meditation labyrinth

Walking meditation a fitness favorite

René Fay regularly walks the labyrinth outside Grace Cathedral to relax and meditate. She is seen here on Monday, December 10, 2012, on San Francisco, Calif., walking the path. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle / SF

Debra Levi Holtz, SF Gate:

René Fay, 30, San Francisco

Occupation: Referral coordinator at A Home Within, and barista at Sweet Inspiration Bakery.

Activity: Walking meditation.

Where do you do walking meditation? I walk the labyrinths (both indoor and outside) at Grace Cathedral every weekday after work. I start at the beginning of the labyrinth and, usually at a slow pace, make my way toward the center. I concentrate on …

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Calgary campus centre mends the mind

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ctvcalgary.ca: It is a stressful time for university students who are in the middle of writing final exams but now a little relief can be found on campus.

Staff at the University of Calgary’s Wellness Centre say students are all feeling the pressure of finals and dealing with the holiday season.

To help students cope, they have converted a dance studio in the Kinesiology Department on campus into a stress free zone.

The overhead lights are turned off and soothing music is played and a labyrinth is laid out in the middle of the floor for walking meditation.

“Sometimes they don’t even need to do anything, it’s just providing a space that is separate from what they associate with school, and with exams and studying and stress, so sometimes it’s just having that relaxing atmosphere, having the nice music, the dim lighting, and options for them to relax,” said Adriana Tulissi from the Faith & Spirituality Centre.

Tulissi says some days there are as many as 20 students in the centre who are there to simply relax and let go of their stresses.

The facility also has mats so students can take a nap and lamps for studying in a quiet environment and is also open to faculty and staff.

The program has been running for the past eleven years and is open from December 13th to the 20th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

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How walking the labyrinth changed my life

Sally Quinn, CNN: When I tell people I have a labyrinth and that I walk it regularly, most have no idea what I’m talking about.

They think a labyrinth is a maze, a place you walk into and then have trouble finding your way out.

In fact it is just the opposite. A labyrinth is a place you go to get found.

For many, walking the labyrinth is a religious experience. There are many famous labyrinths in churches, the most famous being the one on the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France, which dates to the 13th century.

Others see it as more spiritual. Some find it a meditation tool or walk it simply for the peace and serenity that come from being alone and contemplating a problem or issue.

For me it is all of those things. It is a sacred space.

I first encountered a labyrinth at a California spa about 15 years ago. I’d never heard of a labyrinth before and, though some at the spa said it had changed people’s lives, I was skeptical.

But I agreed to give it a try. There was a ceremony in the evening, with torches and drums, and about 30 of us there to do the walk.

I loved the ritual but didn’t really get much out of it. Too many people.

Still, there was something that appealed to me. So the next day, I went up to the grove of live oaks on the hill where the labyrinth was situated. There was nobody there.

I paused at the entrance and took in the surroundings. There was a slight breeze whispering though the leaves and the late afternoon sun had warmed the circle.

I began concentrating on my son Quinn, who had severe learning disabilities at the time and was in a special school. What would become of him? We had had a particularly difficult year and I was in despair.

I entered the labyrinth and began to make my way slowly toward the center. Once I got there I sat down and looked straight ahead. My eyes fell on a huge pine tree in front of me that I hadn’t noticed before.

It had beautiful spreading boughs, as though it was embracing the circle of the labyrinth. It was one of the prettiest trees I had ever seen and it was the only pine amid the live oaks.

I suddenly experienced a shocking stroke of clarity. That tree was Quinn.

He was different from all the other trees but he was more beautiful than they were. I began to cry. How could I not have realized this all along?

That moment transformed my whole view of my son and of me, along with my attitude toward his problems. Not only was he beautiful but he could use his differences to his advantage, helping others at the same time.

The following year I had a reservation to go back to the same spa. Quinn was scheduled to have cognitive testing the week before I left. At the last minute, they had to change the date for when I was to be away.

