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SHARYL ATTKISSON: Have you ever gotten lost in a hospital? With all those winding corridors, a lot of medical centers can seem like a great big maze. But get this -- now some hospitals are actually building things that look like mazes and encouraging patients to go explore. We sent Andrew Holtz out to investigate this curious new trend.

ANDREW HOLTZ: Labyrinths. You can find them in English gardens and French cathedrals. For some, they're works of art. For others, places to play. In the movies, they're terrifying traps, endless twists and turns from which there's no escape. A labyrinth is not a maze. Once you choose to enter, there are no more decision points or dead-ends. It's a single path, just with many turns. So, now that you know what a labyrinth is, what's this one doing in a hospital courtyard?

MARK SCOTT: I know it's a useful tool.

ANDREW HOLTZ: Mark Scott is CEO of Mid-Columbia Medical Center in Oregon. One of a growing number of hospitals that have labyrinths to meet patients' emotional and spiritual needs.

MARK SCOTT: People who are in pain, people who are suffering, people who have experienced emotional losses or losses of loved ones use the labyrinth. .

ANDREW HOLTZ: Ask most labyrinth users, and they'll tell you the experience is far from your average stroll.

PATIENT: It's the quieting of mind.

PATIENT: Walking the labyrinth is a real emptying process for me. It's a letting go.

JOYCE POWELL-MORIN: "This is about 40 feet across."

ANDREW HOLTZ: Joyce Powell-Morin helps patients navigate the labyrinth. "Do you ever run across folks that maybe are a little bit skeptical, who say, what is this going to do for me?"

JOYCE POWELL-MORIN: "Yes, I think that that's probably pretty common."

ANDREW HOLTZ: Jackie Mountain was skeptical during her first walk.

JACKIE: "Didn't even follow the path back out, because I thought, I've got things to do, places to go, people to see. I'm busy, I can't do this."

ANDREW HOLTZ: But faced with a diagnosis of breast cancer, she made another attempt... this time, with an open mind.

JACKIE: "That helped me a lot, to be able to carry on with treatment and feel strong, and more like I was in control."

MARK SCOTT: Our cancer patients can center themselves before treatment by walking the labyrinth, or even use it as a tool to relax after they've had chemotherapy or after they've had radiation treatment.

JACKIE: "There are more and more people saying, what is it, what's it about, and how can it work in my life?"

ANDREW HOLTZ: No one knows why these paths seem to have the power to soothe. The question for modern medicine is whether the winding roads to relaxation lead to a destination of recovery.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: And healing labyrinths aren't limited to just hospitals. Virginia Tech University occasionally sets one up to help students cope with the stress of exams and dorm life. Remember, you can visit our Web site, at, for general information about stories in this week's program. You can also call our toll-free number... 1-888-562-8300. That's all for now. Next time on HealthWeek... does the answer to migraines lie in your feet? We'll show you why some headache sufferers are turning to foot massages in their search for relief. Hope you will join us. Thank you for watching! I'm Sharyl Attkisson. Be well!


The Journal of Mazes and Labyrinths

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