Where do you find hospitality for your heart, for your soul? Is there a place where you know you will be welcomed, every part of you whether manicured or messy, confident or crying, peaceful or in crisis? What relationship invites you to rest, relax, coax out the desires you’re not sure about but have felt scratching in the corners of your awareness like a shy mouse? Do you long to be allowed to not just finish your sentences but to let them linger in the air waiting for the next thought to birth? Where can you receive the gifts of acceptance, attention and deep listening, where you can set down the burden of fear of what the other person will think of your questions, doubts, dreams?
Wanting such a sacred safe place is not selfish; it is actually quite essential to becoming a whole person. So many tiny and terrible hurts accumulate daily and over time that we grow accustomed to them; they are so normal and common that each one seems hardly worth noticing let alone treating for the bleeding cut that it is. Everyone gets them and trudges on… but in ever-deepening disconnection from ourselves. We each need re-connecting with our selves, with our own stories, to recognize how shielded our souls have needed to become to press through the mundane demands we face. Often this is a bit scary or confusing to attempt on our own, but how do you find a guide to help you journey back to yourself? It’s slippery to articulate what you need so how can you ask it of a friend? And who has the capacity, maturity and skill to walk with someone else on such a vulnerable venture? …but aren’t you hungry for it?
Spiritual direction can be that sacred space. At the risk of self-promotion, I and so many friends have discovered this jewel of soul care to be unique from its helpful cousins psychotherapy and coaching. Both practices are typically problem focused and often look to the therapist or coach for solutions; those relationships are squarely face to face between the client and the professional, two people figuring something out. Spiritual direction has a broader focus to include all of life, does not problem solve per se, and despite the label is actually not so much “directive” but reflective. The intent is to warmly hold a space to encourage deep reflection on whatever the directee (as the client is called) brings to the table. It doesn’t have to be overtly spiritual in nature (although questions of how it intersects the spiritual may be posed), because many directors hold that everything about us is interconnected– the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual realms of a person are deeply entwined, even merged, and sacred. While the relational stance is intimate, spiritual directors recognize and rely on a third presence in the conversation: Christian directors call that God or the Holy Spirit, while other faith traditions may refer to the Divine, the Sacred, the Universe, Spirit, or simply Love. (There are even atheist spiritual directors.) It is our job to encourage the directee’s awareness of that Presence as a trustworthy and indeed primary guide along the path. This not only relieves any sense of pressure or responsibility to make sure we get them to the “right” place but is extraordinarily affirming to directees that they are able to hear this voice themselves. Sometimes a practice, discipline, or ritual is suggested for the directee to do on their own to further develop that inner ear. But the space of direction itself is profound hospitality of heart: the director invites the person in to sit at a sumptuous table lavished with soul nourishing attentiveness, embrace, hope, trustworthiness, love, and commitment. We nurture reconnection with themselves by offering profound connection first; we foster direct communion with God by inviting spiritual awareness and even serving as an icon of the divine to whom they can tell anything.
It is a bit daunting to write briefly about spiritual direction because there are so many terrific books already about this sustaining practice. Here are just a few from my own library:
It is my joyous hope that spiritual direction, spiritual companionship or “soul friendship” as it is more humbly called will be an increasingly recognized and enjoyed practice. I have been brought back to life and love by a number of such dear soul friends, and have had the privilege of offering this covenant of sacred care to others for the past seven years. I encourage you to try it out and give yourself the gift of soul care. I would love to be the person to guide you on this trail of life! Learn more about my Spiritual Director Services.