Students find gratitude and forgiveness on Memorial Chapel’s labyrinth path

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The labyrinth in the Garden of Reflection and Remembrance at the University of Maryland, College Park on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.

By Kelly Zheng

The University of Maryland Memorial Chapel has hosted three Gratitude and Forgiveness Labyrinth Walks this year to show that people have the choice to take in positivity and let go of negativity. The most recent walk took place Oct. 6.

These routine walks offer a chance for students to learn how to show gratitude and practice forgiveness — something many have a hard time doing.

Edie Anderson, a smoking cessation counselor and meditation instructor at the University Health Center, led the walk. She encouraged participants to use the time to find their inner peace through accepting themselves, being thankful and letting go of hatred.

“We’re in control of our minds, and it’s really about trusting yourself,” said Anderson, adding that a strong connection exists between one’s mind and body. “We need to refocus our minds to be the best person we can be.”

After forming a circle, students inhaled and exhaled through a brief deep-breathing meditation exercise. To properly meditate, Anderson emphasized the importance of keeping good posture and performing basic yoga poses to fully relax the body.

“It will not be easy, but stick with it,” Anderson said. “Feel your body and listen to it.”

Following the meditation, participants were told to choose a stone from a basket, and hold onto it while walking through the Chapel’s labyrinth. The stone represented the collected burden and stress they had each obtained. The labyrinth represented a new, refreshing space for self-reflection, according to Anderson.

Sophomore studio art major Maiu Romano-Verthelyi shared that for her, the experience was mainly about forgiveness, and that while she trusts herself, she often finds it hard to trust others.

“You might think someone is a good person, but they end up treating you badly for no reason,” Romano-Verthelyi said. “It takes a lot to forgive, but knowing you have other people who care about you helps.”

As they reached the center of the maze, participants dropped their stones onto the ground, symbolic of appreciating something and still being able to let it go.

“I think [inner peace] is more of a process where one day you can feel like you’ve found it, but it comes and goes, depending on where you’re at and what’s going on around you,”  junior studio art major Lauren Kershenbaum said.

Kershenbaum said Anderson’s voice relaxed her, and that holding onto the stone “really helped” her.

“During the walk, I thought about things that I needed to let go of, and I felt the stone get heavier in my hand,” Kershenbaum said. “So when I let go, I felt lighter.”

According to Memorial Chapel Manager Denise McHugh, practicing gratitude and forgiveness gradually each day is a good step toward reaching happiness.

“It takes baby steps,” McHugh said. “Start by thinking about the little things that make you happy and be grateful. Don’t let the small stuff stress you out.”

 

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