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West Side labyrinths: Adults and youth on the path

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Jun 25, 2015

Sacred Hearts School students and teacher Mary Anna Enriquez are dedicated labyrinth enthusiasts. “As an educator, I have seen the benefits of sharing the labyrinth with children to introduce them to a different form of prayer, conflict resolution, problem solving and having fun,” said Enriquez. PHOTO BY CINDY SCHUMACHER.

WEST MAUI – Labyrinths are tools for walking meditation and spiritual growth. They are based on patterns that date back thousands of years and have roots in many cultures and traditions. What seems like a maze or simple ring of concentric circles is actually a pattern with a purpose. The many turns on the labyrinth’s one path reflect the journey of life, which involves changes of direction, transition, realization and attainment.

The labyrinth is designed to lead you into a center point and bring you back out, hopefully in a calm and peaceful state. Walking the labyrinth can point the way to healing from grief, anger or physical challenges.

As an ancient spiritual tool, the labyrinth is being reclaimed in the modern world as a means for contemplation and transformation. Currently found in many religious traditions, schools, hospitals and other healthcare settings, the labyrinth has something to offer everyone.

Makaluapuna Point on the Kapalua coast is the home of Maui’s largest labyrinth. A true act of love by an anonymous builder, the white coral labyrinth was constructed as a peace project in 2005.

“The point,” said Clifford Nae’ole, cultural advisor at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, “is an incredibly spiritual place that is central to traditional Hawaiian beliefs.”

“The labyrinth is a great tool for stress management and personal reflection,” said Principal Susan L. Hendricks. “In fact, we have found that its calming effect promotes general well-being.” PHOTO BY CINDY SCHUMACHER.

“This revered location is a sacred site used for Hawaiian protocol and cultural practices. It is considered a jumping-off point for souls as they make their transition from this existence to the next,” Nae’ole said.

His personal labyrinth experience in Big Sur, California left him with great respect for the practice. “While I was out for a walk, beams of light were coming from a cloudy sky,” he explained.

“I walked over to the area where the light was and a labyrinth was there. Then, when I returned to the Ritz, someone approached me about building a labyrinth on Makaluapuna Point.”

“Well, I thought, this is meant to be,” he said.

Nae’ole believes that people find the labyrinth if they are meant to. “In fact,” he continued, “not everyone who goes out to the site even sees the labyrinth; so if you find it, you were meant to find it.”

There is another labyrinth beyond the Ritz by the blowhole. Constructed by the same builder as the one at Makaluapuna Point, it can be found on Highway 30 near mile marker 38.

In Lahaina Town, Sacred Hearts School has a labyrinth painted on the campus. “Walking the labyrinth, now practiced in many schools in the U.S., is a great tool for stress management and personal reflection,” said Principal Susan L. Hendricks.

“In fact, we have found that its calming effect promotes general well-being.”

Middle-school teacher Mary Anna Enriquez, a trained Labyrinth Facilitator, delved deeper into learning more about the uses of the labyrinth in schools and leads many walks for her students. “As an educator, I have seen the benefits of sharing the labyrinth with children to introduce them to a different form of prayer, conflict resolution, dealing with loss and having fun.”

Enriquez’s sixth-grade students this past school year eagerly explained their personal labyrinth experiences. They also kept journals about their impressions.

“Before I take a test, the labyrinth helps me concentrate. I can remember what I studied better,” said Ashley.

“Walking the labyrinth helps me focus on my ideas and creativity,” said Kiana.

“If I’m sad, walking the labyrinth helps me release my feelings, and I feel better,” said David. “I walk to the center and back on my spiritual journey.”

“I think the labyrinth is an example of life,” said Loleina. “The turns going forward present the new paths that are available every day.”

“The labyrinth helps you find your inner self,” said Ana. “Sometimes I think about my relatives that passed away, and I feel them with me.”

“The labyrinth calms my worries,” said Jake. “I release them when I arrive at the center, where I receive peace and my worries are gone.”

Hendricks and Enriquez added, “The labyrinth is like a full-time counselor. It calms the spirit of the children.”

Also in Lahaina, Holy Innocents Episcopal Church has a labyrinth on the church property. “It has recently been repainted with the vision of preparing more information for the public to know about this simple gem on Front Street,” said Priest-in-Charge Rev. Amy Crowe.

“We want to share this labyrinth with all pilgrims walking through Lahaina, so it is available 24 hours a day. In addition to offering solo walks, we are creating worship services and educational opportunities incorporating the labyrinth.

“The labyrinth serves as a metaphor of life,” Rev. Crowe said. “We all live busy lives with many noises around us and in us. The secret is finding peace while walking in the midst of life’s noise.”

Walking the labyrinth is about the journey. It is about integrating body, mind and spirit into one harmonious whole. The labyrinth meets us where we are and helps take us to the next step on our spiritual path. Because it is so personal, it is a spiritual walk that can be practiced and enjoyed by anyone.