Monday 23 April 2018

Supervision - A Person With Whom to Journey

One of the first questions I was asked after announcing that I was going to take a leave of absence from ministry was, "Have you spoken with your professional supervisor about this?" My initial reaction was offence. Of course I have! What do you take me for? Fortunately, those comments stayed in my head. I have always taken professional supervision very seriously and have been blessed with some fantastic people throughout my ministry journey. I consider my supervisor to be the one who I can be truly honest about how ministry is travelling. In my experience, the supervisor's role is to hear you, challenge you, help you to be reflective about your role and hold you accountable.

Almost two years ago now, my supervisor of seven years became ill and was unable to continue our supervision relationship. At the time, I was upset. This was the man who had helped me define who I was in ministry, given me the courage to speak out and attempted to instil in me a good pattern of self care. He had listened to some of my most personal dreams, witnessed my confessions of doubts and encouraged me when I was feeling hopeless. I wasn't sure if I would find another supervisor quite like him.

Well, for almost two years now, I have been journeying with another supervisor. Last week, we had our final session together and I have been reflecting on how important this relationship has been for me over what has been quite a tumultuous period of my ministry. The sessions have been rather different to those with my previous supervisor, but for this I am very grateful. I think I have talked more. There has been a lot to get out of my head. Being able to do this with someone who doesn't have a hidden agenda has been very important. Colleagues, family and friends have all been there too, but sometimes they are a little too involved in the what the final outcome may be. 

My supervisor has listened to me with interest, compassion and empathy. She has reflected back what she has heard. Sometimes the images she has used have shocked me or resonated so closely they have stayed with me for days. At times I have walked into the room confused and feeling hopeless, only to emerge an hour later with more clarity and conviction. My supervisor has never told me what she thinks I should do. She hasn't given wise advice or whipped me into line, but I always left feeling heard, acknowledged and ready to face the next stage.

I guess if I was to express this relationship with an image I think of two people walking across rocks at the beach. The two don't always take the same path and will choose different rocks to jump to next, but they come back together occasionally. Every now and then, one finds a leap to the next rock a little challenging. These are the times when one reaches out their hand to the other, giving enough confidence to take that next step. This is how it has been and I am extremely grateful to have had a person with whom to journey through this time. I know she will possibly read this post - so again thank you!!

Saturday 14 April 2018

Call the Next Witness

This week I have been working on my last service with one of my congregations. The readings talk about being witnesses. I have been reflecting on what it means to be a witness and I can't go past my very recent experience of our first Deep Listening Festival last weekend. It seems that I have spent a lot of the last week sharing stories with people, listening to the experiences of others and hearing how the participants have responded to the festival. I feel I have witnessed something very special.

So what does it mean to be a witness? It seems so simple, yet so profound. I think there are three aspects to being a witness. You are present, you have an experience and you have a story to share. Being present is not just about attendance, but about allowing yourself to be fully attentive and immersed in what is happening. This seems very rare in today's world, when we are often worrying about the next thing or escaping from being fully present by drifting into the virtual world. Practising presence is vital for our spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

The second part of being a witness is to have an experience. We don't travel through life simply being an observer. Life is about participation. This was my big hope for our festival last weekend. The aim was not for people to turn up, listen and go home; but to really experience something, to be moved, to be changed. The only way we can know if this has happened is if the stories are shared. In the space of a week, I have seen evidence of two artworks that are being created in response to the festival, two poems that have been written, a labyrinth created on the beach, two people who have been moved to act in their areas of influence and a myriad of powerful stories.

The Deep Listening festival is but one example. We are witnesses to love, life and hope every day. It is a challenge to us, however, to not save our 'witnessing' for special occasions. Let us be more present, get involved more in life and share our stories with each other.

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Ikigai - a reason to get up in the morning

My son is almost 16 years old. Like any teenage boy, he can be very difficult to get up and going in the morning. He is into music, video games and has a flare for sound engineering. Occasionally, he is called on by his school or other organisations to take on the role of DJ at certain events. A little over a week ago, he had one such request. It was the high school sports carnival and, not being a sporty kind himself, almost 16 year old was very happy to volunteer his time in providing the upbeat music for the day. This meant a 7.30am start at the sports oval to set up the equipment. So, you can imagine my surprise when I heard my son walking around the house before I had even got out of bed. 

This incident reminded me of a Japanese term, Ikigai, which means "a reason to get up in the morning". This simple phrase encompasses so many important aspects of our life; our sense of purpose and meaning, a feeling of well-being and a reason for living. The concept is summarised in a diagram of interlocking circles. When that which we love, that which the world needs, that which we are good at and that which we can be paid for intersect, we have found our Ikigai. Of course, it would be lovely not to worry about that which you can be paid for, but these are the realities of life. 

I discovered this term in 2015 while I was reading about vocation and calling. I spent some time reflecting on each of the circles, writing down my own reflections and exploring the intersection points. I found this a very helpful process. It highlighted those aspects of my work that I didn't enjoy, those I found more difficult and those where, perhaps, I was wasting my time and energy. It also showed clearly where my passion and sense of vocation were found. It is always fun looking back on journal entries and seeing where the journey has taken you. I wrote, in 2015, 'My Ikigai is living the spiritual journey creatively while journeying with others who also want to deepen their spiritual journey.' 

What is it that gets you up in the morning? What is your Ikigai? Discovering this is a process of discernment and it takes time. Those who are able to make their paid work their Ikigai are truly fortunate. As Confucious said, 'Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.'