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What was a cold patch of concrete a year ago is today a leafy garden retreat enjoyed by the students, faculty and staff of City University of New York School of Law at Queens College. Lots of campuses have such greenery, not to mention ivy. But no other campus in the nation has what may be found in a quiet corner of CUNY law’s garden: a labyrinth, not to be confused with a maze, which is, of course, designed to be confusing. On the contrary, the labyrinth at CUNY law is one element of a new three-part program aimed at bringing emotional, physical and intellectual equilibrium to the business of being a lawyer — a profession occasionally perceived as maddening. “Contemplative Practice for the Urban Law Community,” as the program is known, is open not only to the law school community in Flushing, Queens, but to all lawyers, through the CUNY Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan. Although lawyers must go to Flushing to walk the labyrinth, the other components of the program, formal instruction in yoga and meditation techniques, are available at the graduate center. “Whether you walk the labyrinth or sit there and try to recoup after a crazy morning or afternoon, it’s been very helpful,” said Frederick P. Rooney, director of CUNY law’s Community Legal Resource Network, which oversees the contemplative program. “We need to look at any way we can make life easier for our students, and for our lawyer graduates.” CRAZY DAYS “Crazy days” may be a mild description of the stress in a lawyer’s life. As Steven Keeva writes in “Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life” (Contemporary Books, 1999): “At the law school level … psychologists are seeing a disturbingly high incidence of students who suffer from debilitating levels of stress … In the world of law practice, it only gets worse. Studies show that one of every four lawyers suffers from psychological distress of some kind.” Accordingly, said CUNY law Dean Kristen Booth Glen, “It just seems to me that we have an obligation to give our students and graduates some tools to deal with this stress.” With Dean Glen’s blessings came the weekly yoga and meditation classes. And last November, the labyrinth was dedicated as the third — and nationally unique — part of the contemplative program. The outdoor labyrinth was created with a grant from an anonymous donor through the Tides Foundation. “We need to enable urban attorneys and law students, particularly those working in underserved communities, to rest, reflect and regroup,” said David C. Levine, director of continuing education and public programs at CUNY’s graduate center in Manhattan. “It’s hard to close yourself off from the personal problems of clients when you’re working long hours on hard issues. “These practices — yoga, meditation and walking the labyrinth — enable people to stay well. You can’t do good work unless you’re taking care of yourself.” CIRCULAR PATHWAY A few minutes of strolling through a labyrinth — a circular pathway with entrance and exit points being the same — is something that people of nearly all the world’s cultures have been doing for some 4,000 years. Walkers bring to the exercise some particularly pressing matter, and report a resulting calm as they round the path, all the while focusing on their problem. The labyrinth is free for the walking, of course, as are yoga and mediation for the CUNY law campus community. At the graduate center, located at 365 Fifth Ave., public interest lawyers are charged $40 for a four-week yoga session, and $48 for four weeks of meditation. The fees for all other lawyers are 20 percent higher. For information, call (212) 817-8215. Labryinths and yoga and meditation may sound far too New Age-ish to some, but Ray M. L�pez keeps an open mind. “Sometimes lawyers are resistant to talking about stress management,” said L�pez, director of the Lawyers Assistance Program for the New York State Bar Association. “They have too many excuses. “‘I’m too busy,’ they’ll say. ‘Stress management is corny,’ they’ll say. ‘I’m not going to jump up and down every day, or go off to India,’ they’ll say. They take it to extremes,” said L�pez. “But this is what I would ask them: When you wear out your body from boozing or drugging from stress, where are you going to live then?”

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