Vancouver Unitarians have a dedicated “Meditation Room” that has been in continuous use for over two decades. Each Sunday morning and Wednesday evening an eclectic group of both Unitarians and interested Vancouverites meet for a 45-minute meditation session.
For the past five years the group has been led by Victoria Oginski who has been meditating herself for over 35 years. As an enthusiastic student of Buddhism, Victoria has gone on long meditation retreats in Burma, studied in Bodh Gaya in northern India where the Buddha attained enlightenment, and Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama.
While the group is loosely informed by the Vajrayana school of Tibetan Buddhism anyone interested in meditation is wholehearted welcome!
On Wednesdays, after the meditation from 6:30-7:15 we take a break and then at 7:30 begin our book study. Currently we are reading (out loud) The Mind Illuminatedby Culadasa (John Yates, PhD).
If you’d like to get some gentle exercise, move to music from a wide selection of tunes from folk to contemporary and classical, we have several opportunities every month to try out sacred circle dance.
There has been a circle dance group at UCV for well over a decade and the opportunities keep increasing.
Usually it’s a small group of 5 to 15. We always teach the steps and welcome newcomers. You are encouraged to adjust the movements to your own needs. For instance, some people get dizzy when they spin, or find “cross-over” steps difficult on their body. Our mantra is: There are no wrong steps, only variations!
On the 1st Tuesday and 2nd Monday we meet in the hall from 7 to 9pm. We usually dance about 12-15 different dances with a short refreshment break in the middle.
GLAD – Gathering for Labyrinth Art and Dance
GLAD is now in its third year. Mairy, Mary and Darlene coordinate a mid-day creative retreat on the 3rd Thursday 11-1pm. We create art for a centerpiece to dance around; circle dance and then walk the labyrinth (time and weather permitting.
Circle Dance with Ease
On the 1st Sunday of each month from 2-3:30pm, we offer a “gentle” approach to circle dance, great for beginners or those who want to just relax into dancing. We select 4 dances and dance each one three times, the third time, with all four in sequence.
We are not doing these as a regular monthly event now but may on occasion plan one to honour the turning of the seasons.
We will combine some earth spirit components with about 8 or so circle dances. We start out with casting a circle, calling in the four directions and honouring the divine masculine and feminine. We use a combination of readings, lighting candles and dances that correspond to this sequence. In the middle we will do more circle dancing related to the season and some earth-centred activity (planting, harvesting, making) and then end the evening with opening the circle with devocations and a closing dance/chant.
We dance to some or all of these pagan chants in each session.
On July 7th, 12 of us gathered to dance the three link-up dances that were being danced around the world. World Circle Dance Day coincides with the final day of the annual sacred circle dance festival at Findhorn, Scotland, where this version of circle dance originated over 40 years ago.
After emailing our photo, I received this update from the organization.
Thank you to everyone! We have a record number of groups this year and this gives us GREAT HOPE. 279 that we know of and this represents even more groups, because several join together for this special day. We are so grateful for all the Love, Unity, Connection, Joy, Beauty, Energy, Blessings! We continue to share our joy around the world! If you have Facebook, please post all your photos to https://www.facebook.com/GlobalCircleDance, and select 1 photo and e mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you so much!
Thank you! We will send you an e mail when yours is posted on https://globalcircledance.com/world-circle-dance-day.
When the video is ready we will post it on the website https://globalcircledance.com/world-circle-dance-day.
The world is dancing! Infinite Thanks and Love for participating in this wave of Joy!
To see past posts about our participation in World Circle Dance Day click here:
This month you could plan a one-day spiritual retreat at UCV.
Come by 11 am for circle dancing; stay for contemplative collage; and then participate in Patrick’s Rhythm Meditation workshop 7 – 9 pm. Third Thursdays always include the first two events, and several people attend both.
First there was GLAD with an hour of circle dance because Darlene and Mary wanted to dance more–and share circle dance more.
Then Laurie and Mary added “contemplative collage” from 2-4pm. So, of course, a few people found they liked both events so some of us brought lunch or bought sushi from across the street. And Mairy who’d joined the GLAD team often stayed for lunch and then gardened.
So by July 2018 (three years after GLAD began), there are a few of us who spend most of the day at UCV with focused but flexible activities.
GLAD (Gathering for Labyrinth, Art and Dance) includes art and labyrinth walking as well as circle dance.
All welcome to all or any of these events:
11am – 1 pm GLAD
1-2pm – informal lunch with whoever’s there
2-4pm – collage with Laurie and sometimes Mary (in the summer Mary tends to stop to say “hi” and then go outside to tend the gardens
form of abstract art in which photos, newspaper clippings, found objects, etc., are glued onto a surface, 1919 (Wyndham Lewis), from French collage “a pasting,” from Old French coller “to glue,” from Greek kolla “glue,” a word of uncertain origin, perhaps Pre-Greek.
Some formats and approaches
Various people have created particular styles and formats for collage. You may be interested in learning about these below.
(Just google any of these phrases or “collage fine art” to find interesting information. You’ll find myriad videos on youtube as well.)
We hope a group will form to share the coordination of these gatherings on a monthly basis (or even more frequently). This involves coming early and staying late to set-up and cleanup; welcoming newcomers and putting notices in UCV events, order of service and bulletin boards.
Sunday, 1-4:30 pm, Garden Room
This is an opportunity for creative play and self-exploration using collage. We work quietly at our own pace. Materials are provided, but feel free to bring your own. No experience necessary. Please confirm your presence by contacting Avis Anderson or Janet Clancy at email@example.com.
