The heritage of spiritual direction
Spiritual direction can be found in many faiths and religions. My training has been within the context of the christian tradition, with a wealth of influences: ancient and contemporary. The practice can be traced throughout church history and is profoundly shaped by the contemplation of Jesus.
Does this mean you need to: ‘have a faith’ or ‘a particular belief’ in order to receive spiritual direction? Not necessarily — we always start where you are and there is space to explore how you are being drawn onward. Your faith maybe seasoned or burgeoning; you may feel like you’re thriving or falling apart. It’s all ok. You are welcome.
“Spiritual direction is a one-on-one relationship organized around prayer and conversation directed toward deepening intimacy with God. Spiritual directors are not experts, nor do they direct. Rather, they journey with others who, like themselves, are committed to the process of spiritual transformation in Christ. And most important, they seek to help those with whom they journey discern the presence and leading of the Spirit of God, the One sent as our true Spiritual Director.” David Benner “Sacred Companions”
Notes on appointment times and delayed appointments
A certain level of organisation and structure helps facilitate these sessions. Please do bear in mind these basic practicalities: the intention is that you will attend appointments on time; if you do find you are running late, in order to honour the following appointments, we will usually end approximately at the scheduled time. In the event where you do need to cancel an appointment, please give a day’s notice (by text, email of contact form). These details enable the practice of spiritual direction to be sustainable and nurturing for all participants.
A working understanding of Spiritual Direction — Noters based on work by Steve S
Spiritual Direction is the art of sacred conversation and listening; taking place in the context of a trusting relationship. A Spiritual Director is a faith companion who listens to you and your life with a discerning ear, looking for the movements of the Spirit. In his book on spiritual direction, the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton helps to clarify the role:
“…the director is not to be regarded as a magical machine for solving cases and declaring the holy will of God beyond all hope of appeal, but a trusted friend who, in an atmosphere of sympathetic understanding, helps and strengthens us in our groping efforts to correspond with the grace of the Holy Spirit, who alone is the true Director in the fullest sense of the word.”
God is the true guide and director, while the human spiritual director is like a midwife, assisting you in noticing and responding to the inner voice of God. The director is primarily interested in your experience of God and how you can follow God’s call. That process is a spiritual journey into the truth about God, yourself, your relationships, your work, and the world.
The premise of Spiritual Direction is that God is present and active in your daily life in a multitude of (usually unnoticed) ways. When you slow down, begin to reflect, and take a long, loving look at what is happening around you, you begin to become aware of the experience of the presence of God. The more you know yourself the more you know God; and the more you know God, the more you know yourself and your direction and purpose. Intimacy with God leads naturally into transformation, healing, and action.
As your director, my work is to focus my attention on your spiritual experience and points of self-discovery, to explore with you God’s will and purpose in your life. Therefore, I will not try to analyze or fix you, even though our conversation may involve deep personal sharing and exploration of personal crisis and suffering. Spiritual direction is a conversation of the heart and uses all our human faculties (intuition, emotion, imagination, senses, and intellect) to discern God’s presence and will for you, as you understand it. I pledge myself to listen with you for the voice of God and to help you notice God’s movement in your life.
Our conversations are always confidential; however, for my professional growth I ask your permission to share pieces of information with my supervisor without using your name. It is customary for directors to be under direction and supervision as part of our commitment to improving our practice.
Direction sessions usually take place once a month and last for one hour. In the beginning, I suggest we meet for three sessions. At the end of that time we will evaluate how well direction is meeting your expectations and whether to continue. Thereafter we will meet according to a schedule that we agree upon, and will evaluate approximately every 6 months (to one year) whether the relationship is fruitful and should be continued or not.
NOTE: Safeguarding laws requires anyone (including spiritual directors) to report suspected cases of child or elder abuse. Therefore, professional ethics regarding confidentiality do not apply to self-endangerment or harm to others.
