Escape the distractions of everyday life with a meditative stroll.
Escape the distractions of everyday life with a meditative stroll.

Labyrinths in KC

As our pandemic winter trudges on, we're looking toward spring. Because this cold has to end sometime, right? ❄️

In warmer times, exploring the region’s labyrinths is a great way to get out in the fresh air and practice mindfulness, distanced from our daily distractions.

A labyrinth is not a maze: There's one path to the center, and you follow the same path out. 🌀 The mystery of the labyrinth is not in the twists of the path, but how those serpentine twists help center and focus the walker. The circle of life, the cycle of seasons, the very shape of our galaxy 🌌 are represented in the labyrinth.

Labyrinths date back nearly 4,000 years, in all parts of the world, incorporated into mythologies and creation stories. Along with built structures, these symbols appear on petroglyphs, jewelry, coins and woven into baskets. 📿

Most local ones, however, were built in the 21st century. But you won’t find any Minotaurs or Muppets in the labyrinths of Kansas City ... only opportunities for contemplation and reflection. 🧘

There are over 20 labyrinths in the metro and surrounding area, in parks, fields, sacred spaces and even parking lots. Many are outdoors, and most of those are available for public use. Here are a few of our favs. 💙

Symbolic Journey
These footpaths lay the groundwork for a contemplative journey toward a quiet mind. European labyrinths in the 13th century were symbolic stand-ins for pilgrimages to Jerusalem, when conditions were too dangerous to travel. ❌

As we approach the year anniversary of the pandemic and resulting lockdowns, it may behoove us to take a trek that requires no travel — like pilgrims on the way to emotional wholeness. 🧘

Pilgrim Chapel, off of Gillham Road, maintains the Pilgrim Labyrinth and Butterfly Garden in Hyde Park, open to the public year-round.

📍 Pilgrim Labyrinth & Butterfly Garden: 37th and Gillham Road, Kansas City, Missouri.

Style and Spirituality
There are a few common styles of labyrinths, including the seven-circuit Classical style and eleven-circuit Medieval. 🌀 While many follow these foundational styles, modifications are common. They're built by community groups, religious organizations, Eagle scouts and individuals.

At Rockhurst University, a 5-circuit Medieval-style labyrinth is incorporated into the campus’ central pedestrian walkway at 53rd and Troost, connecting it with an extended Heritage Walk. From the labyrinth center, there is also an interesting echo phenomenon. 🗣️

Unity Village, in Lee’s Summit, has one of the earliest local labyrinths. It’s painting on asphalt, and designed to be wheelchair accessible. 

📍 Rockhurst University: 5245 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Missouri.
📍 Unity Village Labyrinth: Unity Way, Lee's Summit, Missouri.
3. Modern Art Meets Ancient Design
Labyrinths aren't necessarily circular, though.

In 2014, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art installed Robert Morris’ Glass Labyrinth in the southeast corner of the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park. Embedded at the entrance is the message “Please Move Slowly.” 🐌

The installation quickly became a popular stop with visitors, though it differs from traditional labyrinths: Triangle shaped, the paths are lined with glass, creating a discombobulating confusion of reflection and shadow. See KCUR’s slide show from the unveiling. 📸

Rare for the region, North Oak Christian Church built theirs in a square 6-circuit Medieval design in North Kansas City.

📍 Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park: 4525 Oak Street, Kansas City, Missouri.
📍 North Oak Christian Church: 9900 N Oak Trafficway, Kansas City, Missouri.

Medicine Wheels
While the concept of medicine wheels has similarities to labyrinths, they are not the same. These structures are part of some Native American nations’ practices for health and healing and serve ceremonial and spiritual purposes.

Locally, the Yelloweyes Medicine Wheel was built by Southern Cheyenne Nation Chief Lee Yelloweyes in 2001. A series of plaques leading up to the medicine wheel explain the creation and practice of the medicine wheel, including instructions to wear no forged metal in the medicine wheel. 🚫

At Haskell Indian Nations University, in Lawrence, Kansas, land artist Stan Herd collaborated with students, professors and tribal elders to create the Haskell Medicine Wheel in 1992. The medicine wheel is used as a sacred space for ceremonies and as a symbol of creation, connection and the continuity of life.

📍 Yelloweyes Medicine Wheel: Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, 8909 W 179th St, Bucyrus, Kansas. 

📍 Haskell Medicine Wheel: Haskell Indian Nations University, 155 E Indian Ave., Lawrence, Kansas. The campus is currently closed, but visitors will be welcome once it reopens.

Make Your Own
If you have a little open space available, and some extra time, you could make your own labyrinth. They can be made of nearly any material: Mown into fields, incorporated into gardens, hewed of stone, or even painted. 🖌️ For temporary installations, labyrinths can be painted on canvas, etched in sand, or marked with tape or rope. There are also small, handheld labyrinths, carved from wood or printed on paper, which can be traced with fingers. 🖐️

Get started constructing as soon as the world thaws and you may be ready in time for World Labyrinth Day. Each year, on the first Saturday in May, people around the world engage in walking and meditating at 1 o’clock, local time. 🕐

Visit World-Wide Labyrinth Locator to find a labyrinth near you.

P.S. This might be the last big snow of the season, so make the best of it and go sledding!

 More Adventures in Kansas City

Kids Media Mix-UP

If your kiddos need an afterschool activity, sign them up for weekly art classes at Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art. 🎨 With a new project each week, students will construct, paint, and assemble projects ranging from sculptures, paintings and mixed media pieces. Classes are $12 each and space is limited, so call to sign up in advance.
Folk Unlocked Virtual Conference

The pandemic has put a pause on the beloved Folk Alliance International conference. 🎸 This year, it's going virtual Feb. 22-26, with the panels, workshops, showcases and networking opportunities you enjoy during the annual in-person event. Three registration tiers allow you to pay what you can. Register online today.

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Photo Credits:
1. KCMO Parks and Recreation
2. Rockhurst University YouTube | Screenshot
3. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4. Jon Blumb
5. AstronomyGal | Flickr

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