Exploring Spiritually at Martlets

Exploring spirituality at Martlets

Our supportive care team at Martlets has just launched a new wellbeing group for patients and their loved ones and carers. It’s called ‘My Journey’ and is an invitation to explore what spirituality means to people, through poetry, art, music and nature.

Spirituality is a term that has broadened in its scope and meaning over the years. For some, it is a religious process and/or one that involves a connection to God. For others it refers to a broader range of experiences that may include personal growth; a connection with the natural world; a personal experience of a sacred dimension or ‘higher self’; or the deepest values by which people live.

Vlada Rakin, Martlets’ spiritual care lead and chaplain, has recently been running the ‘My Journey’ group in collaboration with Ann Borg, our supportive care project lead. They are completing the pilot sessions in early January and then launching it as a five-week course in April for patients, carers and loved ones. There will be a mix of sessions – some on Zoom and others in person at a community space in Brighton.

‘A simple object a person treasures that has personal meaning can sometimes be a useful way to start a conversation about what spirituality means for them.’

“At a recent session, we were talking about our connection with nature,” says Vlada. “Last summer I was in Pembrokeshire and I picked up a broken shell on the beach. It may not appear to have any value, but for me it does because it reminds me of where I was and how I felt in that moment. It reminds me of how connected I felt to nature and to my spirituality.”

The group’s participants brought along objects from the natural world that meant something to them. They spoke about how memories, scents, textures and so on connect them to nature and how that can be a gateway to a deeper exploration of what spirituality means for them.

“Does it remind you of a creator God or something divine?” adds Vlada. “Or perhaps you feel that nature itself is a powerful and guiding force and that you are part of this flow of life. Or you simply feel a sense of calm and peace that feels meaningful. In some faith traditions – Judaism, for example – pebbles may be placed on a loved one’s grave because they are perpetual as is a memory of somebody close. It is only someone’s spiritual wealth—not possession or flowers—that remains everlasting, just like a stone or pebble.”

The group will also be looking at the creative arts and how they might also inspire a deeper connection with the spiritual.

“We might look at a painting,” says Vlada “and I’ll ask ‘how does it make you feel?’ and ‘what do you experience?’ It’s not about academic appreciation of something, but more about what creativity in various forms inspires in people. How does it connect them with the spiritual part of themselves, whatever that means for them.”

‘I’m so enjoying the My Journey group. It’s a wonderful way to share what spirituality means to each person, and what inspires us and makes us feel alive.’


Jean is a Martlets outpatient and has been taking part in several of our wellbeing groups including mindfulness, tai chi, guided walking visualisations, and the My Journey pilot sessions.

“I could not have kept cheerful and positive since my cancer diagnosis without these groups,” she explains, “and the wonderful people who run them and take part. It’s not just the activities we do, but also the people involved. Ann and the team are so lovely, professional, and caring.

I’m a Christian but not in any denominational sort of way and I enjoy hearing about other people’s connection to life and whatever that means for them. I’m a member of the Iona community (an international, ecumenical Christian movement working for justice and peace); I brought a marble pebble from Iona Island to the group as it helped me explain my spiritual connection to the community and to nature. We all talked about how connecting with nature is so strengthening, and that the natural cycle of things growing, dying and then rebirth is reassuring.

We’ve also met on Zoom and our next session will be about favourite pieces of music and what that inspires in us. I used to play the piano which I loved, and Chopin is a favourite of mine and connects me spiritually.

Another lovely thing about the wellbeing groups is that we make new friends. Ann Marie will be joining me at my home to do the Zoom sessions together from there. She finds Zoom difficult from her computer, so Martlets have made arrangements for her to get a lift over to me which is so nice.

When I was diagnosed, the prognosis was that I wouldn’t live to see last Christmas and yet I’m now here for this Christmas too. I have a terminal illness and challenges. But every morning I wake up and think thank you God and thank you Martlets, and what can I do today for this wonderful world.”

The ‘My Journey’ group is open to Martlets’ patients and their loved ones and carers. Please contact Ann Borg for more information. Email ann.borg@martlets.org.uk or call 01273 273400.