plot adjacent to Laurelwood’s garden. I first envisioned one of those enormous hedge mazes that would draw marveling spectators from miles around. I get lost, occasionally, in my large imaginings, and after discussing the idea with Rachel, our Primary Class Teacher, I conceded that a smaller scale creation would be more feasible. A labyrinth, of some sort, sounded just right. Labyrinths are more than just unique pieces of art. The building and walking of the Labyrinth is an ancient practice symbolizing the inner spiritual journey to the deepest center of ones being.

It required diplomacy and calculation; muscle work (loading a Jeep with river rocks), conscientious transport (driving the Jeep loaded with river rocks), and plenty of patience, but we finally managed to get the mulch, rocks, paint, and kids together on our freshly-mowed tract of land.

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The actual construction of the labyrinth was Education for Life in motion; the Tools of Maturity, a cornerstone of our philosophy, was perfectly demonstrated. The children (aged 6-12) reflected each tool. All of the children participated to some extent in every aspect of the labyrinth’s construction, and as we settled into a creative rhythm, the children’s natural inclinations became obvious:

-The physical children most enjoyed the actual hard labor of transporting those heavy rocks from pile to mulch canvas.

-The feeling children became absorbed in the brightly beautiful colors and designs of the painted rocks, and sought to help others in whatever way was needed.

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-The will children did things their own way, and found means to challenge themselves; lifting a wheelbarrow full of rocks unassisted, for example.

-The intellectual child-the oldest- upon hearing of the labyrinth plan took it upon himself to find out everything he could about labyrinths; the different types, how they can be created, why people create them in the first place. Later, he sketched the labyrinth, calculated the necessary distance between each circuit, discussed possible alternatives. With tape measure in hand, he carefully placed the stones, keeping the distance a constant around each circuit.

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It was interesting to observe this particular child, who is approaching the Will years, manifesting a relative balance of the Tools of Maturity, one of the long-term goals of Education for Life, while the younger kids more clearly expressed their strongest tool.

It was a joyous, peaceful dance of colors on rocks, the green of mountain and surrounding countryside, the bright sunshine, and the unique light of the children, so distinct; so wonderfully themselves.

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