May 14, 2010 Labyrinth as Sanctuary with Elise Benoît

Once again, Vanessa and I set the stage, lit the candles and opened the doors to the public to come and walk the labyrinth. This labyrinth walk was with Elise Benoît, music therapist and vocalist who brought her crystal singing bowls.

I have for a long time wanted to incorporate the use of voice by participants while walking the labyrinth. Very early on during my first labyrinth walk at the Cathedral we used a simple Haleluia chorus and my experience was of further connecting to the experience and my body. In fact I found it opened up more interior space in my mind by busying yet another part of myself. Odd how that works. Elise gave a brief introduction to using the voice and suggested we direct the voice to the inside of ourselves as opposed to projecting outward.  Those of us who are not trained singers are mostly very tentative, at least at the beginning, and this was true of the group assembled this evening. We have been offering labyrinth walks all winter long and now that it is spring we have much higher light levels than we were used to all winter. The candles around the labyrinth were lit but did not contribute much of a presence. The room was fairly bright and I think that did not help with feelings of self consciousness.

The crystal bowls opened with slow and gentle sounds and as the participants entered the labyrinth a soft hum could be heard in harmonious relation to the tones of the bowls. By the time there were fifteen or so people in the labyrinth the room had somehow changed. I don’t have words or language to describe how things had changed but it was  different from where we had begun. My own experience with the sound was quite palpable. It was in no way subtle but it was gentle and natural. I felt my voice coming in waves that matched the waves of sound from the crystal bowls as if in slow motion. Elise had mentioned something about how our bodies where composed of 70% water and how water responds very well to the movement of sound waves. Perhaps that was what I was feeling. I did notice one woman stop and move her arms in front of her in the pattern I was feeling. Was it the same for her?

As the labyrinth emptied and the sound dissipated, the room settled and I don’t think we were quite the same as when the evening began. But how were we different?

I had spoken with Elise earlier in the day about how intention played into the offering of her music and what she was able to create through her efforts. Our collective intention in offering the labyrinth to the community is to create moments of peaceful reflection. I do believe we were able as a group to create that for all who participated.

As we gathered at the end of the evening for “Contagious Conversation” everyone seemed so relaxed and in no hurry to leave. While we looked at the various drawings that participants had created I asked, in their experience, does sound heal? The response was a resounding yes. The stories that followed were moving and personal.

In all it was a most satisfying evening and we are grateful to Elise for her generosity in providing a graceful musical setting.

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