Spiritual direction is accompanying others on their faith journey. The primary focus of spiritual direction is on a person’s relationship with God. It helps another person primarily in becoming more open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the ordinary events and circumstances of life. In spiritual direction a person is invited to continual conversion and towards a deepening union with God and communion with others.
For some, the term “spiritual direction” is problematic. For them, spiritual means “other-worldly” or “disengaged from real life”. Direction means somebody telling you what to do to the extent of giving up one’s freedom and responsibility.
So, now-a-days the term spiritual direction is substituted by the term “spiritual accompaniment” because the role of director is to be a guide, companion, mentor, midwife, friend, etc. He/she, through his/her presence to another person, helps the other to discern the presence and power of the Spirit of God.
May God preserve you whole and entire, spirit, mind and body, irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thess 5:23). The Biblical use of body (soma) suggests persons as viewed in their rooted-ness in and relatedness to this world, in their solidarity with the rest of creation; mind (psyche) suggests persons as having the power of self reflection and spirit (pneuma) suggests a person’s relatedness to God (the capacity to reach for God), i.e. their origin and contact with God. The Biblical view is one of wholeness. Human person is seen as one, integral and whole. In spiritual direction the focus is on the whole human person.
In spiritual direction, the focus is on the “spiritual” dimension of the person, i.e. the person’s relationship to God. Also the spiritual director is aware that other factors or dimensions of life can help or hinder one’s relationship to God and others.
In all of us there is a thirst for completeness. St. Augustine says, “Our hearts were made for thee, O Lord, and they shall not rest until they rest in thee”. It refers to those hungers and thirsts arising from the incompleteness that only God can fill.
What goes on in spiritual direction?
1. Listening: is the reverent listening to the unfolding mystery of a person’s relationship with the Lord and others – not just with ears but with the heart. Listening helps the person to clarify who God is for him/her and what God is asking. Good listening helps remove the obstacles to the other person’s hearing the Spirit.
2. Clarifying a person’s God image. The whole orientation of a person’s spirituality is deeply affected by the image of God in that person’s life. A person may be professing belief in a personal, providential and compassionate God; he/she may have other images which are harmful to the development of a spiritual life.
3. Helping people to clarify their experience: An important factor in growth is the ability to reflect upon the experience and gain insights from it. An unreflected life is not worth living. Most of us need help in discovering the religious dimension in our human experience.
4. Identification and Clarification of a Person’s Value-system: In developing a healthy Christian spirituality, one’s values should be constantly confronted with gospel values which will gradually correct, modify, un-distort and lead a person to put first things first.
5. Affirmation: means that you state firmly that you support the person in his or her giftedness. Many need help in identifying, developing and using their gifts which are, sometimes, lay buried underneath poor self-esteem.
6. Challenge: Growth requires not only affirmation, but also testing for validation. A person must be ready to unmask illusion. The demon of darkness often appears under the guise of the angel of light. In order to unmask the angel of darkness, these must be challenged. For growth-full challenge, a loving concern and gentleness is presupposed.
7. Discernment: Helps to examine the origin and direction of the movements within and identify which of these movements are helpful to one’s spiritual growth and development. It can also help us to clarify motives involved in decision-making choices between real and apparent goods.
8. Teaching: Though spiritual directors are not primarily teachers, they may discern a need for instruction at times. Enlightenment is a factor in freeing a person for further openness and growth.
9. Integration: Peoples lives can become very scattered in the complexities of modern life. They need to keep centering themselves. The process of integration helps the individuals to change idea into attitudes and behaviors. It is the process of bringing together the necessary and need ingredients of life so that they constitute a wholesome personality.
10. Accountability: It is always necessary to assess the growth so that we can avoid stagnation. Self-assessment is good. But it is difficult to continue self-assessment for many reasons such as being too busy, too tired, and too unfocussed. Also it is easy to become discouraged when a person can’t see personal growth.
11. Help through the desert and darkness: There are times for every person when he or she will experience the dryness of the desert and the attack of the demons. So many give up or drop out. A right help at the right time can help the person to get through the desert or dark night and help the person to stay in the course.
12. Prayer: Prayer refers to the conscious cultivation of one’s relationship with God by engaging in an exchange of intimacy and growth in union with God and in communion with others. I think it is a good idea to begin and end with an explicit invitation to the Lord to be involved in the process. But be careful not to make it a ritual.
Who is a candidate for spiritual direction?
Positive signs: a. Desire to keep God as top priority in one’s life (want to); b. Serious desire to pursue an intentional faith-journey; c. The willingness to forego whatever might impede one’s relationship to God; d. Willingness to undertake the disciplines that accompany such a desire, such as regular periods of prayer.
Negative signs: a. Quest for a friend, therapist or a listener to alleviate loneliness b. Seeking spiritual direction out of obligations or for reasons of status
Factors to be considered in the initial stages of Spiritual direction:
- Previous spiritual history
- Clarification of specific areas that will be dealt with in future sessions
- Frequency and regularity
- Focus of responsibility for growth
- Kind of interventions to expect from the director – helps to clarify questions, affirmation, gaining insights, appropriate challenges, etc.
- Spiritual disciplines – study, prayer, spiritual reading, service, fasting, etc.
- Assessment provisions – of what has been happening in life
- Praying for each other
- Termination – when is the time to terminate and how shall we effect the closure?
“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, (we) will discover the fire” (Teilhard de Chardin)
– Author not known