As you enter the courtyard between the chapel and the music building, you are met with a circular pattern drawn in chalk on the gravel floor. The world grows a little more still as the rest of campus melts away. All that’s left is you and the rustling of leaves as squirrels leap from branch to branch.
For the first few weeks of school, Reverend Laura Engelken and the Division of Spiritual and Religious Life (SRL) created a classic Cretan labyrinth called a “seed.” This particular pattern has seven folds, or turns, and only one path which leads in and out.
While SRL choose a seed labyrinth because it was the easiest to create with chalk, the simplicity of the pattern does no detract from the experience you may have. The pattern’s simple design actually allows it to serve a variety of functions. You can use it as way “to center, to reflect, to pray, to do whatever, it’s really open,” said Engelken.
Another reason Engelken enjoys having the labyrinth in the gravel courtyard on campus is because it allows students to walk the path any time of the day, on their own terms. There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth, and there definitely isn’t one particular feeling you are suppose to get. “Whatever feeling, or whatever happens is what’s going to happen in that moment,” said Engelken. “And most likely, if you walk the labyrinth at another time, you’re going to have a totally different experience because you’re going to be in a different place.”
This isn’t the first time a labyrinth has appeared on campus. According to Engelken, SRL has created seed labyrinths for the division of student life team, Summer Academic Workshop (SAW), and Being the First, a program for first generation college students.
The labyrinth has returned once more because Engelken feels “It allows folks to bring whatever is meaningful to them to it, and it’s a container so you can leave what comes up for you there, or you can take it with you.”
Currently, Engelken and the SRL programming assistants are maintaining the labyrinth, and they hope to keep it up until the rains wash it away. However, Engelken hopes that Mills may some day have a permanent labyrinth on the grounds. There have been a few suggestions already, the botanical garden, a corner of the meadow, or possibly near Cowell. No matter where the labyrinth goes up, Engelken knows that it isn’t just the setting that matters, but the materials as well.
Each walk is personal, but whether you use your time in the center to receive guidance, reflection, meditation or simply a quiet stroll, a visit to the labyrinth will put your mind at ease.