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Say More: Prepping for The Labyrinth Society's Annual Gathering kintsugi labyrinth workshop

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Large handheld Chartres labyrinth, which has been painted and mended
Kintsugi-ed Chartres labyrinth

Hello, and welcome to another installment of Table Talk, The TK Blog! This post introduces a new feature called Say More. I learned this request from Dr. Brené Brown and understand that it's a fairly common one in research circles. The idea is simple-- you've said something, I'd like to hear more about it, and I'm asking you in a way that I hope elicits you saying more without me influencing what you say.

The intention of Say More is to share color and context about the projects, offerings, processes, and intention of what we do here at Thought Kitchen. If there's anything specific that you'd like to hear about, please leave a note in the comments!


I'm headed to The Labyrinth Society's Annual Gathering at Kanuga in Hendersonville, North Carolina. It's the first time I've had the opportunity to attend a TLS event, and I'm looking forward to spending three days learning and practicing with other labyrinth enthusiasts (or "labyrinth nuts" as my friend Karen's husband, Keith, lovingly calls us). I've also really enjoyed the opportunity to dive back into the practice of kintsugi labyrinths that Loretta and I developed last year because I'm going to offer a 90-minute workshop on Saturday.

Kingsugi Labyrinth Practice: Origin Story

In the first week of 2022, handheld labyrinth maker Charlotte Wyncoop shared a story on social media entitled Shattered Dreams. In this story, she wrote about how she opened her kiln to find weeks of work (nearly 300 labyrinths) were shattered, and she had no idea why.  As she worked to find answers, she thought about how the shattered labyrinths were a metaphor for all that we’ve experienced over the past few years as well as the lessons she’s learned from the labyrinth.

Loretta saw the post and asked if Charlotte might share some of the labyrinths with us to try kintsugi.  Charlotte was game, and so in about a week, a box full of broken labyrinths in sandwich-size baggies arrived. We then spent weeks in the Test Kitchen testing various paint, stain, adhesive, and topcoat to find the combination that worked best for us. Then, everybody on Team Thought Kitchen (and some who are Team Thought Kitchen-adjacent) received a mended labyrinth that Loretta or I had painted, mended, and top coated with them in mind. We practiced with them, Lesley and Megan's kids worked them over, and we began offering practices.

In August 2022, we offered a three-session online workshop, which allowed us to share the entire process, from broken labyrinth to practicing with the mended labyrinth, for the first time. We have now facilitated numerous kintsugi labyrinth practices over the last year. This practice is especially accessible to people navigating grief, loss, and change.

Kintsugi + Labyrinth as Metaphor

As I understand it, the word kintsugi translates to English as "golden repair" or "golden joinery." It is a Japanese practice of mending broken ceramics, and the philosophy is that breakage and repairs are part of the history of the object, rather than something to be hidden.

Loretta first introduced the practice to me, which she learned from her friend, Darren Chittick. I'd seen it applied to ceramic vessels, like bowls and mugs, but I had never seen it applied to a labyrinth.

This is a good spot to mention that labyrinths are a unicursal (one path) form with a winding path from the outside to the inside. Unlike their portrayal in some media, labyrinths aren't a maze because the only choice to make when walking or tracing the path is whether to take the next step or not. I find the labyrinth an extremely accessible metaphor for life in general, as well as shorter journeys or projects, because just like any journey, a labyrinth practice has all kinds of twists and turns.

Grief, loss, and change arises again and again in the coaching and facilitating work that Loretta and I do. Everything is constantly changing, as the Buddhist psychology concept of impermanence reminds me. And as Semisonic, the late 20th century philosophers, beautifully sang in Closing Time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

Even though we humans constantly experience change, it also is often unpleasant. I don't think there's change without at least a dash of grief and loss, so for me, grief, loss, and change are inextricably linked. Taking my grief to the labyrinth doesn't erase it... and also, I find that it does alchemize it into something that's a bit easier for me to hold.

What I'm Going to Share on Saturday

This is the first time I'll be sharing this practice with a group of people who already have an established labyrinth practice, so I'm focusing on sharing this backstory, as well as a couple of use cases from the last two years. We'll also engage in a practice, which is why I have spent the last few weeks painting and mending 26 handheld Greek labyrinths.

At this point, I'm wondering if I hold a world record for kintsugi-ing the greatest number of broken labyrinths. I've learned some stuff:

  1. If you can't find me, it's likely I'm somewhere painting labyrinth pieces. Seriously, it's currently one of my favorite contemplative practices.

  2. There's an art to combining the paint and adhesive. Too little, and the gold isn't very even. Too much, and the adhesive starts to set up and gets a little chunky.

  3. Patience is important, especially when the labyrinth is in more than two pieces.

  4. Top coat starts to get a little fussy if I work with it too much. Resist the urge to keep painting along the pathway, even though it's super soothing.

I'm looking forward to learning what other labyrinth enthusiasts and facilitators think/feel about the practice and will share what I've learned so they can facilitate their own kintsugi labyrinth practices.

Future Offerings

Depending on the feedback we receive, we may develop an on-demand offering that is similar to last August's offering. I have a vision where members of our Thought Kitchen sangha could come together to practice synchronously online with their own kintsugi-ed labyrinth. We'll see!

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