by Angelika Monteux
Editor’s Note: this is the second installment of this article. For the first installment please refer back to the January/February issue of the Correspondence.
The spiritual dimension in everyday practice
The motto of medieval Christian monks ‘Ora et labora’–prayer and work–could be understood in this context as: our practical work is our prayer-investing it with spiritual energy and meaning, and our attempts at self reflection and personal improvement are our work.
Another idea in Social Pedagogy is the ‘Common Third’’–the meeting each other through a shared activity, using the activity to create a space to encounter each other. This is an encounter on three levels, involving the whole person, facilitated by shared activity. This is where we can see spirituality and encounter actively integrated and manifest in everyday life and practice.
Doing something together, be it craft, work or art can be the best examples of spiritual activity.
What do you do when you make a basket, a candle, a clay pot or cook a soup? You start with an idea, an image of what you want to make; then you use matter, a material to make this idea visible, and then, hopefully, you enjoy the activity and what you have produced, thus engaging body, soul and spirit or in Social Pedagogy terms: head, heart and hands.
All this can of course be done in a completely un-spiritual way if you just follow your time table, don’t really know why you are doing it, find it boring and think about something else whilst doing it. To transform this into a meaningful, spiritual activity it needs your attention, interest, understanding of the purpose, a focused engagement of your ‘whole’ being: head, heart and hands, thinking, feeling and will. Then whatever you do can be fun, inspiring and meaningful.
It is equally important to become aware that all activities and daily rituals are more than means to get through the day, to improve skills and record progress, but helpful tools in supporting the spiritual wellbeing of those we care for. A walk can be a source of joy and fun when we can share interest and awareness in how nature changes, flowers turn into seed, different birds can be seen and heard. Craft activities can be made meaningful when it takes time and effort, maybe even frustration to complete an item that is useful and beautiful and can make someone happy. The same holds good for any work done on the land or in the household, all potentially leading to an experience of self worth, joy, inner security and a meaningful relationship to the world around; this in turn can help to reduce anxiety, confusion and feelings of loneliness or anger. Whilst this can be a very inspiring general attitude enriching everyday activities, it also demands an inner wakefulness to catch a moment when something unexpected and unplanned can happen.
I used to live and work with a young lady suffering from epilepsy and the effects of medication which often led to her being moody, negative and unwilling to join activities or events. One day I saw her drawing a picture of a house on green grass, a blue sky and a sun much like a young child would do. I sat down next to her and asked: “Do you know where the sky is?” She pointed to the blue on her paper. “And where is the grass?” She pointed to the green in her drawing. “No–I mean the real sky!” She looked confused. So I took her outside and pointed up–luckily the sky was blue–and down to the grass. She was amazed; she seemed to have never actually noticed them before. This experience woke her up to a new interest in the world; she began to look out of the window first thing in the morning to see the sky and learned that it can have many different colours and that the sun can be hidden by clouds. She started to join outdoor activities and to enjoy outings.
This was a one to one situation, but all this can be even more powerful if done together with others, as for example during shared meal times. We can use them just to quickly eat our food, supervise our charges and try to be quick. Or we can engage our neighbour in conversation, point out what we are eating, and explore likes and dislikes–in essence: create a warm and social atmosphere. There is also ample opportunity to informally learn practical and social skills, awareness of what others might need and how they are.
Spirituality in community and in the workplace
This also applies to community living or team work when people can meet around a common aim or task–however simple or lofty it may be–and find the source of inspiration to act together. A common aim or idea can facilitate the coming together of individuals who want to bring this idea into practical life. To come back to Swinton you could see this idea as spirit, and the way a group of individuals relates to and works with it as spirituality.
In this process there will be a great potential for encounters between individuals, and it is in their hands to make them ‘sacred’ and healing or destructive and hostile.
Camphill Communities are what is called ‘Intentional Communities’; this means that they are not based on blood ties, nationality or religion. They are created by individuals who freely chose to come together and unite around a common aim or task. Could this common aim, task be compared to the ‘Common Third’ around which individuals gather? What matters is not that everyone lives together as in the traditional Camphill settings, but that people feel committed to this shared task whenever they work together. Maybe this was easier in the past when life sharing was the norm, but it is just as possible in shift work patterns; the work is still done in teams, but it will need more effort and interest in each other to create the experience of togetherness
To be successful it needs everyone’s contribution in the same way I mentioned before: interest in, focus on the shared idea, understanding the purpose and importance and a commitment to engage fully in the pursuit of it.
Each Individual needs to have the opportunity to contribute to this in their own way, motivated by the need of others, united on the spiritual level, supported by social and shared cultural activities and working together.
This can open the space where the ‘Spirit,’ the aim and idea can shine and give enthusiasm and strength to the group. Strength and enthusiasm are needed in order to overcome the daily challenges, the differences, the difficulties in oneself and within the group or team and to hold on to each other’s true being when things get difficult.
Create within you a new, courageous concept of Faithfulness.
What is usually called Faithfulness fades away too quickly.
Let this become your Faithfulness:
You will experience in the other human being moments which pass quickly.
In these moments they will appear to you as though filled and permeated
by the archetype of their spirit being.
Then may come–indeed will come–other moments, other long periods.
Then they are clouded.
But you should learn to say in these times:
The spirit makes me strong; I think of the Archetype; I saw it once.
No illusion, no delusion can tear it from me.
Wrestle always for the image you once saw.
This striving is Faithfulness.
And in striving for Faithfulness in this way
Human beings will be near to each other as with Angel-Guardian Powers. (14)
For more detail and references to research done on this topic you can turn to an article written by Sebastian and Angelika Monteux: “Human Encounters: The Core of Everyday Practice” using the link below:
- NES, (2009) ‘Spiritual care Matters’. NHS Education for Scotland. Edinburgh
- Steiner, R.: ‘The work of the Angel in our Astral Body’; Sophia Books, Rudolf Steiner Press 2006.
- St. Matthew
- Merton, Th.: ‘No Man is an Island’; The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, USA 1955
- Solomon, A. (2012) ‘Far from the Tree: Parents, children and the search for Identity’ Simon and Schuster
- (Göschel, J.: ‘The Dilemma of Identity: I and unfolding consciousness at the threshold’; in: Zeitschrift Seelenpflege 1, 2019; pg 31)
- Swinton, J.: ‘Spirituality and Mental Health Care’; Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2001(pg 16)
- See back cover of the ‘Camphill Correspondence’; Camphill Correspondence LTD.
- Morgan, M.L. (2007). ‘Discovering Levinas’; Cambridge University Press
- see reference 2
- see reference7
- SQA ‘Supporting Spiritual Wellbeing
- Göschel, J. (2019). Das Dilemma der Identität; Zeitschrift Seelenpflege 1, pg 31, Verlag der Konferenz für Heilpädagogik und Sozialtherapie, Dornach Switzerland.
- Steiner, R. (date unknown): from a letter to a Waldorf teacher. Original German version in: Steiner, R. (2002) Sprüche, Dichtungen, Mantren – Ergänzungsband. Dornach, Schweiz: Rudolf Steiner Verlag. (pg 284)