what is spiritual direction

“How seldom is it that the soul keeps itself 
silent enough for God to speak.”
— William Buckhouse & James Janson

Spiritual Direction is a process through which we become more deeply attuned to our relationship with the Divine.  Through conversation with a spiritual director in an atmosphere of trust, a person comes to a deeper awareness of the presence and movement of God in everyday life.  As we share our dreams, struggles, triumphs and fears, we open to our deepest and wisest source of freedom and joy.  A spiritual director helps a person notice, savor, and respond to the movement of the Divine in the spiritual practice of ordinary life.  The Director is a listening and supportive person who creates an envi ron ment where one can look honestly at his or her relationship with the Sacred.

The primary relationship is between the directee and God, with the director acting as a focusing lens on the primary relationship. Meetings therefore typically occur once every 3-4 weeks although they may occur more frequently in crisis periods. Because an objective of spiritual direction is to facilitate awakening of the directee to conscious relationship with God, development of ongoing spiritual practice is very much part of the process. The ways in which this happens are a discernment issue since God meets each individual uniquely and includes “listening for/watching for” the movement of the Spirit and counter movements of resistance in the deepening relationship.

The full range of human experience, historical as well as present, is the province of God and therefore of direction.  A core assumption of the process is that God lives at the deepest levels of human experience, so there is no need to focus on explicitly “religious” topics as if spirituality was a separate compartment of our being. The stance in relation to the material that presents itself is what makes spiritual direction distinctive: the posture of the director and the directee together is to listen contemplatively for the “God moment” or “God seed” present in the experience that the individual might receive it consciously and savor it.  If there’s a real sensitivity to the holy the director doesn’t have to ask, “Where’s God in all this?” but can simply be with the person as a midwife to the felt reality of God emerging into consciousness. The person names it his/herself as s/he is able.

Spiritual direction is not the same as therapy or counseling.  While at first glance counseling and spiritual direction may seem similar, It is important to recognize some of the distinctions.

1.  Spiritual Direction assumes relative emotional and psychological health whereas therapy assumes issues to be worked through.

2.  Spiritual Directors will share from their own life experience and sojourn whereas Counselors guard against such disclose.

3.  In Spiritual Direction the goal is to  learn to dance with God, hearing God’s voice and seeing God’s activity in the directee’s life whereas the goal of therapy is to regain health so as to function productively as a member of society.

4.  Most Spiritual Directors are not not licensed and trained counselors, nor do they claim to be therapists.  Though at times, I will work with a person who is seeing a counselor while they are seeking spiritual direction.

One of the goals of spiritual direction is the “surrender” of the self, while fostering a growing awareness of one’s definitions of success, purpose, and fulfillment.  As with seeds in a garden, death leads to new plant life, so the ultimate goal is to grow up into a self in Christ, and this is a life-long journey. The path while ch ron icled is also very individual in style and timing.  Beginning to see a good and active God in one’s life and then to see oneself through “God eyes” – eyes of love and grace – are the essential beginning steps that can help make the journey into one’s “death” one day possible.

“God moves mountains of rivers of tears.”
— James Hisey II


peace, dwight

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  1. […] friend Dwight Friesen wrote an excellent blog entry on spiritual direction, of which this is an excerpt: Spiritual direction is not the same as therapy or counseling. While […]