A project believed to be the first of its kind in Palm Springs will soon be completed off Racquet Club Road, but don’t let its description fool you. A labyrinth in the making is not a giant hedge maze like the one from The Shining. Instead, it will be a place for meditation and contemplation.
The only maze to figure out is the one within yourself.
“To walk a labyrinth is to take a journey of the mind, body, and spirit.” Those are the words of Peter Bedard, the man spearheading the labyrinth project for the Center for Spiritual Living (CSL). He is a practitioner at the CSL and describes himself as an author, teacher, and hypnotherapist.
Bedard conceived the labyrinth after constructing one of his own in his front yard. He describes a sentiment most can relate to since the pandemic began: “I was feeling disjointed and antsy to explore.”
When he took a step back, Bedard realized he wouldn’t solve his feeling of restlessness with a vacation. “My anxiety told me that I needed to go on an inner journey for it to heal,” he said. “My desire to heal this anxiousness in me evolved into a spiritual gardening project.”
The labyrinth is about three feet wide, and Bedard estimates it meanders about 600 feet. It’s under construction in front of the CSL building, right off a busy road. That may not seem like the most obvious location for a moment of quiet meditation, but Bedard says that’s the point.
“I’ve met people who learned how to meditate on a tranquil retreat in another country. But once they left that bubble, they didn’t know how to meditate in the real world. The real world will never be perfectly silent, and that’s part of meditation; learning to acknowledge the distractions.”
It wasn’t hard to convince the Center for Spiritual Living to start the project. Bedard says, “They had been thinking about putting one in for some time. We call it a Peace Labyrinth.”
The project is nearing completion after eight people spent three hours finishing most of the path. While figuring out the route, Bedard said he slipped into a meditative state to determine which direction to go. He then mapped out the original way by shuffling in his tennis shoes to mark the path.
When complete, it will be a unicursal labyrinth — one way in and one way out. You won’t need Ariadne’s String to retrace your steps.
Bedard notes that labyrinths as a symbol have been seen in cultures worldwide. He posits there might be something innate to humans that makes us want to wander in place.
Some of the giant Nazca Lines in Peru are labyrinths. They have been seen in carvings in India dating back to 250 BC. The Tohono Oʼodham Native Americans of the Sonoran Desert represented labyrinths in petroglyphs and basketry. Some Christians also use labyrinths to meditate and pray.
“It is a journey in one place. You take a meditative pilgrimage into a sacred moment built from nature,” Bedard adds.
The internal journey begins before you enter the labyrinth. Bedard suggests setting an intention or thinking about a problem you want to work through on your walk. “I think about something I’m holding onto, something I’m struggling with,” said Bedard.
During a tour of the project, Bedard narrates the start of the labyrinth: “As we enter, you first encounter a little hill. You can see the whole labyrinth, but it looks like you still have a long way to go, and you don’t know how to get there. As you descend, you lose sight of the endpoint.”
Each step along the way is meticulously planned and steeped in meaning. Bedard has a reason for every rise, twist, and turn. The meandering path works with the land, skirting trees and bushes already there.
The labyrinth is all organic lines. That’s what makes it different from other local labyrinths, such as those found at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage or St. Francis of Assisi Church in La Quinta.
“I didn’t want the labyrinth to impede on the natural terrain,” Bedard explained. “It felt wrong to impose right angles and too much structure to the landscape.”
A fork in the road about halfway through leads to a bench.
“This is where we’re putting in four peace poles,” said explains. “It’s a place to rest, and people can interact with them and affix notes, pictures, prayers, anything, onto the poles. It takes the process out of your head and makes it tangible.”
Finally, the wanderer reaches the end. They encounter another bench, shrouded in the shade of a large Carob tree.
“Here at the end, you pause,” he says. “Your time here is about letting go of whatever you’re holding onto. When you feel like you’ve fully surrendered, then it’s time to go back out.”
As you retrace your steps, Bedard suggests revisiting the intention you set at the beginning, “What conclusions did I come to? How am I different? Who am I when I’m no longer carrying so much?”
If it all seems a little too New Age, hang on. Even if you don’t subscribe to the spiritual reasoning behind the labyrinth, there’s a lot of evidence showing the benefits of walking and mindfulness. Moving the body and practicing meditation can improve mood and mental health. Simply putting down the phone, getting outside, and taking a short walk can do wonders.