Spiritual Practice – Spiritual Direction

I first wrote about the spiritual practice of Spiritual Direction in February of 2017. At that time, I took you through what might be a typical spiritual direction meeting. Clink the link below to start there or come back to it later.

Since then several things have changed. First, I’m now not only a spiritual director and a supervisor of spiritual directors, but I also run a spiritual direction training program! And, there seems to be a huge openness to the practice of receiving spiritual direction that wasn’t so common when I last wrote. This is very exciting!

Spiritual direction is an ancient practice that goes back to the desert mothers and fathers in the Christian tradition, and it can be found in different forms in most religions. Basically, it’s the practice of meeting with a spiritual guide who companions you on your faith journey. Most directors go through a two or three year certification program before starting a direction practice.

The name spiritual direction is a bit of a misnomer. A spiritual director does not give you direction. Spiritual companion might be a better term. It is a person who sits with you in the presence of the divine and listens deeply.

This person might notice themes or point out repeated phrases, or ask open ended questions. There are many differences between therapy, pastoral counseling, life coaching, and spiritual direction. The biggest difference is that the spiritual director does not have an agenda for you. As a therapist my agenda is to help you heal from past trauma or places you are stuck in life. As a pastoral counselor I used to focus on training and equipping people or helping them solve problems. Life Coaches focus on setting and attaining goals. A spiritual director’s only agenda is to listen to you in the presence of the divine, and to join with you wherever you are in your spiritual journey.

People often seek spiritual directors later in life when the things that worked for them spiritually aren’t working so well anymore. For instance, if the forms of prayer they are familiar with become stale and they feel disconnected from God, they might seek out a director. Or if they are in a life transition and need someone to help them navigate it, they might see a director. Or if, as in my case, when I was being trained to be a director, I needed to have a director!

I’ve had two directors over the last ten years. I meet with my director monthly for one hour, and even though I often don’t know what I want to talk about when the session starts, I have usually figured out some things by the end. It’s a very grounding experience.

If you think it might be time for you to find a director there are several places to look. The biggest resource list is Spiritual Directors international. They have directors listed by region and directors of all faiths. Most directors are meeting virtually now so you can also find directors online via the program I run, Christian Formation and Direction Ministry in Nevada (CFDMNV). Check here to find a director who is taking new directees.

You probably want to interview three directors before you choose one, and know that you and the director both have the right to say, “this is not working for me” at any time. I’d say give yourself three meetings with your director before making a decision; if it’s not a good fit, try someone else.

Does this sound like something you’d enjoy? Have you tried meeting with a director? I’d love to hear about your experience or answer any questions I can.

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Spiritual Practice: Intentional Growth

Spiritual growth is organic; in some ways it just happens. God is good, and as we spend time in God’s presence, we grow. True. And there are things we can do to help ourselves grow spiritually.

Take my happy plants for an analogy. They all started from one plant. They were all the same size. They were given different sized pots but the same soil. Some were alone, some were put together. Now look at them, each so very different than the others. We are like that. We need room to grow, we need time, space, good soil, water, sunlight and each of us grows in our own way.

So, how do we create the best conditions for intentional growth?

When I was a teenager and I decided to be a Christ follower, that was my first question, “What do I do now?” A wise person said, read the Bible, Pray, and go to church. Those were helpful instructions for a new follower and stood the test of time for decades.

But something happened as I got older; the old ways weren’t working for me anymore. My Happy Clappy Christianity felt shallow to me. Life was hard and I needed something deeper, a place to lament, and think, and breathe. The masculine language of the Bible became a stumbling block for me; I needed other spiritual food. Prayer became less about words and lists and more about silence and listening. I needed contemplative spiritual practices to grow spiritually.

This blog is about easy on-ramp spiritual practices and I’d like to highlight the ones that have stood the test of time for me. These still feed me and help me grow. We are each different and maybe the foundational big three of prayer, Bible reading and church continue to serve you well. Perhaps, like me, you need something more. So, here are my fave five.

