Walking a labyrinth is more than just a stroll. For New West resident Vanessa Lesperance, it’s a tool to decolonize work spaces.
“Part of decolonizing business means being more people-oriented and valuing authentic connections to self and others,” reads Lesperance’s website.
But how will a labyrinth with its single circuitous passage — leading to the centre and out — be used to build this connection?
Lesperance, a mixed heritage Métis entrepreneur originally from Treaty 1 territory (Winnipeg, Man.), will be organizing a mini-workshop at the Indigenous Market on Saturday, June 10, to answer just that.
At the workshop, participants will walk on an 18-feet wide Chartres labyrinth (a style that dates back to 13th century, created in Chartres Cathedral, France).
Lesperance’s tip for the participants who wish to join in is to follow the three Rs — release, receive and return.
“Start to walk in, think of all the things that you want to release — any stresses, worries, fears, anxieties,” explained Lesperance.
“When you reach the centre, think of things you want to manifest, things you want to cultivate, things you want to receive. It's your time to receive, restore and replenish yourself.”
While walking back out, “think about who and how you want to be in the world, and the ripple that you want to have,” she said.
This process of just walking in and out of a labyrinth can be “calming and soothing,” she said.
For some, it can be “transformational” — as it was for Lesperance, when she first walked a labyrinth at the Anvil Centre back in 2018.
Learning about labyrinths
The centre had set up a labyrinth at their winter market — “It was candle-lit,” she recalled. “I just remember walking on it and feeling truly connected to myself. It truly felt like I was journeying inwards.”
“I got so much out of the experience. And when I reached the centre of the labyrinth, it just allowed me to really reflect on ‘Who am I?’ and allowed me the time to just ground myself.”
Lesperance walked out with a renewed feeling of who she wanted to be and how she wanted to contribute to the world.
That’s when she thought, “If I can offer this to other people, I think that would be a beautiful experience and gift for others.”
A couple of years went by, as Lesperance pursued her master's degree in leadership from Royal Roads University, with a focus on decolonizing businesses through workplace spirituality.
“As I was doing research for my master's degree (on workplace spirituality), the concept of labyrinths came up. It wasn't the focus of my studies, but it came into my periphery.”
As Lesperance researched on it, she found that labyrinths have been used for thousands of years, and different versions of it have been found across the world, including the floors of pyramids in Egypt, she said.
She found that this ancient phenomenon was gaining popularity at universities, spas, and even prisons “for their holistic well-being impact.”
“I figured, this might be a really cool modality to offer in workplaces to address workplace stress and for team building” — a thought that led her to start Vancity Labyrinth in 2022.
Through Vancity Labyrinth, Lesperance has introduced the concept of labyrinths in workplaces, at the Vancouver Entrepreneurs Toastmasters Club, at the Indigenous Women’s Business Network retreat and more — as a tool to “decolonize” the work space.
And also to reflect on life itself — like the ancient tribes back in the day.
Lesperance was referring to a tribe in Arizona called Tohono O’Odham for whom walking the labyrinth was symbolic of their life's journey.
“So when you're walking towards the center, it's symbolic of our life's path. When you reach the center, it's symbolic of death. And then when you walk back out, it's like a rebirth,” she said.
“The labyrinth is designed with twists and turns, just as life has its twists and turns.”
Both shared one goal — “to keep going, to keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
“And to trust the process.”
Lesperance will offer the free labyrinth workshop at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m on the second floor of the River Market on Saturday, June 10.