The terrace on the north side of Bridgepoint’s main floor is no ordinary patio. This space overlooking Riverdale Park is a place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. It also has a very specific purpose. Built into the terrace, is a circle pattern with a winding path leading to its centre. It looks like a maze from a children’s puzzle book. But it’s actually a labyrinth.
Labyrinths have been used for centuries across many cultures for meditation and reflection. Unlike a maze, the path in a labyrinth doesn’t branch out in different directions, have a dead end or try to trick the user. Instead, it leads those who walk or roll on it to the centre of the circle and back out again. Following the winding path can benefit body, mind and spirit, reduce stress and provide gentle exercise.
“Bridgepoint’s labyrinth was designed with our patients in mind. The path is wide enough to make it easy for anyone to use, whether they are walking, using a wheelchair or other mobility aid,” says Lecia Kiska, Spiritual Care Practitioner.
Lecia organizes a weekly Labyrinth Walk and Roll every Thursday once the weather starts becoming warmer. Anyone can drop in over the lunch hour to learn about the labyrinth and try it for themselves.
Stamatia Balogiannis is one patient who is taking advantage. As soothing, meditative music plays in the background, Stamatia, who uses a wheelchair, winds her way to the centre of the labyrinth, deftly navigating the turning path. “It’s relaxing. Today I was a little bit stressed and this has helped me feel calmer. It helps take my mind off of my worries,” she says. Stamatia has been anxious about pain she’s experiencing and is nervously awaiting some test results. She also attends a mindfulness group at Bridgepoint and plans to come to the Labyrinth program every week as an additional tool to help manage her stress.
The benefits of using the labyrinth are backed up by research. “Studies show that focused walking meditations are highly effective in reducing anxiety and eliciting the ‘relaxation response.’ It’s a wellness practice that reflects the whole person, integrating body, mind and spirit in a way that is complementary to modern medicine,” adds Lecia.
Stamatia is so keen on the labyrinth, she’s spreading the word to other patients and has brought four new friends. They wind their way through the labyrinth together. “I like talking to people and I have met many wonderful people here. It helps to make friends. I try to convince them to come with me because I think they’ll find it relaxing too,” she says.
Lecia says the labyrinth is also being used by employees, volunteers and even the community. The space is open for anyone to use throughout the spring, summer and fall and the Labyrinth Walk and Roll program runs Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.