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Guest Author: 
Jan Clarke

 I hoist the two stuffed bags of groceries onto the front seat of my SUV.

Closing the passenger door, I turn to walk around the back. I’m startled to see – a couple of feet away–a young man. Navy hoodie, long shiny blue shorts, old, worn runners.  He’s looking at me. I don’t recognize him. 

Me: Oh.  Hi, hi.    

Him: Do you have any change?

Me:  Yes. Yes I do. 

I know I do; I’ve been in and out of this store all week, getting ready for family and the long weekend. Reaching into the zipper pocket of my puffer coat and I pull out all change I have. Not that much. I take a couple of steps toward him and put it in his hand. 

Him: Thank you.  

Me: You’re welcome. 

I am aware of how pale he is; thin, white legs shivering in the April wind.

 

You’re watching the news, horrified at some violent or oppressive situation, and want to pray in a way that honors what you are feeling and empowers you to believe in change. Or maybe your spiritual direction client has asked for a new practice to get them through this difficult time. Why not try what I call the desire prayer?

This is one of my favorite prayers because it allows us to get our desires before God - or however you refer to the ground of all being -  openly, unabashedly and with feeling. That’s because you use all your senses to create—in your imagination—a scene that depicts what you desire and you pray in and through that desire.

Guest Author: 
Janice L. Lundy, DMin


When we look around the world to witness whats happening in our homes, neighborhoods, cities and nations, the heart can crack again and again. There appears to be so much suffering everywhere. Times are difficult for many and perhaps for you too, or the people you love. Though it often hurts to get in touch with such suffering, we can harness the energy of suffering and transform it into the energy of Love and healing.  
 
One of the most powerful techniques I know of to work with a broken-open heart is the use of a gatha. The word gatha means "verse" in Sanskrit. It is a way of putting intention, words, and breath together in a poetic, yet power-filled way. Gathas are repeated like mantras or lines of scripture. And in the broadest sense, can be used to bring anything into greater awareness.

Guest Author: 
Azra Rahim, M.D.

There's hidden sweetness in the stomach's emptiness.

We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox

is stuffed full of anything, no music.

If the brain and belly are burning clean

with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.

The fog clears, and new energy makes you

run up the steps in front of you.

Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.

Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.

When you're full of food and drink, Satan sits

where your spirit should, an ugly metal statue

in place of the Kaaba. When you fast,

good habits gather like friends who want to help.

Fasting is Solomon's ring. Don't give it

to some illusion and lose your power,

but even if you have, if you've lost all will and control,

they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing

out of the ground, pennants flying above them.

A table descends to your tents,

Jesus' table.

Expect to see it, when you fast, this table

spread with other food, better than the broth of cabbages.

Rumi,

The Illustrated Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

 

“Not even water?”  “Not even water.” Muslims all around the world are marking the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar, by fasting from sunrise to sunset.  They abstain from all food and drink (including water), sexual activities, and bad habits such as smoking and gossiping during the time of fast. To usher in the month, people seek forgiveness and forgive others as preparation of the emotional ground for the upcoming spiritual work.

While fasting is mandated on all those who can fast, there are exemptions.  All children, the elderly and the infirm are exempt from fasting, as are menstruating women.  Pregnant and/or breast-feeding mothers may be exempt from fasting.  Allah states in the Quran that this mandate is not meant to cause distress or consternation to humankind. It is meant to teach self-restraint, strengthen the spirit, cleanse and heal the body. It is also a window through which to strengthen one’s empathy, to experience the pain and joy of others as our own. Those who are exempt from the fast, participate by feeding the poor or giving money to charity, if they have the necessary means.

Guest Author: 
Rev. Dr. Sushmita Mukherjee

 

This video* came to me in a rather serendipitous manner. For me, it speaks more deeply to the essence of spiritual counseling, also known as spiritual companionship, than any definition I have ever come across.

