Millsboro labyrinth offers outlet for meditation, prayer in crisis

The labyrinth at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Millsboro is one of several such meditation/prayer venues in the area. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

MILLSBORO — Prayer and meditation are some ways people cope with crisis.

That certainly is the world today.

Protective masks, school closures, restrictions on travel, business and large gatherings, and stay-at-home orders and social distancing practice are the norm amid stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown in everyday life magnified during the coronavirus crisis.

In the heart of Millsboro, it all comes full circle.

On the grounds of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on State Street is its labyrinth, which offers a circular outlet for prayer, meditation and a temporary escape from reality.

“It always gets me out of the real world,” said longtime St. Mark’s congregation member and Millsboro resident Dotty Lecates. “It has different meanings for everybody. I look at the labyrinth as a prayer circle. And this world sure is in need of prayer.”

The meditation labyrinth is one of the oldest contemplative, transformational tools known, having been utilized for many hundreds of years for prayer, ritual, initiation and spiritual growth. It is not a maze.

Dotty Lecates

“It is thousands of years old. Those drawings were found on the walls of cavemen. It’s fashioned in many, many other cultures in other continents in this world,” said Ms. Lecates. “So, it’s not new. It’s just taking the time to slow down and pay attention to who we are, where we are and what we really need.”

Millsboro resident Kathy Salamone, who moved to the area 3 1/2 years ago from northern New Jersey with her husband (who is now deceased), frequents the St. Mark’s labyrinth.

She discovered the labyrinth when she and her husband first moved down here. “And I thought, ‘Well, isn’t this a neat place, here in the middle of Millsboro?’” Ms. Salamone said. “I went there to take photos; I am kind of an amateur photographer. I thought, here is a labyrinth that needs to be walked. It is inviting me. Every so often I would find myself in town doing errands and I figured, ‘Let me take a walk.’”

“More recently with everything so topsy-turvy, I started to go over there, just to kind of get some peace of mind, and also have the opportunity to be in touch with friends and relatives,” said Ms. Salamone. “I think that has become paramount with so many people. They just want to either email, text, Zoom or just talk on the phone with relatives. I found that there were times there when it so quiet it was easy for me to do that. I either say random prayers or a bring my rosary with me. I grew up in a Catholic school.”

The labyrinth at St. Mark’s, built in several months’ time in 2006 just in time for America’s Independence Day celebration, is open all the time to anyone, of any race, creed, religion or whatever.

“The labyrinth itself was built by the people for the people in the community. It’s free. It’s there for anybody to use. You don’t have to be one denomination or another,” said Ms. Lecates. “I like to think it brings us closer to just following the process, slowing down. I think it brings us closer to our Creator. Native American (culture) has a medicine wheel and it is fashioned after the four colors. Our labyrinth is fashioned after the four cultures: white, black, yellow, red.”

Ms. Salamone hopes more people consider visiting labyrinths, or similar venues.

Millsboro resident Kathy Salamone stands in the labyrinth at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, which she has visited frequently more often during the coronavirus crisis. Submitted photo/Kathy Salamone

“I saw no one there and I thought somebody should know about this, especially now if people are home and not getting enough walking and fresh air,” she said. “It also, for me, gave me time to kind of decompress a bit and not worry so much. So, maybe there should be heightened awareness of this place and there may be plenty of other places that people could go and kind of think about what we are facing right now, and things that are important to us.”

The St. Mark’s concrete labyrinth measures 50 feet in diameter with 11 circuits, or paths. It is not alone in Delaware.

“I think there are six or eight now that have sprung off the labyrinth as a spiritual tool from right here in Millsboro. I know of at least six to eight others that have come, visited, gone home and done their own,” Ms. Lecates said.

St. Peters Episcopal Church in Lewes has a 7-circuit labyrinth, featuring dirt paths bordered by stones.

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Rehoboth Beach has a five-circuit labyrinth.

According to the Worldwide Labyrinth locator — www.labyrinthlocator.com — the website lists 19 labyrinths in the First State, including others at: Wesley United Methodist Church in Dover; June Schamp, Skin & Body Care, Dover; Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, Georgetown; Abounding Grace healing ministry, Milford; and Lavender Fields at Warrington Manor in Milton.

