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Alma enters the labyrinth in time for the big day

Saturday is World Labyrinth Day. News to you? You’re probably not alone, but you do have an opportunity to find out more by visiting Alma. The community is holding a dedication ceremony Saturday afternoon for the new Alma Labyrinth and Memorial Arboretum.

The event has been timed to coincide with World Labyrinth Day, said resident Sharon Grose, one of the organizers.

Using concrete curbs, the Alma labyrinth traces out a traditional pattern, which the Labyrinth Society – yes, there’s one of those too – describes as a design with a single path (unicursal) that leads to the center and back out again. Labyrinths are typically round and are considered to incorporate a circle with a spiral.

“They are generally used as a tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation through contemplative walking. Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity and invite relaxation, offering an opportunity for centering the body/mind/spirit. The labyrinth is often viewed as a metaphor for the path we walk in life and therefore may provide a time and space for personal reflection on life issues.”

That is indeed the goal of the Alma project, which started as an idea in 2009 in conjunction with plans for a memorial arboretum, Grose explained.

“There was a core group of people who were interested in getting one going … as an interesting new feature.”

A planning committee was struck, and the community, service clubs, churches and local businesses quickly joined on.

The symbolism of the labyrinth fit well with memorial tree plantings in the park, Grose said of response to the idea. While you could walk through it quickly, the point is to use it for quiet time, to reflect. Traditional beliefs link the ancient patterns that go back some 4,000 years to physical, mental and spiritual benefits, from lower blood pressure to increased concentration.

“It’s supposed to be calming,” said Grose, adding there’s a feeling “journeying through” something, akin to our paths in life.

On the spiritual side, though labyrinths aren’t associated with religion per se, “It provides a nature experience and an opportunity to be close to God in nature,” she added.

Grose points out that while labyrinth is often used interchangeably with maze, the two differ in a labyrinth’s pattern has a single path (unicursal) versus the multiple routes of a maze (multicursal). A labyrinth has no tricks or dead-ends.

“It’s not a puzzle: there’s one way in and one way out.”

With the donations of time and money, the project has been completed, the dedication ceremony taking place at 1 p.m. – walking as one at 1, as observed globally the first Saturday in May by labyrinth aficionados.

“We’re going to celebrate a worldwide event right here in little ol’ Alma,” she said.

The Alma structure is a 54-foot circle that forms a pattern called “Circuit Chartres,” modelled on the one found in the famous medieval cathedral in France. It’s a first for Mapleton Township, but Grose notes there are 175 labyrinths listed in the Ontario Labyrinth Community Network, including those in nearby Clifford, Fergus, Guelph, Hillsburgh, Kitchener, Mount Forest, Orangeville, and Waterloo.

Worldwide, the Labyrinth Society’s online database has more than 4,000 entries.

The Alma Labyrinth and Memorial Arboretum dedication ceremony takes place at 12:30 p.m. on May 3 at Wallace Cumming Park, Alma  Community  Hall. At 1 p.m., organizers will mark World Labyrinth Day. In case of poor weather, there will be a representation of the labyrinth indoors at the community centre.

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