“He who appoints himself his own spiritual master has a fool for a disciple.”
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
WHY SPIRITUAL DIRECTION?
You probably have a doctor, a dentist, a banker, a lawyer, a tax accountant, a plumber, and perhaps a personal trainer. From this perspective, it seems foolish not to have a spiritual director.
WHAT IS SPIRITUAL DIRECTION?
- It is often misunderstood as one person getting advice from a spiritual director. In practice, God is the director who guides the seeker while the certified Spiritual Director acts as a wise companion journeying with you.
- Spiritual direction is a process where you are invited to listen, notice and reflect upon God’s invitation to a deeper relationship.
- Spiritual direction is a personal relationship with your director characterized by mutual honesty, trust, respect and openness with self, others & God.
- Spiritual direction is not counseling, therapy, problem solving nor instruction.
- Spiritual direction is a means of recognizing and responding to God’s communication in the ordinary course of one’s life.
- Spiritual direction is the story of your soul told to a graced companion.
WHAT DO I TALK ABOUT?
We tend to compartmentalize our lives: There’s my work life, my home life and there’s ‘my time’. The truth is everything is your spiritual life. It’s the one life which we have all been given and will have for all eternity.
For many, spiritual direction is the first time they’ve talked about their relationship with God. No part of your life is off limits. The principal issue in spiritual direction is your experience of God in your life. The director is there to receive your faith story – your core religious experiences. This involves being attentive to what is happening in daily life; family, work, friends and prayer.
We might talk about your prayer life and your vocation. We want to talk about what you struggle with, your temptations. What do you dream about? How do you experience God? What gets you down? Whatever is going on in your life is where God is operating. That is where God is closest to you. That is where God is leading you to make choices as to who you are becoming. One critical question we will ask continually is “Where is God in all this?”
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF SPIRITUAL DIRECTION?
The goal of spiritual direction is to make clear the voice of God so one can become more responsive to God in our lives. The Holy Spirit operates in the ordinary experience of our everyday life and ironically we miss most of these epiphanies precisely because they are so ordinary. It is by taking our experience into prayer and spiritual direction that affords us the opportunity of making these encounters more manifest.
WHAT DOES THIS COST?
All of Daylesford’s Spiritual Directors are graduates of accredited centers of training. We offer the service as a ministry and as a professional service. It is customary for the directee to offer some remuneration. We suggest a sliding scale of $40 to $60 a session which is shared between the director and the spirituality center. It is, however, our desire that no one be turned away for financial reasons.
Most education requires a new vocabulary. You will be discussing things that you may not have put into words before. Things can be awkward at first. That’s OK. It will come to you. As you speak about your journey you will begin to see the hidden connections between your everyday events and your prayer life. You will come to see that God is active and alive in your world.
Most will claim they are able to look back and feel that they are growing in peace; that they are more hopeful and – most of all – that they are growing in love. Barriers come down. One becomes more forgiving and more accepting. You will be less anxious and more trusting. You will see progress in your life and feel closer to God. You will be more configured to God. The Mystery of God expands.
Left to our own devices we can get tangled up in our own minds going over the same ground again and again. That’s not development; that’s not growth. Most people find clarity, balance, spiritual and psychological relief in having a sounding board for what is going on in their lives.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR?
A Spiritual Director is not going to tell you what to do or how to do it. Good Spiritual Directors are better listeners than talkers. They are neither catechists nor theologians. Typical terms ascribed to Spiritual Directors are shepherds, midwives, gardeners or advocates. You want to see your director as your spiritual companion and occasionally your guide. They will mostly listen. They will help you sort. They will give you feedback. They will offer other resources. They will not tell you what to do.
Your Spiritual Director will care about you. They will not judge you. They will not discuss anything you say to them nor disclose your identity. You are safe and can discuss anything you desire. You are also free to ask them whatever you like.
WOULD I MAKE A GOOD CANDIDATE?”
Good candidates want to nourish the desire to accomplish God’s will. You want to be open to being taught and influenced by God. You want to be willing to trust and to develop the ability to distinguish God’s voice from others. You will want to establish a regular pattern of prayer, reflection and self-examination. Directees are good seekers and good questioners.
WHAT ARE SOME SIGNS OF READINESS?
- The desire to keep God as a top priority in one’s life
- The willingness to forgo whatever might impede one’s relationship with God
- A willingness to make time for regular periods of prayer
- Remember, everyone wants transformation but most of us don’t want to be asked to change
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Commit to 2 or 3 sessions and move ahead. You will know by then if the practice and Spiritual Director are a good fit. Most directees meet with their director once a month. Sometimes one might desire to meet more frequently in the beginning to move things along. A session lasts 45-50 minutes.
There is no homework other than a commitment to prayer. Excessive planning prior to a session is not proper for spiritual direction. Strict confidentiality is observed. Unless required to do so by law or by court order (for example an incidence of child abuse or if the directee is seriously considering harming him/herself, or another individual), whatever you speak about would not be spoken about outside of the room. Even the fact that you are a directee is held in confidence.
WHAT DO THE SPIRITUAL MASTERS SAY?
The whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of a person’s life, to get behind the façade of conventional gestures and attitudes which one presents to the world, and to bring out one’s inner spiritual freedom, one’s inmost truth, which is what [Christians] call the likeness of Christ in one’s soul. This is an entirely supernatural (spiritual) thing, for the work of rescuing the inner person from automatism belongs first of all to the Holy Spirit.
– Thomas Merton
The need (for spiritual direction) arises from the ambiguities, ambivalence, uncertainties, complexities and new questions of living in a modern world …. Not a few have felt a sense of drifting rudderless in a stormy sea of personal responsibility. In part, people are seeing help as a result of crumbling external structures of regulation and authority and increasing challenges for internal structure of cultivating mature consciences and shared responsibility.
– Shaun McCarty, S.T.
An important consideration in assessing readiness for spiritual direction is where the person stands in relationship to his or her desire to surrender to God.
– Shaun McCarty, S.T.
In our struggle to understand our experiences and hungers, to discern our calling and to grow towards becoming holy, there is much that we do not know on our own.