By Kate McPhaul

The music of the labyrinth; Courtesy of Kate McPhaul

I love to hunt, like a scavenger, for special gems in DC, especially Southwest DC. In my experience, there are so many stimulating events to choose from every week: concerts, community events, church services, lectures, panel discussions, museums, marches and much, much more. It’s amazing how much is going on in this town and in our little quadrant!  

If slowing down and relaxing is your thing, however, there are more than a handful of great spaces for that in Southwest, too. Take the red rocking chairs at the Duck Pond, for example, or the Smithsonian pocket gardens and the fire sculpture at the Wharf. You could use Headspace, Fit Bit Relax, or perhaps try some forest bathing in Lansburgh Park or Hains Point. There is also Yoga Nidra or the Kadampa Center for meditation. 

I have checked out most of these because I believe that slowing down and practicing some kind of regular meditation feeds my soul and is good for my health. Maybe yours, too?  

Recently, I enjoyed a unique combination of solitude, art, spiritual grace and community meditation in Southwest; I found the experience to be a true gem.  

The gem was the Global Classical Music and Labyrinth Meditation series, which takes advantage of the labyrinth floor at Westminster Presbyterian Church, at Fourth & I St. (AKA the Jazz Church). The meditation series also utilizes the talent of a small group of church members, including Mary Wedgewood, the Chief Music Librarian for the Library of Congress, and Co-Pastor Ruth Hamilton. This special opportunity continues for the next three months and is a gem hiding in plain sight for all Southwest community residents.It combines talented artists with Westminster’s unique space for personal meditation and spiritual reflection.  

I found that this series works for me because it’s warm and welcoming (no cost but free will donations are accepted). The opportunity to listen to the global classical music artists, and interact with them after the performance/meditation, enriches the meditative experience and makes it special. Individual participants decide the amount of solitude, art, spirituality and community they want.

Recently, meditation music was provided for an August 29 walk by Chinese dulcimer virtuoso, Chao Tian. Her elegant instrument—which was new to many of the walkers—was demonstrated with finesse and charm. Many enjoyed looking at the instrument and having it explained by Tian at the end of the evening. 

For the September 12 walk, music was provided by members of Grupo ETNIA, who are known for playing Andean style music. Carlos Hurtado (zampoña and related flutes) and Andrés Mellea (charango—a South American lute-like instrument) are masters of the music from their native regions of South America. They filled the room with warmth using the nuanced sounds of their lovely instruments. For me, the haunting sound of the wind in the pipes of the flute transported me into a labyrinth, and I left the world behind. Not only was the music gorgeous, but the specific idioms sounds were worth focusing on for the whole hour. Indeed, some people chose to meditate without walking—just listening to the music. Brief reflection with the musicians and the participants afterwards enriched the experience for me. 

The next walks are:

  • October 17 (Artist TBA)
  • November 21 (Alif Laila, sitar)
  • December 19 (Barbra Bailey Bradley, celtic harp)

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