Think of the video as a metaphor for an ideal spiritual counseling relationship

Here, the cupped palms hold a steady, safe and highly reliable container, within which the bird is free to find its own rhythm and direction. If we take the cupped hands to be the counseling container, and the bird to be the soul of a counselee – then this image really comes alive. Within the container there is divine grace, which flows steadily. The container does not “create” the water, its source is “transpersonal.” The palms are cupped enough so the bird feels safe and contained, but not are so closed off that the bird may suffocate or feel constrained. The bird trusts the container enough to engage with the water at its own pace and of its own volition. Diving into the water when it feels ready, even drinking from the font for a time, and then jumping out to “dry land” to rest and recoup before diving back in. The container appears safe enough that the bird can move across the threshold of dry and wet at its own pace. It is not being forced. So, it does not need to fly away in an effort to escape the pressure.

Guest Author: 
Steven Crandell

 

Two tech billionaires and an entrepreneur walk into a bar.

The billionaires, both men, fall into a bidding war to determine who will get the first option on new technology developed by the entrepreneur, who is a woman and nearly a generation younger than them.

She, possessing a philanthropic heart and an active spiritual practice of compassion, has vowed to sell the technology only if it is used to deliver positive social change along with a financial return.

As the bidding rises, the voices of the men get louder and louder. The mood grows more and more aggressive. The entrepreneur looks ill-at-ease, but the billionaires don’t notice. Finally, the bartender interrupts.

“I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. Why don’t you take it outside.”

He brings out a softball and three old baseball gloves from underneath the bar and puts them on the counter.

Guest Author: 
Diane M. Millis, PhD

 

The Lord often reveals what is better to the younger (Rule of Benedict 3.3)

Editor's Note -- We are delighted to announce a new SDI webinar led by Diane Millis. It's called "Narrative Circles - A New Approach to Group Spiritual Direction."  This is a rare full demonstration of the approach, and it goes right to the heart of the relationship between storytelling and spiritual companionship.  Learn more here.

“May I get a picture of the two of us?” a young woman asked me at the close of a recent conference.

“Of course!” I responded.  “First, please tell me your name,” I asked.

“I’m Jaleah,” she turned to me and said, “and I want you to know that you’ve opened my eyes so much to reflecting on my own story, because before coming to this conference I never thought I had a story. I thought people who went through serious calamities and adverse situations had stories, but me no.  It was your willingness to share your own story that changed my perspective.  It helped to think about how my story is relevant today, and what deeply, God is showing me.”

Guest Author: 
Teresa Blythe

Editor's Note: Teresa Blythe is one of the presenters in the 2018 SDI webinar series Making a Living as a Spiritual Director, which is now accessible in online recordings. This year's webinar series Making a Living as a Spiritual Companion 2 is also available online.

I'm often asked, “Can you make a living off spiritual direction?” The answer is not simple because, of course, it all depends on the person, the market and the philosophy. Spiritual Directors International offers two webinars on the subject (I contributed to the first one) and when you watch these, and I hope you do, you will get the long answer to your question.

I will attempt to give you the short answer here.

Guest Author: 
Janice L. Lundy, DMin

"The body is a multilingual being. It speaks through its color and its temperature, the flush of recognition, the glow of love, the ash of pain, the heat of arousal, the coldness of non-conviction . . . It speaks through the leaping of the heart, the falling of the spirits, the pit at the center, and rising hope."

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

Being in your particular body may not be easy. You may have aches and pains, bumps and bulges, each a source of inner conflict. You may not feel at peace in your body, much less at home in it.

And, yet, in spiritual circles, the body is often spoken of as a beautiful resting place, a divine abode, a source of true wisdom. The Buddha himself said, “Your body is your temple, if you treat it like one.”

If this is true, how can we relate to our body in ways that will serve us well and enhance our spiritual well-being? What wisdom found through body awareness and care can we offer those we companion?

Guest Author: 
Carol Kortsch

 

Editor's note:  A remarkable SDI spiritual journey unfolds in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico in November, 2019. Carol Kortch will be co-leading the retreat, which we call "Journey to Wholeness." Here, Carol discusses some of the ways the desert can help us go deeper. Valerie Brown will co-lead the retreat with Carol.

 

 

  Pay Attention to Prickly Spines and Shadowy Edges

 

       

 

The desert often feels hostile to us humans. I adore wandering these lands like the whirling dervish soul I feel inside. A couple of hours walking in the desert around Ghost Ranch in New Mexico becomes a revealing conversation with darkness and light if I let my imagination float into the vast open spaces around me.

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