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click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER

Human civilizations have been constructing labyrinths all over the world for more than 5,000 years. Their true origin remains a mystery; their elaborate patterns adorn everything from ancient rock carvings to tiled floors and native craftwork.

Ultimately, labyrinths are tools, believed to be meditatively beneficial and personally transformational. They combine the symbols of the circle and spiral, creating a single path from the outside into the center and back.

The Rev. Gaylord Hatler (pictured) of the First Christian Church has created an annual labyrinth walk in downtown Colorado Springs, in which participants explore their pasts and look ahead to the upcoming year.

"We think of residual things in our lives from 2005 that we'd like to let go of on our walk into the center," Hatler explains. Walkers then stand in the labyrinth's center for a moment of prayer or reflection. "As we go out, we then think of 2006 and our desires to have our lives open to God's influence in the new year."

Hatler adds that labyrinths, including the one at First Christian, generally are non-denominational constructs. They act as a metaphor for an inward journey to the core of one's self, awakening potentiality and awareness to one's relationship with the world.

Christianity embraces labyrinths as correlative to many Christian themes of a "straight and narrow" path to God, while other religions and groups adopt the patterns for other aspects to spiritual pilgrimage. Many labyrinth enthusiasts focus simply on health and well-being as they walk.

But don't get confused.

"It's not a maze," Hatler insists.

Mazes act as puzzles, but labyrinths are straightforward.

The New Year's Eve Labyrinth Walk at First Christian Church (16 E. Platte Ave.) takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31. Call 633-8888 or visit firstchristiancos.org for more information.

-- Story and photo by Matthew Schniper

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