The Labyrinth – A Sacred Path

“A labyrinth is a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation. Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity.”  ~ The Labyrinth Society

 The labyrinth is not a maze. There are no tricks to it and no dead ends. It has a single circuitous path that winds its way into the center. The person walking it uses the same path to return from the center and the entrance then becomes the exit. The path is in full view, which allows a person to be quiet and focus internally….There are many ways to describe a labyrinth. It is a path of prayer, a walking meditation, a crucible of change, a watering hole for the spirit and a mirror of the soul. ~ www.veriditas.org

Labyrinths have been found to reduce anxiety and stress, equalise blood pressure and enhance peace, clarity, centeredness, relaxation and increase reflection. For more benefits, see Commonly Reported Effects of Labyrinth Walking . They are especially useful in healthcare settings.  See below this article for more resources.

I walked my first labyrinth in New York, with the support of Reverend George Kuhn. And my second walk in Singapore at Lifesprings Spirituality Centre was guided by Edwina Yeow.

Labyrinth I walked at Lifesprings, Singapore
I think the labyrinth can be a wonderful tool to help us in these hurried times.  I hope we see more of them in healthcare settings, educational institutions and public places. I especially think the finger labyrinth can be used at workplaces for staff to have a few moments of relaxation so they can get back to work in an enhanced state. It also helps people get to know each other in a new and deeper way so walking a labyrinth with co-workers could strengthen relationships.
This was my visual harvest of my walk. The walk helped me clarify something regarding my work.
Here’s my interview with Edwina. Edwina (and Brother George) facilitates labyrinths walks for people of all faiths.
Please share more about your deep connection with labyrinths. 

At the risk of sounding fanciful, I’d say the labyrinth found me when I was ready to work with it. I first saw a picture of one some 8 years ago and, to be honest, I wasn’t interested enough to even ask what it was. But a year later it came to my attention again, in a different context, and I found myself totally and inexplicably fascinated by it. I wanted to understand what it was about, where I could walk one, etc. I felt a compelling desire to experience the labyrinth for myself and to share it with others, even before I knew very much about its origins or use. Enough for me that the one design I was attracted to had been used for centuries in the Catholic Church for meditative purposes. So I suppose that my response was very instinctive… and remains so as I continue to work with the labyrinth. Each time I walk it myself or facilitate for others who walk it, and all my reading and research confirms for me the richness of the labyrinth as a tool for arriving at greater self-awareness, and spiritual and psychological wholeness.

Labyrinth I walked in New York ~ Vadivu

How has your work with labyrinths impacted how you view and experience life?

My experience with the labyrinth reaffirms for me the connectedness of all life at the inter- and intra-personal levels, across space and time, transcending life and death. The labyrinth reminds me that all is gift and that the Source of all life is benevolent, loving, joyous, and that all creation is being invited into wholeness, regardless of how long, winding, sometimes painful and wearying the process, and in spite of how many times we might need to revisit a place in our lives to remember, to learn, to hold, to forgive, to let go.

The labyrinth teaches me that there are no wrong turns, and that every seeming regression is a progression if I only keep walking with openness to learn. It teaches me that in reality I can understand and control very little in my life. But what I do have is my free will and the deepest, truest desire of my spirit… and that Life honours this and invites me to walk trustingly along this path to its fulfilment.

Labyrinth I walked in New York ~ Vadivu

Please share about your facilitation of labyrinth walks for teachers and students. What has it done for these groups?

The labyrinth walks for teachers and students were set within the context of a retreat or day of reflection for the respective groups. Perhaps because our lives are lived so much on the ‘outside’ as we attend to the needs of daily living: the job, the family, the religious institution, etc., the gift of the labyrinth when experienced in a group is that it allows the individual his/her own space and gives him/her ‘permission’ to be fully attentive to his/her own inner journey, while sharing the labyrinth with others. The fruit of these reflective walks is then shared in a safe, facilitated process which deepens the experience and creates a stronger empathic bond between the participants because they connect at a deeper level than the merely superficial, which is generally the norm.

At the same time, in learning to listen to each other, participants may be challenged or may gain truths and insights they need for their own journey. Above all, they discover that they are not alone, and that if they choose, they can support and encourage each other, and share what has been helpful to them on their own journey.

Who could benefit from a labyrinth walk? 

