I maintain a pretty active social media presence. As a spiritual director who works primarily with younger people, this is an important part of how I am being in the world. I share things which reflect the values I find to be important: beauty, empathy, love, contemplative presence. I also engage in conversations with people across the political, social and religious spectrum, working to bring these same values to those who might not experience them in their daily life or churches.
Approaching conversations, on social media and in person, from a contemplative stance means that sometimes phrases or thoughts push themselves to the forefront, just as they do in spiritual direction sessions. The past few months, one of those phrases has asserted itself frequently, surfacing over and over in a wide variety of conversations.
I am a ballroom dancer. The conversation between partners, the lead and the follow, is one of wordless articulation. The lead initiates the story: go here, turn there, spin right then pause … and go. The follow listens intently with the entire body for nuances of inward expression to match the lead’s steps.
Spiritual direction follows a similar pattern. The dance of dialogue through storytelling and holy listening is breathtaking to behold.
I walked my first prayer labyrinth before I had ever heard of spiritual direction or contemplative spirituality or even mysticism. It was in a big, dimly-lit room at a youth workers' convention -a huge painted canvas spread across the floor, peppered with a variety of "stations" at which the walker could pause and engage with a question or concern around their role as a youth leader in their church. I remember one station still: an old-fashioned TV, the screen showing nothing but static, a pillow on the floor in front of it. This station invited us to sit and spend some time contemplating those things in our lives which might be creating ongoing "static", preventing us from "tuning into" God in the way we desired.
Many years ago when I was training to be a spiritual director, the kindly Sister who led the program made it very clear to us that spiritual guidance over the telephone was not acceptable. More specifically, that good spiritual guidance could not happen unless two people were face-to-face and the “third chair” was physically present in the room.
Today, I know better and do offer spiritual guidance via Skype or over the telephone. I have found it to be a very useful modality benefitting some seekers, in some situations, but not all. Without a doubt, it can have a providential outcome as I have experienced with seekers outside the U.S. (my home), homebound seekers, and those whose lives present varied and difficult circumstances in terms of travel, child-care needs, or work schedules. Grace can move through the ethers across telephone lines and satellite networks. Who are we to say it can’t?
ST. LOUIS, MO -- The Coordinating Council of Spiritual Directors International is in St. Louis for a meeting and retreat. We are all deeply affected by the events of today. We met and listened to residents of St. Louis and nearby areas this morning before the verdict. We want to make it clear that we stand in solidarity with the people of this city. Our prayers are with everyone. As spiritual directors, we feel called to be in community with all people here. We see it as sacred activism to offer our support at this time.
In the public square of spiritual direction, we cannot shy away from the sometimes messy, broken, even dangerous and violent aspects of life. The truth is, we are all connected. We offer our voices and our hearts as part of what we hope will become a broad presence for healing as this night wears on.
If you read this, and have a moment of stillness to spare, please join us in spirit and send your love and healing to everyone in St. Louis.
Blessings to all,
Kristen Hobby (Chair), Bruce Calvin, Cynthia Bailey Manns, Wendie Bernstein Lash, Sister Kathleen McAlpin, Ravi Verma, Bernadette Miles, Sean Murphy and Anil Singh-Molares (Executive Director)
Spiritual Directors International exists to support, educate and connect spiritual directors all around the world. As a nonprofit, we provide a digital community where seekers and directors can find one another. This is the public square of spirituality - where all people are welcome the way they are, carrying their own traditions (or none). Here we all benefit from being open to the practices, beliefs and rituals of others. Here we share universal human values of love, compassion and respect. Tolerance, diversity and inclusion inform everything we do. We celebrate difference and the humanity that unites us all.
Editor's Note: The author of this post, Paul Burgmayer, generously shared the above quote with me. He told me his hope with new directees is to "help them to begin the process of finding and naming that fire. As we begin the relationship, I want to both facilitate that and avoid anything that would get in its way." Well said, Paul. Amen.
Spiritual direction depends on creating strong relationships. And relationships depend on trust. That means building trust is essential. But what are good ways to do this? And how can we begin a trusting relationship with seekers who have little objective knowledge of spiritual direction and no subjective experience?
In eight years of practice, I’ve seen 19 new directees: 14 had never experienced direction; 9 began with began with no explicit prayer life.
Over the years, I’ve developed some practices that I want to share here. I don’t write this because I see my see myself as an authority. Quite the contrary. I write in hope that my experience will trigger a discussion so we all can share ideas and learn from each other.
Editor's Note: Aaron Hurst founded the Taproot Foundation, which connects nonprofits and social change organizations with skilled volunteers who share their expertise pro bono. Taproot has delivered more than $152 million in pro bono services. (Not too shabby.) He now heads a "for-benefit" company dedicated to helping people and organizations find purpose in work. He's a true social entrepreneur. But what we didn't know is that he embodies what our executive director, Anil Singh-Molares, calls the spiritual "public square." Read this delightful post, which Aaron has generously allowed us to publish here, and find out why spiritual inclusion not only fosters community, but affects how and why we work.
I grew up a BuJew. My parents are both of Jewish descent but had found the need to find their own path in the 1960s and embraced Tibetan Buddhism.
It became the core of their identity. In our household, I was exposed to the values and traditions of both cultures. I spent my early school years at a Buddhist school, and my parents centered their lives around the Sangha (Buddhist community).
Being raised a BuJew has deeply impacted the way I lead and my career path. It has made me a tireless advocate for changing the world. It has helped me push myself to find my truth and challenge others to do the same. Finally, growing up a BuJew has inspired me to try to create cultures where everyone can be human at work.