Journaling, self-reflection & preparing for spiritual direction

Spending time in self reflection can play a significant role in your spiritual journey. It can also be helpful before meeting for spiritual direction. A regular practice of journaling can provide a space for you to record your spiritual journey — recording your prayers, requests, interior movements and insights

Self-reflection can also help when deciding what to bring to a time of spiritual direction. This requires time and attention — so aim to set aside an extended period of time to this exercise where you look back over the recent weeks of your life.

Begin with a few minutes of silence, giving attention you your posture and breathing, allowing yourself to come to a place of stillness so you are spiritually alert and receptive. Allow some time to write down in a journal significant things which come to mind.

The suggestions below may help you in this process and work as springboards to your self-reflection:

  • As I review recent experiences and learning in my life, I notice…
  • Recently, my heart has been orientated towards… and my thinking has been concerned with…
  • Consider if there is an image, piece of music, a word or a phrase, that would describe how life has been like lately.
  • I am currently tending to my spiritual life and curating my heart in the following ways…
  • Currently, my spiritual life could be described as…
  • I sense divine invitations in these areas of my life…
  • A particular issue I’d like to take through a process of discernment is…
  • I have sensed the God’s presence (or absence) recently through these experiences, events and relationships…

Unresolved and incomplete

Many circumstances in life put us in close contact with things that are unresolved and incomplete. It could be a work task, a move from one place to another, a relational disagreement. These things are part of the fabric of our lives, and often uncomfortable realities we face.

Not only do we live with unresolved and incomplete situations, but daily we encounter limited people — and we experience the pain of their imperfections. Yet, the problem is even closer to home, if we’re honest wth ourselves, we too are limited… unresolved and incomplete.

All this is made real to me regularly, in a variety of ways: a friend upsets me, I let others down, we make plans that falter. This can leave us unsettled, frustrated or confused — leaving us unsure where to turn. “To whom shall we go?” The disciples asked. It was of course a rhetorical question, for they knew the One who had the words of real, enduring life, was standing in their midst — Jesus. He spoke of the Heavenly Father, who holds all these things together in generous compassion. God, it seems, is perfectly able to graciously hold the unresolved and the incomplete. The invitation for us, is to trust the One who holds all these things and rest in that, whilst also holding hope — looking forward to the time when all things are bought to completion.

I am unresolved, unfinished and incomplete.
And much around me in unresolved, unfinished and incomplete.
But You God, You are complete,
and hold all these things in your gracious embrace
May we find our rest in you.

I am limited
And those around me are limited
Your love, God, is unlimited.
Embrace us in your love.

Spiritual direction is it like counselling or coaching?

Many people when first hearing about spiritual direction wonder how it compares to counselling and coaching. Each of these practices are so valuable and there are indeed similarities between them. You will notice that all three place an emphasis on listening and asking appropriate questions that help you process where you are and where you are going. Having said that, it is important to note that each has a different purpose, intention, and methodology. I should note, I’m not a coach or a counsellor — so I hope in writing this that I don’t do either of those practices an injustice.

Coaching will often have a focus on operations, problems and solutions — ‘how can I do this better?’ ‘How can I achieve this?’ Or, ‘how can I fix this?’.  Counselling (which takes many forms) is therapeutic in its manner and psychological in its approach — and it is particularly helpful in working through emotional issues and mental health conditions. Both these are important and valuable practices — and I would encourage you to engage with a good coach or counsellor if they provide what you need at this time.

So, what is it that is particular about spiritual direction? The practice of spiritual direction is marked by an attentiveness to God in the life of another. There is an underlying assumption is that the Spirit is actually involved and present in the life of the person receiving direction and within the conversation itself. Because of this approach, you will find that spirtual direction sessions have a prayerful and contemplative feel to them. The person offering spiritual direction is not trying to tell you what to do or think, but rather draw your attention to the Spirit’s activity in you life, helping you to articulate what you notice and how your feel led to respond. This attentiveness is facilitated by prayer, contemplation, and meditation — for example, there maybe times during a spiritual direction session where there will be space for you to engage in a particular prayer practice.

I hope this starts to give you more of an idea of what spiritual direction is. I would love to help you with any more questions or queries, or if you would like to experience spiritual direction yourself. Please do get in touch.

Eastertide meditation

There’s something about hearing the things of God in another language which warms my soul, touches my heart and expands my vision. It reminds me that I do not have the monopoly on God with my small understanding of the world. So it was a blessing to see this beautiful video meditation (with its use of multiple languages) by Fuller Studio on death and resurrection this week.

Images and video by Fuller Studio

Who we are to become

Rowan Williams’ Silence and Honey Cakes is a joy to read and a real source of wisdom. He encourages to engage in the “patient, long-term discovery of what grace will do” to us. It is a work that “requires the kind of vulnerability to each other that can only come with the building up of trust over time, the kind of silence that brings our fantasy identities to judgement…” It is he says, “life and death with neighbour once more”

“We don’t know what we shall be, what face God will show to us in the mirror he holds unto us on the last day, but we can continue to question our own (and other people’s) strange preference for the heavy burden of self justification, or self creation, and weep for our reluctance to become persons and to be transfigured by the personal communion opened for us by Jesus.” R. Williams

Abba, Father
I don’t know who I am
Nor who I will be
But you see me truly
And your desire is for me
So may I let go
and allow myself
to be embraced
by you, Abba,
my beloved.

To become aware

I love Eugene Peterson’s response to this question:

“What does it mean to experience all the material of our lives as a an act of faith?”
That I’m responsible for paying attention to the Word of God right here in this locale. The assumption of spirituality is that always God is doing something before I know it. So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.

[from ‘The Contemplative Pastor’ p4]

Lamb, bound

The following is a poetic reflection on the painting ‘Agnus Dei’ (1635-40) by Francisco de Zuburban.

You, alone in the dark.
You, crowned in light. You, slumped
on the line where life meets death
meets life.
You, helpless, legs bound. With
passive horns, lying
in humility, demanding
Me, still looking on.
I, Judas.
I, Peter.
I, John.
on us.