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Nurturing Your Spirit

by Walter V. Moczynski, DMin

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Living with cancer can be challenging. But the cancer journey can also be a time to explore new ways to nurture your spirit and find inner peace, courage, meaning, community, hope, and a broader view of life. For many people, spirituality is an important part of coping that brings a sense of wholeness and well-being in the midst of illness.

Spirituality can mean many different things to different people. It can be viewed as something within us or around us, as a life force residing in a connection to others or found in all living things, or even as a transcendent being, such as God. We, ourselves, can be viewed as spiritual beings on a spiritual and physical journey. The beauty of spirituality is that regardless of the challenges we face and the coming and going of people in our lives, our spirit is always with us.

Creating sacred time and space allows you to quiet your mind and spirit. Your special time may be in the morning, at the end of the day, or even in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.

Author of Article photo

Rev. Dr. Walter Moczynski

Spirituality is expressed in many ways. You might maintain a set of beliefs and practices of a particular religion, or you may view your spirituality as personal or secular, in conjunction with or apart from a religious community. Perhaps you are currently supported by your religious community, or maybe you have been away and are anxious about returning. Perhaps this area is new and you’ve never had a connection with a religion or a spiritual group, but now you are interested. Or you may be experiencing spiritual distress because of your illness and seeking ways to address it. Regardless of your situation, you can take action to tend to your spiritual needs.

Create sacred time and space.
With the many demands of life in our society, it is very difficult to schedule time for ourselves. Now add time needed for medical appointments, hospitalization, recovery, and other commitments, and the day disappears. You may also have the responsibility of caring for others. However, it is difficult to care for others if you don’t have time to care for yourself. On the other hand, you may find yourself with a great deal of time on your hands, and the days pass slowly.

Creating sacred time and space allows you to quiet your mind and spirit. Your special time may be in the morning, at the end of the day, or even in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. In fact, finding time to read this article is a good start. If quiet and stillness does not suit your personality, a walk, a swim, or a jog may define that sacred space for you.

In many religious and spiritual traditions, practices such as prayer and meditation are used to refocus and connect to spirituality. Whatever it is for you, find your sacred time and space, and begin to embrace life, family, and friends in a new light, set goals, and love yourself.

Discover meaningful signs and symbols.
It is helpful to have a tangible sign or symbol to represent your spirituality. It may be a sacred written word or phrase, a special object, a poem, a photo, a work of art, or a song lyric. Find one that reminds you of a sacred connection or that represents comfort, joy, and hope.

Explore spiritual resources.
It’s easy to feel alone on your cancer journey, even with many people around you. Reach out to foster relationships that are important to you. Find a friend, clergy person, or chaplain to share your journey with and to look to as a guide. Consider seeking out a spiritual community, such as a church, mosque, sangha, temple, or other place of worship, to deepen your spirituality and overcome feelings of isolation.

Discover sacred texts, inspirational stories, rites and rituals of worship, music, and journaling that connect with you. Be creative in order to nourish your spirit and expand your spiritual understanding. Most importantly, know that you are not alone. An eternal presence of hope and love is there for you, woven within many religious and spiritual traditions.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Rev. Dr. Walter Moczynski is the director of Spiritual Care and Education at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2012.