Something I learned years before while walking a labyrinth saved me from motion sickness in Panama in the summer of 2012.
On our first full day in Panama Sue Smith and I accompanied the Virginia Latino Network Mission Team into the Kuna islands off the northeast coast of the Panamanian landmass. As we traveled on the Panamerican Highway, I was in the second seat of a large truck. I felt secure in the vehicle and with the driver but, oh, the ride! Steep ascents, hairpin turns, amazing descents into areas of washed out pavement and sheer drop-offs on both sides. I had never experienced motion sickness before but this was the first of two occasions on this trip when I almost did. I was clutching the arm rest tightly when I realized that if the truck went over the side of the mountain, I was going, too. Holding onto the door was not going to help.
A memory saved me from certain sickness. I remembered the first time I walked a labyrinth. I noticed that others were walking very slowly, just one inch at a time. The next day I walked the labyrinth that way. I learned that when I walked that slowly, every inch was the same. I didn’t know if I was in a straight section or if my feet were in the tightest turn. There on the jungle highway I (tried to) keep my eyes closed and focused my mind on my breath and God. Except when I peeked I didn’t know if we were climbing a height or about to take a plunge. I was powerless over the outcome so – as best I could – I relaxed into God’s focused stillness.
Even so when we stopped and were waiting to board our 15-passenger fiberglass boat at the primitive “port” (a rectangle of concrete sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean), I gratefully accepted a motion sickness pill and sat for awhile with my head between my knees. I’m fairly sure I was some shade of green matching the surrounding jungle.
During the next seven days we traveled many times and many miles in this boat but only one of those times did I feel a possible motion sickness coming on. I reverted to the focused breathing and then said the Jesus Prayer for everyone at work, my Sunday School class and my family. I’ve used this technique during several MRIs and dental visits but none of those experiences lasted as long as that boat trip.
When people say “prayer works,” curing motion sickness is probably not what they mean but it is one of the things prayer has come to mean to me.