Printed mat labyrinth makes way to Paradise Valley on cross-country journey

A 24-foot diameter printed mat featuring a labyrinth will roll into Paradise Valley in April as part of a cross-country journey. (Submitted photo)

A 24-foot diameter printed mat rolls into town next month, on a journey that aims to “spread a positive energy around the USA,” the road trip’s creator British interfaith minister Clive Johnson says.

“Labyrinth Around America” is a project that involves taking a labyrinth — a path printed on a large canvas — around the states of the continental U.S.

Ultimately, Mr. Johnson hopes to visit every one of the 33 states that form the border of the U.S., stopping at as many different places as possible along the way. He has already made landfall in 26.

The labyrinth will be at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, 4027 E. Lincoln Drive in Paradise Valley, from 5:30-6:45 p.m. Wednesday, April 10. The event is free and open to anyone.

Mr. Johnson admits the project at first seemed like a madness to him, but says that it was an idea that wouldn’t go away.

“The project aims to introduce both individuals and communities to the time-honored practice of labyrinth walking, as a way of connecting people across the country, as they walk the same path,” he said.

Mr. Johnson set off from Saint Paul, Minnesota in April 2017, traveling in a roughly clockwise direction through the northern midlands, into New England, and then down the east coast before turning west.

Because his route is driven by “going where feels right,” as well as by invitation, he has traveled considerably more than the 6,000 miles, bringing him in a direct circular route from his origin.

“Going where I feel led has taught me about what it means to be a pilgrim,” he said. “This is so against my usual way of liking to have clear plans and itineraries.”

The labyrinth has journeyed to many and various places, ranging from remote forest clearings in Maine to the heart of the National Mall. Schools, libraries, city parks and even a prison have numbered among its many stopping points.

It has often arrived in communities where a labyrinth project has just begun or is being thought about, as well as where communities have been grieving or struggling to come to terms with a recent tragedy, such as several places in Florida following the Parkland murders earlier this year.

“What’s surprised me is that the labyrinth seems not just to have an energy, but a life of its own,” Mr. Johnson said. “It seems to have a positive affect even when people don’t walk it, just by being laid out.”

There are now thought to be more than 10,000 labyrinths in the U.S. alone, found in settings as diverse as public parks and university campuses.

“Walking a labyrinth offers a way to meditate, and to escape from the everyday for a short while,” Mr. Johnson said.

Their popularity seems to be growing at a time when many people feel worn out by the busyness of modern life, a release claims.

“The labyrinth welcomes people of any background, faith or no faith,” Mr. Johnson said. “It makes no demands, other than you simply put one foot in front of the other and walk.”

The labyrinth will be continuing its journey up the west coast, and eventually making landfall in the northern mountain states, before returning to its starting point in Saint Paul.

“At least that’s the plan,” Mr. Johnson said. “The one thing that I can be sure of is that there will be many surprises to come, and in all truth, I’ve no knowing where this crazy journey will end.”

No experience is needed for walking a labyrinth, and individuals in wheelchairs, who are blind or have the company of a service dog are welcome.

“Just come along,” Mr. Johnson said, “and hopefully we’ll have a chance to chat too.”

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment