Sustainability from the Inside Out: The Labyrinth as a Tool for Deepening Conversations in Higher Education


  • David Greenwood Lakehead University
  • Devon Lee Lakehead University



First published advance online December 16, 2019
This article describes a methodology of convening a community conversation, which took place during the 2018 Workshop on Regional Centres and the Sustainability of Canada’s Rural and Northern Landscapes held at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. In what follows, we both theorize and narrate the use of the labyrinth—a circular, circuitous walking path—as a tool for accessing another way of knowing, and for sharing personal vision for collective reflection and engagement. First, the labyrinth is described as an intervention into business-as-usual in academic, workshop, or conference settings. In this section, we briefly theorize the use of the labyrinth as a form of cultural reinvention. Next, we describe the labyrinth as a dynamic, transformational process that taps into embodied, interior experience, drawing it out into collective view. This process, centred on walking the labyrinth and sitting in a listening circle, challenges participants to identify and express their chief motivating purposes, as well as the internal barriers they face in meeting their most valued aims. Central to this process is attending to the close relationship between experience and reflection, thinking and feeling, and speaking and listening—at both individual and collective levels. The article concludes with observations about how the labyrinth and the listening circle can be used in higher education, and other workplace contexts, as a tool for creating space for fostering sustainability from the inside out.

Author Biographies

David Greenwood, Lakehead University

Professor and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Education

Devon Lee, Lakehead University

Doctoral student at Lakehead University where she also leads Labyrinth walks for the university community. 






Place Based Sustainability Research in the Provincial North