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OUR APPROACH

In a series of four critically reflective conversations, Robyn, Beth, and Jo explored the questions Kelly raised. Initially, the group met to plan their approach and determine how we would share our response to Kelly's reflections. The conversations were shaped by our own autobiographies, Kelly's perceptions, others' experiences, and the literature. Through this formative process, we hoped to identify aspects of social work and our own teaching that would improve students' knowledge and practice (Brookfield, 1995). Prior to our first discussion, each of us read Kelly's journal entry and identified what we thought were the themes in her entry. At the first meeting, we tentatively identified the overall theme and question for our discussion. The subsequent meetings provided a space to share our reflections and critically challenge each other on our responses to the different themes in the entry.

The following section of this chapter expands on three areas that emerged when we considered the context of mindfulness in human services professional education. The first was the challenges that present when “new ways of knowing” are introduced into social work and human services education. We argue that the dominance of a particular shared social construction of knowledge and the creation of shared culture and meaning within social work has created barriers for exploring the place of “spirit” in social work education and practice due to the difference in their worldviews. The second area that emerged continued the theme of the challenge of introducing “new” perspectives. Interestingly, this “new” perspective is not necessarily considered “new” in other disciplines. They include the role of biological and physiological responses to the practice of mediation and mindfulness practice in their curricula. Jo, whose PhD studies have focused on the mind-body link in social work practice, expands this discussion further, challenging the idea that “mindfulness” is purely linked to spirit traditions. The third area that emerged was, perhaps ironically, the importance of considering the context of the mindfulness practice and the way it is included (or not) in social work education in Australia today. We debated the argument that perhaps an a-spiritual application of mindfulness practice is a form of cultural colonization, arguing that instead it could be seen as a positive influence on Western traditions in the helping professions by Eastern knowledge and practice.

 
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