About a month ago, when I was on the phone with my primary care physician, she happened to suggest I develop a deeper spiritual practice. She backtracked somewhat, knowing that this is a churchy family, but also invited me into a mindfulness group.
I didn't accept her invitation, but the suggestion never left me. Research has shown that cancer survivors with deep spiritual affiliation, in fact, do survive longer. Some of it has to do with being part of a community and some of it we don't quite understand.
Church has been quite problematic to me recently. Just before I was diagnosed, say the spring of 2011, I was in regular attendance and was leading a group. I have facilitated many, many groups through the years. If the topic is something that I actually understand, I present myself as the teacher, but more often I simply ask the questions and support just about every comment so that participants ending up finding their own way and possibly bringing someone along with them.
After the last group ended it was approaching summer and I needed a break. By August I was symptomatic and soon diagnosed with a recurrence of the Stage 4 (read, incurable) breast cancer I had been living with for the previous ten years. It was a truism that I really didn't feel well enough to do anything I didn't absolutely have to do. That meant that Steve drove me to medical appointments - I had to get to those - and I missed almost 50% of the group sessions at Juvenile Hall, depending where I was in the chemo cycle. I canceled many of my office clients. Sunday morning meant I could sleep. I was bald, I felt like crap, church certainly felt irrelevant to my life at the time.
But once I started feeling well I wasn't particularly interested in going either. I did ask to attend St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in Honolulu when we were there, but part of that was pure cultural interest. I have traveled with Steve sometimes as he circuit rides to fill in all over northern California (now that he's retired!!!). But mostly I feel quite lost and certainly disenchanted.
I do, however, do some spiritual reading. And yesterday afternoon I took Youngest Grandson over to Trinity Church where Steve and others constructed a labyrinth some years back. YG had never heard of a labyrinth and didn't know the difference between a labyrinth and a maze. So I explained a bit, trying not to be too preachy - maybe five sentences altogether - and then we drove over and I set him loose.
YG was walking ahead of me so finished first. Because I was with him I walked a tad faster than I would have had I been alone, but there wasn't much difference. It took each of us a full 20 minutes. I didn't have major revelations, probably because I was also on nanny duty, but I do recall noticing a large root coming through the earth which prompted notions of the knots and struggles, the trippy places, in the journey of life.
I couldn't help but wonder how my life might change if walking the labyrinth were a regular practice in my life, something I did one or more times a week. When Steve was rector of Trinity he used to comment about the number of labyrinth walkers - from the community, not necessarily the parish - who he could see from his office window. Some people do walk labyrinths. As for YG, he had so many questions and summarized it as "cool." We asked Steve for details during dinner.
Back home I found labyrinthlocator.com. When I plugged in our zip code I noticed that there are some 35 labyrinths within a 25 mile radius. When I plugged in YG's home zip the list totaled 53 in his 25 mile radius, including one in his own town. ("I'm going to ask my mom to take me.") Clearly northern California is quite saturated. I printed out the list and want to keep it close by as one option available to me. I do acknowledge being intrigued.
And like every other part of my personal life journey, I am absolutely clueless as to where it might lead.