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The Labyrinth at EarthTeach Forest Park
By Martha Phelps Cotton

At 4000 feet elevation, with a breathtaking view of Ashland, the Siskiyou Mountains, Pilot Rock, and the Rogue National Forest, lies the circuitous path of an eleven circuit labyrinth. From this place, you can reflect on where you have been; you could be inspired toward where you are going, and simultaneously, you are invited to be conscious and mindful in the present. What better place for an ancient spiritual tool of meditation and a symbol of wholeness? Located at the edge of an area known as Big Sky Meadow, the EarthTeach labyrinth was constructed from field stones on a gravel base during the summer and fall of 1999. It is auspiciously aligned between four majestic oak trees, and it is a place "that seems suspended between heaven and earth." (Oregonian, Oct. 29,00 issue)

The labyrinth is found in various forms around the world and is employed in many traditions. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. Known to humans since ancient times (the Cretan labyrinth dates back more than 4000 years), labyrinths have been most frequently used for moving meditation and prayer. In the Middle Ages, a more complex labyrinth became popular: an eleven circuit design divided into four sections, or quadrants. The most famous of these designs was laid into the floor of Chartres Cathedral, France around 1200. The EarthTeach labyrinth is patterned after the Chartres style labyrinth, where the walker moves through each of the four quadrants several times before reaching the center and then follows the same pathway out.

Labyrinths and mazes have often been confused. When most people hear of a labyrinth, they think of a maze. A maze has dead ends, tricks, and false passages; it is like a puzzle which must be solved. The labyrinth, on the other hand, has only one, unicursal path that leads to the center; the way in is the way out. There are no tricks, though there are many turns. It invites intuition, creativity, and imagery. With a labyrinth there are only two choices to be made: whether to enter or not and whether to continue.

A superb tool for growth and transformation, the labyrinth is--at its most basic level--a metaphor for life’s journey. Often referred to as a "mirror of the soul," it represents our passage through time and experience. As we live in a culture that has forgotten how to directly connect to that which is divine, we believe the resurgence of the labyrinth has occurred because it offers people an experience of inspiration, spiritual nurturing, and an inexplicable sense of awakening.