A path to serenity: University of Alabama's nursing school installs meditation labyrinth

·3 min read
The University of Alabama School of Nursing has a labyrinth outside to encourage times of meditation. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]
The University of Alabama School of Nursing has a labyrinth outside to encourage times of meditation. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Feeling stressed out because of the holidays? The University of Alabama has something that can help relieve the tension right now or any other time of the year.

UA's Capstone College of Nursing has an outdoor meditation labyrinth, right across from DCH Regional Medical Center off University Boulevard.

The meditation labyrinth is a circular walking path made of bricks. Labyrinths like the one outside the nursing school have been used for thousands of years as a way for people to meditate, reflect and refresh.

UA's meditation labyrinth was designed for nursing school faculty, staff and students, but the walking path is also open to anyone who needs to relieve stress and unwind.

"Our hope is that many will find it a place for quiet reflection, remembrance and refreshment,” said Linda Olivet, a professor emeritus at UA whose career in nursing has spanned more than three decades.

Funding for the naming of the labyrinth was made possible by a contribution from Olivet and her husband, Dr. Ronald "Terry" Olivet, a retired cardiovascular surgeon. Both are UA graduates.

According to UA, Linda Olivet said her first encounter with a meditation labyrinth occurred after the April 27, 2011, tornado, which killed 53 people and destroyed an estimated 12% of the city of Tuscaloosa. Linda Olivet served as a volunteer registered nurse for the the Red Cross and helped families who were displaced after the tornado hit.

The University of Alabama School of Nursing has a labyrinth outside to encourage times of meditation. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]
The University of Alabama School of Nursing has a labyrinth outside to encourage times of meditation. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

"About a year later, I did a silent retreat at the monastery in Cullman. A feature on the grounds is a meditation labyrinth, which I walked on several occasions. It was a powerful experience of reflection and encouragement," Linda Olivet said.

When UA wanted a quiet, calming outdoor space for respite and meditation as part of an expansion at its school of nursing, plans for the labyrinth fell into place.

In January, the college unveiled the labyrinth in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Capstone College of Nursing's new $14 million, 32,000-square-foot expansion.

The new wing added classroom space, along with other amenities for nursing school students, such as food service, an outdoor terrace and the labyrinth.

A plaque has been placed alongside the labyrinth to honor the late Marilyn K. Mitchell, who was one of Linda Olivet's former nursing students at UA. The labyrinth also serves as a memorial to other students, faculty, staff and alumni who have died and to celebrate the lives of those who answer the call to care for those in need.

The plaque also has a guide for using the meditation labyrinth:

• Reflect: Take time before you enter to be grateful for your life and for positive influences. If you enter to address a troubling situation, bring that to mind and formulate a question to move you toward healing.

• Release: Begin your walk at the entrance and proceed along the path. Become aware of your breathing. Let go of anxious thoughts and release tension. If you encounter others on your path, simply allow them to pass as you remain at your comfortable pace.

• Receive: Once you have reached the center, open your heart and your mind. It is common to pause for inner reflection or to reach out to a higher power.

• Return: When ready, turn around, and walk the path back out. While walking out the same path you followed in, allow yourself to experience a sense of healing, peace or well-being.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: University of Alabama's meditation labyrinth offers path to serenity

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