Listening for God: The Practice of Spiritual Direction
Spiritual direction is becoming more widely known and practiced. This post will reflect on themes and quotes on spiritual direction to further understanding about this practice and ministry.
Therese Taylor-Stinson (in Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color) presents a good beginning point:
“What is spiritual direction?”
It is a contemplative prayer practice.
It is holy listening.
It is attending to God’s leading with another person.
It is companioning another on the journey.
It is offering hospitality to the stranger.
It is making space for another to reflect and discern God’s leading in their life.
Spiritual direction is a relationship between two people for which the foundation is trust—trust first in the Spirit of God and on the intention of the other to sit in God’s presence on behalf of another.
Contemplative Prayer Practice
Spiritual direction is an ancient practice, going back to the Desert Mothers and Fathers as well as Christian saints and mystics like Julian of Norwich and Tereasa of Avila.
Like other spiritual practices or disciplines, one willingly shows up to monthly meetings with a spiritual director.
This requires humble intent and discipline at first, but over time one doesn’t want to miss those sessions!
Spiritual direction becomes an integral way to explore one’s spiritual landscape.
The stance of spiritual direction is contemplative.
Walter Burghardt, SJ defined contemplation as “a long loving look at the real.”
In the sacred space of spiritual direction, we are invited to take that long loving look at our lives, seeking to notice and attend the movement and patterns of God’s presence and activity.
This contemplative posture of spiritual direction creates space for the soul and Spirit to be noticed, celebrated and creates a gentle and subtle dance where cooperation can begin.
Parker Palmer talks about the soul as a ‘shy wild animal’ that stays hidden in the woods near an open meadow.
When and only when the meadow is perceived safe will this shy creature enter to explore, play and run freely.
The space of spiritual direction is like this safe, open meadow, welcoming the soul and giving it the freedom to wander and explore and play.
Here deep calls to deep recognized and connection and conversation begin to unfold.
Trust and honesty can be nurtured.
A spiritual director is present, both energetically and attentively.
The physicality of presence is welcoming and hospitable, relaxed and attentive.
Spiritual directors are witnesses who affirm the presence of the activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of the other.
Always pointing them toward God, the true spiritual director.
The task is to stay out of the way, pay attention, listen and see, watch and pray.
In this way, the gift of shared wisdom can come into play.
“Spiritual direction is the practice of holy presence and the gift of shared wisdom.
The intent is to help us to awaken as we journey so that we can recognize the sacred within and be available to the mystery of purpose that permeates the cosmos.”
Barbara Holms Embodied Spirits- Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color
Spiritual Direction is a ministry of deep listening that assists people in centering their life in God.
Not only do spiritual directors watch, wait and listen, trusting the slow work of God in the life of another, but spiritual directees also learn to listen for Holy Mystery in their lives.
The dynamic of listening and responding develops an ongoing experience of intimacy and relationship with the living God.
More information about the CLL’s Spirituality Program, click HERE.
Debra Weir is the Associate Director for Spirituality and Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary. She is a spiritual director, supervisor for spiritual directors, and retreat leader. Debra will co-teach along with Deedra Rich Spiritual Direction, An Introduction, September 19-22, 2019 on the CTS campus. The course is for those interested in Spiritual Direction at an introductory level and is also for persons discerning further study and formation in spiritual direction.