My husband convinced me to go anyway.

The hour of his testing I went up to the labyrinth, found my way to the circle and concentrated on Quinn for the whole time I knew he would be doing tests.

Later, when we went back to the hospital for the results, we were not optimistic. Quinn had performed poorly on most of the earlier tests. But the doctors said he had the highest score of anyone they had ever seen on one of the tests.

“What was that?” I asked. “The maze,” said the doctor.

Since then, Quinn has written a book, “A Different Life,” about growing up with learning disabilities (we now refer to them as learning differences) and has launched a website called friendsofquinn.com for young adults with learning differences and their friends and families.

He is happily married and has a full and successful life.

I’m not sure I can totally attest to the fact that this is because of walking the labyrinth that first day. But I can say this: Because I told him about my experience with the pine and the oaks, he decided to make a life using his problems to help others.

He has completely accepted who he is and his limitations and has a sense of humor about himself and his issues. His motto for the site is “own it.” And he has.

Does all this add up to a religious experience? Call it what you will. All I know is that my life has become much richer by walking the labyrinth.

Mine is modeled after the one at Chartres Cathedral. It is a 50-foot concrete circle on a slope overlooking a river in the country southern Maryland, surrounded by woods.

It has a path carved into it leading to the center, which is where I meditate.

I always begin my labyrinth walk by concentrating on something I need to find an answer to. I walk slowly at first, really trying to lose myself in my thoughts. The slowness is important because it gives me time to focus on whatever the issue is.

Once I get to the center of the circle, I start meditating. Sometimes I just stand and look out at the river. I might stay there for 10 or 15 minutes.

Other times I sit cross-legged for an hour or so. There are times, too, where I lie down in a spread eagle position or in a corpse pose, or chaturanga, and close my eyes.

I’ve stayed in those positions for hours at a time, completely losing myself to the experience

For me, achieving clarity is the most important benefit of walking the labyrinth. It has happened so many times that I now expect it.

I can walk in the woods or on the beach for hours, thinking about a problem and not be able to come up with a solution. Yet I can spend 15 or 20 minutes on the labyrinth and solve everything.

Supposedly the folded path pattern on the labyrinth mimics the pattern of our brains. Whatever it is, it works for me.

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Labyrinths, a walking meditation

Last week, I had a profoundly spiritual experience that you might want to try for yourself. I walked the labyrinth at the Brecksville United Methodist Church.

Labyrinths are a series of winding paths that you walk. They lead to a center where you pause to contemplate or pray or rest, and then you walk back out to the beginning. A labyrinth is meant to be a walking meditation.

 

I went with no expectations; I just wanted to see what it was all about. But when I began to walk the labyrinth, I couldn’t help but think about the journey of my life: where have I been, where am I now, where am I going? Why am I in such a hurry?

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According to the website lessonsforliving.com, the labyrinth “is a metaphor for life’s journey … the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.”

Labyrinths can be very simple structures or very elaborate. Some are made of stones or snow or chalk, and some are laid in marble or grown out of hedges. The one that I walked last week is printed on a gigantic piece of canvas and is brought out for special occasions.

Labyrinths have been used in many cultures around the world for thousands of years and have been called various names, according to GraceCathedral.org.

Whether you’d like to quiet the mind, meditate, celebrate or contemplate, a labyrinth walk might be just the thing. During my labyrinth walk last week, I was so caught up in my thoughts that I was almost in a trance. Without realizing it, I completed the labyrinth and walked right out. This abrupt ending also made me think about the journey of life, and I had the desire to run back in.

If you would like the experience of walking a labyrinth, there are a surprising number of free resources available. I’ve included some links below, but call ahead to verify hours.

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Matter of Faith: Meditation, prayer can help find God

In many Eastern traditions, and growing in popularity in the Western world, more and more is being written about meditation. And some of us are at least thinking about meditating – especially as we hear Western medicine voicing its value with some physicians even writing prescriptions for meditation. The practice is being given credit for better health, relaxation and even lowering blood pressure.

