Look Within to Reach Out: Reflective Practices in Spiritual Care
By Allen Chung and Devin Makizuru
Providing spiritual care is a service that many people in Tzu Chi are interested in learning about. When we imagine a person who is providing spiritual care, we may picture someone who is doing something for another: having a conversation, guiding another in meditation or prayer, or providing some other act of service through personal interaction. Yet there are even more elements in providing spiritual care, and they begin within ourselves. In this recent workshop series, “Embracing Diversity: Reflective Practices in Spiritual Care,” the participants explored reflection, self-cultivation, and embracing diversity as different practices in providing spiritual care. Through the workshop series, participants learned how to better care for themselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In doing so, they find that they are able to take care of others in a much deeper and more powerful way.
For Diana Kwok, a curriculum team member, the spiritual care workshops really encouraged “taking a deep dive into ourselves,” as the starting point in how we interact with others. After all, spiritual care is all about forming good relationships with people. While looking within, the key is to remove the “lenses” of our biases, feelings, and judgements that can prevent us from seeing people and situations clearly. By overcoming these afflictive thoughts and feelings, we are able to “open our hearts to encompass the universe,” and can truly embrace diversity and infuse love and care into all the things we do.
The curriculum of this workshop series was based specifically on Master Cheng Yen’s teachings on the concepts of contentment, gratitude, understanding, and acceptance, also known as the Four Ingredient Spiritual Soup. While many Tzu Chi volunteers know these concepts, through the classes, discussions, and exercises, the curriculum team hoped that participants will frequently keep these concepts in their thoughts and actively apply them in their daily lives. Like all of Master’s teachings, the concepts of the Four Ingredient Spiritual Soup are meant to be practiced every day.
Marco Tjioe, one of the curriculum team members, found himself putting the concepts to use in the course of planning for his class on “contentment.” As Marco developed his class, he found himself continually making major adjustments in the weeks and days leading up to his presentation. Though the process of making changes can be frustrating, Marco embraced the conditions that came his way with thoughts of gratitude, reminding himself that every situation was an opportunity to put the values of his class into practice.
Diversity was not just an element of the curriculum for these workshops, the participants of the workshop series also represented diversity, as people of many backgrounds and from many parts of the world came together to learn. Rowena “BB” Rempillo joined the online workshop series as a participant, from Tacloban, the Philippines. Having served in Tzu Chi following Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), Rowena could connect to the values shared in the workshop series, because she has seen those values put into action by her fellow Tzu Chi volunteers from the time she joined the organization. Through her interactions with other Tzu Chi volunteers, Rowena felt understood, accepted, and loved. Inspired, Rowena has been putting these values into action herself. Rowena explained, “Through Tzu Chi, I have learned to be content with the teachings I have in life, letting go of the afflictions.” Rowena has learned to love herself more and has found that her self-esteem has improved over the years. Finding confidence in herself, Rowena actively participates in Tzu Chi activities locally and online, continuing the cycle of bringing love and care to more people.
As we face many different people in our lives, it can be challenging to connect with others, and we may find ourselves obstructed from serving others effectively due to a barrier that we struggle with. However, by looking within and reflecting on ourselves, we can break down those barriers. By learning effective ways to provide spiritual care to others and ourselves, we will embrace everyone and everything with all-encompassing love.
Rowena “BB” Rempillo has seen those values taught in the workshop put into action by her fellow Tzu Chi volunteers since the time she joined Tzu Chi. Feeling understood, accepted and loved, she was inspired to put these actions into practice herself as she participates in various Tzu Chi activities. Photos/Rowena “BB” Rempillo