Who are You?
Gazing at pink angels in a garden on the Isle of Iona, a bird landed on my backpack. Becoming even more still, I waited and wondered who had taken refuge over my right shoulder.
Unlike the blackbird’s visitation to Saint Kevin, who remained sufficiently still enough for it to create a nest in his outstretched praying palm, the bird that visited me stayed for only a few moments. In those few moments, eternity opened.
The mutuality in the experience contributed to the feeling of eternity: the bird took refuge in landing on my bag, as I was taking refuge in contemplating the unfolding scene.
Before stopping to take in the beauty of the flowers, I had been rushing from a pilgrimage planning meeting. The burning bush seduced me to stop hurrying, stand still, and gaze. Choosing to admire the magnificent fuchsia florets prepared me to hear the slight whoosh and feel the weight of the bird as it landed.
My desire was to be very still, to be known and trusted, and to know and to trust. I remember being curious, “I will stay still here for you. Who are you?”
If I weren’t a believer in Mystery, I would probably describe the incident as a bird miscalculating its proximity to the nearby tree branch. Yet the felt perception in my body of the encounter created a deepening and freeing sensation that strengthened my belief in finding God everywhere and always. The visitation renewed my vow to slow down and to serve as a reconciling presence.
It’s hard to find words to describe the peace that the visit evoked.
Experiences like this strengthen my desire to accompany seekers who have lost their faith or who no longer understand who God is. Increasingly, spiritual directors are invited to journey with seekers who want spiritual companionship, and yet the God of their prior understanding often no longer exists.
Moreover, many seekers do not have previous scriptural knowledge. This affects the spiritual vocabulary that is available to describe experience. For example, when I meet with my spiritual director, I will share my story by relating it to Moses humbled by the burning bush. For many seekers, however, this context would not make sense.
It’s important for us to acknowledge these changes in the way we describe and offer spiritual accompaniment. I hope the language of “doing spiritual direction,” which seems to emphasize the action of the spiritual director, will give way to a more open stance of “offering spiritual companionship.”
For thousands of years, the ministry and service of spiritual direction has had its focus on the action or the movement of Absolute Mystery. Spiritual direction today entails offering a safe, open space where seekers can stop and gaze at their lives until something happens that shifts perception. Seekers need time and a place to discover vocabulary to describe the shift that makes meaning from the experience of their lives. Our role as spiritual companions is to be present as the Mystery unfolds and enfolds the seeker.
Where have you recently engaged with Absolute Mystery? How would you encourage new seekers to discover vocabulary that describes their encounters with Mystery? How might the language of offering spiritual companionship and incorporating terms, like Mystery instead of God, provide opportunities for seekers to ask “Who are You?” Share your thoughts on the SDI Blog.
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1. Thank you! June Member Drive
2. Volunteer for the 2015 Emerging Wisdom Educational Events
3. New! Send a gift copy of the 2015 Seek and Find Guide
4. New! SDI Welcomes New Coordinating Council Members
5. New Video! SDI Learns From … Rabbi Jacob J. Staub
6. Free Teleconference: Spread the Word
7. Contact Your Poet Friends
8. SDI Blog Highlights
9. July Poem by Robert Flanagan
10. July Blessing from the Executive Director
Thank you to everyone who participated in the June Member Drive. By reaching out around the world and across traditions, you are carrying out the mission of Spiritual Directors International by helping people learn the value of spiritual companionship in today’s world. SDI is aware that new members are more important than ever, and your referrals are helping grow our inclusive, global learning community!
Just because the member drive is over doesn’t mean you can’t continue to refer people to SDI. Simply e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with names and contact information, and we will connect with them on your behalf. We know you are busy.
We appreciate your help telling the SDI story and describing to other spiritual care providers the value of being part of the global learning community that is Spiritual Directors International. Students, interns, and all seekers are welcome.
The 2015 educational events are coming together—how will you be involved? It takes countless, dedicated volunteers to bring to life SDI educational events. From institute planning teams to hospitality, share your gifts with our global learning community!
