Labyrinths Help People Practice Mindfulness in Delaware

Photo by Ashley Breeding

Many people in and around Delaware are practicing mindfulness by combining meditation with movement in labyrinths.

Kim Furtado, N.D., says her patients appreciate her gentle demeanor. But 20 years ago, the naturopath was losing patience at home—and no wonder. She had five young daughters, three recently adopted.

To calm down, she’d enter the labyrinth she created in her side yard in Millsboro. “I really find that I need to move while I meditate,” she says.

Combining movement and meditation is not a new concept. The ancient practice of yoga, for instance, incorporates breathwork (part of meditation) and evolved to improve monks’ physical, mental and emotional health.

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Tai chi, a flowing series of gentle movements, is another form. Even a simple walk can become an exercise in mindfulness—which means being fully present. Meditation can interrupt the chain reaction of negative or anxiety-producing thoughts. The past and the future do not exist; there is only now. And when you pair mindfulness and movement, you’re also getting some exercise.

Delaware offers 19 labyrinths statewide, including this one located behind Delaware Art Museum’s Copeland Sculpture Garden. It was formerly the Anthony N. Fusco Reservoir. Photo by Ashley Breeding

Novices may benefit from a guided meditation designed for walking, suggests Alexis Brown, a personal coach in Ocean View. “Sometimes thoughts create feelings, and you can get into a thinking loop. Gently bring yourself back to right now.”

Labyrinths are also tools for walking meditation, and it’s no coincidence that many are on church grounds. “It’s a Christian tradition,” Furtado explains. “I grew up Catholic, so it resonated with my heritage. It’s a metaphor for a pilgrimage—the journey inward to find your higher power or God.”

She enters her labyrinth in the east, and each direction corresponds to an attribute or benefit. For instance, while walking east, she says the word “forgiveness” until she turns in another direction. South stands for “blessings” or “abundance,” and west is “awareness.” She uses the word “wisdom” when she faces north.

The labyrinth’s center gives walkers the chance to meditate and reflect, and as you circle back to the exit, you become one with the universe. Upon leaving the labyrinth, you’re ready to use your gifts and talents to benefit others.

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It takes time to quiet the thoughts. Indeed, there is a reason why you’re engaging in a meditation “practice.” But you can achieve mindfulness—one step at a time.

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