Back to Top Skip to main content

Labyrinth: This path is made for mindful walking

Wounded warriors at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence are introduced to the indoor labyrinth during early days of their four-week intensive outpatient treatment program. (Photo courtesy of NICoE) Wounded warriors at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence are introduced to the indoor labyrinth during early days of their four-week intensive outpatient treatment program. (Photo courtesy of NICoE)

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Traumatic Brain Injury | Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Wounded warriors arriving at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence may be surprised to learn their intensive outpatient treatment program includes a labyrinth – or, as NICoE wellness coordinator Allison Winters describes it, “contemplative walking, in a nutshell.”

Labyrinths have been used in a variety of religions and cultures for thousands of years. They symbolize a meandering but purposeful path, Winters said. Unlike mazes, which are meant to confound and confuse with myriad routes that may lead to dead ends, labyrinths are simple. There’s only one way in, and one way out.

“A labyrinth provides a structural path, so you don’t have to think about where you’re going and how to get there,” Winters said. “You don’t need to make any decisions, so your brain can stay in the moment. It’s like a walking meditation.”

NICoE is part of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. It opened in October 2010 to advance understanding and treatment of traumatic brain injury and associated health conditions. Each four-week program involves cohorts of six patients who have not responded to traditional treatment. Weeks one and two focus on diagnosis, evaluation, and pain relief; the third and fourth weeks concentrate on treatment planning and education to help patients understand their symptoms and gain skills to take charge of their own care after they leave.

Winters said she introduces the labyrinth to patients during their first days at NICoE. The indoor labyrinth, crafted from maple and cherry hardwood planks, is part of a room that also features a skylight ceiling and potted plants. Patients can walk the labyrinth individually or in group sessions.

“You start at the perimeter and then walk along the path to the center,” Winters said. “Then you turn around and walk out. There’s no right way or wrong way.”

Winters and others who promote labyrinths for therapeutic use offer suggestions to enhance the experience. Walkers might set an intention – a values-based, internal goal such as peace, joy, or understanding – to focus on while traveling the path. Or they can pause at each turn to inhale slowly and then exhale slowly before continuing the walk.

“Breath can be useful for navigating a transition, whether it’s on the labyrinth or in life,” Winters said, adding that wheelchair users also can use the labyrinth.

Labyrinths have been featured in other military settings, such as Scott Air Force Base in Illinois and Beale Air Force Base in California, which have used labyrinths printed on canvas to encourage service members to take contemplative strolls. But do labyrinths actually do any good? There may not be military-specific research on the topic, Winters said, but empirical findings suggest that they do work.

“One patient told me he thought walking along the labyrinth was like ‘moseying through the brain’s gray matter’ and finding yourself in the center,” Winters said.

Another patient said walking along the labyrinth relaxes him. “It allows my mind to get rid of the distractions of everyday madness, and to focus on things like self-improvement and self-actualization. It allows me to let go of negative thinking.”

You also may be interested in...

DCOE Annual Report 2014

Report
7/16/2015

Annual Report for the Defense Center of Excellence - 2014

Recommended Content:

Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy | Mental Health Care | Traumatic Brain Injury | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Suicide Prevention | DoD/VA Sharing Initiatives | Deployment Health

Patient Global Impression Change Scale

Form/Template
5/1/2015

Form filled out by patients to rate their changes in activity, symptoms, emotions and quality of life.

Recommended Content:

Conditions and Treatments | Health Readiness | Physical Disability | Traumatic Brain Injury

Neurobehavioral Symptom Inventory Form

Form/Template
4/30/2015

Form used by providers to question patients about their symptoms

Recommended Content:

Conditions and Treatments | Physical Disability | Traumatic Brain Injury | Health Readiness

Military Acute Concussion Evaluation 2012

Form/Template
4/30/2015

Use this form to screen for concussions

Recommended Content:

Conditions and Treatments | Physical Disability | Traumatic Brain Injury | Health Readiness

Traumatic Brain Injury: Updated Definition and Reporting

Policy

This memorandum updates the DoD definition of TBI, severity of brain injury stratification, and method of data collection.

TBI Awareness: Memorial Box

Video
3/27/2015
TBI Awareness: Memorial Box

US Army Sgt Fox explains how his memorial box has helped him heal and remember meaningful events and people in his life.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Mental Health Care

Dr. Heechin Chae on The Mystery of the Brain

Video
3/23/2015
Dr. Heechin Chae on The Mystery of the Brain

Traumatic brain injury expert, Dr. Heechin Chae speaks on the mystery of the brain.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury | Mental Health Care

Army Sgt. R. Fox

Video
3/19/2015
Army Sgt. R. Fox

Army Sgt. Robert Fox describes his challenges with PTSD and how art therapy has helped him.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

The Benefits of Art Therapy

Video
3/19/2015
The Benefits of Art Therapy

Art therapist Jackie Biggs describes why art therapy is an effective method of treatment for TBI and PTSD.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

The Mask

Video
3/19/2015
The Mask

Marine Sgt. Jorden Smith describes his therapy mask

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Art Therapist, Jackie Biggs

Video
3/18/2015
Art Therapist, Jackie Biggs

Art therapist, Jackie Biggs discusses how art therapy helps TBI patients.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury

Marine Sgt. Jorden Smith Pt. 2

Video
3/18/2015
Marine Sgt. Jorden Smith Pt. 2

USMC Sgt. Jorden Smith discusses art therapy for treating traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury

Marine Sgt. Jorden Smith Pt. 1

Video
3/17/2015
Marine Sgt. Jorden Smith Pt. 1

USMC Sgt. Jorden Smith discusses art therapy for treating traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury

Combat Trauma Lessons Learned from Military Operations of 2001 through 2013

Report
3/9/2015

Defense Health Board (DHB) report on Combat Trauma Lessons Learned from Military Operations of 2001-2013

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Decision Brief on Sustainment and Advancement of Amputee Care

Presentation
2/11/2015

Decision Brief on Sustainment and Advancement of Amputee Care presented to the Defense Health Board

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Physical Disability
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10 > >> 
Showing results 76 - 90 Page 6 of 10

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.