Distilled Reflections from Labyrinth Facilitator Training

Labyrinth off Meridian St.

Second Presbyterian, Indianapolis, IN

Three themes emerged from the Veriditas Facilitator Training in Tipp City this month.  Facilitation. Inclusion. Companioning.

Facilitation is the act of making something easier.  Wikipedia has succinct descriptions of various types of facilitators and the main difference between a facilitator and a trainer.

This was a facilitated training – essentially a hybrid where the leader gathers information, supports and encourages the knowledge base and participation of the group, while filling in gaps of knowledge with his/her own expertise.

Key factors for me are for a facilitator to listen more, draw out comments from the quieter members of the group, have a variety of activities interspersed, and tell fewer “me” stories.  And, the stories that the facilitator does tell, need to be concise and non-repetitive.    So, I worked to implement that in the AARP Smart Driver trainings which followed closely on the heels of this labyrinth training.  I explained to the instructors and instructor candidates that I would point out the salient information as per National AARP and use positive facilitation techniques to model. Then, I would highlight strategies and techniques I used.  Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them.  Tell them what you told them. Basically, classic Madeline Hunter.

Most facilitators and instructors talk too much, after asking a question or for input wait too short a time and are uncomfortable with silence. My task is to create space for participants to think and interact.  I can do this by being engaging in the presentation, drawing them out and, above all, comfortable with myself and helping people be OK with silence as they process.

Inclusion is my second theme.  Labyrinths have a long and “convoluted” history that has changed over time. (Double entendre intended) Today, labyrinths are synonymous with a spiritual quest.  Archetypal  labyrinths include the Cretan (now called “Classical” – because the word “Cretan” has taken on a changed meaning as well), Triple Spiral and the Chartres design so common in Europe and cathedrals in the western hemisphere such as Grace Cathedral Church in San Francisco, CA.   Still highly connected to religions, these are static labyrinth designs.  The journey for the pilgrim is  inward.  The path is simply the route one follows back and forth to and from the center.  The construction is usually sand, stone or cement and is often elaborate and a work of art in itself.

Contemporary labyrinths  abound and some are excellent while others poorly thought out or designed. Labyrinth.org.uk is insightful and allows for a modern interpretation.

I’m with both.  The Cedar Rapids, IA, area has a number of quality labyrinths on public and parochial school grounds, at Prairiewoods Spiritual Center, Indian Creek Nature Center, and at private homes.  Having hosted a number of workshops and walks, I know from participants’ comments that different labyrinths resonate with different people for different reasons.  Thus, inclusion.

A religious experience for someOne of the first walks on three labyrinths I led was with two devout Christians.  They characterized the formal Chartres design as “religious”, the sweet seven circuit at a Middle School as “spiritual”, and the native and domestic plant lined Laughing Labyrinth as, “well, natural” they said chuckling.  Each provided a different experience they valued.  In the Chartres design, they quickly fell into a rhythm.  At the hilltop Classical labyrinth the sun and shade and view of the city lifted them up.  The 1080 Laughing Labyrinth brought back memories of trips, family, and events.  All wrapped together – “And suddenly we were at the center.”

For those who are “religious”, archetypal labyrinths are an easy step into prayer.  Indeed they are walking meditations.  But, for those who are disenfranchised with formal religion, who have drifted away, or who have little tradition with organized religion, but who are innately spiritual, a first step in a formal labyrinth may not be so easy.  Contemporary labyrinths can fill that niche of longing for a spiritual connection.  My goal is to help all pilgrims feel comfortable in their quest to deeper spirituality and connection with self and others.  Well constructed and placed contemporary labyrinths can bridge the gap and help both those of deep conviction and those who simply seek find common ground. Thus inclusion of all types of labyrinths resonates with me.Hilltop experience

Honestly, when I need focus, I often find myself at (not going to but at) the Regis Middle School hilltop labyrinth.  No matter the weather – hot, rainy, blustery, calm, ragged clouds or “clear blue skies” – Regis labyrinth comforts and inspires me.

Companioning is the third theme.  A discussion ensued at the Training and has come up at Grief workshops among counselors about “what to do when a person is obviously distressed.”  Crying or showing some intense emotion but still “in control”.  I’ve asked a number of people what they want another to do if they are in the labyrinth and are emotional.  While the answers vary to a degree, each person has expressed that he/she would appreciate “some acknowledgement.”  Not “there, there, now,” as in “Stop crying!”  Not total ignoring the “elephant in the room.” Perhaps a quiet approach, a kind word, a comforting touch, then moving on or asking if it’s OK to stay close.

For some reason the “professional” thinking is to Not hand a Kleenex to a person crying because of some implied message to stop crying.  For heaven sake, I’d like something besides my sleeve to wipe the snot off my face.  And, I would like someone to companion me. To let me know he/she may not know the reason, but appreciates that strong emotion is there and he/she, too, has had strong emotions.  It’s OK and “you are safe” type of message.  This is also what I have heard people who I have asked say.

Well, this is all I can do on this.  Not fancy but maybe profound – at least heartfelt.



About marionpatterson

From the Heartland: Marion is a master educator, writer, Veriditas Trained and Certified Labyrinth Facilitator, a member of the Veriditas Council, creator and workshop promoter, and environmental educator. A Holy Fire II Usui and Holy Fire II Karuna Reiki Master Teacher, Healing Touch Spiritual Ministries Certified Practitioner (HTSM-CP), Advanced Integrated Energy Therapy practitioner she seeks to connect with others in their knowledge and spiritual quests. She leads Healing Talking Circles using the principles embraced by indigenous populations and in Restorative Justice Circles. She and her husband, Rich, co-own Winding Pathways LLC and live in Eastern Iowa. "Encouraging people to create wondrous yards." Go outside and Play!
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