Similarly, there is a discipline called Centering Prayer, a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. While Centering Prayer is attributed to the Rev. Thomas Keating, all faith traditions – Jewish, Christian and Muslim – practice some form of prayer; with Quakers and Buddhists honoring the silence.

In our world of technology and the use of cell phones, radio, CDs, TV and the Internet, silence becomes more and more difficult to find. Silence between two or in a group of people can even make us uncomfortable. Today, there is less time in our busy lives…

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to experience the power of an inner world.

Winter, with leanings to hibernation, is probably the best season to “awaken” to that world. Wrapped in fleece, watching a fire makes the journey inward a bit easier. It is our head that gets in our way. While solitary meditation brings inner peace, group meditation has proven to change society as evidenced in a drop in the crime rate in Washington, D.C. during research using large numbers of people meditating at the same time with that intention.

My first experience with group meditation was at the Christine Center in Willard, south of Thorp, where I believed I had booked a long weekend of rest and relaxation. When registering I was asked if I’d like to join others in a retreat experience for just an extra $25. I said, “Sure.”

I found out after I arrived I had signed up for a four-day silent retreat – a form of meditation that called for no writing, no reading, no music the entire time, alternating between sitting and walking meditation with a one-hour morning lecture. Of course food and sleep rounded out the days. It was an incredible experience to just be with my thoughts.

The word center contains the word enter. Brian Luke Seward in “Quiet Mind, Fearless Heart” connects the center of the labyrinth to the experience of centering ourselves in prayer and meditation. He writes, “Walking the labyrinth – as you walk from the entrance of the circle’s perimeter through a gentle maze of smaller concentric circles to the center, a divine stillness quiets the soul and a transformation takes place to prepare you, the student, so that the inner teacher will come. With the word center, like the path of the labyrinth, there is an implicit invitation to enter the heart.”

If the spiritual path is truly 12 to 14 inches from the head to the heart, then look no further than the meditating/centering process to get you there.

McKinney is a pastor at Unity Christ Center in Eau Claire. Matter of Faith, a column on faith and ethics, is printed periodically.

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Labyrinth experience provides outlet for meditation

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Sara F. Neumann, The Etownian: Although Elizabethtown [Pennsylvania] College is a Brethren-affiliated college, the religious identity of students and faculty has become more diverse in recent years; the religions on campus vary from Christian faiths to Jewish to Muslim and everything in between. In light of this diversity, there have been more attempts by student organizations to reach out and invite people of various faiths through different activities.

The Labyrinth, hosted by the Chaplain’s Office, is one of these new interfaith activities. Most students are unaware of what a labyrinth is and what the experience at Etown offers them. “Labyrinths are a kind of walking meditation and they are like mazes, but there is only one path in and one path out. It’s a guided path that allows walkers to get closer to God or just to themselves,” explained Assistant Chaplain Amy Shorner-Johnson.

The Labyrinth began last semester and is held on Sunday nights, but this semester it was switched to Thursday afternoons.”We wanted it to be more interfaith,” Shorner-Johnson said. “Having it during the week makes it more inviting toward everyone.”

Labyrinths date back to Roman times, when Romans carved the circular paths onto rocks. They were then adopted by various faiths, including Christian sects, who often placed them on church floors. Depending on the faith, labyrinths could be walked on the knees for penance or walked as a substitute for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. One of the most famous labyrinths is in the Chartres Cathedral in Paris, France; the labyrinth is a circular maze, which leads into a patterned center and then leads the walker back out.

Etown’s own labyrinth is modeled after the Chartres labyrinth. It is a large canvas piece that, when rolled out, reveals a winding path defined in purple. “The Chaplain’s husband picked the color, actually, and the company liked it so much they picked it up for their other labyrinths,” Senior Marshal Fettro said, the student leader in charge of the Labyrinth.

