TLS Members e-Newsletter

Members eNewsletter
At least four times a year, TLS members are rewarded at their inboxes with a copy of the Labyrinth Society e-newsletter. It serves as a means of direct communication with the membership and provides an historical record of the Society.

The Labyrinth Society’s Annual Gathering: “Labyrinths for Global Healing” A Reflection from a Student’s Perspective

Jeni Kern is a graduate student in Health Studies, specialising in Wellness Management at the University of Central Oklahoma. Jeni and Shelby Graves, students of Diane Rudebock, participated in the Parksville Gathering as workshop presenters, at the research sharing circle, and as observers at the Board of Directors' meeting. Jeni has kindly agreed to share her impressions with TLS readers.

Diane Rudebock, Shelby Graves, Jeni Kern at Parksville

Knowing that The Labyrinth Society (TLS) is an international organization created to support all those interested in labyrinths, it was beyond intriguing when I first became acquainted with not only the labyrinth itself, but the labyrinth community as a whole. Being invited to this year’s annual gathering was life changing as I watched a unique union; so many different fields came to one common ground through passions for labyrinths, labyrinth walking, and the experiences of transformation and journeying.

My experience at the 2013 TLS Annual Gathering was uniquely special in every way. Not only was I granted the opportunity to travel with a University professor and peer to represent our university at an international conference, give a presentation on labyrinth proposals, and see a new beautiful land, I was able to deeply connect with individuals from around the world over the course of five days. The conference provided great opportunities for keynote messages, breakout sessions, and poster presentations, all of which were insightful and inspiring. I was also able to explore the land and experience a new culture, which added to my experience at the conference because of the relationship between where I was, who I was with, and what we were all doing.

The poster presentation that was of high interest to me, because of both its presentation and purpose, was “The Healing Way Trail” by Stephen Shibley from Oregon. It provided a beautiful overview of a redefined walking trail at a rehabilitation facility. What made Mr. Shibley’s poster presentation stand out was truly its grandiose presentation, which included pristine graphics, color and supplemental project information off the poster.  The purpose of this project and poster presentation was to introduce the newest idea for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility: an integration of their twelve step program and their physical grounds and outdoor spaces. Mr. Shibley presented how he could, as a longtime landscape architect, bring the program’s twelve steps to life in a “Landscape for the Soul,” where participants in the program are able to experience transformation in their body, mind, and soul during their time at the facility. His methods were outlined in his craft and the development of the actual spaces, all of which I am crafting in my own studies at the University of Central Oklahoma. The project displayed the master plan; the previous trail, the proposed trail, the proposed pod sections, and the connection between each pod section and each of the twelve steps (wow, right!). This use of space, color and design were wonderful characteristics of this poster.

Overall, I learned so much about research, professional presentations, and organization at this conference. The faculty advisor who accompanied me to this out-of-town conference is also on the international board for the society, which allowed her the opportunity to create a new type of session that had never been done before at a TLS Gathering. She led the first-ever research sharing circle where more than a dozen professionals from all over the world came together to share their past, present, and future research. So many individuals were interested in my current research and provided me with great feedback and thoughts. Contact information was exchanged with nearly everyone there, and we have already had post-conference communication about professional, academic, and personal topics.

The most beneficial part of this conference was the amount of time we had outside of sessions and presentations to network with other professionals. Because this gathering is unique in that it crosses so many fields around the world, it is so beneficial meeting each individual and getting into the most amazing conversations about our work and dreams of where we want to go. Often times, as a young professional and researcher, it is easy to get discouraged and think that my work is nowhere near where it needs to be. But I find that no matter how old a person is, their drive only strengthens and new goals are made, making each step seem more attainable because there is always room for more during a lifetime. Each person I had contact with inspired me to keep doing what I am doing, and then do more, which was definitely a highlight of my experience.

Although the travel to Vancouver Island was tedious and lengthy for us coming from Oklahoma City, the location was perfect. The planning committee did a fantastic job from beginning to end. My mid-September experience at TLS Annual Gathering was a phenomenal one and has left me inspired to do more in all ways academic, professional and personal.

In the spring, I will be presenting at the state-wide Transformative Learning Conference to capture my experience on Vancouver Island. The purpose of my presentation will be to highlight the experience of two UCO students and one UCO professor during the 2013 TLS Annual Gathering in order to demonstrate the transformative opportunities. I will highlight how the networking, breakout sessions, presentations, experiential learning opportunities, and overall participation in The Labyrinth Society’s Annual Gathering allowed for both individual growth (both for the UCO students and the UCO faculty member), and organizational growth as individuals from around the world were able to engage with UCO representatives while becoming aware of the innovation taking place on the university’s campus. The poster presentation will connect the gathering experience to the Six Tenets of Transformative Learning (Central Six): (1) disciplinary knowledge; (2) leadership; (3) research, creative, and scholarly activity; (4) service learning and civic engagement; (5) global and cultural competencies; and (6) health and wellness (University of Central Oklahoma, 2013). A combination of summaries, photographs, and displays will be utilized to appropriately capture the powerful experience of The Labyrinth Society’s Annual Gathering. 

In presenting this poster and the idea that UCO engagement at the international level is a cyclical benefit to all involved directly and indirectly, I hope to inspire future students, staff, faculty and supporters to seek opportunities to meet with individuals and organizations across borders to continue their passions and areas of interest.