If you are interested in volunteering, please e-mail email@example.com and indicate if there is a specific area you feel gifted in and called to serve.
Be sure to save the conference dates: 14–17 April 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
Send your friend or colleague a free 2015 Seek and Find Guide.
The 2015 printed Seek and Find Guide is being compiled. As a member, you receive one copy, delivered directly to your mailbox. SDI invites you to share one additional copy of the 2015 Seek and Find Guide with a friend or colleague for free.
Who in your community could benefit from having a copy of the Seek and Find Guide? Send us their address, and we’ll send them a free copy!
Simply send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the name and address of where you would like SDI to send a copy of the Seek and Find Guide—it’s a fast and easy way to help your community learn about the value of spiritual direction.
The coordinating council is a servant leadership team, which acts as the governing body of Spiritual Directors International. SDI is pleased to announce the addition of two new coordinating council members.
Wendie Bernstein Lash, MA, is a spiritual director, supervisor, and pilates instructor in Redwood City, California, USA. Lash teaches in the Morei Derekh Jewish Spiritual Direction program, and has authored two CDs
John Pollard, MA, is a spiritual director, psychotherapist, and teaches at the Transformational Arts College of Spiritual and Holistic Training in Toronto, Canada. Pollard has been meditating since the 1970s, most recently in the vipassana tradition (insight meditation) with Spring Rain Sangha and feels most called to metta (lovingkindness) practice. He also works as a social researcher at York University.
They begin their three-year term of service to SDI on 1 July 2014.
Thank you to Sally Taylor and Jennifer (Jinks) Hoffmann for your dedicated service over the last six years. We will miss your wisdom and humor.
5. New Video! SDI Learns From … Rabbi Jacob J. Staub
Rabbi Jacob J. Staub explains how to read scripture with a compassionate heart.
Rabbi Jacob J. Staub, PhD, is a spiritual director, and Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Spirituality at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, USA, where he directs the program in Jewish Spiritual Direction. He is co-author of Exploring Judaism: A Reconstructionist Approach.
Are you looking for an engaging way to introduce people to spiritual companionship? Consider inviting your friends and colleagues to the upcoming SDI teleconference.
“How to Seek and Find a Spiritual Director”
19 August 2014, 12:00 p.m. EDT; 4:00 p.m. GMT/UTC
The teleconference will include tips on how to use the online Seek and Find Guide, discernment questions for the seeker, and more! RSVP online and participants will be e-mailed more information about the August teleconference.
Don’t miss this opportunity to share the ministry and service of spiritual guidance with colleagues, chaplains, campus ministers, and the spiritual care department at your local hospital. Everyone is welcome.
Spiritual Directors International is always looking for quality poetry to print in its various publications. If you are a poet or have friends are poets, please send submissions to email@example.com.
Is writing life-giving to you? The SDI blog might be the perfect place for you to share your gift of writing. Last month, Tim Mooney explored feeling open in a new way and Susan Hill shared new insights from her experience on the SDI Interfaith Pilgrimage to Iona. What wisdom might you share with the SDI community?
The blog is designed to be a space where you can share personal stories about spiritual direction and the contemplative practices that have been meaningful to your spiritual growth. To submit a story or find out more, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moonlight cuts through the crisp silence,
searching fields forsaken by all but the freshly fallen snow.
Desolate shadows cast by slumbering maples
and the old oak's gnarled limbs dishearten the search.
The old oak asks, “What do you seek?”
Moonlight whispers, “Ardor, love, and joy.”
“You will not find them here.
The dark night drove them away,
like a leaf skittering across a lonely field."
Pay attention to sacred connections with nature in July. How are the birds and the moon inviting you to grow closer to God beyond names? If it’s appropriate, invite the people you spiritually companion to listen in nature for whispers of presence during July.
Peace be with you,
Liz Budd Ellmann, MDiv