While Chartres labyrinth is a Catholic labyrinth, the assistant chaplain is eager to emphasize that Etown’s is multifaith and open to all. While labyrinths can be religious for some, walking one does not have to be a path to a personal God. It can just be a way to relax.

“It provides a sacred space or just a getaway for students. You can practice mindfulness while walking it. Sometimes if I try to meditate or relax while just sitting, I worry about sleeping. I tend to be able to focus when I’m doing something,” Shorner-Johnson shared.

Senior Laura Miller explained that she goes to the Labyrinth as an escape. “I’ve been coming since last semester. It’s just a break from everyday life,” she said.

Senior Amanda McGeary, a first time attendee, came to earn Called to Lead points. “It was calming and quiet. It was just nice,” she said.

Another first time Labyrinth walker was impressed with the fulfillment of the slogan that drew him in. “I saw the poster in the BSC that said, ‘Walk your worries away,’ and I thought, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ Well, it worked—I don’t have any worries anymore,” he explained.

The Labyrinth experience offers a few quiet hours for students to focus simply on themselves or on getting close to the God in which they personally believe. Music is played during the experience, but it is non-denominational; the CDs vary from Native American chants to simple nature sounds. The music changes from week to week. The walk can take as long or as short as the walker desires, depending on what they are contemplating.

“Just setting some time, whether to meditate, pray or think, can turn the profane into the sacred,” Fettro said, referencing Emile Durkheim’s dichotomy of the sacred and profane.

The Labyrinth is held every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. in the M&M Mars room in Leffler Chapel. It is open to all who wish to attend.

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Not your everyday worship: the legend of the labyrinth

Contrary to popular belief, labyrinths are not used to get one lost and confused – rather, their purpose is to find answers and to meditate on religious issues. Two of the 109’s churches, St. Stephen Presbyterian Church and the University Christian Church, use labyrinths as methods of worship.

That fact is, according to Mark Scott of St. Stephen, the labyrinth is an extremely ancient form of meditation that has roots in paganism and is used as a form of worship in many historically aware churches. The design of labyrinths at St. Stephen and the University Church can both be traced back to the famous Notre Dame Chapel in Chartres, France.

Scott, St, Stephen’s minister of music and organist, is a fierce proponent of labyrinth. He says its ability to help sort out one’s life problems and commune with the God is a type of therapy and worship that would benefit everyone, Christian or not.

“It’s symbolic along the path of life and reminiscent of the times and trials in one’s life. It’s a visual reminder of the non-visual,” Scott said.

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The winding paths of the labyrinth are meant to be walked quadrant by quadrant. Participants meditate on any issues they are experiencing in life and offer these up to God. After walking the main section or quadrants, the meditator or questioner stands or kneels at the center or main floret or rose of the labyrinth and then exits.

“It’s supposed to be a journey,” Scott said. “It makes you slow down and think. You’re supposed to take your time walking. It’s a very esoteric, ecumenical type of thing.”

St. Stephen has two labyrinths — one indoor, one outdoor.

The outdoor labyrinth is in the form of a garden path and is flanked by benches and a vista of downtown Fort Worth. Scott says it was funded by a church member and like the indoor labyrinth, was a gift given in memory of a loved one.

The indoor labyrinth is an 11-circuit Chartres-style labyrinth actually painted on an enormous piece of canvas fabric and is rolled out on various holiday occasions and when led in a labyrinth worship facilitation by church member and trained labyrinth facilitator and clinical psychologist, Carol Stalcup.

Stalcup visited Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to be trained by Lauren Artress, the woman charged with starting the revival of labyrinth worship in the early ‘90s. According to the training Stalcup received, there appear to be three stages during one’s walking of the labyrinth: the releasing of cares and distractions, the receiving of enlightenment or encouragement, and returning to the world in union with God.

Stalcup says facilitators are trained to deal with people’s differing reactions to the labyrinth and also sometimes encourage people to journal about their experiences to better understand them.