Spiritual Direction Meeting monthly for an hour with a spiritual director has been a part of my life for the last twelve years. I’ve had two directors in that time. Spiritual Directors usually become certified through a two or three-year training program. The name is a bit of a misnomer. They are not “directing” you but are companioning you on your spiritual journey. I often don’t even know what I’m going to talk about with my director. It’s not therapy, it’s sitting with someone who listens well in the presence of the Holy and asks good questions. She/he may make an observation or share a spiritual practice to try. If you want more information on Spiritual Direction, click here.

Silence and Solitude If you scoop up a glass of river water and let it sit for a while, the sediment settles to the bottom of the jar. Then you can see more clearly through the water.

Spending time alone and unplugged does that for me. It allows my mind and spirit to settle and things become clearer. Nothing fills my cup like being alone for an extended period. For more information on Silence and Solitude, click here.

Reading Spiritual Books Words are important to me and I especially need words for my experiences when I’m going through something new. When I’m growing spiritually, I need words for what is happening to me. If you’re like that, finding mentors through books can be extremely helpful. This can happen through podcasts and YouTube as well, and now there are many online options to hear from mentors. I like books because I can take my time with them, I can savor them like a good meal. Authors like John Philip Newell, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, and Sue Monk Kidd have been valuable resources in helping me find words for my spiritual experience. If you’d like more information on Reading Spiritual Books, click here.

Lectio Divina I used to read the Bible inductively in 3 steps — asking What does it say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me? This is a very helpful way to read with practical application. Now I like to read contemplatively. Lectio Divina means divine reading. It helps you slow down and put yourself in the story. It allows time for the words to sink in and change you. You can use Lectio with any spiritual writing or with poems or songs. If you’re interested in more information on Lectio Divina, click here.

Listening to Nature In the Celtic Christianity I’ve come to love, the natural world is equal to scripture in its ability to speak to us about God. This has become a beautiful way for me to listen. Nothing beats time in the woods or at the ocean or just observing any living thing. It fills my soul with joy, wonder, and a great desire to cherish and protect the earth. If you’d like more information on Listening to Nature, click here.

I hope this gives you some good ideas of where to start or how to move forward in your spiritual journey. If not, this blog has years of ideas for you. Click around and see what might spark your interest! To me, a spiritual practice is anything done with intention. Walking, journaling, yoga, singing, creating, the list is endless.

I’d love to hear what has helped you grow spiritually. What have you tried, especially when the old ways become stale or are no longer working for you?

Spiritual Practice: Pursuing Healing

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When I was in graduate school to be a marriage and family therapist, one of the requirements was to go to counseling yourself — to pursue your own healing. The wisdom was that you can’t take someone where you haven’t been yourself. I remember my husband and I going together to work on some marriage issues. I loved it while the therapist was talking to him, but when that searchlight turned on me, I felt naked and exposed. I hated it. Yet, I wouldn’t trade those three years of therapy for anything. First, it gave us a much better footing for our marriage, and second, when I transitioned to individual therapy I was able to deal with my mama drama and my daddy dysfunction. I was able to bring to light my own family of origin pain and, like a boil being lanced, let the poison drain away and the healing begin.

In the same graduate school program, I had a friend who somehow skirted the counseling requirement. I know it would have helped him as he was mostly raised living in a car and had some really important pain to process. But, he chose not to, and instead of becoming one a wounded healer, he became a wounded wounder. Through having multiple affairs, he wrecked the lives of his wife, children, and who knows how many others.

Therapy is not the only way toward healing. During the same program, I became acutely aware that I was the product of an alcoholic system. I learned that in these families there are predictable rolls the children play. My brother was the “clown,” my sister the “lost child” and I was the “perfect one.” Do you have a perfect friend? One who is always loving and kind and on-time for everything? Don’t assume that this friend’s attributes are coming from a place of functionality, we ALL have our battle scars.

