For the last two winters, Eileen Lindbuchler has stomped out a snow labyrinth outside her home to create a sacred space for intention setting and connecting to nature. Her process is to visualize the circle and build it with intention. She holds the vision of the space through every footstep in the snow and, by the end, creates a winding meditative walking circle.
“My goal is to engage in physically creating a sacred space for myself and others to be present outside,” Lindbuchler says. Eileen is a massage therapist and reiki practitioner in Avon, Colorado who finds spiritual healing within nature. She enjoys escaping into the snowy setting in the middle of winter for a walking meditation.
She usually creates her labyrinth around winter solstice or the New Year, because she believes these are good times to honor endings and new beginnings. She starts from the middle of her circle and walks out to create the path winding around. Then, she shovels the foot path and makes walls out of the snow.
“I’m not mathematical at all; I’m more creative,” she says when asked how she makes her snow labyrinth. For her, it’s all about building with intention and hoping others can find it magical.
When she invited me to walk through the space, she prompted me to call in things that I want to let go of when walking inside, then saying a prayer at the center and calling in things I want to bring in as I walk outwards. I was recently recovering from being sick and regaining strength for a neighborhood walk. As I walked a couple buildings down to her yard, I called in health and healing to my body. I left feeling renewed, connected to my breath and tuned into nature.
Lindbuchler decorates the center of the circle like creating an altar. “I like to have candles in the middle to connect to spirits,” she says. She lights tea candles when she gets to the middle for her prayer and leaves them burning all night, especially on the solstice. She adds other objects like crystals, rocks, feathers and fake plants. On one visit, I added a stem from my house plant, but on a later visit, I saw deer tracks through the middle to enjoy the fresh delicacy. I hoped the deer moved through the circle with excitement and curiosity for my winter offering.
Creating your own snow labyrinth only requires a flat section of snow and warm snow boots. You can mathematically map it out or be creative like Lindbuchler. If the kids are tired of building snowmen, try a snow labyrinth with them. Decorations such as holly branches, winter berries, candles or goodies for the kids can be added to the center.
Lindbuchler reminds us of spirals found throughout history and ancient civilizations. She believes these spirals were old ways of saying prayers for the people and land through a walking meditation. In the impermanency of winter, walking the spiral allows oneself to reflect on the progress of their prayers as the snow accumulates and eventually melts.
Artist, writer and naturalist Bridgette Meinhold from Park City, Utah creates large snow labyrinths and documented her experience through a short film called Reverie, directed by Claire Wiley, which has received multiple awards at international film festivals. The film is not available for public viewing yet; however, more about her experience can be found on her website and Instagram.
For Meinhold, the point is not to create something lasting but simply to create and enjoy being outdoors. She is deliberate in her steps and copies her design from the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France.
Whatever your method for stomping out a meditative walking circle in the snow, may it walk away your winter blues, bring breath awareness to the crisp air and rest your mind in the process.
Photos courtesy of Brittney Meinhold.
Originally published in Winter + Spring 2022-23 issue.