25th Annual Ashland Sacred Walk for New Years

ASHLAND, Ore.- It’s a new year and people everywhere are looking for the best way to step forward. Some are finding it at the Ashland Sacred Labyrinth Walk.

Ashland First United Methodist Church held the 25th Ashland Sacred Walk from New Year’s Eve until New Year’s Day this holiday weekend. The current leader of the Labyrinth, Elizabeth Austin, says the tradition started long before her leadership.

The pattern that we use in this Labyrinth walk was laid in the floor of the Cathedral of Chartres, France in 1215,” Austin told NBC5.

Austin says the labyrinth was created as an alternative to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which was dangerous and long. Over time, Austin says the Labyrinth transitioned away from a specific religion and more towards a sense of consciousness and community.

Right now, there are hundreds of labyrinths on the planet, thousands, I think,” Austin said, “and there’s this community that continues to grow”.

Austin started the New Years labyrinth walk in Ashland back in 1999. She wanted to find a way to connect her community and discovered that the labyrinth brought people together.

“It has grown in this organic way of people wanting to participate and bring their own skills and talents and being together,” she said.

Participants in the walk who have been coming for many years say the labyrinth does something unique for every person.

“It’s slowing down and being quiet, and being aware of other people, so you’re in this together,” Helga Motley told NBC5, “It’s an interesting pattern because you get surprised. ‘Oh, suddenly, oh I’m out'”.

“It really is a meditation, you just never know what you’re going to get in meditation, and so, you just walk it and all these amazing messages just come to you,” Cassandra Wass said.

Austin says when people walk the labyrinth, it gives them the opportunity to reflect and recognize what’s most important to them.

You know, what’s important to you and think deeply… it’s about thinking more deeply… about life and our contribution to life,” Austin said.

This year is Austin’s last year leading the labyrinth. She’s passing it onto Cassandra Wass, who has been attending the labyrinth walk for the last 17 years. They both say the labyrinth isn’t leaving Ashland anytime soon and people are invited to come back next New Years.

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NBC5 News Reporter Lauren Pretto grew up in Livermore, California and attended University of California, Santa Cruz, graduating with a double major in Film/Digital Media and Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing. Lauren is a lover of books, especially Agatha Christie and Gothic novels. When her nose isn't buried in a book, she knits, bakes, and writes.
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