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Labyrinth offers amazing insights

In Greek mythology, Theseus pursued the Minotaur, half man and half bull, through the convoluted passages of the labyrinth until he found and slew it, thereby putting an end to the yearly sacrifice of young men and maidens to the beast.

The labyrinth has had other, greater, significance to cultures throughout the ages. From ancient Native American to the pagan Celts to the Medieval Christian church, the labyrinth has been a powerful symbol of spiritual attainment.

Today it is enjoying something of a renaissance. Across the country, indeed worldwide, walking a labyrinth is seen as a meditative exercise that imparts peace to the walker.



As an alternative to the usual spirituous celebrations of New Year’s Eve, the Snowmass Chapel offers a journey through the labyrinth. Guided walks begin at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31, at Shermer Hall at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village. Self-guided tours run from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 31.

The labyrinth at Anderson Ranch is 40 feet in diameter and is painted on a piece of canvas.



Unlike a maze that has tricks and dead ends, a labyrinth has only one entrance and exit. One enters and follows the winding way to a six-petaled center circle, then follows the same path out, said Linda Rutland, who will guide the New Year’s Eve walk.

For Rutland and others who are committed to its spiritual benefits, the labyrinth is a pilgrimage. Indeed, in the Middle Ages it was a substitute for the pilgrimage every devout Christian was expected to make to the Holy Land until the Crusades intervened and made travel there impossible.

In the United States, labyrinth walks are now promoted by a group called Veriditas, based at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco. Canon Lauren Artress leads the group.

Some years ago she was introduced to the idea and visited the Medieval cathedral of Chartres in France, which has one of the seven European labyrinths sanctioned by the church in Rome as an official pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Other pilgrimage sites were located in Spain and Britain.

Geoffrey Chaucer celebrated such a pilgrimage in his “Canterbury Tales.”

Both Rutland and Gretchen Enoch, who is deaconess at Snowmass Chapel, have studied with Artress and are hoping to spread the word about labyrinth walking here in the valley.

“Walking the labyrinth quiets the mind,” Rutland said. “That’s why it’s such an important tool for today (considering) how busy and stressed out we are. We’re all looking for relief and release from it.”

The decision to hold guided walks of the labyrinth was to mark a new beginning, Rutland added.

“It gives us an opportunity to reflect on what is going on in our lives. . It’s an opportunity through meditation to get a glimpse of the things we want to change and do better.”

To walk the winding path is to find release from the chaotic “monkey mind,” that chatty, noisy tape we have running in our heads, Rutland said. “As we wind along the path, all of a sudden you come to the center, a six-petal circle. You seem to be drawn to meditate and get in touch with our innermost being.”

At the center, benches are arranged around it and the walker has the opportunity to reflect on the first part of the path.

“Then you make a 180-degree turn and walk back out. You take what you find back into the world,” she said. “My creative juices begin to flow, and I feel like a totally different person walking back out.”

Rutland said the chapel hopes to construct a permanent labyrinth on its grounds. It would probably be configured as a walkway of stone on grass and would be open to everyone.

“It’s such a wonderful way to start the new year,” she said. `It’s an experience I wish everyone could have.”


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