Spiritual Direction ……
What exactly is “spiritual direction”? And how is it different from psychotherapy or counseling? And when should someone seek out this kind of assistance?
Spiritual directors are trained to help a person hear God’s voice, and to walk alongside a person as they seek out their life’s best course. They specialize NOT in answering your questions, but in helping you discover your deepest longings and questions — and bring those to God.
In spiritual direction, you begin to explore what your life presently looks like, and where you are sensing God’s presence, where God seems to be absent, and what you are longing for at your deepest core of your being.
About 7 years ago, I decided to try ‘spiritual direction’ for myself. I chose a Catholic priest whom I had heard lecture at Mercy Center Convent in Burlingame, California. I began to meet with him at the convent on a consistent basis once a month. I found that those times of careful listening clarified what my values in my forties really were. I think I began to journal in much deeper and more honest ways as a result of that season of ‘direction’ in my life. I continued for about two years to meet with my spiritual director and realized that God was using him to help me hear and understand spirituality in new and different ways.
I was suddenly far more comfortable with silence. I slept and dreamed more deeply. (Part of spiritual direction often includes tracking your dreams as you sleep and writing them down upon waking). I made important life choices and decisions as a result of that time. I began to read authors who advocated taking care of my soul, not just my emotions or body. Most importantly, I began to notice God’s presence in every moment and in every place in my world. Spiritual directors help us identify the touches of God, see them for what they are, and nurture them fully in our lives.
How is ‘direction’ different from ‘therapy’ or ‘counseling’? Counseling is designed to help you solve specific problems or more simplistically, to help you get ‘unstuck’ in your life. Counseling gives you tools to communicate with family members, to resolve marriage issues, to be released from emotions which are destroying you. Spiritual direction, on the other hand, looks for how God is working, calling, prodding, and inviting you to new ways of being with God. It focuses on building an intimate relationship with God over a lifetime.
The questions you can ask of yourself are things like ….
- where is God at work in my life today? this week?
- what distracts me from listening to God’s voice?
- where does God seem to be absent in my life?
- what gets in the way of an intimate relationship with God?
An excellent book that helped me focus on spirituality and God’s presence in my own life was Thomas Moore’s “The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Living”. Harper-Collins, 1996.
If you would like to discuss spiritual direction or explore that possibility, please feel free to contact me at Robin@WilliamsCounseling.com