What do we mean by…Accompaniment?

This post is part of the Still Harbor blog series “What Do We Mean By…” Through our postings we hope you learn a little more about who we are and what we are about – and that we can enter into deeper conversation with you.

ac·com·pa·ni·ment: (n) the act of being or going with as a companion.

In a time where most of us have increasingly fewer friends and colleagues in whom we can confide, accompaniment offers someone to listen, pay attention to, and be present with our stories. Spiritual accompaniment, in particular, means walking with a companion on our spiritual journeys.

Accompaniment is an ancient contemplative practice that spans many different religious traditions. It involves the attention we give to one another as we work to make sense of the experiences of our lives. Accompaniment is not fixing or rescuing, but the opportunity to explore life’s spiritual questions and be challenged to live out our spirituality.

Rather than other models where there is a caregiver and a careseeker, accompaniment assumes a mutual reciprocity: we will receive from those whom we serve. It recognizes that we are all in need and we have shared capacity to be transformed by our relationships, if we bring our whole selves.

At Still Harbor, our accompaniment with individuals in one-on-one or group sessions, as well as with organizations, focuses on developing and deepening the reflection and discernment skills necessary for our lives and work. Those who we are accompanying share they welcome having a safe and neutral environment in which to construct meaning and endeavor to more intentionally integrate their beliefs and values with their behavior and action in the world.

In 1964, Catholic humanitarian Jean Vanier founded the first L’Arche community, now a worldwide movement. Vanier frequently speaks about the role of accompaniment in human growth and development. He writes,

“The accompanier is there to give support, to reassure, to confirm, and to open new doors. The accompanier is not there to judge us or to tell us what to do, but to reveal what is most beautiful and valuable in us, as well as to point towards the meaning of our inner pain. In this way, an accompanier helps us advance to greater freedom by helping us to be reconciled with our past and to accept ourselves as we are, with our gifts and our limits.”

- Jean Vanier, From Brokenness to Community

Who is accompanying you in your life?

Whom are you accompanying?

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