Who am I? How do I connect with and comprehend the presence and action of the Divine in my life? What are my gifts and how am I being called to use them?
These are the questions that find their answers through the sacred ministry of Spiritual Direction – perhaps the most ancient form of life coaching. Since the advent of human consciousness, we have sought the answers to our life questions, often through the elders and "holy people" of our respective spiritual traditions. The gurus of India, the rabbis of Judaism, the monks of Buddhism, the shaman of indigenous tribes, and the men and women religious of Christianity represent merely the tip of the iceberg of those that have served as companion and guide on our spiritual journeys. These "wisdom teachers" have served as witness to the truths that we already know, holding up the mirror for us to see what we are perhaps unable or unwilling to see for ourselves. This style of Spiritual Direction often required years upon years of training and required the seeker to travel great distances to obtain the answers to the questions of their heart.
Another form of Spiritual Direction is that which comes through what the Irish would call "Anam Cara" – soul friend. A soul friend is an intimate and trusted friend who is able to journey with us from a place of truth, acceptance and courageous honesty. These are the intimate friendships that provide a vessel in which we can be our truest selves and in the process, discover our deeper truths. In the Anam Cara relationship, we are able to help each other name our respective "demons" and work together to find the tools to give them release. Sometimes, the role of Anam Cara is to simply be with each other in our grief, sorrow, struggles and fears. The role of Anam Cara requires no training or previous experience. It simply asks us to be present and to hold each other in love.
The third form of Spiritual Direction, and the form that I practice professionally, lands somewhere between Anam Cara and Wisdom Teacher. In this form of Spiritual Direction, my role is to journey with my clients as they seek the answers to the deepest questions of their heart. Clients are empowered to discover their truth and to find the tools through which they are able to openly give their truth its expression. As such, Spiritual Direction becomes a journey of discovery and a vehicle for healing; for it is often our inner wounds that prevent us from hearing and giving voice to the truths that are locked deep inside of us.
That which is brought to Spiritual Direction encompasses the vast and varied territories of our everyday existence – relationships, jobs, passions and hobbies, parenting, life transitions, losses and grieving, our physical wellness (or lack thereof) our emotional well-being and last but not least, our spiritual journeys.
"That sounds an awful lot like counseling," you might suggest. To be true, Spiritual Direction can look a lot like traditional talk-therapy, and there are two primary differences. In talk therapy, the goal is often behavior modification. Spiritual Direction goes beyond behavior modification to discover the deeper spiritual wound that created the unhealthy behavior in the first place. Once this wound is uncovered, Spiritual Direction offers effective tools through which this wound can now be healed. The tools through which these wounds are healed are intimately connected with our relationship to our Divine Source. This connection with the God of our understanding is the other factor that sets Spiritual Direction apart. This relationship with God becomes the ground upon which authentic healing work can now be accomplished. As such, it is often discovering and cultivating this relationship where the work of Spiritual Direction begins.
Having participated in both sides of the Spiritual Direction relationship, I can attest to the power of this form of life coaching. Thanks to my own Spiritual Director, I have gained access to the deepest truths of my being, while finding release from the fears that have prevented me from sharing these truths in the world. In my own role of Spiritual Director, I have witnessed healing, transformation and emerging truth for the clients with whom I have had the privilege to companion.
Those who have been honest and diligent in the process have found the answers to the questions of their heart and have been empowered to freely and openly live their truth in the world. In the end, the goal of Spiritual Direction may be summarized by this quote from one of my favorite wisdom teachers, "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!" (JOHN 8: 32)