The Spark of Life Philosophy – A Way of Life
By Jen Newton, Spark of Life Master Practitioner and Retired Registered Nurse, Family Carer, Prison Volunteer, Support Volunteer for Refugees and Asylum Seekers.
Since May 2016, Jen has used the Spark of Life Philosophy in her everyday care of three family members who she supported through their end of life time at her home, in her connections with women in maximum secure prison and in her gentle support of women and their children who are refugees and asylum seekers.
Application of the Spark of Life Philosophy in my Role as a Family Carer:
My experience with the Spark of Life Philosophy started in 2010 when I did a google search for help with caring for my Father who was diagnosed with Dementia in February that year. I immediately became a member of Dementia Care International and was able to access their weekly support emails and library. My Father came to live with me and my family.
It was the best of times and the saddest of times as we all navigated our new way of being together.
I found the weekly contact from Dementia Care International an incredible source of knowledge and support that always without fail was respectful, loving and empowering for my Father and me. With a background in Community Nursing I was prepared for the hands on care my Father would come to need and the information about the Spark of Life Philosophy gave me the input and confidence to deal with challenging behaviours, to be honest, open and loving in finding ways to move through the days with my Father and my family.
My Mother also came to live with us on discharge from hospital and the new ways of caring for my Father were beneficial in assisting my Mother in her recovery and eventual return to her family home.
My Father died in November 2010 at home with our family supporting him.
I was able to assist my Mother in a more relevant way following her admission to a Nursing home in 2011 and to be her advocate in communicating with the staff. I was able to share my knowledge of the Spark of Life Philosophy and a different way of being present to the residents. My Mother was a retired registered nurse and struggled with the lack of time that the staff had to interact with her. It was obvious that they cared but had no time at all to truly be present for her, so she was left feeling very neglected. Thankfully I was able to fill that gap and provide lots of extra time for her and provide the care that was needed. Mother died supported by our family in July 2015.
In 2016, I participated in the Master Leadership Program in Perth, Western Australia. This was a period of incredible learning for me and I could see immediately that the application of all I was learning would be helpful within my family, in my volunteer work within the prison service and with refugee and asylum seeker women and children.
The feeling of being connected experienced with the international group at the Master Leadership Program was incredibly profound. After the course I wanted to go back and keep experiencing the realness, wholesomeness, honesty and profound unconditional love that is at the core of the Spark of Life Philosophy. I could see how easily it could change the way we interact with each other everywhere. I could also see it was such a cost effective method to introduce: basically giving people the permission and the skills to care, really care and show compassion to their fellow beings.
It is important to note here that there is also a benefit for the care giver when implementing the Spark of Life Philosophy. You start to be more aware of your own wellbeing and how your emotional, spiritual and physical health is. You learn to nurture and take care of yourself so that you may be the best you can be.
On my return from the Master Leadership Program, I shared my experience of the Spark of Life Philosophy with everyone: with inmates at the prison where I volunteer, with the refugees and asylum seekers, whom I support, with the local Quaker community and with my friends and family.
Between 2016 and 2019, I supported my husband’s Mother May, who also had a diagnosis of dementia and wanted to stay at home on her farm. Our family supported her in her decision and I was able to assist everyone in doing so. I shared the benefits of ensuring she May felt loved so she could enjoy this time of her life.
May moved in with us in March 2019 and it was again the best of times and the saddest of times, as May stayed at home with us until she died at home supported by our family.
There is no doubt in my mind I could not have cared for May and my family in such a nurturing way without the understanding, knowledge and skills of the Spark of Life Philosophy.
Application of the Spark of Life Philosophy in my Role as Volunteer at a Local Prison.
Between 2016 and 2018, in my role as a volunteer at a local prison I found everything I had learnt and experienced about the Spark of Life Philosophy was also relevant here. In 2017, I started working with the women in the maximum security prison. It was difficult to connect with some of the women as they carry much emotional pain and trauma, and are so in need of acceptance and unconditional love.
Hearing their stories I can see how this pain has permeated through their lives. Without care and support to start the healing, recidivism will stay at the current level of 48%. Unconditional love, compassion, and acceptance are extremely powerful in establishing a way forward because the inmates recognize very quickly if you are sincere in all that you do. I think that the best that I can do for the inmates at the moment is to be loving, accepting and offer the realness of the power of the now, this moment, that they are valued and to create some joy.
Application of the Spark of Life Philosophy in my role as volunteer with Refugees and Asylum Seekers
In 2017 I volunteered to be coordinator of a women’s craft group with a focus on refugee and asylum seeker women and children for a ten week period ending early July. The untold stories, told stories, the pain and terror these women have experienced has not stopped them from being open to forming loving relationships with us and I so admire them for their resilience.
The children of these women have responded to our gentle loving and have grown from being initially shy to confident in our presence, interacting with us and are speaking excellent English.
We have been focused in consolidating our connection with each other to provide a sense of family as some of the women are alone without family to support them. We have done this while sitting around the sewing table sharing experiences, practicing English and preparing food for a shared lunch.
I continue to coordinate the group of refugee and asylum seeker women and children. The knowledge I have gained from the Spark of Life Philosophy has become an integral part of this work that I do, creating community, empowering the women and children as we explore the way forward for them within the community.
The Spark of Life Philosophy is a way of life. It takes such a hold in your heart that nurtures you and enables you to embrace a loving way of being present to yourself and to others in all that you do.