A lot of my healing around family substance abuse issues came through books:

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Adult Children Of Alcoholics was foundational for me.

Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How To Say No To Take Control Of Your Life, gave me skills I wasn’t raised with. Books can be really helpful in our healing.

If you suspect you had a borderline parent or spouse, the book I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me: Understanding The Borderline Personality,  could be your salvation.

If you’ve been sexually abused, the book On The Threshold Of Hope could guide you through it. I suggest you read this with a trusted friend.

Other things helped me during this time. Hypnotherapy, EMDR and Prayer Healing sessions helped me work through a rape I experience at seventeen. All three do the same kind of work in your brain, moving the trauma from the animal part of your (fight, flight, freeze) brain to the logic center where it can be processed logically. But, Prayer Healing has a divine component and I’ve seen people grow exponentially from it.

Over the last ten years, spiritual direction has kept me moving forward in my spiritual growth and development.

You can read about spiritual direction here.

The point is that no one is going to do the hard work of healing for us. God will bring people to help you and be with you during the process. God may even speed up the healing, but you have to show up and do the work.

Why pursue the work of healing? I believe it is the calling of each of us to bring the best, most complete “us” to the world. You were created to live a life only you can live. First, do no harm. So, get some healing, and do some good. The world is waiting for your gifts, your voice, and your compassionate action. Together, as wounded healers, we can help heal the world.

In what ways have you found healing? What has been most helpful?

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Spiritual Practices: Spiritual Direction

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Hello and welcome to my bi-monthly blog on spiritual practices*. Last time my wonderful spiritual director guest blogged about Centering Prayer because it was not a practice I had tried consistently. I must say, it wasn’t easy for me these last two weeks. Some days were easier than others. Some days it was an exercise in frustration. How did it go for you? The verdict is still out for me, but so many of my friends love this discipline that I will keep trying.

Today I thought it would be wise to talk about Spiritual Direction as I often mention my own spiritual director as the source of wisdom in my journey. I am also a certified spiritual director and a certified supervisor of spiritual directors; but I still remember about ten years ago, someone asked if I was a spiritual director and I had no idea what they were talking about — so let me explain.

A spiritual director, also known as a spiritual companion, is someone who comes alongside you in your spiritual journey. They are not a therapist or a life-coach. Usually, they meet with you once a month for only an hour, and usually, they receive a fee, typically about $40-$100. 

Path splits two directions, fork in the road

Maybe the best way to describe the discipline is to paint the picture of a spiritual direction appointment; so, join me in my prayer room if you will. You would be welcomed into my cozy prayer room, seated across from me in a comfortable chair, and we might chat a bit about how you are. Then, I’d ask if you’re ready for me to light the candle. If you said yes, I’d light a candle and say something like, “This candle reminds us that we are in the presence of the holy.”

You see, the role of a director is to set the table for you in the presence of the holy one. This is a conversation between three people. Then I might say, “How would you like to start? Shall we breathe for a moment, while you collect your thoughts? Take your time and start whenever you are ready.

Then the session starts. You would talk about whatever is front-of-mind and I will listen, ask occasional questions to help you notice themes, or go deeper into a subject that seems important. An example of a good question might be, “Where do you see God in this?”

At the end of our time together, I’ll ask you how you’d like to close: In silence? Would you like to pray? Would you like me to pray for you?” And then we’d set up our next meeting.

Spiritual Direction can be a wonderful spiritual discipline to receive when you are finding the old ways of prayer aren’t really working for you as well, or perhaps when you are in a difficult life transition, or you just want to go deeper in your relationship with God. Directors can be found in your area through the website, Spiritual Directors International but remember you should interview several to find one that truly fits for you.

Does Spiritual Direction sound like something you’d like to try? Let me know and I’ll try to help you find a director in your area.

*This blog series is leading up to the release of my latest book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening. It is available now!

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