After serving the same ministry for thirty years, I retired in October 2014. When I announced my retirement, I referred to it as a “re-wire-ment.” Little did I know at the time how truly accurate that statement would be.
By the middle of December I had sold my home, and, after spending the holidays vacationing, in January 2015 I moved back to San Diego to be close to family and friends. Everything went according to plan, and the move was accomplished with ease and grace.
As I settled in to my new, simple lifestyle—I had released a three-bedroom home and settled into a one-bedroom “casita”—I began contemplating new ways to serve. I had been asked to do some guest speaking, but knew in my heart that I didn’t want to just exchange one pulpit for another. I truly wanted my retirement to be a “re-wire-ment”—serving Spirit in a new and challenging way. I spent most of my days in walking meditation. I renewed my love of the beautiful, historic Balboa Park and the boardwalks of Mission Beach and Coronado.
The ministry I had served was at one time near an active Marine airbase. The Commander and many young Marine families were a special part of our congregation. I was in awe of their commitment to peace, and deeply humbled by the many daily sacrifices they made. Knowing that San Diego had a number of Navy and Marine Corp bases, I began to explore the possibility of serving that population.
I contacted Daniel Sprague, volunteer coordinator and health care specialist, at the Navy Medical Center near Balboa Park. Dan instructed me how to obtain access to the hospital in order to meet with him. That required a visit to the base on 32nd Street to be photographed, finger-printed and fill out the forms necessary for a security clearance. In the meantime I sent Dan my resume and attended orientation and training north of San Diego. I envisioned perhaps volunteering as a hospital chaplain or support-person for inpatients at the Medical Center. I was in for a big surprise!
Meditation with a Twist
When my clearance came through and I received credentials to get on base, I met with Dan in person. He introduced me to two social workers in the Department of Oncology. After reviewing my resume, they were interested in recruiting me to work on a pilot study of the effects of meditation in calming chemotherapy patients.
I met Bernard Manschot, LSW, OSW-C*, Monica Dispenzieri, LSW, OSW-C, and Patricia Schiffler, BA, certified clinical research coordinator, and learned about the study. While most of us have been working with meditation for many years, it is relatively new for the military. I liked Bernard, Monica and Patricia immediately and was excited about the study. I was all in!
Chemotherapy treatments at the Medical Center are administered in the Ambulatory Infusion Center (AIC) and can last up to several hours for each treatment. I would be providing patients with education on the benefits of meditation as well as guided healing meditations via iPad and a survey to measure pre- and post-stress/anxiety levels. Data would then be collected and analyzed.
This is all overseen by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) which determines if the risks to subjects of a study are balanced by potential benefits to society. The pilot study was approved when Bernard and Monica’s article on the benefits of meditation was accepted for publication in the August 2015 issue of the medical journal Support Care Cancer.
Before I was able to assist in the study, I needed a higher security clearance and was required to take several online courses on research studies overseen by the IRB. I then began participating in meetings to formalize protocol for the consent process, for the obtaining of demographical information, as well as outcome measures. I was immersed in a huge learning process about military and research protocol and getting to know some truly amazing people. I have made new lifelong friends, and the work has been a joy from the very beginning.
In addition to volunteering for the iPad study three days a week, I also lead a guided group meditation every Tuesday afternoon for the oncology staff and AIC patients, and I assist individual inpatients for specific needs. Right now we have an active duty ensign expecting twins who is on complete bed rest. When she feels anxiety, she sends me a text, and I go to her hospital room for a private guided meditation using Unity’s pamphlet, Maternity Lessons.
My re-wire-ment has proved to be everything I was praying for—and more. If you are contemplating retirement, I encourage you to pray about a new and challenging avenue of volunteer service. For me, re-wire-ment is definitely rewarding!