Spiritual Direction is a practice of deeply listening to and for God, with another person. It is a spiritual practice that is frequently called “spiritual companionship” since it is an ‘accompaniment with’ rather than being ‘directed by’ another person, since the real and present director is the Holy Spirit. It is a practice that allows and encourages the person to be responsible to hear and discern the direction and tone of their journey with the Divine. It is not counseling or therapy, nor is it coaching.
Coaching and counseling both employ listening skills, but they differ from Spiritual Direction. Counseling or therapy looks for a diagnosis and there is the intention to help a person change a pattern of behaviors or attitudes. People will sometimes meet with a therapist several times a month, where normally spiritual direction happens only one time a month and there is always a spiritual component within it. And coaching is way to help you define and meet your goals.
There are many books on spiritual direction, both Catholic and Protestant, which give a very clear definition of what Spiritual direction is and is not. I’ve listed some below.
My own journey with spiritual direction began 20 years ago when I came across David Benner’s book, Sacred Companions. His thoughts on listening in relationships resonated with me to the extent that I looked for other books on listening and spiritual direction. Then in 2014 I found myself in a place where I needed to talk to someone and decided it was time to find a spiritual director and figure a few things out.
What have I learned or gained from meeting monthly with a spiritual director? I am growing in trust of the “still small voice” that I hear. I am able to appreciate being a contemplative in a very loud and fast paced world. And I was given permission to slow down, to meditate and to recognize prayer in its many forms. It has been a wonderful time of discovery and surprise.
During my first year in my spiritual direction relationship, I revisited the deep desire to become a director. I found a program at Christos Center for Spiritual Formation, Tending the Holy, and graduated from their program in 2017. My times with my spiritual director and with Christos have been times of discovery and recovery. Discovering the very real love of God and His abiding presence in my life, and recovering some of my deep desires. (www.christoscenter.org)
If Spiritual Direction is something you are thinking about, please contact me.
Some books to explore if you are interested in looking deeper:
Starting Spiritual Direction by John Mabry
Spiritual Direction: A Guide to Giving and Receiving Direction by Gordon Smith
Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri Nouwen