Peace, one and all…
Chaplaincy, it seems, is all about offering people opportunities: opportunities to talk, opportunities to listen, opportunities to consider things anew. In other words, chaplaincy is about spiritual conversation and advice.
This is a tricky topic and raises lots of important questions. What is spiritual conversation? Given my own shortcomings, how am I to advise others on matters spiritual? How can I ensure that I listen effectively? These are only some of the questions that come to mind when thinking about this issue. However, there is a more basic question to address: what is spirituality? What does spirituality contain? What does it mean to be spiritual?
Some time ago, I offered a few thoughts on this topic in the context of Higher Education. Without repeating that post, the conclusion I came to was that before we can talk about spirituality in a useful manner, we first need to understand the topic itself.
Training for chaplaincy has made return to these questions. So, insha Allah, I hope to explore this issue in greater depth in the coming months. However, before I can explore what others mean by ‘spirituality’, I think it is important for me to explore what I mean by this term. What metaphors have particular meaning to me in determining the content of spirituality?
This is not a question I will be able to answer here. However, to get things moving along, I want to throw a thoughts down onto (virtual) paper, so that later on, I might see what sticks!
For me, spirituality is about connection and conversation. That is, becoming spiritual is about becoming connected to my Self, to others and ultimately, to Allah. It is also about conversation, or dialogue if you will, because in becoming connected it is necessary to communicate. For me, connection is a positive metaphor because it suggests a freely chosen association. It also suggests a deeper, inward meeting; when two hearts connect, the distance between them falls away and they stand as one.
Connection begins and ends in communication. The soul at rest (nafs al-mutma’inna) is able to converse, in the imaginal realm, with Allah. For those of us still on the open road, we need to converse to understand. I talk to my Self, to others and to God – to puzzle out this riddle of me, this strange thing called life. Conversation and connection therefore are really just another way of saying suhba (or sohbet) – ‘companionship’. Thus, I am being ‘spiritual’ when I am honestly striving to connect, to communicate.
How then should this insight inform my practice of chaplaincy? Well, spirituality (in these terms) is as much about letting others speak, as it is about me. After all, it is a dialogue. Thus I must be ready to listen and to speak. All of which needs to be undertaken in a spirit of honesty, good intention and compassion.
Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got to take my children swimming.