The Lavender Fields’ labyrinth, with 11 circuits and 42 feet in diameter, is an exact duplicate of the Labyrinth embedded in the floor of the Cathedral of Chartres near Paris, France. However, due to the COVID-19 emergency, Lavender Fields cottage store is currently closed.

“And several hospitals have put in labyrinths for the doctors … to take a break,” said Ms. Lecates.

The welcome to “Walk the Labyrinth” is the sign of the times at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Millsboro. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore is one, and Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin is another, she said.

These days, the labyrinth and similar venues offer solitude, a break from the constant news bombardment on the coronavirus, its updated spread, number of cases and growing fatality count.

“I watch MSNBC and it has just been constant reporting on the virus,” said Ms. Salamone. “I took a little break last Sunday from the news. Sunday morning, I woke up and I thought, ‘I’ve got to give myself a rest. My spirit and my heart just need a rest from this.’”

She didn’t tour the labyrinth but instead tuned to a classical music station.

“It just felt so good not to hear voices talking about this, just letting my spirit just kind go somewhere else,” said Ms. Salamone. “This is kind of wearing on me and I think on a lot of people. For me right now I just need to find those places where I can have some moments of solitude.”

Ms. Lecates explained her take on the spiritual journey in the labyrinth.

“I usually look at it as R-R-R,” said Ms. Lecates. “You start to the left and you follow that circuit. You can stop anywhere. Some people look at the milestones in their life, or the problems they are carrying with them or whatever. But you follow that to the left around into the circle. When you get to the center, as you walk you are actually releasing and letting go.

“When you get to the center of the labyrinth, there are seven circles there. That happened by chance, but it also represents the seven days of the week, the seven days of creation. For some it’s the seven sacraments of the church. It has a different meaning for whatever comes to you when you ‘receive’ in the center of that circle.

When you stand there you just relax, let go and ‘receive,” Ms. Lecates continued. “When you go to leave — some people walk, skip jump, children like to run around it and that’s fine too — but when you walk back out you return to the real world. You ‘return’ after you have let go and you have received. So, it’s ‘release, receive, return.’”

Ms. Lecates said some people carry a candle when they walk it. Others carry a prayer book, some chant and Native Americans do a little dance. “It has different meanings for everybody,” she said.

Widowed, Ms. Salamone tries to keep in touch via social media with her three children and five grandchildren, who are scattered about in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. But physically, she is by herself.

“I hate to sound corny but that is kind of what has happened with me. I miss my husband so much. And he would be helping get through this,” said Ms. Salamone, whose anxiety heightened last week with a consultation with her cardiologist. “He said you better just lay low and do as little as possible. Bearing that in mind I thought maybe I should be doing some praying. I’m just waiting for the day when we can all jump for joy. I think we all need that, that sense of being unburdened.

“And if I were to say something, you cannot continue to live in fear. We cannot live in fear,” said Ms. Lecates. “This world has got a lot of disease, but it’s got an awful lot of hope and we can fill ourselves with that. And we can be very positive because. There are good things happening.”

Let your fingers do the walking

For folks who may not wish to physically journey through the Millsboro labyrinth, Ms. Lecates offers a ‘Let your fingers do the walking’ alternative, anytime, anyplace.

On 8 ½- by 11-inch copy paper, she provides take-home copies of the labyrinth, available in a folder box at the entrance to the St. Mark’s labyrinth. When church is in session — church gatherings are currently banned under Gov. Carney’s state of emergency — it is also on the back of church service bulletins.

Let your fingers do the walking around the labyrinth on 8 1/2 by 11-inch copies of the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church labyrinth. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

“You can take that little paper labyrinth home and do the same thing with your finger, slowing the mind down. It is a process that you can do at home,” said Ms. Lecates. “The prayer circle itself was for unity and meditation, whether we walk it in a circle, dance it, or whatever. And you still can do it right at home on a piece of drawing paper.

“I try to keep that little box over on that labyrinth filled with paper labyrinths, and usually a word for the day. I try to put something relevant from the Word, on that labyrinth for people to take home with them.”


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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