Kathleen Pilus joined the Veriditas Board of Directors in January 2016
Veriditas Board Member, Christine Katzenmeyer, envisioned the idea of Legacy Labyrinths as labyrinths built around the world, specifically dedicated to healing and peace for families or communities. All Legacy Labyrinths are linked together by incorporating elements from other Legacy Labyrinths. Each Legacy Labyrinth is opened with an intentional, customized dedication.
Below is a short introductory video with more information:
Look for updates from existing Legacy Labyrinths in the coming months.
by Chris Farrow-Noble, Council Member
This month we honor Ellen Bintz Meuch, the founder and continuing creator of the Global Healing Response (GHR), keynote speaker at the 2015 The Labyrinth Society (TLS) gathering on “Collective Consciousness; Collective Healing,” and a founding Council member.
Did you find the labyrinth or did it find you?
Without question, it found me. My minister had brought a canvas labyrinth from Robert Ferre for use after Taize services and asked if I would do some research to learn how to educate other people about the labyrinth. So I was introduced to the labyrinth and dropped into an opportunity to offer it to others. I had been volunteering in our county jail at the time, and when I learned about the labyrinth, I thought it would be a great tool for the inmates.
How did you encounter Veriditas?
With that initial research, I learned about Veriditas, Lauren Artress, and her book Walking A Sacred Path, which I read immediately. The superiors in the jail explained that if I got my certification as a facilitator, I would be able to work with both male and female inmates. In June 2001, I completed my facilitator training at Grace Cathedral. By this time I had already had experience working with the inmates on the labyrinth, which had given me a strong base of understanding. The training helped me learn great ways to do something new or to improve something that I was already doing. We incorporated the labyrinth into the inmate program from 2001 to 2006. Then, the program was ended without any explanation, only with the words, “We’re not going to do that anymore.”
Yet you’ve continued your connection with the jails in some capacity?
Yes, I still felt a commitment to the prison community and became the point person for Veriditas to help others get the labyrinth into jails and prisons. I believed that I could help facilitators cut down on their mistakes through my experience. I had learned that knowing how to comport yourself is KEY to working with those who are incarcerated. An Arizona judge whom I thought was being unduly cynical had told me, “You’re going to be successful, then the program will end.” I had been alerted to this likelihood and was able to move forward in spite of this setback. I could pass on the value of creating a packet of materials for the inmates to keep, including paper and color. They seldom were given something of their own to keep.
How did you meet Mary and how did the labyrinth influence her?
Around the same time that I trained at Grace in 2001, I met Mary in the jail, and she walked the labyrinth twice. She credits it with changing her life as she committed herself to getting her GED, her associates degree, and medical help. Then on April 12, 2012, her son Eric was murdered. Four months later, on August 12th, through the auspices of our newly created organization “Sacred Ground,” we had the vigil and labyrinth walk in Eric’s honor. Sacred Ground has become an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization in the Grand Crossing neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. Mary is now working to forgive the still-unidentified person who killed her son.
What was the origin and arc of the Global Healing Response (GHR)?
Only three months after I was trained in June 2001, the horrific 9/11 occurred. We were aware that people primarily responded to this tragedy in individual ways without any united effort or offering as a labyrinth community. I felt that we missed this opportunity to release anxiety and fear and promote peace. Through my work in secure facilities, I had learned from officers how to accomplish these specific goals. I first thought we would start as a National Healing Response, limited to the United States. At our first Council meeting, we imagined that labyrinth facilitators would identify themselves as participants in this healing response and inform others of available labyrinth walks. We would act in a way similar to first responders and offer the labyrinth for those in need.
One day I woke up and knew it was the day to send out the announcement of this program. Two weeks later on Tuesday, August 29th, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. It was the first implementation of our project. We learned two important things: One, it’s important not to involve people who are directly affected by the event, and, Two, the response doesn’t have to be immediately after the event. We learned the plan could be simple yet still profound. We would send out the informational flyer for a labyrinth event, and people could plug in specific information.
In the beginning we responded event by event and provided materials and a prayer. Later Jo Ann Mast, another founding member of the Council, had the idea of laying a base of intention and then layering the events on top of that. We added the unifying prayer and created the Global Healing Resources Quarterly in 2007.
A favorite part of my work with GHR is helping other facilitators get their feet underneath them. The GHR can help them feel that they have the necessary, creative resources easily accessible for intentional labyrinth walks. (globalhealingresponse.com)
Do you have a vision of a new offering to the labyrinth community?
Yes, I do, and I believe it is a direct extension of my work with GHR. I am now deeply exploring the concepts of Collective Consciousness; Collective Healing. John Haeglin, Phd. has written about this in an article entitled, ‘The Power of the Collective,” and Lauren and I offered a Webinar on the GHR and the Unified Field of Quantum Physics. This scientific experiment was based on the premise that a certain number of meditators in a specific area for a certain period of time could reduce the level of violence and crime through their collective energy. This was shown in Washington, DC in 1993 where violence was high. Crime was reduced 25%. In quantum physics, it was determined that the necessary number of meditators was equal to the square root of 1% of a population; this collective energy is enough to have a measurable effect.