In my experience, anyone could benefit from a labyrinth walk, so long as s/he is able to walk, even with assistance, or be pushed in a wheelchair (provided the labyrinth is large enough to accommodate one). Labyrinths have been enjoyed by persons of all ages, races and creeds, young and old, in good health or suffering from terminal illness, in happy times or in times of grief and loss… any season of life.

Other than individuals, how much potential do you see for organisations to offer this experience to their employees or members? What kind of organisations may be ripe for it?

I would say service-related organisations, especially in health-care and education sectors would benefit by providing the labyrinth experience to their employees/ members as it allows them to self-care and be cared for, where they are so used to caring for others.

It can facilitate among the members deeper understanding, compassion and rapport inter- and intra-personally, and ultimately foster a more empowered, cohesive community within the organization.

Having said that, the labyrinth could also be useful for any organization that desires to promote psychological wellness among its employees.

What is the relevance of labyrinths in today’s world?

Researchers have observed that when we retrace the history of the labyrinth, we see that over the centuries, the labyrinth flourished in different parts of the world, and then died down, only to flourish anew in a different time and place. But the times when and the places in which the labyrinth flourished always coincided with times and places in human history when there were great upheavals politically, economically or socially, and when life was experienced as rapidly changing and uncertain.

Today we are experiencing another such revival of the labyrinth, and the signs of the times lend credence to the observation. Perhaps now more than ever before, we need the clarity and inner strength and security that comes from knowing in the core of our being, who we are and who/what gives life meaning and security… deep truths that the labyrinth can help us arrive at.

Just walk. Have no expectations. That's what I did for both the walks I have done. ~ Vadivu

Could you share more about finger labyrinths?

The finger labyrinth is a labyrinth design printed on plastic/ paper or etched in wood/ metal that is small enough to be traced with a finger. It is a good alternative for those who are unable to walk the actual labyrinth and can be used anywhere and at any time as it is so portable.

What further suggested resources do you recommend – online and off line?

These are some resources which may be useful…

http://www.labyrinthsociety.org/

http://www.labyrinthmeditation.com/

http://www.veriditas.org/guidelines

http://www.jillgeoffrion.com/

Artress, L. (2006). Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice. The Berkely Publishing Group, USA.

West, M. G. (2000). Exploring the Labyrinth: A Guide for Healing and Spiritual Growth.

Broadway books, New York.

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Edwina will facilitate the next labyrinth walk in Singapore on 6th April 2013. Please contact her at yeowedwina@yahoo.com to register or enquire about other group walks (minimum 10 persons, maximum 15 persons).  

Edwina also has a canvas labyrinth which  is 8 metres by 8 metres and has been used at the  beach, in school and church halls, and in hotel and clubhouse function rooms.

You can purchase finger labyrinths for use at work or home at iSpiritual. How to use a finger labyrinth. 

Download finger labyrinths and screensaver. 

12 Reasons for Hospitals to Have Labyrinths

Approaching your healthcare institution to get a labyrinth

More research.

Resources on Education

I had to unlearn many things I learned in school. And spend lots of time learning things in adulthood that I was never taught in school.

Why is it that we don’t teach the most important life-skills in school? How could we start doing that? How can we look after our teachers’ wellbeing better? They are playing such an important role in our children’s lives. How can we educate the whole person, and not just the mind of our young people? 

These questions have brought me to discover people, organisations, ideas and resources that I share here.

Here are some things I think education could play an important role in developing in us:

– to be compassionate, forgiving and empathetic even when others do not reciprocate

– to cultivate inner wisdom and be guided by the greater good

– to be a seeker for Truth in a world that may not reward it

– to develop a contemplative practice

– to learn to resolve and grow through conflicts peacefully

– to be aware that our lives will end and hence how to live consciously

– to discover our Calling and find true joy in work

– to date consciously and develop a joyful life-long relationship with our life partner

– to use relationships to grow

The Inner Life of a Teacher 

We need our teachers to be well and happy if we want out students to be well and happy.

Inner Work and The Life of a Teacher – video

Centre for Courage and Renewal  programmes for teachers

Centre for Courage and Renewal – articles on teaching

Teaching and Leading

The Courage to Teach

Teacher-Student Stories

Storycorps – stories of students and their teachers

Educating the Whole Person

We are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual beings. And need to grow on all thee levels.

Spirituality in Schools

Steiner Education

What is Steiner Education video

The Gift of Learning video

Quaker Education is not just for Quakers. Very valuable whole person education which cultivates inner wisdom.

