Labyrinths in Places

Labyrinths are found in many places. Some are permanent and some are brought in temporarily for events. The challenge for labyrinth enthusiasts is often how to get permission to introduce a labyrinth into a specific environment. This section of the website examines some of the places where labyrinths may be found, the benefits of having them there, how they are used, and how people were able to install them there in the first place!

4. Labyrinths in University Life

How can one introduce and use a labyrinth in teaching and learning, in counselling and wellbeing, in a university setting? Think of those times when stillness, slowing down, quietness, deepening reflection, will be valuable. There is a mental and emotional sense of stillness and quietness that can be gained through a walking meditation; the labyrinth is recognised as a helpful resource in the developing field of contemplative pedagogy in HE.

The labyrinth is a powerful metaphor for life's journey: key turning points in university life, from induction to graduation, become opportunities for reflection through a labyrinth walk. It is notable how colleagues within specific disciplines and development teams, once they have experienced the labyrinth, may draw on labyrinth walking in ways that relate directly to their students' experience. This is explored with a wide range of examples in Learning with the Labyrinth: Creating Reflective Space for Higher Education (Jan Sellers and Bernard Moss, eds, 2016).

The following examples show the sheer breadth of possibilities. These include examples from around the world, including the building of labyrinths; the inspiration behind them and their introduction in different academic disciplines. Some of these projects were initiated by students, others by staff; some cross boundaries, involving collaboration across disciplines or with other university teams. 

Academic and Professional Development
A labyrinth walk can provide an imaginative and reflective experience for conferences and training events. At Liverpool John Moores University, labyrinth walking is amongst the reflective resources used within the University from time to time: examples include business management development and an in-house academic development conference. See Alex Irving’s article, Creative Interventions with a Labyrinth (2017).

Arboretums and Gardens
Labyrinths as a beautiful design, enhancing the campus: sometimes linked to departments of Horticulture or Art, and sometimes to medical centres, chaplaincies or other centres and services. The University of Adelaide's Waite Arboretum Labyrinth  (Australia) is created from locally sourced wood from within the Arboretum. 

Students have worked with the labyrinth image, constructing a labyrinth as part of their project or with exhibitions to accompany a labyrinth event. Some universities have labyrinths created through an artist-in-residence project. The Royal College of Art (London, England) used art as outreach with school students, drawing on artist Mark Wallinger's labyrinth installations (Labyrinth: A Collaborative Project with Art on the Underground).

Campus Re-Design and Engagement with the Arts
It may be feasible to include a labyrinth as part of a major re-think of the design and layout of the campus, or of a significant element of the campus. Examples include the massive, public work of art by Guttorm Guttormsgaard at UiT, the Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø. 

Chaplaincies, Faiths, and Spiritual Development
Labyrinth walks held, once a month or at other intervals, as a quiet reflective space in the busy-ness of university life; labyrinth events to support and bring the university community together; labyrinths for solitary prayer and meditation. Examples include Bishop's University Interfaith Ministry, Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada, and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, with a labyrinth in the grounds of the Shri Devi Padmavati Temple

Collaboration across Disciplines: Architecture, Nursing, and Prison Services
In this example at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (USA), a green labyrinth was created at a local prison through collaboration with the School of Nursing and the the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.

Community Service
In the midst of earthquake ruins, students and staff at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, set time aside to make 'something special for the community,' in collaboration with St. Luke's in the City

Counselling, Health, and Wellbeing
For students and staff, including Health Studies, support services, and staff development events (for work with counselling clients, see the Labyrinth Society web page on ‘Labyrinths in Counselling’). At the University of Worcester, England, the labyrinth is part of the 'Fit 4 Life: Relax Well' programme.

For a comprehensive introduction to use of the labyrinth in English (and other) university departments, see Ronald J. Nelson's article on his work at James Madison University (Harrison, Virginia, USA). See also the creation of the Arboretum Labyrinth at JMU

The labyrinth is an interesting resource for mathematics teaching at all levels. For example, see Christopher Budd and Christopher Sangwin's intriguing chapter on labyrinths and mazes in: Mathematics Galore! Masterclasses, workshops and team projects in mathematics and its applications, New York: Oxford University Press (2000).

A number of labyrinths have been funded by alumni in memory of, or in honour of, a relative or colleague at the university. Temple University's labyrinth, in the Ernesta Ballard Healing Garden (Ambler, Pennsylvania), honours a pioneering agriculturalist and feminist.

The Chaplain at La Trobe and Charles Sturt Universities, Albury-Wondonga campus (New South Wales, Australia) has worked with the labyrinth to introduce mindfulness practice. An article exploring this was first published in the Australian Labyrinth Network Newsletter, issue 3: Spring 2015, and is available here by kind consent of Tina Christensen, Judy Redman, and the Australian Labyrinth Network: Mindfulness Practice and the Labyrinth Experience in a University Setting (.pdf 744K).

Peace Studies, Religious Studies, and Theology
Jill Geoffrion has taught with the labyrinth in Peace Studies, Theology, pastoral training, and conflict resolution. She discusses her work in an article about teaching and learning at the Peace Studies Center, Kangon Seminary, Myanmar.

Prepared for the Labyrinth Society by Jan Sellers, lead editor of Learning with the Labyrinth (2016). Web pages revised 2018 by Jan Sellers, Jodi Lorimer, and Diane Rudebock. Visit Jan Sellers' website for more information.