On the first Sunday of every month, Karin Temple lays out a large mat at the Grace Episcopal Church on Franklin Avenue.
Once completely unfolded, the 24-by-24-foot mat depicts a circular pattern of lines that wrap around the entire space. From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., the labyrinth is open for anyone to walk it.
Labyrinths can be traced back to various ancient civilizations through mythology and artwork, but have been adapted for modern nondenominational spiritual purposes.
While appearing similar to mazes, they differ in that there are no dead ends. Instead, they are comprised of a unicursal path, meaning they will lead a traveler around the mat and eventually land them in the center.
Temple’s first encounter with the labyrinth came almost 15 years ago at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland. She had returned from Spain in 2001 after completing the Camino de Santiago, a path nearly 500 miles long that dates back to biblical times and is considered a pilgrimage for multiple religions. She cut her trip short after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. “I was in turmoil that this had interrupted my spiritual journey,” she said.
After walking the labyrinth a few times and researching spirituality surrounding it, Temple found peace and a space for reflection in the ancient pattern.
That tranquility she found when walking the path, lead her to purchase a personal, portable labyrinth. Since then, she’s taken it to various establishments and allowed people to try it out for themselves. She says there are a few people who come every Sunday, but often, new people walking by stop to try it.
“It’s definitely a different environment than the rest of your day,” walker Brett Young said. He and his wife, Sara, walked the labyrinth for their first time on Sunday afternoon.“It’s great to zone everything out and just focus on the path in front of you,” said Sara Young said.
Temple said priests, rabbis and children have walked this same labyrinth at the church. There are no rules for how long to take or what to think about while walking the path, which gives each person a unique experience.“You fill it with your own meaning, which is the beauty,” said Temple.
A few times, Temple has even taken the labyrinth to the Oregon Youth Correction Facility in Warrenton. She sets up in the basketball gym and inmates with good behavior can volunteer to come walk it.
For those looking to meander a permanent fixture, an outdoor labyrinth is available year-round at the Willapa National Refuge. After branching off the art trail in the refuge, visitors can take the two-thirds mile walk along Cutthroat Climb Trail.
At the end of the trail is a labyrinth, 40-feet in diameter, that was built in 2010 as an addition to the constantly growing art walk.
Temple suggests those who don’t feel a spiritual epiphany after their first labyrinth experience shouldn’t be disheartened. “Your journey through the labyrinth will be as unique as you are,” she tells newcomers in her homemade pamphlet. “Sometimes, you just can’t turn your monkey brain off.”