A Conference with a Difference: Labyrinth walks by Jan Sellers

walking the labyrinth

At the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) Conference in Chester, November 2010, participants had the opportunity to walk the University of Kent’s canvas labyrinth. The conference these was ‘Developing ourselves’ and the labyrinth offered a different kind of conference space: a quiet opportunity for reflection. The walk was open to everyone towards the end of the day, and was much appreciated by visitors. The initial intention was just to open for an hour, but with some careful juggling of the timetable and the support of hotel staff, we were able to keep it open for longer, to enable more people to take part.

In November 2008, I led a labyrinth workshop at SEDA for the first time. The conference theme included questions of personal and professional values, and we explored these issues with the support of a labyrinth walk. (For more, see http://seda.ac.uk/confs/birm08/abstracts/23_Sellers.pdf   Interest grew to such an extent that we kept the labyrinth accessible all morning except for the time of the workshop itself. The first walker arrived at 8am and the last left the labyrinth at 12 noon, and including the workshop, about half the conference participants visited the labyrinth.

Making a Chicken-Feed Labyrinth

 canterbury chicken labyrinth Canterbury Chicken labyrinth completed

Jeff and Kimberly Saward visited the University of Kent earlier this year for a lively seminar and a practical introduction to labyrinth-making –on the cheap! We started with an introduction to the history of labyrinths, followed by an opportunity to draw many different seed patterns. Then it was out to the chosen site, to see what we could do.

We set out to create a seven-circuit classical labyrinth from chopped corn (chickenfeed). The instructions can be found on Jeff and Kimberly’s Labyrinthos website, http://www.labyrinthos.net/layout.html   This includes more photos of the process – mostly showing the team doubled up in concentration. Thanks are due to the Grounds Maintenance Team who recommended the site and made sure the grass was newly mown, and to the Biosciences Office who found a room for the photographer, looking down on the event as it proceeded!

The most time-consuming part was choosing the exact starting point, and laying out the seed pattern. For example, we needed to ensure that the completed labyrinth would be well clear of a grassy ditch and a paved footpath. Then the team was divided into runners and walkers. The walkers spaced ourselves out along a rope with ribbons marking our designated places (see the instructions). Each of us had a scoop (plastic bottle, trimmed to shape) full of chickenfeed ready to pour on the ground – it was the job of the runners to keep our scoops topped up. The rope was taut, pegged down at one end – we followed the rope, each of us pouring a narrow line of corn as we went, following the line that our individual ribbon traversed over the ground. Within 20 minutes we had a beautifully constructed labyrinth – ready to walk, run, dance…

This highly enjoyable day was a Creative Campus event at the University of Kent and was funded through my National Teaching Fellowship.  It provided training for three different groups: volunteers from a primary school, labyrinth enthusiasts at the University, and staff and students from the University’s School of Arts who planned to use the labyrinth in a subsequent dance event. Photos include the expert clearing-up carried out by a campus resident.

Jan Sellers

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‘Love your Campus’: draw your own labyrinth

silver labyrinth

‘Love Your Campus’ is the theme of a new series of lunch-time events for students and staff at the University of Kent, part of the University’s Creative Campus. This Wednesday I led a craft session – first time I’d done this and I can report that glitter glue is a real asset!

This was a drop-in session, and anyone passing by was invited to join in, with the invitation to learn how to draw a labyrinth in five minutes and make a labyrinth to take away. I had a supply of craft materials – beads, card, paper, modelling clay, colouring pens and so on. Using a seven-circuit classical labyrinth, I made two examples on card, one with woven strips of paper and one that was just glitter glue, squeezed out of the tube like toothpaste. Students really took to this and once they had a sense of ownership of the classical design (see Labyrinthos website, http://www.labyrinthos.net/layout.html) they began to explore all sorts of possibilities – including one Architecture student who discovered Baltic, three- and five-pointed seed patterns for himself. The photos show work in progress and some completed works of art.

Jan Sellers

Love your Campus artists 1 Love your Campus artists 2 Love your Campus artists 3

Journeys Through the Labyrinth Workshop; September 2010

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‘Journeys through the Labyrinth’ workshop, under the University of Kent’s Creative Campus initiative, was an opportunity to learn more about the labyrinth and its use as a blueprint for a journey – whether through work, study, or major life decisions and transitions. The day included exploration of the history, meaning and impact of labyrinths in the world today, with a focus on reflection, creativity and spiritual development. As well as background information, and small and large group discussions, there were opportunities to walk both indoor and outdoor labyrinths in a day of personal journaling and reflection. The workshop was led by Lauren Artress, an Episcopal priest in the State of California and Founder and Creative Director of VeriditasJan Sellers, whose National Teacher Fellow project supported the creation of the beautiful Canterbury Labyrinth in the grounds of the University of Kent (see the picture gallery above) managed the event which doubled up as a pre-qualifying workshop for the labyrinth facilitator training weekend that followed. This training was led by Di Williams, Anglican minister and currently Chaplain at the University of Edinburgh. In 2008 Di was awarded an MBE for services to higher education including her interfaith and labyrinth work in Chaplaincy. Di is also a Veriditas Master Teacher and author of the book ‘Labyrinth – landscape of the Soul’ available at www.diwilliams.com 0r di@diwilliams.com Futher information about the University of Edinbugh Labyrinth can be found here on the Labyrinth Projects page.

The Canterbury Labyrinth is beautifully situated on the side of a wooded hill that looks down towards Canterbury Cathedral. The parallels with historical accounts of pilgrimage, in particular Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, makes the concept of taking time out for journeying and personal reflection even more appropriate.

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