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Prayer labyrinth draws faithful

POSTED: October 11, 2010 4:50 p.m.
Photo by Seraine Page/

Sherry Somerville prays Friday on the Fraser Counseling Center's prayer labyrinth. As a labyrinth facilitator, she helps visitors who are unfamiliar with the spiritual journey.

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A prayer labyrinth drew a stream of area residents seeking solitude, strength and encouragement to the Fraser Counseling Center on Friday.
The labyrinth, which was open to the public, is a path of prayer intended to help those who walk it become more aware of the spiritual presence in their lives. As participants follow the inward path, it is supposed to provide an opportunity to release stress and concerns in order to make room for enlightenment.
Visitors to the center were greeted by a sign that instructed participants to remove their shoes because the labyrinth is considered sacred ground. Before walking into the center’s education room for a moment of prayer, visitors signed in.
In the darkened room, walkers chose marble heart-shaped stones, which they carried into the labyrinth and used during meditation at various points.
Participants ended their journeys at the center of the labyrinth, called “the heart of God,” where they dropped the stones into a small bowl. After completing the maze, many pulled tissues from a nearby box and dabbed at tears.
Labyrinth facilitator Sherry Somerville said some people walk quickly through the canvas labyrinth while others stroll slowly, pausing, rubbing their stones and stopping every so often to pray. She’s seen people smile, laugh, cry and sob while walking barefoot across the prayer ground.
“It is such a personal thing,” Somerville said. “Every time I walk, I experience a different feeling.”
As a facilitator, she guides those who are unfamiliar with the procedure and prays for those who seek peace, joy and encouragement, she said.
The Fraser Center’s labyrinth, which is 36 feet in diameter, is marked with large, green sinuous lines that cover most of the room, allowing several people to use it at one time. Some opted to walk with others from the community.
Somerville said she first used the spiritual walk as a healing tool for the grief and recovery classes she started teaching at the center in 2008.
“I find it to be a wonderful tool for prayer,” she said. “For me, personally, it is like walking through the garden with God.”
Her classes’ responses were so positive that she decided to open the labyrinth up to the public, offering the same healing process to those who don’t use the Fraser Center’s counseling services.
“We’ve had a variety of people use it,” Somerville said. “We’ve had children on it. There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth.”
Mary Caraballo, the center’s office manager, took a few moments after work to walk the labyrinth. She slipped off her shoes, silently entered the dim room and grasped a heart-shaped stone to take on her prayer journey.
Soft piano music and bell chimes filtered through the space as the office manager took her first step onto the canvas maze. After 20 minutes of prayer, Caraballo appeared calmer. She hugged Somerville as she stepped off the labyrinth.
Caraballo, who has walked the sacred ground four times, said she prays every day, but the prayer labyrinth experience is totally different.
“You can focus, there are no distractions,” she said. “It’s a more peaceful place.”
During her walk, she said, her emotions range from hurt to peace and healing, leaving her in tears at times.
Caraballo thinks the labyrinth doesn’t draw big crowds because not many people know about it, but she said she was excited to see more people visit the maze.
The labyrinth should be open once a month for visitors starting in January.
Caraballo can’t wait.
“I’m just glad we have this opportunity here,” she said. “It’s a blessing.”
 

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