Strengths-based Education – video

Research on strengths-based work with children

Nonviolent Communication in Education

Greater Good Science Centre Education-related Articles

I interviewed the Danish Ambassador to Singapore on why she thinks Denmark tops many happiness surveys. Part of her response includes info on their education system.

People in Education

Parker Palmer’s work – See Centre for Courage and Renewal

Games

Storycubes – Creativity and story-telling game

 

 

Online games that do good

Games for Change

Half the Sky facebook game

https://www.facebook.com/WeTopiaOfficial
http://www.goodnet.org/articles/338

World Peace Game

Transformation Game I am certified to run. For those over 16.

Movies

Movies that can be used to teach.

Books 

Picture Books are delightful ways of getting across meaningful messages.

Posters

Buy or download at http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/learn-as-you-go/higher-education

 

Higher Education – 12 Things you Might Not Have Learned in a Classroom

More Posters

Free Fablevision resources

 

Card Decks to inspire conversations and meaningful connection

The Virtues Cards are available from Bookaburra, Forum The Shopping Mall. They also have a children’s version.  They also have an educator’s guide and other materials for educators.

Worldview Literacy Cards

Inner Vision Deck

The Fetzer Institute Love and Forgiveness Cards

Various

Fablevision has tons of creative products on helping young people reach their true potential. I believe some can be used with adults who are young at heart. :)

 

Shopping For Good

What’s better than ethical shopping? Buying less. The earth is buckling under our heavy consumption. So before we even consider this list,  let’s ask ourselves if we really need new things. What can be mended and re-used? What can we do without? Would the person we are considering a gift for prefer an experience?  Perhaps we could donate to a cause?

If we to buy some something, my hope is that we support businesses that are doing their best to do good – whether for the planet, animals or people or all three! Some things are great inspiration for the soul but there’s not much info on how they are made. I have still listed some here. I also don’t have the capacity to check if what companies claim is true although I try to research where possible.

For those responsible for buying corporate gifts or responsible for purchasing  supplies for your office, hope this helps you too.

Beautiful picture books for adults and children

Picture books can have have profound messages for people of all ages, yet can be finished in a matter of minutes. They appeal to the child in all of us.

Woods in the Books

Bookaburra

Recommended picture books

If you are buying books not available in Singapore, check out Better World Books (FREE shipping and they donate to literacy projects around the world).

Things We Forget

Inspirational Posters 

Things We Forget  These post-it pad messages are left anonymously around Singapore.

Yes! Magazine Posters

More Posters

Card Decks

Virtues Cards – each card describes a virtue. One can pick a card a day as an inspiration. They come in three versions – for adults, for educators/young people and for families. Please call Bookaburra to check if they have them in stock.

Experiences

An art therapy session with veteran art therapist Joanna Tan.

labyrinth walk facilitated by Edwina Yeow. (For groups only at this point).

A Transformation Game experience facilitated by me (if my time permits). This is a unique tool that enables players to gain self-awareness and clarity around a specific issue of importance to them. The game can take between one to four players. Contact me at vadivu[at]joyworks.sg for more information on this or other work I do related to workplace happiness, servant leadership or character education.

Cruelty-Free Products in Singapore

To check if your product is cruelty-free, see

the Leaping Bunny list or the  Choose Cruelty-Free list.

Wide variety of eco-friendly products 

Simply Living Life Shop

Green Store

Greenviron

Healthfood/home care/personal care/natural medicine

Organic Paradise

Real Food Grocer

Brown Rice Paradise

Supernature

Taste Original

Essential Living

Sebastian Liew Centre – carries St Hildegard Medicine and more.

Vom Fass – quality oils

Personal care/facials

Bud Cosmetics

Pure Tincture

Valana Mineral Make Up ( for diverse skin tones)

List by Saferskin.org

Skincare, toiletries, vegan shoes, perfume

The Naturally Better Company

Organic Soap Nuts for laundry

The DIY Secrets

Eco-friendly detergents, baby things

I Do Care

Toys

Playhao – many beautiful wooden toys, often made in Europe. And much more.

Eco fashion

Jujube Boutique

Etrican

Zhai

Eco-friendly/organic baby things

myecobabe

organikVisne

Belle & Dean

After Organic

Ethical jewellery

Saught – Singapore-based company which makes jewellery from landmines and unexploded weapons.