“Some people are deeply moved and there are tears, they have a profound experience and come out lighter, happy, and thoughtful. For others, it’s simply another form of prayer and not as dramatic. It’s different for everyone and the labyrinth is not meant for everyone.”

Constantly making turns and twists in connection with the direction of the labyrinth is something that Stalcup says is currently being scientifically tested to determine whether it helps tap into the left and right hemispheres of the brain. She says it could be a scientifically proven neurological calming process.

Stalcup is a believer in what she terms embodied spirituality: that humans can disconnect their bodies from their emotional and spiritual lives. She believes the labyrinth is the perfect conduit for doing so. She calls walking the labyrinth a form of “body prayer” and emphasizes the positive connection between body movement and one’s ability to connect with a deeper part of oneself.

Stalcup said she wishes all could experience the benefits of walking the labyrinth. She says she is such a devoted follower of labyrinth worship because each experience is different and unique, and she loves the diversity.

“I have walked with different communities of friends and with groups of strangers, I have walked solo walks and lingered a long time. I’ve danced the path, sung, prayed, created body prayers, listened to music, smiled, laughed, been surprised by tears, felt deep awe, felt lonely, felt reassured, solved a problem,” Stalcup said.

It is her favorite form of worship because of the various forms of spiritual experiences one can have.

“I have experienced what I believe to be profound spiritual experiences, but am always caught by surprise,” she said. “Somehow, though a walk may not move me to tears or bring me to dance, I always feel as if the time I spent on the labyrinth was a special moment outside of linear time, outside of my usual way of being.”

Stalcup said being a regular walker of the labyrinth has “directly impacted my discernment of God’s presence in my life, in others, in the world. Those discernments stay with me, sustaining, encouraging, nourishing and leading me to more gratitude, wonder and connection with all of creation.”

For those with difficulty walking or without access to a full-size labyrinth, there are finger or stylus labyrinths, which one can follow with a finger or pen-like utensil and employ the same meditation/worship philosophy.

The UCC’s website for its labyrinth ministry describes using the labyrinth as a way “to enhance spiritual growth, experience transformation, enter into an intimate and inspiring relationship with God and one another, and share the path in the spirit of love, reverence and respect for each one’s personal journey.”

UCC’s labyrinth is also a hand-painted, roll-out canvas. They were bought from the same company and are the same traditional Chartres design.

The labyrinth of Chartres is famous for its location, age and size. It was inlaid in the Chartres Cathedral floor in 1205 and contains only one pathway, which is 954 feet in length. The center of the labyrinth purportedly once had a metal plate with figures of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur, figures from the classical Greek mythology of the labyrinth on Minos.

The Chartres-style labyrinth employed by both churches has a circular pattern with a rose or floret design in the center. According to Stalcup, the rose symbolically can stand for human love, enlightenment, Christ, and God’s love for the world. The rose traditionally has six petals which represent the six days of creation; Stalcup encourages her “walkers” to step into each petal and as they leave the central rose, to imagine themselves returning to the world in union with God.

While many churches utilize the practice of worship with the help of labyrinths, the practice is actually an ancient one the church may have borrowed from pagan or nature-based religions.

“Christians were kind of the late kids to the party,” Scott says with a laugh. “Even down to the holidays, Christmas was made Christmas because of the winter solstice. Easter coincides with the spring equinox.”

Above all, Scott says, he wishes all to know St. Stephen’s outdoor labyrinth is intended for the entire community, religious or not.

“Sure, it’s a labyrinth with a Christian take, but anyone can come use it. With the benches all around, the beautiful garden, the glorious view — we want anyone and everyone to be able to use and enjoy it.”

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Labyrinths, meditation apps, and a not-so-rolling Stone

You’ve heard of meditation labyrinths, where people mindfully walk along complex pathways. These are increasing in popularity, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, which says there are now more than 1000 labyrinths across the US, including at least 170 in hospitals. Somewhat less mainstream are meditation pyramids, which apparently help us retrieve “positive cosmic energy.” I’m skeptical. On the other hand the meditation pond being built by students from the University of Tampa sounds like a lovely idea.

