What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction is a learning process of attuned listening…. ( In fact, the first rule of St. Benedict is to listen- Asculta!) Whereby one learns to listen to the interior questions and their intuitive answers. It is a relationship of affirming the true and beholding the good. It is facilitated by working with a director who can alternatively known as your soul friend.
With that person, you walk together- as companions on a spiritual journey of self discovery, grace, and revelation…. It is a sharing in the search for the deep self where we engage our longings, seek to heal our wounds, and discover our wonders.
In this relationship, there is an active, continual, and gracious acknowledgment that we live most fully in a tri-alogue… Adding in a correspondence with a God or Spirit of your knowing and understanding …is to disclose the hidden sacred dimension of life and its many facets.
In that sense, spiritual direction is a covenant of caring for one’s life and for God’s place and presence within it- it is an appreciation, and appraisal of one’s life story; its struggles, its challenges, its promise and its blessings.
Spiritual direction is the relational process of discovering how and in what ways the Holy (or that which has sacred dimensions and sacred meanings) influences and guides your understanding, your motives, values, and reveals a deeper sense of self.
Classically, spiritual direction especially in the most prevalent Ignatian tradition asks you about the directions God is taking you in your life…. (I prefer the Benedictine model of the “Ores et Labores” model because that adapts well
Or more easily to our Western lifestyle….. I prefer to ask where are you taking God? Into what parts, portions, or facets of your life? These questions also seem to favor adaptation into a Buddhist and Zen style or the Franciscan/Gandian model of service that has parallels itself to the Bahkti and the Karma Yoga paths….)
A Spiritual Director (and one can choose the less hierarchical term, Soul Friend) has a distinctive role to play in your path towards wholeness and holiness….. Or if you are more psychologically oriented, she/he is a peson who can facilitate moving towards self-actualization, individuation, and the process of becoming an authentic person….
As a resource person, they offer you their insights for your consideration, their discernment for your comprehension, and can actively suggest possible paths and ways toward wholeness/integration in your personal search for meaning…. They will often emphasize spiritual disciplines, devotional reading, and other meditative and physical exercises to try that may refine your attunements to the inner callings of the Spirit; thereby assisting you towards making those stirrings and wonderings ever more present, and more widely accessible.
Who is a Spiritual Director?
Your spiritual director is generally not your pastor or your colleague per se…. She or he is rarely if ever your confessor- in the sacramental tradition- nor would they properly be your psychotherapist (there is currently much debate over the mixing and blending of these roles- I have come down on the side of keeping them separate and synergistic….)
While there may be parallels and important links, especially to a depth psychology such as Jungian analysis, participating in SD is not therapy nor is therapy a substitute for SD.
What makes them different?
Most often, the most distinguishing factor is the agreed on continual reference to or acknowledgment of the sacred at both the start and the end of a session. There is a constant or continual reference to the tri-alogue as alive and operating as a source of motives, values, virtues, and directions for your life…. This acknolwedgement can come in many ways….From a prayer, to a chant, from silence to bells, to a chalice lighting and a devotional reading….
Its value is to engage and welcome the presence of the Holy by one’s sacred intention during the meeting…. Utilizing the symbolic world of ones faith or wisdom tradition, their inspirational sources and resources that they are currently exploring or have found inspiration and solace in their applications in their lives…. In short, spiritual direction occurs and is conducted in a constant atmosphere of sacred intention, reverence, and spiritual intimacy….. Which, by the way is not pious, and can include humor, and discuss topics that might be considered to be religiously taboo!
Because SD presumes a certain level of emotional and mental health, it does not dwell on systems or symptoms- so it doesn’t ordinarily look for cures or even rational explanations…. Instead, SD assumes a wholeness, a wellness, and an integrity that will be further disclosed by God’s grace and the Spirit’s unfoldment. The goal of SD is to allow for and to facilitate a deepening, a ripening, a revealing…. (in the words of the Aramaic Jesus “Twobway Hun”-Blessed are you….)
Directors ask: Where is God or the Holy for you? Where in your experience have you felt its presence and effects? How can you learn to allow more of God, the Good that already is, into your live and into your heart?
Oftentimes, we seek out SD because we are currently feeling as if something is missing, lacking, unknown or unfulfilled in our lives….. Spiritual direction teaches us to honor those longings, those yearnings– that your hunger and thirst are not emotions of lack or frustration, but act as a gracious impulse within you, as an inpelling, and sometimes a compelling invitation to go more deeply, and to know oneself, one’s soul, or God more fully. (From a classical Christian view point we desire to become more integrated, more Christ like- which has, for me, the best definition in the early Church leader, St. Iraeneus, who said that ‘[the Christ became human so that humans could become more Christ like… And to be more Christ like is to be more fully human and more fully alive!”]
Not everyone who can act effectively as a spiritual facilitator for you has to be a trained professional…. But a professional will have the best capacity of staying with you, walking with you over time, experience, circumstance, and revelation and provide you with a sustained relationship or companionship…… (children, pets, nature and various mystics and misfits can provide you with insights!)
Classically, and for that matter, charismatically, one cannot be trained to be a spiritual director unless they are first inner-directed… That is, unless they first receive the charisms and the gift of the Spirit as a significant part of their vocational call…. They are given the gift of discernment which they will use in guiding and assisting others along the spiritual path…..
Being well educated is not a protection or an assurance that you will receive good quality of care…. it is however, a reliable measure that they will be able to understand or comprehend the many descriptive languages and various paths one might pursue…. From that place, there is an extended period of training or refining- a skill based awareness one can receive that attunes and refines that spiritual gift…..
Your spiritual director need not be of your own faith tradition….. And most often in the USA, they come from a sacramental tradition that recognizes spiritual gifts and spiritual disciplines such as the Episcopal, the Orthodox, and the various kinds of Catholic traditions….. The main point here is that you feel respected… that the stirrings of your heart can be heard, and that an essential relationship can be formed between you.
Some Mechanics and Practical Considerations:
Usually, SD is conducted on a 1X a month basis…. If it is a particularly crucial time in a person’s life, it could occur more often…..
The cost is variable….. It will range from a good will donation to a regular sliding scale fee. If this is a part of a director’s livelihood, then they will set a fee…. I will often use this standard of measure: I will charge half of what you would pay for a psychologist appointment…..
Some styles of direction are gentle, patience, and offer much forbearance…. Others are more directive, and many directors supplement their work by offering their clients selected and directed readings, meditations, and other body/mind/spirit disciplines, and might recommend weekend or extended sessions and intensive workshops…… Any questions?????