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From our CEO: Meet Me in the Middle

Victoria has finally caught up with the rest of Australia by opening up. Unsurprisingly, Melbournians have a great sense of urgency to get back to our usual places. Not least of these are coffee shops. Meeting over a cuppa is a simple and powerful ritual where all manner of relationships are fostered, transacted, broken and mended across the country and indeed the world. Some cultures have a more elaborate ritual than others. Whatever the dimensions of the ritual, there are elements in common that make this fertile ground for spiritual care to occur.

One is the power dynamic, particularly when meeting in a cafe. Rather than a clinical setting or other official environment, each person can be in the space in their own right. It is not owned by one person or the other, and either person can arrive and leave the same way everyone else does. The fact of meeting for a coffee does not signal, as a more formal appointment might, “I am in need and you are the expert who is helping me”. Whilst there will still be a power dynamic at play over coffee, this could be flattened somewhat by the environment.

By moving the conversation closer to ‘normal life’ and away from a clinical setting, the non-pathologising approach of spiritual care becomes even clearer. The meeting place of a coffee creates an open space that does not require a diagnosis or label in order to qualify for the conversation. Spiritual care over coffee means the space has informally become a place of choice and a place of respectful, attentive listening and possibly healing. In this act of deep listening, an invitation is made by the person offering spiritual support to meet the other in the middle.* There is no need to cross over to the other side, to the other person’s territory, as it were. It becomes a place of deep nurture, sometimes as a one off and sometimes over many meetings. It becomes a place of safety to talk about those deeper parts of your life free of judgement and with the opportunity to explore or grieve or laugh over your connection with self, others, creativity, nature and perhaps Something Bigger. A place of spiritual support.

The opportunities and significance of what happens over coffee was not missed by Dr Kate Jones when studying spirituality in the context of a rehabilitation hospital. We heard at a recent research webinar we co-hosted with the Spiritual Health Association that during a focus group with staff, Kate heard about the regular coffee group that speech pathologists were running with patients to practice conversation skills. They commented that this was the place that deep conversations came up: “many a time clients have deferred that [spiritual] conversation from social work or psychology and brought it up in a speech pathology session or coffee group”.**

The gift of spiritual care is that it is highly flexible, and whilst specialists in spiritual care do work as professionals with boundaries, it is important to see its potential for meeting us where we are and not trying to fit it neatly in one place or another. Vast amounts of spiritual support occur not only in coffee shops but also in corridors, carparks and kitchens.

I am delighted to be sharing more on this theme of spirituality in everyday life at the upcoming Lantern Conference, which is focussed on improving the quality of life of older Australians through good food and nutrition. This is a great event for your operational and catering leads and anyone looking for pragmatic solutions in the aged care food space. Our members can access the conference at a special price using the code MA2020. Check if you organisation is a member here.

The issue also includes:

  • Guest Article: On Suffering by Dr Megan Best
  • Launch of The Map of Meaning and Ageing: a self-reflection guide
  • Free Webinar: Consistent staff assignment in residential aged care – now is the time with Daniella Greenwood

Read the full issue here.