If you go to the meditation pond you may wish to leave your iPhone behind, but if you do take it there’s been a whole bunch of recent news stories about meditation apps, including a Mental Workout, a Zen Timer, and meditations to help you Build Confidence.

If you decide to take your meditation a bit further, and head to a temple in, say, Laos, you might find yourself bumping zabutons with none other than Mick Jagger, if the UK tabloid The Sun’s report is true. The Sun claims that Sir Mick has been sneaking off to the city of Luang Prabang, where he has been spending time with monks. Of course the Sun does not have a reputation for the most accurate reporting. Wikipedia in fact has an entire section of an article devoted to the Sun’s inventions. But it’s nice to think that Jagger might get some satisfaction from sitting.

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Joliet hospice to break ground on labyrinth

The Joliet Area Community Hospice Home will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for a labyrinth and meditation garden at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday on the hospice property, 250 Water Stone Circle, off of McDonough Street.

The public is invited.

Funded by a $25,000 grant from Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel, the labyrinth and surrounding garden design were developed by Joliet Junior College Professor Greg Pierceall and his horticulture students. The event will begin with refreshments, followed by a short program at 10 a.m.

“Hospice provides a professional, caring service at a most difficult time of life, while allowing for comfort and support for numerous families,” said Darren VanDover, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel. “Harrah’s is honored to be able to contribute to their amenities with the hope that the meditation garden will provide solace and peace to families in crisis.”

A labyrinth is a single path that leads walkers to a center. The labyrinth planned for the hospice is off of an existing pathway, and hospice officials hope it will be a place for meditation and reflection for patients and their families.

“We would like this space to offer those dealing with loss and end of life either a relaxing or energizing experience,” said Ava Shapard, hospice director of development.

“This labyrinth is one of the many amenities provided to patients and families coping with loss and end of life at the hospice home, all designed to provide peace and tranquility in their hours of need.”

For more information or to RSVP, contact Jill Madison at jmadison@harrahs.com or 815-740-7829; Ava Shapard at ashapard@joliethospice.org or 815-460-3250; or Kelly Rohder at 815-280-2915 or krohder@jjc.edu.

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Unity Church of Sun City, Arizona, to dedicate labyrinth

The Unity Church of Sun City will dedicate a replica of the labyrinth of Chartres, France, on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

Fewer than a dozen replicas exist. The first in the United States was at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

Labyrinths have been known to the human race for more than 3,500 years. They have been used in many different religious ways by many peoples and as solar and lunar calendars. In Arizona, the Hopi use a form of the labyrinth in their religious symbolism, and the Tohono O’odham “Man in the Maze” is actually a seven-circuit labyrinth and is part of an elaborate creation myth.

Medieval pilgrims, unable to fulfill their desire to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, went instead to many pilgrimage sites in Europe or Britain. In many cases, the end of their journey was a labyrinth formed of stone and laid in the floor of the nave of a Gothic cathedrals. The center of the labyrinths probably represented for many pilgrims the Holy City itself and thus became the substitute goal of the journey.

The labyrinth is a path for prayer and meditation and is available to the Sun City community at any time.

People have different experiences walking the labyrinth. As with all practices of prayer or meditation, the experience will grow and deepen the more one does it.

Some people feel a sense of peace. Others find old memories rising up as they walk. Others find themselves thinking about an immediate situation or person. Others walk at varying speeds as different thoughts and emotions come and go. Some people experience physical sensations, perhaps become light-headed, or have a feeling of floating above, a feeling of weight or of great warmth. Some people have profound insights. Others have very small experiences or none at all. The experience of walking the labyrinth is different for each person, each time.

The labyrinth is in the garden at 10101 W. Coggins Drive (101st Avenue in Sun City). It is open at all times, including nights, when it is lighted.

[via AZ Central]
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