When I heard about this, I had a strong sense that the labyrinth community was in the perfect position to facilitate this impact. We have the international community of facilitators who could be instrumental with a unified energetic intention. In addition, the leaders at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), where Veriditas offices are located, are deeply involved in this effort. I believe this is more than coincidence. Science is proving the effectiveness of this concept. Peace leaders and peace visionaries are in place to work together. As Annie Kirkwood said, “Peace on earth lies only in the hearts of peaceful men, women and children.” Albert Einstein voiced it in another way, “We are all connected.”
Can you share a profound experience in your work with the labyrinth?
The one that comes to mind was the first time I offered the labyrinth to the men in jail. My friend Sarah had helped me set it up on the very large gym floor. We would be there with 20 male inmates; there were no windows, but we had a call button if we needed assistance. I felt ready with my favorite music, and I certainly wanted it to go well. When we finally got inside, we discovered there was no electrical outlet. Therefore, no music. I didn’t know how it would go, and I didn’t think we would get much processing at the end.
I was completely surprised when the men spoke about the incredible experiences and revelations they had had on the labyrinth. Some cried – tears came. One man said, “The silence. I was so grateful for the silence. We don’t ever get silence here.” I realized I had been so intensely afraid of the absence of music. I learned, once again, that we definitely have to trust the labyrinth.
In follow-up to this story, I remember that the minister who brought me into this labyrinth work had bought the 39’ canvas labyrinth from Robert Ferre, and the women from our church had painted it. He said that if I could pay him $1800, the labyrinth would be mine. I immediately sold what I needed to sell on eBay and brought him 18 one-hundred-dollar bills. The labyrinth was mine! That experience also landed me the assignment of organizing the first Veriditas auction!
What do you consider your biggest challenge these days?
Time. I know we each only have our own personal bandwidth, and each of us is trying to deal with what we have on our plate. I know I don’t have to solve every problem, but I do have to do what I can.
Please expand on the sense of the ebb and flow of the labyrinth in your life.
I am aware that the labyrinth is playing a changing role in my life. In the past I have primarily offered it to others, keeping my head down and continuing to work. Now I am turning to it for my own needs and learning to be more present in the moment and feeling things that I’ve put off. I formerly used it as a gift to others; now I am receiving it as a gift. I am growing in this connection and feeling ready to handle my life.
When did you first encounter the labyrinth?
When I was young I always liked to read Greek Mythology so I began hearing about the labyrinth through that. Years later I saw an article in the newspaper about a labyrinth and it got my curiosity. In 1999, I started going to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio where they had an adult education hour and in one session they talked about the labyrinth there and about Lauren’s work. From there I began hearing more and more about the labyrinth and Lauren’s work.
In January of 2003 I walked my first labyrinth. It was a little over a month after my father died. The last six weeks of his life were very difficult for me because there were complications from surgery and he ended up being in a coma for almost a month. I needed to walk a labyrinth just to get hold of my grief. I walked the indoor labyrinth over at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. They had a day at that time when you could walk their indoor labyrinth so I went there to walk. It worked with my grief process by bringing order into chaos. It gave me a way to organize my thoughts and brought me some comfort. My father was on life support for about a month and it was so difficult going through that process. That labyrinth walk was a wonderful meditation tool, a way for me to have a heart to heart talk with God. I don’t necessarily find that this is an easy thing to do. Occasionally after that I started walking labyrinths here and there. I found walking the labyrinth to be much deeper than any prayer that I might offer to God.
When did you begin to be drawn to Lauren and Veriditas?
After walking the labyrinth a few times I felt it was necessary to create a labyrinth that reflected my experience, so in 2006 I created the concept of a
butterfly labyrinth. This eventually became a finger labyrinth in the shape of a butterfly and was first carved
in wood by Mike Welham, a retired co-worker of mine in 2009. I didn’t even know what I created. I didn’t understand about labyrinths, so I figured that I had better get educated about them. I would dream about labyrinths and I found out later how much this had been influenced by my grief around my father’s death and the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her Five Stages of Grief.
A few years later I realized that I wanted to be better educated about the labyrinth and found Lauren again and Veriditas through the internet. As a result I went to Chartres in 2014 and 2015. I felt drawn to Chartres. When I went there it was amazing. In some ways it felt like home. Coming home to Mother, to Mary. It was so majestic and beautiful and awe inspiring. Lauren is such a great teacher in the way she presents the labyrinth, and Veriditas is very well run. You see her vision as to what she wants.
Why do you donate to Veriditas?
I donate to Veriditas because I can see Lauren’s vision. I think it’s important for people to have a heart to heart talk with God, with themselves and to pray. The walking meditation on the labyrinth is much easier for me and many others than sitting down to pray. I find it to be much more intimate. I think it’s important for people to be able to have an experience of closeness with God. I want the world to have more labyrinths and to be introduced to the labyrinth properly, as Lauren and facilitators who are trained by Veriditas do.
"Little Miracles" is produced by Linda Mikell. Each month she shares an inspirational story from a labyrinth experience that is sent to her by a facilitator. She welcomes YOUR story. I'm sure you're got one, and we all benefit from this sharing. Thank you, Linda!Please send your story to Linda Mikell at firstname.lastname@example.org