Fur-free retailers, designers and brands

Carrier bags

Corn Bags by Olive Green

Bio Bags

Environment-friendly disposable tableware and packaging

Cornware

Environment-friendly furniture/finishes/flooring

Ethnicraft

Mountain Teak

d-Bodhi

Journey East – selected pieces, they also look at fair-trade practices.

Star Bamboo – bamboo flooring

Prospec Surfaces (solid timber floors are fsc certified)

Flexible Love

Green Home

Engineered wood flooring by Evorich Holdings

Valcucine – kitchen
(I have checked with a friend who’s active in environmentalism and he says to look for FSC certified wood. It’s also not perfect but the best so far. )

Speaker for iPhone

ibam2 – made from bamboo by socially disadvantaged craftsmen.  They have a video especially on its suitability as a corporate gift.

Green Printing and Paper

Green Prints

Art

Art by Singaporean artist Paper Girl – a resilient woman I met at Pasar Bella

Sculpture by Victor Tan – awe-inspiring pieces.

Paintings by Jean-Sebastian Choo (30 % of sales go to programmes for autistic individuals)

Willow Tree products – the loveliest figurines. 

Lisa Congdon art – has pieces with inspirational sayings

EXTERNAL LISTS OF MORE PRODUCTS AND GIFT SUGGESTIONS

Shop for Social

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping Guide

Concern.sg Ethical Shopping

Our Little Green Dot Eco/Organic Shops directory

Green Label products

Books and other thoughtful gift ideas from positive psychologists

 

Remembering the Heart of Medicine*

I deeply appreciate doctors and nurses who have been very kind and gone out of the way to help those I know and myself.

Some time ago, I brought an injured migrant worker to Alexandra Hospital and witnessed extraordinary care from the physician who attended to him. I sent Mr Foo Hee Jug, the CEO of the hospital a thank you note, and a book (Kitchen Table Wisdom By Dr Rachel Remen) to share with the staff.  He responded positively and had shared my letter with his staff.

Another doctor accompanied my father to another specialists’ clinic just to make sure he was fine.

At the same time, my family and I have also experienced challenges with the medical system.

A few years ago, a doctor told my mother,“Your brother is wiping out the blood from the blood bank! And the nurses are being overworked!”  My mum’s brother died. And what made the pain worse for her was the lack of humanity she had experienced through the way the doctor had communicated with her.

When my grandma had a heart attack, my mum was asking the doctor some questions.  He exclaimed to her: “Why are you fretting?!” 

Once when I visited my mum in hospital, her doctor didn’t even look me in the eye. I was the only other person in the room.

Somewhere along the way, I think some in healthcare get disconnected from the heart of medicine, which is healing. Healing is not just physical. We experience healing when someone makes a heart-to-heart connection with us.

Yet this means those in healthcare also need healing and compassion themselves.  I can empathise with how difficult it may be to be kind when they are stressed and overworked.

The role of leaders in healthcare is very important. While serving patients, they also need to look at the wellbeing of their staff – which will ultimately affect patients.

It’s not easy but we need to find a way. Because the cost is too high when those who are healers hurt us instead. We are already in a vulnerable state when we are not well; we need extra care at those times.
This has inspired me to compile some resources for the medical profession. Please share this post with anyone in healthcare.

Events in the US

The Healer’s Art and Power of Nursing Faculty Development Training.

Integrity in Health Care: The Courage to Lead in a Changing Landscape 

Movies /Videos

Soul Biographies series on Healthcare Transformation

Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care 

Video of the late Dr Richard Teo speaking of how his cancer has changed his view on success and happiness. It’s rare for us to here of such real life testimonies in Singapore. Please watch. Then connect to the resources and thoughts I’ve shared on using death awareness to live well.

Dr Rachel Naomi Remen speaking to women doctors

Dr Rachel Naomi Remen’s campaign to “rediscover the practice of medicine as a spiritual endeavor”. – 7 minutes.

Dr Rachel Naomi Remen on Generous Listening in healthcare

Listen to a podcast of a patient and a special doctor. 

Radio Show with Dr Rachel Naomi Remen

Dr Marty Makary’s trailer on his book “Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care”

8 films Medical Students Should See

The Cinema in the Teaching of Ethics: Palliative Care and Bioethics

Websites/Organisations

The Heart Of Medicine – physician-only wellbeing site

Dr Rachel Naomi Remen is both a physician and patient who has Crohn’s disease.

The Institute for the Study of Health and Illness provides “education and support programs for health professionals who practice a medicine of service, human connection and compassionate healing”.

