Travel: Why I Don’t do Churches Any More

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Our walking tour moved from the white-hot of midday sun into the cool dimness of the Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca, Tuscany.  Our tour guide was a young woman, who knew far too much history for her own good and wanted ardently to share it with the world.

Her voice now barely a whisper, detailed the faded frescos and the 12th century marble baptismal font as we softly padded our way through the side chapels.

She waited patiently in the side chapel of Saint Zita until the last of the stragglers were present.  There was renewed determination as she spoke of the artifacts and paintings.

We had been walking and ingesting Lucca for over three hours. The majority of us were simply pleased to sit, pushing shoes off our sore feet as we sought the coolness of the marble floor.  Our guide’s history lesson was overwhelming, ticking off the centuries while our thoughts fantasized on a coffee and shopping break.

She sensed she had lost us but then she played her ‘Saint Zita’ trump card.

Purposely she stepped away from the front of the altar and with a gesture of a game show host she indicated the brightly lit glass sarcophagus behind her.

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Where the rest of the church was dim illuminated only by rose-red pools of light or iron stand banks of flickering candles, the glass case was rudely lit, neon bright like a cheap side-show.

Beneath the glass, on a bed of brocade lay the mummified remains of an ancient, once, woman, now only a leather black corpse dressed in white with a circlet of dusty plastic flowers in her thin wispy red hair.

And with that my weakened enthusiasm for absorbing yet another church was dealt a fatal blow.

Sleuthing around a church and attempting to retain a potted knowledge of patrons, saints and bishops while viewing multiples of stained glass windows, hand-carved lecterns, alabaster Madonnas and child is not for me and irrefutably, not some horror movie mummified relic in a glass case. (Forgive me Saint Zita).

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But it is in Gaudi’s Cathedral Sagrada Familia in Barcelona that I, and millions of other visitors, are rewarded with a sense of the majesty of a spiritual connection.

Is it because Gaudi’s imaginative architecture compares so pleasurably to most European medieval gothic-buttressed church naves? Those darkened hallows have a heaviness that stifles whereas Gaudi’s temple is an augury of towering space, light and intricate pinnacles that triggers one to explore it with the spiritual innocence of a child. May be Gaudi simply paid heed to the biblical quote  ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’

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The Radical Remission Project

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Dr Kelly A. Turner

While I was researching and writing my latest book ‘A Journey of Creative Healing,’ I read  the New York Times best selling book ‘Radical Remission – Surviving Cancer against all Odds.’  The author is Dr Kelly A Turner, a researcher and psychotherapist who specializes in integrative oncology.   While Kelly was studying for her Phd she was shocked that no one was investigating cases of  unexpected survivor’s of advanced cancer,  so this became her purpose to research and identify common factors of these survivor’s cures – which she refers to as radical remissions.  The book summarises her decade of research, her thousand interviews of patients and finally identifies the nine key factors that can improve people’s chance’s of remission.

I was thrilled and amazed that most of my steps to recovery from MS mirrored those of these cancer survivor factors.

As with all the other health professionals work I feature in my book ‘A Journey of Creative Healing,’ I sought Dr Turner’s permission to use material attributed to her work. She is also the founder of the The Radical Remission Project that is dedicated to continuing research and creating a community for survivors, patients, guests, and health professionals and the Project’s mission is to collect and verify survivor stories so that these in turn may help others.  Although not a cancer survivor I was asked to document my healing from MS, over half a century ago, to add to their data.

Imagine my delight today  to find that I am The Radical Remission Healing Story of the Month.  (March 2018).

I acknowledge that some sickness is more immediately life threatening than others but I still see that sickness has the same commonality whatever diagnostic label you give it. Looking at the enormous contribution of Kelly Turner’s work and my singular, but no less effective, anecdotal story of recovery, it appears the predominant common denominators of improving your chances of  recovery to wellness are: Taking control of your health, listening and acting upon your intuition, releasing suppressed emotions, embracing social support, deepening your spiritual awareness and having a strong reason for living.

There are other factors in Kelly’s book – you need to read it – and yes in my case, the  vital icing-on-the-cake factor was to consistently put my  focus on doing something that gave me joy  – – a Daily Creative Project.