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What is Spiritual Direction?
"I encourage you, then, to make experience, not knowledge, your aim. Knowledge often leads to arrogance,
but this humble feeling never lies to you." Anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing
Spiritual directors are also known as spiritual companions, mentors, or guides. I love the Gaelic name, anam cara, which means 'heart friend.' Spiritual direction is a space for you to not only explore questions and struggles, but an opportunity to experience God, maybe for the first time. We know God by participation in God, not by trying to figure out all the answers or please God from afar.
The purpose of spiritual companionship is to come closer to God. Often, however, we don't view God as someone we'd like to be close to. To many, God is an angry judge whose commands we must obey and standards we must live up to or we face hell. Our view of God is important, and together we can uncover what you really think of God and why. It is only then that you can see and embrace who God really is.
What Does An Hour With Me Look Like?
After greeting one another, I usually begin with lighting a candle, the flame as a reminder that God is present. After a few words, I include a minute of silence, either guided or unguided. (This depends on how comfortable you are with silence.) Then we talk, guided by the Holy Spirit, we explore anything you bring up for discussion. At the end I will pray with you and for you.
What Is Your Part in This Process?
Your part is to respond to what you "hear." After three or four sessions you will have the opportunity to evaluate the relationship. Our relationship could continue for many years, or just a short time. It depends on where you are and your needs. What is shared is always and forever held in confidence.
Thomas Merton tell us that, "The will of God is not a 'fate' to which we submit but a creative act in our life producing something absolutely new...something hitherto unforeseen...our cooperation consists... in opening our wills out to this creative act which must be retrieved in and by us." With a soul friend, you can explore what it is to cooperate in this creative act which is your life.
How Can Spiritual Direction Help Me?
"The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are."
What are you longing for? In spiritual direction, along with beliefs and life events, longings and feelings are explored. Many people have been told that feelings are to be conquered or ignored. In spiritual direction, feelings are honored and explored. Learning to listen to our deepest selves results in changes. The pace and the degree of those changes are entirely up to you, at your pace. Each soul is treated with reverence, and you can expect a companion who will listen attentively and reflect back what you are discovering and experiencing.
Spiritual companionship is also helpful in discerning and making difficult decisions. You can expect that what you discuss there will go no further. You can also expect to receive encouragement and hope in your process.
IgnatianSpirituality.com describes a spiritual director as, "a person wise enough to understand when you need help that is different from spiritual direction. An attentive spiritual director will notice if you appear to be physically, emotionally, or mentally ill and will encourage you to get the support you need. In other words, a spiritual director recognizes that she is not your social worker or psychiatrist and will not try to fill those roles...[a spiritual director is] a person with whom you are safe to talk about your interior life in all its complexity and unfolding beauty."
My Background and Training
In 2016, I graduated from a two-year spiritual direction training (at Christos Center for Spiritual Formation in Lino Lakes, Minnesota), but have been meeting and praying with people informally for much longer, both on the mission field and off.
My primary focus is on opening up avenues of prayer and meditation for people, making way for healing and wholeness, and growing to trust one's own experience with God. Ray Leonardini wrote that meditation is valuable because it by-passes the mind and "...unlock[s] the unconscious wound of the spirit. Receptive, contemplative practices are uniquely suited to healing deep psychic wounds." I also practice and teach centering prayer, a meditation-based form of prayer.
Although I am a Christian, I am happy to work with those of other faiths, or no faith, or people who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. I am an active member of an area Episcopal church.
I am also a person on my own journey, and I continue in my own soul work and spiritual direction.
"There's a mystical dimension to turning to God in silent prayer,
namely, in some deep, hidden way we don't understand
God is being poured out and completely given away...
God never, never, never did not know who you are." J. Finley