Making Waves: Quiet Spaces - Places to Relax and FocusJul 18, 2022 07:04PM ● By Ann Marie O'Phelan
With the frantic pace of life and the hustle and bustle of navigating each day, it’s essential to take time out to find some peace. There are various places to find it—weaving your way through a labyrinth, taking mindful walks, or meandering down a pathway.
One such place is the new Mindfulness Trail atJ.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. The trail debuted in February 2022, evolving from an activity the refuge began in 2020 in response to the pandemic’s impact on people’s mental states. “The guided mindfulness walks became so popular, the refuge decided to take them a step further, and it resulted in this wonderful Bailey Tract experience where hikers can self-guide their mindful journey and connect with nature in a new, deeper way,” says Toni Westland, supervisory refuge ranger and Mindfulness Trail project leader.
Another quiet spot is the Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs, which offers peaceful trails and beautiful botanic gardens with hundreds of rescued and unreleasable animals (with the price of regular admission). “It’s an excellent opportunity to relax while strolling in the botanical paradise,” says communications and retail manager Sarah Williamson.
While the Wonder Gardens is actively adding new exhibits, caring for its growing roster of resident animals and growing botanical beauty, it is preserving its charming and authentic old Florida roots from its founding in 1936. Guided tours are available for guests who book ahead.
The botanical gardens at the 279-acre Lakes Park in Fort Myers provide paved walking trails that meander by water features and through various settings, such as a peaceful Japanese garden, a colorful butterfly garden, and fragrance garden. Noel Landon from Granville, Ohio, enjoys strolling through the gardens when she visits Southwest Florida. “There is always something in bloom at the botanical garden, and I love seeing what is growing in the community garden. It’s my great escape place,” she says.
Looking for a labyrinth? Labyrinths date back at least 4,000 years and were used to meditate, dance, and partake in rituals and ceremonies. In today’s modern world, they offer places to walk quietly and reflect.
Unity of Naples has an outdoor labyrinth known as a Cretan. It is a classic seven-circuit pattern, hand-built by community members. Its simplistic design is based on ancient coins from the island of Crete. “Our community members often choose to hold a question, prayer, or situation in mind prior to entering. The labyrinth is a threefold mystical path of purgation (releasing as you enter), illumination (listening in the center to the divine), and union (incorporating your connection into your life),” says media manager Nicole Meekins.
The Hope Care Center in Cape Coral also has a labyrinth, perfect for taking mindful walks. “Along the way, there are no decisions to be made, as a beautiful path quietly leads you to the labyrinth’s center and then back out again. By following the gently curved pathway, guests, and others, at our Hope Care Center can find comfort, peace, and relaxation,” says Samira K. Beckwith, Hope Healthcare president and CEO. There is no cost to visit, and it is open to everyone.
Another labyrinth is located at YMCA Camp Estero (formerly known as the Happehatchee Center). It represents a journey or path to your own center and back again out into the world. “Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools,” says Angel Cerritos, executive director of the Bonita Springs YMCA. The labyrinth was made by Florida Gulf Coast University teachers and students. The YMCA also provides yoga classes, family fun days, environmental education, and youth programs such as summer camp opportunities on the five-acre property along the Estero River.
Southwest Florida is filled with places to enjoy a meditative walk. Consider an early morning stroll along a pier or a sunset walk along a beach. What’s important is to find a time and place to get away from it all, even if it’s just for a short time.
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and regular contributor to TOTI Media.
IF YOU GO
Bonita Springs YMCA
27200 Kent Road, Bonita Springs
Hope Care Center
2430 Diplomat Parkway E, Cape Coral
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Mindfulness Trail
Bailey Tract, Tarpon Bay Road, Sanibel
7330 Gladiolus Drive, Fort Myers
Unity of Naples
2000 Unity Way, Naples
The Wonder Gardens
27180 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs