Walking to Calmness

To strengthen a child’s #emotional intelligence, teach self-soothing skills,  Walking meditations are a good start.

Mott Haven Labyrinth

Emotional fitness thoughts

I first walked a labyrinth at the Quaker Meeting House in Purchase, New York.  What impressed me most was how the children loved it. When I had some money to spend in the  mental health programs I directed in Mott Haven, the meanest part of the South Bronx, I built labyrinths.

That’s a picture of one I built on donated land behind a housing project . Well, I didn’t actually build it or any; I paid to have them built. The one above was one my staff, the families and children we partnered with, and Ariane Burgess, our labyrintista build.

If you saw the movie Bonfire of the Vanities or have read Jonathan Kozol’s book Amazing Grace, you know about how bad things were in Mott Haven not so many years ago.  I wanted  those who had to live, particularly the children, to add to their strength by learning lots of what I call emotional fitness skills.

Self-soothing is one of six skills that help strengthen emotional intelligence. It is the  most immediately helpful to all the skills.

I saw labyrinths as a way to interested both grownups and kids in meditation and not just the families I worked with, but all those living in Mott Haven. I had the grandiose idea of making Mott Haven the labyrinth capital of the  USA or at least of the New York area.  I wanted to bring tourists to a part of New York City I had learned to love.

What is a labyrinth?

A labyrinth is not a maze.  Mazes are designed to confuse and frustrate with blind turns and dead ends.  And, yes getting safely in and out of one does provide a rush of pleasure.

However, a labyrinth has no dead ends, nothing to confuse, or frustrate. You walk in the entrance,  then you walk to the center, and when you are ready to leave,  you walk out.

At the time, I was working for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) and directing several mental health programs including a family support team and respite team.  Those two were the programs I involved in  building the labyrinths.

As you see, the one above was built of re-cycled logs and was designed to serve as a small arena. Performers, mostly story tellers, did their thing in the center, while their audience sat on the logs.

My Mott Haven programs were part of a large federal grant called The Mott Haven Project.  The grant sought to involve various agencies in providing  what the grant makers called a System of Care (SOC) for seriously emotionally troubled children.

The grant gave me some money to use not for individual families, but to improve the community. The grant also linked me to a number of community activists. One was a labyrintista, Ariane Burgess.  She designed and built the labyrinths that I was able to sprinkle around Mott Haven.  We called our labyrinth programs the Camino de Paz Project.

Here’s another picture  of one of the labyrinths.  This was a temporary one put up at a health fair.


In time, I also was able to get two portable canvas labyrinths made.  These were taken to health fairs and school fairs.

Although I was very pleased to have brought labyrinths to the community of Mott Haven, once I was no longer  directing the VNSNY Mott Haven program, interest in the Camino de Paz project slowly died.  Living in Colorado now, I have no idea if any remain.  I think a more permanent one was build on a housing project play ground. I hope that still stands. A plan to build a permanant labyrinth at Brooke Park died.

My big dream did not come true, but I take comfort in knowing that at the time, people found a bit of peace through the Camino de Pas Project. The peace in one heart moves the world toward peace for all.

One aspect of the Mott Haven Labyrinth Project does live on and may do so for years, but not in Mott Haven.  Where then? In New York City’s Battery Park.  I wanted more for Mott Haven, but do find some satisfaction in knowing that in a small way I contributed to this more permanent meditation path.


Labyrinths are more common than they once were. Plan a family trip to one.  As always learn what you want to teach first.  Here is a link to more about walking meditations.

When I am angry, I use a variation I call Stumping Out Anger. I walk with my anger, stumping, making angry face, tense body and angry fists.  I  say to myself “Take that” with every step.

In time, I find I am not stumping so hard, Then I take some calming breaths, make soft face, strong body and change my self talk to “It’s all all right.”  It is you know, if not for me for someone else or a higher power’s bigger plan, We all can only do so much, but if we do what we can when we can our efforts to make the world better are not in vain.

Thank you for all you do, practice kindness, like, share or comment.

A bit of blog business.  I am on the road visiting friends and family.  I am trying to post a blog a week.  Not sure even that will be possible, so if you don’t see one from me for a while, know I am remembering what matters and that means enjoying the company of those I care about and who care about me.

As always, thank you for all you do particularly for liking, commenting and sharing those of my posts you find helpful.



#emotionalintelligence poster coach teaching soft face/strong body. #parent advice

This post was inspired by this Word Press Daily Prompt  If you could clone one element from another city you’ve visited — a building, a cultural institution, a common street food, etc. — and bring it back to your own hometown, what would it be? My answer of course: Labyrinths.


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