Have you ever had one of those moments when, all eyes are upon you and you know you have to express yourself clearly? And not only that, as you speak, you realise those eyes are smiling at you in recognition of your words… and you have been heard?
Last week brought me exactly this moment and I was relieved that I had prepared for it.
I was representing the organisation I work for at a round table discussion hosted by the Royal College of General Practitioners about how we can respond to loneliness in society. There were 30 seriously influential senior people there, from a range of national charities, government departments, faith groups and the RCGP itself.
The discussion had moved on from what GPs could do to address loneliness, to what GPs could learn from the many charities and community groups already successfully helping people reconnect to others and to regain a sense of belonging.
It’s well known that one of the benefits of religion and faith is a sense belonging to a community of shared belief. Another benefit is a sense of connection to something bigger and to having a purpose in life.
The group was beginning to discuss whether there was a way to encourage this sense of connectedness if the person did not belong to a faith or religion. What about those people who had been put off by religion, or who had no particular belief?
What about spirituality – how could spirituality have the same benefits if there was no particular group or organisation to belong to?
The discussion went quiet. I felt the energy in the group shift as it began to shuffle away from the edge of its comfort zone. The subject was about to change.
I knew that this was the moment that I had prepared and rehearsed for. I confidently raised my hand and was invited to speak.
I explained that there is an international evidence-base describing the health benefits of spirituality and summarised how the Spiritual Companions Trust has developed Your Spiritual Health programmes that bring people together to explore their own sense of meaning and connection; that this is person-centred spirituality.
I shared that there are Spiritual Companions who are informally and formally companioning others to explore their own life story, sense of connection and meaning.
Hearing myself speak, it sounded clear and coherent, intelligent and just enough to inspire the interest of the group. Notes were made and email addresses were exchanged.
We often hear the phrase that someone does, or does not, walk their talk. As spiritually literate people, we also need to prepare and practice for those moments when we might be the ones to have to talk our walk.
For those of us who have one foot on the spiritual path and one foot in the mainstream, the opportunities to do this are starting to come up more often. We need to be prepared to be heard.
If you’d like to know more about the health benefits of spirituality, how to become a Spiritual Companion and deliver Your Spiritual Health programmes alongside your existing work in the world go here.