The Centennial Parklands Foundation held a ‘Sod-Turning’ ceremony on Wednesday 5th February to mark the start of construction of the sandstone labyrinth. Emily Simpson spoke of the journey so far.
I first walked a labyrinth in May 2009 at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Like many who have never experienced one before, I had assumed it would be like a maze, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw its simple beauty and actually walked it…and walked it…again and again and came back the next day to walk it some more, slower and slower. I felt reeled in by its mystery, held by the structure of its winding path and liberated by the stillness at its heart. I fell in love with the labyrinth and the whole idea of walking meditation.
I’d been in a sort of emotional cocoon for sometime after a series of sudden leavings and endings and many of my definitions of self had simply fallen away. It wasn’t until I walked the labyrinth that I felt the possibility of a light at the end of the tunnel. Somehow the rhythm of its path gave me back a spiritual pulse. I felt held by the structure of its winding path and received by the mystery at its heart.
I hadn’t felt this lit up about anything for years and read every book I could find on the subject. Realising that there were no public labyrinths in Sydney, I created a proposal for the Board of Trustees of Centennial Park to inspire them to build one. Providing public spaces for contemplation is more important now than ever before. We need a new paradigm for non-denominational sacred space and opportunities to centre, calm and remember ourselves.
On the first day of Spring last year, my proposal to build a sandstone labyrinth in Centennial Park was approved by the Centennial Parkland Trustees. We now begin the journey of gathering the $500,000 required to build it. Based on the design of the 800 year old labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral in France, the Sydney labyrinth will be a thing of great beauty – a significant public artwork in an iconic Sydney park.
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May your path be peaceful
A woman brought her daughter to the labyrinth walk. This long limbed, faun-like 13 year old was one of the first to enter the labyrinth and spent the entire time sitting in one of the petals in the centre, soaking up it’s stillness with her own. One of the last people to leave the labyrinth was an older woman, a wise and juicy crone who began to dance with a gentle, lilting reverie. We were blessed to witness the lovely contrast of wisdom dancing her way through the labyrinth, while innocence held the centre. What a gift for that girl to have in years to come – the image of an older woman, dancing her path with joy.
That first day,
before I knew
its path would become
my way home,
some part of me
fell into the labyrinth.
A thread of my cocoon
must have snagged
on the silence at its centre
and begun, very gently,
Step by step,
with every labyrinth that I walked
it continued to unravel,
years of carefully spun layers,
leaving traces of presence in its wake.
Today, I felt the tug
of the final fibres being claimed,
my life now woven deep
into that meandering path.
A new story emerging from the old
with a shape and a voice
by Emily Simpson 2011