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When the Spiritual is Political

March 31, 2018

 

Writing my first book was both exhilarating and exhausting, for reasons I’d anticipated and for others that hijacked me along the way. In my naivety, I didn’t know beforehand that I’d need to recuperate when the process was complete. So that’s how it’s been; no publicity, no updates, no blog posts, until now. For the last several months I’ve not compelled myself to write. I’ve honoured my need to be still, to rest and to listen. To respect my own timing. A  lovely by-product of this decision is how much clear space has opened up inside of me. And in this space I’ve found myself reflecting on two things in particular; how poor I used to be at self-care, and how committed I am to teaching the Diploma in Practical Spirituality and Wellness, because of this. 

 

In my younger days I mercilessly gave myself away even when I didn’t want to. I lived in the realm of over-stretch and projected much of what I needed outwards onto others. The foundation of my worth depended on being a care-taker. I craved approval. Consequently, engagement often became enmeshment, and friendship could lead to the persistent infringement of my boundaries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I became a social worker with children and families. It has taken me decades to undo some of the patterns that underscored this choice, and to own a truly healthy way of being in the world. Yet social work wasn’t only a stage to enact my unresolved trauma on. It was, and remains, a site of political and spiritual activism for me. Sacred ground if you will, where social justice and connection to something greater than ourselves, go hand in hand. I resonate with these words by social work educator Bernard Moss, “In this passionate conviction that all deserve equality of treatment and respect - there is an underlying passionate spirituality that has an energy and restlessness that will not find peace until truth and justice prevail.” Maybe you, like me, feel the ebb and flow of this tide in your own heart?

 

I continue to maintain that social workers can serve as lightening rods that quicken change in the lives of service users, especially when their work and advocacy in the world are one. Yet monumental challenges rear up in the face of every social care professional I know. For some their mental health is being cut away at the terrible edge where deep empathy and chronic impotence feud. It’s my belief that person-centred spirituality, which may or may not include a particular creed or tradition, may ease or alter this dynamic. In most professional fields, be that social work, health, education or law for instance, this path is an untapped resource. And one that gives some people cause for concern. Yet wedding the professional with the spirituality is just as much pragmatic as it is metaphysical to me. Why? Because when we integrate practices into our lives that enable us to stay centred, they also enable us to stay sane. Practices that honour our frailties as human beings also emancipate us from perfectionism. Practices that bind us to meaning and purpose also re-charge and re-energise us. Practices that regulate our emotions also carry health to our blood and bones and bellies. When we know how to connect to the wonder and mystery of life, be that for a moment, a minute or an hour, we experience freedom. For all of these reasons and more, I promote person-centred spirituality as an ally to, not an enemy of,  front line workers. Undoubtedly, this internal compass point has made all the difference in my own life. And, consequently in the lives of all those people I’m privileged to touch.

 

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