NOTES ON SPIRITUAL DIRECTION by Rev. Dr. C. Gregg
WHAT IS SPIRITUAL DIRECTION? Spiritual direction is a series of conversations in which one person comes alongside the other to help him or her to listen for the words and work of God in his/her life. A spiritual director usually has had special training in the art of listening, being able to demonstrate good communication skills with people, and a deep understanding of many of the ways in which God has communicated with people (and people with God) throughout history. This would include knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, of church history, of spirituality, and of psychology.
WHAT HAPPENS IN A SPIRITUAL DIRECTION MEETING?
What does the director do? Depending on what is comfortable for the directee, a director may begin the meeting in one of several ways: he/she may pray a prayer of invocation, and sit in silence with the directee for some moments until the directee feels ready to break the silence and begin sharing what’s happening for them; or sometimes the director begins with a simple question, ‘How has it been going since the last time we met?’ Often there is some time for general conversation as both the director and the directee transition into the direction time. As the directee shares, the director will be listening and from time to time ask questions or make observations about the sharing. The director will ‘pace’ the meeting, creating space around the sharings that seem to be tapping into the directee’™ connection with God. The director will validate and encourage the directee, but will never rebuke, command or exploit the directee. Based on the directee’™ sharing, the director may make suggestions about spiritual practices or experiences that the directee may want to explore in the coming month.
What does the directee do? The directee shares about his or her relationship with God (as much or as little as he/she feels safe to share). Anything that is in the realm of one’s spiritual life is appropriate to share in the meeting with the director.
Questions a spiritual director may ask: Generally, spiritual directors begin with a basic question, ‘How would you like to begin?’ Because this time is for and about the directee, anything that the directee wants to talk about regarding their relationship with God is okay. The spiritual director is not an ‘answer person’, but will provide a space to explore the questions and issues that are of interest and concern to the directee. Over the course of several months, the director may ask questions about the directee’™ on-going experience of God, perhaps exploring such questions as, ‘When have you experienced the most closeness to God and to yourself recently? When have you felt most disconnected from God and from yourself this past month? What has that looked like? What do you think God is up to in your life right now? Are you sensing God asking or telling you something in this season of your life? How/are you, responding to what you understand God to be asking?’
Suggestions a spiritual director may make: Sometimes a director will suggest specific kinds of prayer (such as lectio divina, the prayer of examen, etc.), or perhaps highlight a question that the directee may want to keep before God during the coming month. Suggestions about ways to practice the presence of God, to grow in discernment, and to explore issues of call and vocation may also be made. A director may encourage the directee to practice a specific spiritual practice or discipline (such as journaling, solitude, service or fasting) for a season.
HOW OFTEN DOES SOMEONE MEET WITH A DIRECTOR? Typically, one meets with a spiritual director once a month. The time is used to reflect on the directee’s experience in relationship with God during the past month. The director and directee may explore together what the directee’s prayer experience has been, or talk about other matters that have influenced his or her experience of God.
HOW CAN I BE HELPED BY THE PRACTICE OF SPIRITUAL DIRECTION? Spiritual direction is an utterly confidential setting, giving the directee an opportunity to explore with someone who is safe and non-judgmental the real issues of their spiritual life. The director is not there to ‘fix’ the directee, or to make the directee holier, or to tell him or her what he or she should do or be. Rather, the director is there to help to create a sacred space which will facilitate an ongoing conversation between the directee and God, and to provide another set of listening ears for the words and the work of God in the directee’s life.
HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM COUNSELING? Usually, counseling is concerned with the relationship dynamics in one’s life. All relationships, but especially the primary relationships with family are explored in this context. Spiritual direction, which also focu’™ on relational dynamics, is concerned specifically with relationship with God â€“ who one is in relationship with God; how one communicates (both ‘send’ and ‘receive’); what God’s call or purpose in one’s life, etc. Spiritual direction is not a discipline that is oriented towards solving problems, but about growing in our inner life with God.
IS THIS A CHRISTIAN PRACTICE? Spiritual direction has been a part of the Christian Church since the first century, and while having undergone a series of shifts in its focus, has been seen as a necessary component for Christian growth and nurture.