At the Ryder-Cheshire Ivanhoe Home we have a special area located at the rear of the property between building 12 and 14. There is a lovely garden and herbs for residents to pick. At the center of this garden section we have our olive tree and labyrinth.
The Olive Tree
Some species of trees are known for their special qualities. The ‘mighty’ oak is known for its durability and strength. The ‘whispering’ pine provides a soft hush in the background as the wind blows through its needles. The weeping willow displays its cascading branches that gracefully sway in the breeze.
The most remarkable tree is the olive tree. Most of us are not too familiar with olive trees because they don’t grow near where we live. However, in the land of the Bible, it was, and is, the most important of all the trees because it is a source of food, light, hygiene and healing. The trees are known for their tenacity. No matter what the conditions; hot, dry, cold, wet, rocky or sandy, the evergreen olive tree will live and produce fruit. They are virtually indestructible and primarily symbolise faithfulness and steadfastness.
Psalm 52:8; “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercies of God forever and ever.”
The Olive Tree planted in the center of our Labyrinth was planted in memory of Mr Peter Brook, a Committee member who died 1 November 2003.
No one knows for certain where or when the tradition of the labyrinth began but they have been around for over 4000 years and were part of almost every major tradition and culture in the world. They have been found in ancient cultures from Greece and Crete to Egypt, Chine, Peru, Ireland and Scandinavia. They are found carved on wood, on pottery, on a rock face, woven into the design on a blanket or basket, cut into the living turf on village greens, crafted from mosaic tiles, created in sand and built with stone. They’ve been found on coins from three centuries before Christ. A clay tablet found in Greece is 3,200 years old.
Labyrinths come in all sizes and shapes. They can be small and used as a finger labyrinth or as large as the ‘Chartres Cathedral labyrinth’, just west of Paris.
The Christian world’s use of labyrinths began during the Middle Ages. Early Christians took a vow to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to walk in the steps of the historic Jesus. The Crusades made this pilgrimage too dangerous so labyrinths were created in Cathedrals and used to symbolically represent their pilgrimage. In recent years people from across the globe have been rediscovering the tradition of walking the labyrinth as a meditation, relaxation, healing and spiritual tool. They can now be found in hospitals and other places of healing, in churches and cathedrals, community centres/parks, prison and used by people in the Arts, Spiritual, Healing and Therapy Professions.
Many people make the mistake of thinking labyrinths and mazes are the same. A maze has dead ends, many trick turns and people experience frustration, fear and confusion. A labyrinth has only one path leading to the center and back out again. If you stay on the path you will always arrive at the center, an analogy to life.
When you walk the labyrinth, you meander back and forth, turning 180 degrees each time you enter a different circuit. As you shift your direction you also shift your awareness. This is one of the reasons the labyrinth can induce a receptive state of consciousness and help you to gain a sense of inner balance.
Through the rhythmic process of walking, you can discover your own inner self, or, as some would say, the sacred within yourself which is where a sense of calm and peace will be found and where healing make take place.
Each person’s walk is a personal experience. How one walks and what one receives differs with each walk. Some people use the walk for clearing the mind and centering themselves. Others enter with: a question or concern, to gain an increased sense of inner calm, as a means of being at peace with themselves or an issue, or just for the experience.
Walking the labyrinth has three main stages: the entrance, the path in and the center. The time in the center can be used for receiving, reflecting, meditating or praying, as well as discovering our own sacred inner-space or simply being. What you receive can be integrated on the walk out. Your walk can be a healing and sometimes very profound experience or it can be just a pleasant walk. Each time is different.
Just as ‘one day at a time’ works for people in recovery programs, so too can ‘one step at a time’ work for those walking the labyrinth.