Katrin is a JRS volunteer and meditation practitioner. Katrin writes about her experience so far volunteering with JRS UK, what she’s learnt from our friends and the introduction of Mindfulness sessions for our friends.
Meditation can be a transformative experience. For me and many others, meditation acts as a gateway to the kind of liberation that external circumstances cannot replicate. I offer mindfulness practices to displaced people so they can find a sense of freedom and peace in their lives, no matter what has happened in the past, or what may happen in the future. As Saint-Euxpery says, “I know no freedom but the freedom of the mind”.
Yet, I am an U.S. citizen of comfortable origins. I have not personally known war or other violence. I have not had to leave my homeland – just to seek the basic requirements of human life. What do I know of the needs of a refugee?
There are some wonderful things about being human. In my opinion, a big one is how we can live such different lives, be so different from one another, and still share so much common ground. This is especially true when it comes to our well being. I would suggest that things like peace, safety, freedom and joy are essential human needs, even if we don’t always want them met in the same ways, or even if we go without them at times.
If I can tap into the shared wish that I and our friends at JRS have for a sense of peace, relaxation, ease, freedom from worry, etc., while staying sensible to the significant differences of our backgrounds and perspectives, I have a chance to offer a valuable experience to us all. Fortunately, I am working in a place that shares and supports this view. In my time at JRS UK, I have seen an organisation that truly puts its values first, and benefits many people as a result.
In my Buddhist community, as in Jesuit circles, we talk frequently about the importance of hospitality as the foundation for everything we offer. Without creating a space of welcome, we will not earn the trust of those we wish to serve. Without trust, people in need will not open up to us and express what is is they truly need. We all need food, water, clothing, shelter and physical safety in order for our bodies to survive. But a human being is a connected system of body, mind, heart and spirit. To survive as a human being, we must care for the whole system.
This is why, to be effective, a place of service must be comfortable, friendly, non-judgemental, and supportive.
JRS does a wonderful job creating such a space in the Hurtado Jesuit Centre in East London. I also appreciate that the staff there are always asking how they can be more welcoming, how they more fully express the deep Ignatian value of “Accompaniment”.
Accompaniment is “being with the people one is serving”
(Rev Hollenbach, S.J. at Georgetown Univ, Feb 2017)
Meditation is “being with what is”
(Rob Brandsma, The Mindfulness Teaching Guide)
(You might begin to see why I feel among friends here!)
In offering a mindfulness sessions to both JRS service receivers and providers, I hope to increase the feeling of welcome already existent at JRS. I hope that those who come seeking support will feel more and more comfortable to share personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. I hope that service providers will feel more and more comfortable to hold that space for them, as everyone develops the capacity – and courage – to accompany themselves.