I’m sitting at my desk, preparing to give a presentation for the Spiritual Care Australia/Spiritual Health Association Professional Development program.
The topic for this presentation has been swirling beneath the surface for weeks. I’m contemplating, what is the shared territory of spiritual care and arts therapy? And the thought comes, ‘I don’t know’. I feel a subtle internal fear, noticing and bringing kindness to that.
An accordion book that I folded yesterday catches my eye and becomes my canvas. I write the words ‘I don’t know’ as a beginning place on the front page, and then allow new words to emerge as I turn each page.
“I don’t know…
A blank page before me…
I feel lost, uncertain…
I hesitate, procrastinate, deliberate, contemplate…
Then I make a mark…
And I notice the page fills.
What was a mystery
Is now known.”
I return to the beginning of the book with paintbrush in hand, choose a shade of blue in watercolour paint, make marks, remain curious. I know there is no right or wrong here. I know that I can trust the process.
I complete the image and sit back, receiving the image on the final page.
I notice that the marks remind me of the confluence of the Merri and the Yarra. Two bodies of water coming together. This confluence is considered sacred by the Wurundjeri people, a place of ceremony, lore, trade, and to settle disputes. I imagine that one body of water is creative arts therapies, and the other is spiritual care.
I reflect on the meeting places between these disciplines… Companioning, sitting alongside, journeying with, bringing presence to the process. I reflect upon the range of tools we draw upon – our compassionate presence, attending to the relationship, a sense of connection with something bigger, mindfulness, prayer/intention, ritual, exploration of questions, the capacity to invite and uncover layers of meaning.
Then I notice that the marks remind me of the Chinese character for human or person, two strokes leaning into one another, offering one another support. I reflect that this work is deeply relational. We companion one another. We are held in the support of our communities, our faith, our practices, our supervision, our professional identities and associations.
I notice the colours remind me of the ocean and bright sand. I reflect on vastness, ebbs and flows, lunar tides, the breath, the great mystery that we all live within. I think of the ocean as mother, of stormy seas and calm. I think of mindfulness and the capacity to remain present amidst the great swells and ever-changing conditions.
Then I consider the process itself, this stepping into the unknown, trusting that in the simple process of showing up, something will emerge. I bring my curiosity and trust to the page, just as I bring curiosity and trust to each person I meet with in my role as spiritual care practitioner. I meet the unknown of the blank page, just as I meet the unknown every time I open a patient’s door and introduce myself. As I sit with a person, I carry that capacity to sit with the unknown, and offer it to them in our shared space.
I encourage noticing and expression of feelings, welcoming them all, ‘This being human is a guest house, every morning a new arrival, a joy, a sorrow, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor… welcome and entertain them all’, just a Rumi reminds us.
What do you notice?
Chelle is a practicing art therapist, researcher, and multi-modal creative. She regularly dives into the unknown to discover what is ready to be born, deepening her trust in the abundantly creative source. For Chelle, art is a means to inquire, express, and transform. If offers the capacity to soothe, making space for new perspectives and ways of being.