Meditation. At first glance, it looks easy. Just sit still, calm your mind, and find enlightenment. Piece of cake, right?
If you’re rolling your eyes right now, David Tolzmann of The Labyrinth Company gets it—and he’s built a storied career and global company out of helping people find a different path.
“In Western society, we’re not good at sitting still. We’re not good at turning things off,” Tolzmann says, pointing to the Buddhist tradition of walking meditation, which is similar to what a labyrinth is designed to do, only in a more concentrated form. “Fundamentally, a labyrinth is a two-dimensional, single path with no choices to make. Unlike a maze, which has walls or hedges and is meant to confuse someone, you can see the entire design of the labyrinth.”
There’s a very real, very interesting psychological reason for that. “With a labyrinth, you can see the whole pattern, but your brain can’t accept that there’s nothing to solve, because it appears so complex.” Returning to the beehive-like nature of our thoughts, Tolzmann calls this subconscious distraction taming the monkey mind, which in turn induces a creative meditative state. “While your right brain is trying to figure out where to go next, it frees up your left brain to free-associate, explore feelings, grieve, process,” he adds.
From coast to coast and across continents, Tolzmann’s designs have helped people do just that. His company has installed custom labyrinths and shipped prefabricated kits to Hong Kong and Singapore, from Copenhagen to the Middle East, and to every state in the union. “One of our painted canvas labyrinths has been traveling the world nonstop for years now,” says Tolzmann. “It belongs to the chaplin on the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier. He sets it up on the hanger deck and the soldiers walk it for meditation.”
In fact, it was in the church—and on traditional painted canvas—where Tolzmann’s craft and company began to unfold. “Someone at the church I was attending in Baltimore read about the practice and wanted to create one on canvas. I’m good at math and geometry, so I got drafted into the project. We modeled it after the Chartres Cathedral in France, [a labyrinth that has been walked on since the year 1200].”
As more and more churches—and eventually hospitals, spas, and wellness retreats—heard about his labyrinths, demand took off. “We’ve got about 46 unique designs now. And we keep creating more, because people have different needs,” Tolzmann reflects. Many of his designs can even be spotted on hospital rooftops, and at prestigious organizations and universities like Stanford, the Mayo Clinic, and Johns Hopkins. His latest product line-up includes brick paver and tile kits, garden templates, poly canvas mats, and stencil sets.
“I love it when someone tells me, ‘It did what you said it’d do.’ When people actually use it, and don’t forget about it, that’s the key,” Tolzmann says with a smile. “Hundreds of thousands of people are walking on what we’ve built, and we hear some amazing stories. Of healing, of transformation, of breakthroughs. And that’s pretty cool.”
The Labyrinth Company, 110 N Markley St, #208, Greenville. (888) 715-2297 or (203) 832-3815, labyrinthcompany.com