For those who, like me, like to meditate and ponder, or simply do something different on a peaceful afternoon, a walk through the new UCSB Labyrinth promises to be a soothing experience.
Located on an island between the UCSB Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean, the labyrinth offers an incomparable venue for locals to steal some time from their busy schedules and get lost in their thoughts.
Getting to the labyrinth is easy. From Santa Barbara, just take the US 101 north to State Route 217. Take 217 to UCSB. Exit the roundabout on Campus Road toward the ocean. Continue until you find Lot 6 on your left, buy a parking pass, and park. Walk down toward the ocean, and up to the other side of the lagoon. You got it!
What is a labyrinth exactly? Contrary to popular belief, it is not the same thing as a maze. A maze is like a puzzle waiting to be solved. As soon as we are in, we need to figure out which way to turn in order to find our way out, always trying to avoid the dead ends. A labyrinth’s path, however, allows us to flow in and out without having to think about it.
Before entering the labyrinth we need only take a few moments to think about what’s worrying us. After that, we should clear our mind, and let it go wherever it may as we walk the path. It is said that in this way we can gain great insight into our concerns.
The path is continuous and has only one entrance, which serves as the exit once the path is completed. It is believed that it represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation tools. It is a metaphor for one’s life journey. It is an ancient symbol that creates a sacred space and place, and takes us out of our ego to what’s within. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering yet purposeful path.
The earliest depictions of labyrinths were found in coins from as early as 430 BC, and the first known labyrinths were the Cretan, the Egyptian, the Lemnian, and the Italian.
The UCSB labyrinth is not the only one around. There are a few others on the Central Coast and the surrounding areas. The closest one is found at the Trinity Episcopal Church, on Micheltorena and State Street, in Santa Barbara. To the south, we can find a labyrinth in Newbury Park, at the Borchard Community Park, on Reino Road. Another one is located about one and a half hours north of Santa Barbara in Avila Beach, just across the street from Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort. And let us not forget the one in San Francisco, at the majestic Grace Cathedral.
Labyrinths’ peacefulness and inspiration is intriguing. This is probably the reason why some of the world’s most famous writers, like Octavio Paz in his Labyrinth of Solitude, a book of essays, and Jorge Luis Borges in his fascinating story “The Garden of Forking Paths” have been touched by their magic. Maybe you will be, too.