“God never promised us smooth sailing - just a safe harbour”
Soul Food Cafe is an informal sacred space where people meet regularly to do life together. It is a safe space to get real with yourself, God and others, sharing real life stories and the search for meaning. It is a sacred space because everyone is encouraged to receive, share and give.
Soul Food Café is like a network of safe harbours where you can feed your soul. It's about having a break to reflect on "the week that was". There is no better place than a cafe to hang out. Catch up with Soulfood regulars and then break into groups of 2 or 3 people in the search for meaning (around 1 hour).
Reflect on the past week. What were you thankful for and/or struggling with. How might God be speaking to you through this? Be prepared to get real with each other when you arrive . At Soul Food Café we aim to be intentional about our discussion and steer the conversation into deeper areas to give voice to the soul.
Take your adventure to the next level, join the discovery and see change!
Paul Whetham believes that every soul is precious and has a unique story to tell. Despite living in our age of distraction and discontent the soul yearns for deeper meaning and connection – perhaps more than ever before! He launched Soul Food Cafe this year to address the mental health elephant in the room, also for people to tell their life story and give voice to the deeper things of the soul. Visit The Story and Workshops sections on our website www.soulfood.cafe to further explore the elephant in the room.
Life’s a mystery. You’re a mystery but you’re also the captain of your soul. Although you don’t have a choice in your physical growth, you do have a choice in your mental and spiritual growth. It is possible to find beauty, meaning and purpose in a seemingly fallen world. And our soul is tough and tenacious enough to find it. As we embark on the search for meaning it may, at times, feel like a journey through uncertainty and darkness but it is all part of the adventure. The “dark night of the soul” calls for a spiritual response as well as a therapeutic one. It teaches us to rely on something beyond our human capacity and embrace faith.
Where’s the science, you may ask? Well, mental and spiritual health as you know it, is about to radically change! (see below).
“To effectively address mental illness, neural pathways need to shift” – Pieter Rossouw
Believe it or not, there are two revolutions ripping though mental health research at present that most people don’t know about. The first is neuroplasticity’s enriched environments and the second is faith ‘the forgotten factor’. Both of these new directions emphasize the importance of relationships, dialogue and discovery; with one another and God.
The latest neuroscience research emphasizes the importance of interactive enriched environments and relationships with ‘one another’ are essential for our mental health:
“To effectively address mental illness, neural pathways need to shift. This capacity of the brain to change has been demonstrated with enriched environments – of which talking therapies are an important part… The role of relationships in changing neural connectivity and reshaping higher neural connections is indeed in line with Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel’s prediction in 1998 – the dawn of a ‘remarkable scientific revolution’ that will change the paradigm of understanding the brain for the 21st century”(Rosouw, 2013).
Faith has been referred to as ‘the forgotten factor’ and has been largely overlooked in mental health research. However, faith is back in mainstream research – and it’s turning many heads!
“Two monologues don’t equal a dialogue!”
In the western world many people may be materially rich but they are increasingly time, relationship and spiritually poor. Our age of distraction and disconnection has, in part, led to a growing mental and spiritual health crisis. In Australia, for example, almost half the population will experience a mental illness at some stage in their lives. And although just above half the Australian population identify with Christianity as their religion, less than one in seven regularly attend a church. The top 6 reasons why Aussies don’t go to church include: irrelevant to my life; don’t accept how it’s taught; outdated style; issues with ministers; don’t believe the Bible; and, too busy to attend (McCrindle Research, 2013). Institutional religion has received a lot of bad press lately, and for good reason! For example, religious extremism; The Royal Commission investigating church child sexual abuse; clergy burnout and dwindling church numbers. Add to all this the taboo subject of mental illness in churches and it’s easy to see how Australians are confused at best or appalled at worst when it comes to faith, religion and mental health. For more information read Hard to be Holy: The Untold Stories of Church Leaders (Whetham & Whetham, 2nd Ed. 2015). A download is available in the Workbooks section of our Soul Food Café website www.soulfood.cafe.
Ironically, it is often difficult to dialogue in church and share day-to-day spiritual and mental health issues. In part, this is because it is a formal church environment where monologue, one-way communication, is role modeled and emphasized. Dialogue is different and can be described as a calm and curious two-way form of communication where there is mutual respect and enquiry. By engaging in dialogue people are willing to learn from one another in order to discover new things about themselves, others and the world around them. From a neuroscience perspective, monologue does not stimulate the brain in the same way as dialogue. It’s similar to the difference between listening to music and playing music. When we ‘participate’ in dialogue we are more actively involved; that is, using more of our senses (speaking and hearing words, the spontaneous interplay between people, etc). This increased activity is the equivalent of fireworks going off in the brain; stimulating neural growth and connectivity. Indeed, the saying is true “Two monologues don’t equal a dialogue!” For more information go to our Soul Food Café website www.soulfood.cafe.
"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards" – Soren Kierkegaard
SOUL FOOD CAFÉ
We all have a story to tell, the beautiful and broken, that help us define who we are in relation to others, God and the world around us. Yet it is sometimes hard for us to see the intersection between my story and God's story in our day-to-day lives. The best way to explore and integrate these two stories is through dialogue, and the best place to do dialogue is in a relaxed informal sacred space where people feel safe to live life forwards and understand it backwards.
Soul Food Cafés are a network of informal sacred spaces where we focus on the intersection between God and us in our daily lives through dialogue. Our mission is to create novel ‘enriched environments’ where we thrive through dialogue and discovery, and intentionally shift neural pathways to improve our spiritual and mental health. Our strategy is to transform existing community and church cafés into informal Soul Food Cafés where we do life together. If you're interested in either our Cafés, Workshops, Mentoring or Books check out our website www.soulfood.cafe.
Soul Food Cafés are a bit like health food for your soul. Once you know the location, time and a few simple rules you can rock up, introduce yourself and join the journey of discovery knowing that spiritual and mental health are always on the table and up for discussion!