Spiritual Direction

Cloisters at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, Rome

Cloisters at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, Rome.

Spiritual direction is the name long used in Christian tradition to describe the careful listening one person offers to another (in the presence of the Spirit), helping the “directee” to listen more deeply to God’s presence in the heart, and to live more clearly with the compassion at the center of every religious and spiritual path. All so-called “spiritual directors” know that the true “director” in any conversation is God’s very self, for whom both are listening carefully. God is mystery, and every form of religion is an effort to respond faithfully to the mystery of God by whatever name. The Divine breaks through into human experience in many ways, and humans respond variously to the awesome experience of God. Although today many of us experience and offer spiritual direction or companionship, generalizations are often inadequate in the search for fidelity to the Mystery. However, a genuine effort always helps to break us open more fully to Divine Love.

If re-invited past re-enters…

If re-invited past re-enters present.
do postponed futures turn prematurely old
– losing their impulsive freshness?

Or do they mellow, perhaps like wine,
inviting tastes?

Or maybe letting me, independent of
concatenating months, move forward,
able to welcome newness,

to enjoy…
to endure…
to anticipate…
to create?

“throughout human history, individuals have been called to accompany others seeking the Mystery we name God…”

The international association of Spiritual Directors International’s first mission statement reminds us that “throughout human history, individuals have been called to accompany others seeking the Mystery we name God…;” our response to this call is to tend the Holy around the world and across traditions. The websites of that organization are www.sdiworld.org and also www.sdicompanions.org

Those who seek the Mystery and those who accompany them are united in the conviction that the sacred is somehow present within creation, within ourselves, and that humans are invited to be engaged with the mysterious presence here and now. That is a remarkable assertion in today’s world! Yet many of us find ourselves hungry for “something more” than we currently experience, thirsty for the unnamable. The great student of the mystic life, Evelyn Underhill, speaks quite firmly of “the hopelessly irrational character of all great religions: which rest, one and all, on a primary assumption that can never be intellectually demonstrated, much less proved—the assumption that the supra-sensible is somehow important and real, and is intimately connected with human life.”

Norvene meditating at Troy, Turkey

Norvene meditating at Troy, Turkey

I borrow now from the definition of spiritual direction or spiritual companionship on www.sdicompanions.org, including a quote from longtime director Marion Cowan, CSJ:

“First, Here’s one definition:

Spiritual direction aims to help us experience the eternal and the infinite aspects of our true nature through the wise, experienced and compassionate company of another human being.

But that definition, though accurate, is inadequate in important ways.

Here’s the truth.

Comprehensively defining an intensely personal and sometimes mystical experience is an impossible challenge. Any definition is limited by its very nature and therefore bound to come up short when compared with the actual experience of the limitless.”

This quote from SDI member Marian Cowan, CSJ gives important context:

“Spiritual direction is a time-honored term for a conversation, ordinarily between two persons, in which one person consults another, more spiritually experienced person about the ways in which God [or however one names the Divine, Holy or Universal] may be touching her or his life, directly or indirectly. In our postmodern age, many people dislike the term ‘spiritual direction’ because it sounds like one person giving directions, or orders, to another. They prefer ‘spiritual companionship,’ ‘tending the holy,’ or some other nomenclature. What we call it doesn’t make any real difference. The reality remains conversations about life in the light of faith. Across both the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures, we find people seeking spiritual counsel. The Queen of Sheba sought out the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus gave us examples in his conversations with Nicodemus, with the woman at the well, in the ongoing formation of Peter and the other disciples. In the early church, people flocked to hermits in the desert for spiritual counsel. Across the centuries we find striking examples in some Irish monks, in some German Benedictine nuns, in Charles de Foucault, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, and others. Today, spiritual directors come from many traditions … [including Judaism, Sufism, Buddhism and other faiths].“

The themes of companionship appear again and again, explicitly in Norvene’s writing and workshops, and implicitly in Doug’s poems that revel in the wonder of nature in all its forms. I am fond of saying that I depend on deep roots but am not greatly concerned about boundaries. You can expect from me welcome and graceful presence as I help you to connect with the deepest of truths, supporting both your freedom and God’s presence in your life. As a longtime director, I do generally charge for spiritual direction sessions, which usually happen once a month at my apartment in Westminster Canterbury, Charlottesville, VA, and also sometimes by zoom.

In the meantime, do check the websites of friends:
http://www.sdicompanions.org, Spiritual Directors International;
http://www.stillpointca.org, a Spiritual Direction training program in Los Angeles, CA and Santa Fe, NM;
www.CQCenterQuest.org, a Spiritual Formation and Direction program centered in the Los Angeles, CA basin, with outreach to Asia
• And many others mentioned on the sdicompanions.org website and their Presence journal.

What Do I Really Mean?

What do I really mean saying I love God?
Am I expressing thanks for the reversal of something
which had kept me anxious,
but is now resolved?
Did my insistent surge of prayers finally get through
to the Great Remedy?

Now that I am feeling better, I dare to ask,
am I in love with a concept of the Almighty
(which happens to be quite different from
what is held by several folks I know)?

Or is it admission I’m becoming
willing to accept the gift
without claiming to fully know my secret lover?