Mary Bennett and Mairy Beam are sharing a worship service on the morning of August 20th.
We will talk about our experience on sacred circle dance as spiritual path.
Throughout the service (and the prelude) songs from Singing the Living Tradition and Singing the Journey will be played, sung and danced.
Can you join us? It would involve being at the church by 10:30 am on August 20th and being part of a rehearsal in advance. When we know who’s in, we’ll find a time and date that will work for all of us.
Nicola Hamilton will be the soloist leading the songs. Eric Wyness will be the pianist.
Contact Mary if you can be part of what we hope will be an inspiring and joyful worship service.
There are two new labyrinths in town, thanks in part to Mary Bennett, who says that although walking a labyrinth can be a form of meditation, it’s also a process with a beginning, a middle and an end. Photograph By Dan Toulgoet
From a distance, it can be weird to see people walking by themselves slowly in a circle. Up close, it can still look odd. But when you understand the intention of people pacing a labyrinth, it is charming and enticing.
By definition, labyrinths can often be almost invisible. A new one at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver could be mistaken merely for a nice design in the paving stones of a courtyard. On the other hand, many are elaborate and unmistakable. There are, according to a global database of labyrinths, no fewer than 10 in the city of Vancouver that are open to the public and dozens more throughout the province. But who are the people who find comfort or spiritual fulfilment in this ancient yet unusual pursuit? It’s a diverse group, from pagans to devout Christians, atheists to New Agers.
There are two new labyrinths in town, thanks in part to Mary Bennett, a Vancouver woman who is the former executive director of the Canadian Unitarian Council and a regular at the 49th and Oak Unitarian church. She and two friends stumbled upon the idea of labyrinths about 20 years ago during a women’s spirituality conference.
“People have sometimes described it as a meditative technique that works better for Western people because it’s active rather than sitting passively,” says Bennett. “I find it useful as a kind of walking meditation.”
Another thing that appeals to her is that some of the fundamental labyrinth designs appeared throughout the ancient world at remarkably different locations — Scandinavia, South America and parts of what are now the southwestern United States.
In Greek mythology, Daedalus constructed the first labyrinth to contain the half-man, half-beast Minotaur and nearly got lost in it himself. The point of today’s labyrinths, though, is not to get lost like you might in a corn maze or to replicate a house of mirrors. Most have a single path leading from the mouth to the middle.
The classic Cretan or seven circuit labyrinth is designed like the double-headed axe (“labrys”) of the Minoan mother goddess of Crete. Another of the most common styles is the Chartres labyrinth, which resembles a four-petalled flower, designed in the 13th century at the French cathedral.
Rather more recent are the two labyrinths at the Unitarian church.
“There is a courtyard area that we thought could accommodate a small labyrinth and this year they were replacing some of the concrete there and fortunately somebody remembered that we had had hopes and dreams of having a labyrinth there,” Bennett says. Using concrete pavers, they embedded a labyrinth into the concrete. A second one, on the east side of the church property, will be a garden labyrinth.
“It’s still kind of a work in progress, but you can walk it,” she says of the garden version. “It’s not as beautiful as it will be next year at this time.”
While walking a labyrinth can be a form of meditation, she says, it is also a process with a beginning, a middle and an end.
“What people say, and I do experience this myself, is when you walk into the centre, you could walk in with some kind of phrase on your mind, or an intention,” says Bennett. “But sometimes, and this is what I usually do, just kind of open.”
People will occasionally begin walking with their palms up until they get to the centre. This is a gesture of openness.
“And then in the centre, sometimes, if you have a labyrinth experience,” she says with a laugh, “you receive what I say is… not necessarily an answer to your question or dilemma, but some kind of a response.”
Quite simply, she admits, it is probably just a matter of finding the answer you seek once you quiet yourself.
“Then, on the way out, people sometimes walk turning their hands palm-side-down to kind of ground that intention,” she says.
Bennett does more than just walk labyrinths. She is part of a group called G.L.A.D. — The Gathering for Labyrinth Art and Dance. The group meets the third Thursday of each month — the next one is Sept. 15 — from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Unitarian church.
“The first half-hour is doing art, usually relating to labyrinths, drawing labyrinths, painting labyrinths on stones, making labyrinths out of clay,” she says. Labyrinth art allows you to “walk” a labyrinth with your eyes or trace it with your finger. “Then the second half-hour, if it’s good weather, we go out and walk one of the two labyrinths that have just been put in at the church over the past year and then the last hour is doing circle dancing together.”
Circle dancing is not very proscribed. It is just what it says, a group of people dancing without partners in a circle to music of any sort.
“Most recently, the first dance that I choreographed, I took one of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s songs from her Polaris-winning album ‘Power in the Blood,’ It’s called ‘We are Circling.’ It just called out to be danced to.”
The Unitarians aren’t the only ones in the city getting into labyrinths. At least four Anglican churches in town have labyrinths, including St. Paul’s, in the West End, which does a big celebration around the labyrinth on New Year’s Eve. There are labyrinths in the Renfrew Ravine, in Strathcona Linear Park and at VanDusen Botanical Garden.
“It had a real surge 20 or 25 years ago,” Bennett says of modern humans’ interest in the design and practice, adding that there are probably plenty that almost no one knows about. “People sometimes just install them in their backyard if they got the space.”