Commonweal is a nonprofit health and environmental research. Check out their programme, “Health Care Without Harm”

Center for Courage and Renewal has a special healthcare programme.

Whole Health Medicine Institute has a physician training programme.

University of Minnesota: Centre for Spirituality & Healing

Sustaining Compassion in Health Care

Key in “doctors” into the search engine of http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/ for various articles.

Key in “healthcare” into the search engine of http://noetic.org  for various articles and audio recordings.

Appreciative Medicine by Dr Tel Franklin

Benefits of Labyrinths in Healthcare Settings. See my interview with a labyrinth facilitator in Singapore.

Poems by Doctors and Nurses

Vision

Empathy, the Real Measure of a Doctor by Singapore-based Dr Jeremy Lim

A Vision to Heal Healthcare by Dr Lissa Rankin

Blog by Paul Levy, former CEO of a Boston Hospital on patient-driven care (many links)

Articles by Theresa Brown, RN and author of “Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between”

Books

Healers on Healing by Richard Carlson, Benjamin Shield, Bruce Joy

Mind Over Medicine by Dr Lissa Rankin

Humanizing Health Care – Creating Cultures of Compassion in Health Care with Nonviolent Communication
by Melanie Sears, RN, MBA

Kitchen Table Wisdom – Stories that Heal by Dr Rachel Naomi Remen –

The Wheel of Life by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross – Memoir of an expert in death and dying. The book has examples of how she transformed healthcare systems through how much dignity and compassion she showed patients.

Love, Medicine and Miracles – Lessons learned about self-healing from a surgeon’s experience with exceptional patients by Dr Bernie S. Siegel

Deep Medicine – Harnessing the source of your healing Power by Dr William B.Stewart

Scrubs: The Nurses’ Guide to Good Living

Apps

Code Happy App for Nurses

My hope is also that the medical system is better integrated with alternative healthcare systems. There’s alot that natural and holistic methods of healing can do. Cooperation between the allopathic and alternative healthcare systems would benefit patients alot.

If I can be of support to help healthcare be more healing for patients, as well as healthcare staff,  please contact me at vadivu[at]joyworks.sg. It’s an issue close to my heart. I am looking for kindred spirits to connect with on this issue.

*”The title of this post is borrowed from an online community Dr Rachel Naomi Remen has started for doctors.

Inspiration to Help You Find Your Calling

Learn about your strengths, as a first step to discovering your Calling.

My article, “Are you being Called?” in Challenge Online, especially for those who may not leave their jobs but still want greater meaning in their work.

Here’s a short video clip of a Singaporean who found his Calling.

Watch this inspiring and short video of someone who expresses who he is even in what we’d call a “mundane’ job: The Simple Truth of Service

Movies to Help You Find Your Calling (Scroll down the page)

Read The North Star by Peter Reynolds online.

Read An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton online.

Read Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus.

Read Whistle While You Work by Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro.

Read Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy

Read autobiographies of people whose Calling inspires you. Here’s one I recommend: The Wheel of Life by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Get up close with people who have found their Calling and ask questions! :)

If you’d like me to run workshops on discovering your Calling for your community or friends, please contact me at vadivu[at]joyworks.sg.

Related – Resources: Courage, Discover Your Strengths

Resources: Courage

We need courage to move towards greatness in life. And often we are pulled back from stepping forward by our beliefs, fear, others’ expectations of us etc.  So if there’s something that’s very important that we want to do for the greater good, we need support to develop courage. Here are some resources to help do that:

Daily actions to develop courage (and other strengths)

Movies to help develop courage (and other strengths)

Watch Pixar animation, Brave.

Read “The Courage Quotient” by Dr Robert Biswas-Diener

And do get at least a friend or two to support you to take courageous steps forward.

Relationship and Parenting Resources

Dating

Katherine Woodward Jones’ book, “Calling in the One” is also a programme.

Couples

Check out the Vissells’ articles and book, “The Heart’s Wisdom”.

Basha Kaplan and Gail Prince – “Soul-Dating to Soul-Mating”. Basha and her husband, Jeff  also offer counselling. (Phone counselling available.)

Conflict to Connection dvd

Fetzer Institute does alot of work on love and forgiveness.

A friend recommends an Imago workshop or therapist for couples who are ready to give up. Details of Singapore-based IMAGO therapist are on the site.

Couples/Parenting
Relationship & Family Resources by the Greater Good Science Centre