Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Positivity in Healthcare

Last Sunday I attended a whole-day workshop at the premises of the Brahma Kumaris Global Spirituality University in Pound Lane, Willesden, North-West London, my third visit to an event offered by the Janki Foundation.

At first acquaintance, the Brahma Kumaris (who offer their premises to Janki without charge) appear an other-worldly lot. They are all clad in white clothing, and look serene and approachable. Although I wore week-end jeans and a rugger shirt, and looked very much not a member of the congregation, who are mainly of Asian appearance, people met my eyes and smiled warm acknowledgement. The building is designed and fitted out as a modern conference center, but in a palpable way it seems to signal receptivity and calm. It's hard not to feel at ease there, despite its unfamiliarity to a newcomer.

The workshop was attended by about forty men and women, mainly health-care professionals, but with a sprinkling of business types including two financial analysts from Bloomberg. The facilitators were part of an established Janki team, volunteers who held down jobs outside the organisation. The workshop was a module from the extended VIHASA programme (Values In Healthcare - A Spiritual Approach) which, despite sounding rather esoteric, is culturally neutral and applicable to healthcare and its workers everywhere. Indeed, the full VIHASA programme has been trialled in Asia, Africa, the Carribean and in several European countries, with excellent evaluative reviews.

The workshop is a carefully balanced mixture of experiential and propositional work in small groups, in pairs, and as a full collective, with time for individual reflection and 'guided meditation'. The two facilitators were skilled and charismatic, never tipping over into 'facilitator-speak' or sententiousness. The workshop offered a taste of how the seven spiritual skills of VIHASA are nurtured and developed: these are described as "reflection, visualisation, meditation, appreciation, listening, creativity and play". At the heart of these activities is a powerful message of individual worth, of unique self-hood, and our capacity for compassion.

When returned home my wife commented on my looking "sun-kissed", as if I had been out in the sunshine. I knew that this glow was an inside-out manifestation. First I had been invited to choose a colour that would suffuse my day, and I had immediately known it should be "vibrant peach", though where that idea came from is anybody's guess! I am usually more a brown or blue man. Later, when invited to reflect on the meaning of positivity, my mind had delivered in quick and unambiguous succession the words "Energised", "Potent", "Open", "Sensitive" and "Whole". It is fair to say that on waking that morning I had felt anything but as I faced the long journey up across London to the venue. But that is what the workshop and its participants delivered to me, and - by all accounts - what it gave everyone who attended, and I am deeply appreciative of those gifts as I write. I hope very much to be able to offer some part of the VIHASA programme to Trust volunteers (and others) in future, and have booked to undergo facilitator training later this year, at Janki Foundation's generous invitation.

For more information on the Janki Foundation please use the links above and to the right of the posts, or contact me in person.

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