Have you always wanted to meditate but worried you can’t sit still for that long? Well, a labyrinth might be the perfect thing for you, especially one inside a tranquil White Pine forest in northern Grey County.
The Forest Labyrinth has been offering a chill walking experience for those interested in navigating its 2000 stoned, seven circuit pattern resembling the famous Chartes Cathedral labyrinth in France. The Forest Labyrinth was built by Neil Baldwin in 2019 and resides on his serene Off Grid Retreat. Like the other ‘walkers’, I went there to calm my mind and nourish what’s left of my soul.
Upon reaching the centre, I understood why the popularity of labyrinths has experienced a serious uptick the last few decades. They date back to 2000 BCE and their image has been found on coins and ceramics throughout history, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that they began to gain attention again through the work of Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, considered to be the founder of the modern labyrinth movement.
I think I’d like to boldly declare my allegiance to this movement. I need ways to shut my mind off from the daily clutter, and I’d rather walk than sit. So for me it’s a perfect fit.
You see, the attraction to labyrinths is in their ability to let our analytical mind shut off and our intuition kick in – they offer clarity on matters that perplex us. And what is more perplexing than this global pandemic we’re in the middle of? It seems we need labyrinths now more than ever. “Interestingly, some may find the experience of walking a labyrinth parallels what is happening in the world around us,” says Baldwin. “We’re not sure what the path ahead has in store but we need to keep moving forward with faith it will take us to where we should be. In this Covid time, we have been required to make so many new decisions, and do so much problem-solving, every day”
In response to Covid 19, Baldwin has limited groups to less than 5 for the time being, it will only be open to locals. Just register at the Off Grid Retreat website to set up a time and he’ll gladly allow you passage to clear your mind.
And before you attend, let’s make one thing clear: a labyrinth is not a maze. It has no dead ends; requires no problem solving. The only choice is to enter. From there, it frees your mind of responsibility and connects you to the present moment as you walk at your own pace through a circuited path towards a centre.
When you get to the centre, you can sit and relax, or just turn around and walk back. But when you’re in a beautiful White Pine forest, I recommend sitting for awhile. “There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth, but I can say with some authority that the best experience will be an unhurried one—allow time, give yourself this gift, because to rush the experience may be to miss the experience,” says Neil.
Baldwin didn’t intend on moving 2000 stones into a 7 circuit pattern when he bought the property in northern Grey, but many of us are glad he did.
“I didn’t purchase this property with the specific intention of creating a labyrinth here. But, within my first year, I knew I should and that I would. Of course, it was a big undertaking and it wasn’t until I retired and became a full-time resident here that it all finally came to fruition.”
His first visit to a labyrinth was a temporary one set up in Burlington’s Central Park. “Though I knew nothing about labyrinths at the time, it caught my interest and ignited what has become a passion for over 20 years now…the most beautiful labyrinth I have encountered was at Grace Cathedral, in San Francisco, where I did Veriditas Labyrinth Facilitator Training. The largest labyrinth I have walked is at Joshua Creek Heritage Centre in Oakville. A massive Chartes pattern mowed into a tall grassy field, almost a full kilometre walk one way to centre; it was another thing poking me to create a labyrinth in a natural setting.”
The use of a natural setting provides a peaceful retreat and untethering from that damn thing we carry around in our pocket all day. My advice: leave it in the car. You’ll appreciate Baldwin’s merging of convention with the natural environment when you can actually stare into the organic landscape instead of a screen in your hand.
That’s the real draw: connecting to the present moment while also connecting to the beautiful place we call home here in Grey Bruce Simcoe.
“I think that in life our best impacts are the ones most authentic to who we really are,” says Baldwin. “That’s what makes the world an interesting and beautiful place, and it is particularly evident all over Grey-Bruce where I have seen people create businesses, endeavours, arts, activities, and so on, based on the strength of their unique gifts and interests.”
Baldwin has definitely created an interesting and beautiful place in his woodland property and we encourage you to check it out for yourself. You can request a visit through his website at offgridretreat.ca and be mindful of COVID 19 restrictions and precautions.
It’s there you’ll find his advice for making the best of your visit: the 4 R’s. You need to Remember why you came, Release the distractions of your day, Receive whatever there is to find in the moment, and Reconnect with the outer world.
We like our R words here at Rrampt, too. I knew there was a reason I liked this labyrinth movement.
Written by Jesse Wilkinson