Labyrinth at Daniel Chapel

Furman Reflective Walk

Labyrinth at Daniel Chapel

Greenville, South Carolina 29617, United States

Created By: The Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection, Furman University


The Furman labyrinth rests quietly, nestled between evergreen shrubs and tucked beside the chapel’s sturdy walls. It catches the passing rays of the sun and reveals the shifting shadows of nearby trees. The labyrinth unassumingly offers invitations toward mindful moments, deep breaths, contemplation, whimsy, and peace.

Like others around the world, this labyrinth is part of a great history. Beautiful versions of ancient labyrinths have been traced to civilizations on every continent except Antarctica, and labyrinths have been appreciated by storytellers and pilgrims for over four thousand years. During the Middle Ages, labyrinths were built into the floors of grand cathedrals where Christian pilgrims imagined the circling paths as symbolic pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Today, people value labyrinths as tools to practice mindfulness, reflection, centeredness, and clarity.

A labyrinth is not a maze. Unlike a maze, which is designed as a puzzle with choices to make and dead ends to avoid, a labyrinth has one path that leads to the center and back. After a person takes that first step on the grassy path, they just keep going, one step in front of the other, winding and turning and eventually ending in the center. Then they take the same path back out, trusting that the way will unfold before them.

The Furman labyrinth was designed and built in 2005 thanks to a wonderful collaboration among the Cothran Center (formerly the Lilly Center), the Chaplain’s office, the Building & Grounds Department, and Dr. Robert Chance of the Art Department who created the beautiful mosaic in the middle. Student volunteers, staff, faculty, and alumni came together to lay the bricks into the ground. We talked and laughed and watched this beautiful installment materialize, brick by brick. Now, almost 20 years later, I like to think that a few pilgrims have followed the winding path between the bricks, pausing at the center as others have done before and after them, then emerging from their little journey a bit more centered and whole.

Reflections for the Furman Labyrinth

While many labyrinths are indoor constructions (as in the cathedral at Chartres), ours was intentionally and organically placed outside--upon the earth, beneath the sky, surrounded by trees and sweet smelling plants. Whatever your personal reason for walking the path of this labyrinth, you are invited to be intimately connected with the natural world.

Take off your shoes and walk barefoot, if you dare, because this, like all creation, is holy ground. Allow it to be that for you today.

Why might you choose to walk such a weird path that gets you to nowhere and back? Exactly because it gets you nowhere and back! There is nothing for you to do but walk-- no hurry, no dictated outcome, no one to please or entertain, and no way to get lost. This walk is free space—sometimes an unexpected threshold to transcendence. Take it slowly; go alone; go in silence; go in and out as often as you like; relish the peace and the potential for unbidden revelation.

While it is preferable to walk alone, the labyrinth walk can also be a powerful experience for a group if conducted so that individuals can still have silence with adequate space and time to walk thoughtfully. While waiting their turn, other members of the group might protectively surround the outside of the circle, with downcast eyes, in caring silence or prayer for those walking.

The labyrinth walk may serve as an open metaphor or parable that can stimulate a personal or communal journey into deeper truth and wholeness.

In that vein, here are some reflection possibilities:

1. Enter with a deep personal question for which you are seeking an answer. Just acknowledge the question as you begin and then let it go. Don’t overthink. In fact, don’t try to think about it at all! But don’t be surprised if a new way of thinking about the issue arises as you allow yourself to find and feel the ground. You may want to have a journal ready at the end. The thoughts that come after the walk can be the ones you are seeking.

2. Enter with a mental or spiritual weight that you may be carrying on your shoulders and for which you are seeking resolution. You may want to symbolize the weight of that burden by carrying along a stone into the labyrinth and leaving it in the middle as a symbol of release or acceptance. As you go in, name the burden to yourself and acknowledge your feelings. Then let the silence and walking ground you, give you courage and possibly offer a way forward.

3. Walk with no agenda at all and wait for whatever is there for you in the calming, unhurried, meditative silence. You may find new directions or creative ideas. You may discover something new about yourself. You may just rest.

Contributor information:

Dr. Elaine Nocks retired as an emeritus professor of psychology at Furman in 2011. During the last ten years of her 35-year tenure, she helped to design and direct what was originally called the Lilly Center for Theological Reflection on Vocation (now the Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection).

Lindley (Sharp) Curtis graduated from Furman in 2004, and she was an active participant in Cothran (then Lilly) Center activities, including work as an intern. She initiated the construction of the labyrinth --- a project that was brought to life by staff members from the Center and the Chapel, together with students and other friends.

Many individuals and groups have been guided through the labyrinth in the years since then.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Furman Reflective Walk


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