When I worked as a nurse I worked with people from all walks of life – from royalty to homeless. My most unforgettable patient was actually quite ordinary.
This was at Memorial Sloan Kettering, a well-known cancer hospital in Manhattan.
She was an African American woman in her late seventies. I admitted her on a Thursday night for a breast-lump biopsy on Friday morning.
She was well-groomed, dressed like a vintage church lady, with perfectly styled hair and a big hat. She told me that her hobby was tap dancing.
She was frightened – afraid of the surgery and afraid of what they might find.
But there was something about her. She was radiant. I felt it – and I know others did too, because she became a magnet for the staff that evening. Honestly, people entered her room to take her blood pressure or draw blood — and they came out better because of the experience. It seemed like the whole ward was gentler because of whatever was happening in this “ordinary” woman’s room….
The next day, her biopsy came back negative. She didn’t have cancer so she went home. I never heard from her again, but twenty-five years later I still think about her.
What was the source of her radiance?
Maybe it was because she embodied spiritual teaching in a completely natural way. She was kind and fully present. She was authentic, gracious, and willing to acknowledge her feelings. Her ability to own her fear inspired faith in something greater than fear.
I think she was a human embodiment of church at its best.
That night, she changed a cancer ward into a church.
And maybe that’s the lesson. When I am a church, everywhere I go becomes church.
Meditate – Center and become mindful. Say “I am a church” (or use another word if church doesn’t work for you – ashram, temple, mosque, synagogue, center…)
Practice – Throughout the day, check your awareness of being a holy place. Does your perception of inner holiness “change” the places around you?
Advanced Practice – Notice any fear that arises. Then welcome your fear in the Church of You.