Earlier this week I watched the Cyrenians video “Something to eat, Someone to eat with” again. It’s a powerful exploration of the significance of not just having food but sharing food. Food may be fuel for the body but its sharing brings nourishment for the soul which is just as important. By soul I mean the sense of inner wellbeing that comes at least in part from feeling connected to others in a special, trusted way rather than any religious “confessional” or “creed” meaning.
In my nearly three years with Cyrenians I have found it a challenge to find the right language to talk about the significance of our inner life on our wellbeing. That’s partly because of my own journey away from religious institutions as the source of my own spiritual nurturing. Having been so closely identified with such institutions over the years means those who hear what I say do so through that filter and to be honest, so do I at times.
Yet since I joined the Cyrenians journey, the significance of understanding, communicating and exploring what it takes to have a healthy and well nurtured inner life, a healthy soul, as being core to human flourishing has never been more important.
Cyrenians builds its work on the formation of trusted and empathetic relationships. We know that at times comes a great cost. “Unconditional positive regard” as Carl Rogers would describe it: the capacity to see the human being and to stick with them no matter their behaviours, is fundamental to our work, a core capacity of what we describe as “skilled helper”, but it needs at times great strength which has to be found from within, which can be very demanding on our inner wellbeing.
When we see transformation in the lives of those we journey, it is often because of a moment which touches their soul in a healing, affirmative way. In the film, a number of those involved made reference to the significance of someone cooking for them. It made them feel special, that they mattered. The food was good, the feeling special was even better.
Taking care of our inner life is what I would call our spiritual journey, whoever we are. I know the word ‘spiritual’ carries so much baggage that it is unhelpful for some. It is the best way I have to describe what I see amongst my colleagues, those we journey with, and what I experience as a Cyrenian. It is not about faith in a divinity or a religious commitment. It is about having the capacity to flourish as a human being.
I believe that the journey from exclusion to inclusion is an inner journey. Finding the language to explore the inner life in ways that genuinely inclusive, transcending all beliefs and world views is what I am grappling with right now. I see it as being core part of the next stage of my Cyrenians journey.
So I return to the place where I see what mean even though I don’t yet have the words to describe it: the sharing of food round the table with those with whom we journey, whatever the reason we are on the journey together. Perhaps by letting myself simply experience that sharing of food for the body the words for what feeds my soul will come to me too.