How I Walk with Others in Spiritual Companionship
Some of My Questions
Thirty-five years ago spiritual direction found me. At a crossroads in my life, I was seeking some answers. What was my relationship with God? Who and what is God? What does Silence have to do with inner awakening? What gifts did I have to offer the Common Good? How do I heal from deep pain and brokenness? Does mystical experience happen in my life and, if it does, what good is it anyway? Why is it so hard being an introvert in the American culture? As a sensitive person, what do I do with all of my feelings and how do I find balance between thinking and feeling? How do I pay attention to my body and stay grounded? What are my dreams trying to tell me? Where is the place of humor in the spiritual life? What is synchronicity? Where does great art and poetry come from? What is the importance of beauty in the spiritual life?
Answers Slowly Unraveling
I was propelled by the intensity of my questions. As with all worthy questions, one can spend a lifetime living into them as they continue to reveal their answers. Now, thirty-five years later, I am still seeking. Perhaps all the questions can be boiled down to one saying from Augustine, “Oh God, I am restless until I rest in thee.” Or Julian’s thought spoken in the midst of the Black Plague, “All things shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”
Some of My Practices
The daily practice of silence through Centering Prayer has been the key for me. Reading Sacred readings, a good church community, a seasoned spiritual director, therapy, and Al-Anon have also helped in my spiritual journey.
Being in Spiritual Direction helps me to reflect on where God is working in my life. Through this reflection I am able to gently go deeper with the help of a companion who is deeply trained in the growth of the soul and who is able to listen with the ears of her/his heart on a deeper level, a feeling level, beyond the words.
As for me, I look for a director who has experienced life and soul growth, who is knowledgeable, and who is as serious about integrating the shadow and desolation of life as s/he is about the joys and consolations of life. The best spiritual directors for me are grounded in many years of contemplative prayer practice. If they have demonstrated a commitment to serving others, all the better. I love spiritual direction that helps me become more alive, more in tune with the Holy Spirit . . . where my integrity becomes stronger and where I learn to let go of the layers of the false self.
Our Own Unique Journeys
We each have our own never ending sacred spiritual journey to make. Your spiritual journey is unique as the pattern of a snowflake. Conversion usually doesn’t happen all at once but bit by bit over a lifetime for most of us. As the Skin Horse said to The Velveteen Rabbit in the classic fairy tale, “Real isn’t how you are made. It isn’t having buzzers or stick out handles. You become real. It takes a long time. Generally, by the time you are real you have become shabby in the joints and most of your hair has been loved off.”
We are transformed by unconditional love over our lifetimes. We let go of old baggage and patterns of thought that get in the way of love; We become illuminated by love and then love takes us and transforms us as we become more and more tuned into the harmony of the great Love of the Universe. The more transparent we become, the more the work we do and the way we live is grounded in this bedrock of spiritual strength that goes beyond ego and is always found in daily surrendering to the Holy One. It is not a journey for the fainthearted. It is a journey of the heart towards the deeper heart within. Eventually we learn to listen with the ears of the heart and to see with the eyes of the heart. We are God the Creator’s heart work (art work).
An Image of Spiritual Companionship
As a spiritual companion, I think of myself as a round wooden bowl. Inside the bowl there is safe space for those with whom I journey. A safe space where a soul is not judged but free to explore light and dark feelings, to think and muse, to play and not worry about being right all the time or holy. I try to listen with the ears of my heart to the underlying meanings behind the words, and within the words. I try to become the silence in between the words. Because healthy silence has the ability to birth deeper meaning.
In this safe space I try to give my directees the things that I myself desire in receiving spiritual direction. Sometimes if a person wants or needs it, I will share tools such as an Ignatian Examen of Conscience, Lectio Divina, Visio Divina, Mandala Power Shield, a poem, or a verse from Scripture. But mostly it is about creating a safe place and listening deeply for where God is working in the person’s life, knowing full well that I do not have the answer. Only the person has his or her own answer and knows it by what rings true and feeds his or her soul with new life.
In addition, I use art making with my directees when appropriate. Painting dreams, making mandalas, collages, photographs, poetry and drawing all help to ground language in images from the soul. This grounding helps deepen the directee’s language, often releasing a person from black and white, either/ or thinking. Some people come to me because they like things like this. Some people do not feel comfortable with imagery and so we simply talk about their questions, their beautiful and worthy questions.
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