Sustainable living is not just about living with a smaller planetary footprint. It's about a way of life that is grounded, physically, emotionally, and in our positive attitude towards each other and our beautiful and precious planet. Demanding jobs and challenging circumstances at home—homeschooling, adult children who won't leave and pandemic, pandemic, pandemic—can make life unsustainable. A sustainable life is one lived with joy and purpose—at least some of the time. Like with any political or cultural movement, it is better to attract people by our example than by our words. Doom and gloom do little to change peoples' attitudes towards the environment. We need help staying in the sustainability zone. There is no endpoint to our work, so we'd better enjoy the journey.
During the stress of the stay-at-home orders, job losses, and the death of family and friends to COVID, doctors and other health practitioners found that meditation helps—sometimes a lot. Taking time just to breathe goes a long way in coping with anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness about the future. Walking a labyrinth is a good use of "spiritual technology" that combines walking and meditation. Like the Dream Walk of the aboriginal peoples of Australia, the Vision quest of Native Americans, and the pilgrimage to Mecca that is sacred for Muslims, walking the labyrinth is a journey. The purpose is not to get somewhere new but to arrive at the center as a new person. The rhythm of walking—sometimes away from the center and sometimes toward it—allows you to let go of the thoughts and worries of daily life. You listen to your heart, your wisest counselor.
There are plenty of labyrinths in Contra Costa County and the Bay Area that are free and open to the public. Probably the most famous maze is inside Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. It's a replica of the one in Chartres Cathedral, France, built in 1201. There are two labyrinths at Grace. One is outside open 24/7 and one is inside and accessible when the church is open. There is no training needed to walk Grace's or any of the labyrinths mentioned in this article. You don't need experience. You can go through it on foot, in a wheelchair, or just meditate in front of it. Lauren Artress, a pioneer in restoring the ancient practice of walking a labyrinth at Grace and all over the country, wrote a book that has become a classic and is an excellent resource if you want to explore the topic, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth.
Here are some more labyrinths closer to home:
Unity Church of Walnut Creek, where SCOCO's own Tyler Snortum-Phelps and his wife, Lisa serve as music directors, recently dedicated their labyrinth. You can view a YouTube video of the ceremony, and it's not too late to donate to the project. Like the one at ,Grace Cathedral, the labyrinth at Unity Church is modeled on the one in Chartres Cathedral in France.
Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in Oakland has an outdoor labyrinth created by sculptor Helena Mazzariello. It's a bit hard to find, but if you've been there, you know it's worth it. Walk the main loop around Sibley, and you will come to an overlook to a ravine where you can see it and access it.
There is another outdoor labyrinth in East Bay Park, Briones, another East Bay park. To find it, look at a map of the park and find two markers labeled "Stone Labyrinth" on the east side. Briones is in Central Costa County and close to Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and Martinez.
The Brookwood Park Labyrinth was created through a partnership between Kindred at Home Hospice and the Pleasant Hill Recreation Department. Volunteers worked in the shade of a mature oak tree and used donated materials to build it. It's right off Wither's Avenue in Pleasant Hill.
Walnut Creek has another labyrinth that is open to the public, the Lime Ridge Labyrinth. You can start your journey by looking at a whimsical map of the maze on its website. They Draw & Travel, a group of over 3,000 artists worldwide, created the map. Enjoy the walk and visit the artists' website to enjoy their other work.
If you are Danville near where Sycamore Valley and Crow Canyon roads cross, you might visit the labyrinth at Peace Lutheran Church, which is also a replica of the Chartres Cathedral in France. The church initially installed the labyrinth in 2000 and refurbished it this summer. I may be biased towards this one because I am on the committee that oversaw its renovation. Peace Church reopened the labyrinth on the same day as that of Tyler's Unity Church. A beautiful park surrounds the labyrinth at Peace. Visitors can support the renovation through Peace's "Buy a Brick "campaign. See the website above for details.
Become more mindful, connect with nature, get a little exercise, and maybe help heal the planet. Walk a labyrinth near you.