Spiritual Directors International

The Home of Spiritual Companionship


Guest Author: 
Jennifer Olin-Hitt

It’s not uncommon for Americans in our 21st century to find their way to a mental health clinic. In the U.S. today, according to the DSM-5, 46% of adults are likely to develop a diagnosable mental disorder.  There are a variety of reasons for the statistics: economic stressors, environmental challenges, inadequate social resources, and often, simply a greater awareness of and the reporting of diagnoses.  For the millions of people affected by mental health disorders – depression, anxiety, personality disorders, etc. – mental health professionals provide relief and hope. Psychiatrists, counselors, marriage and family therapists are important resources, contributing greatly to the well-being of society.

Not all intrapersonal suffering can be summed up in a diagnosis, however.  The human condition is filled with moments and seasons of struggle that are not categorized neatly in a mental health textbook. Loss can lead to deep grief.  Ethical dilemmas in the workplace can open up great turmoil of conscience. We become angry at our loved ones. We can act in ways that we regret. Mid-life can bring questions of meaning. Children challenge our values. Some of us wake up in the night with questions of existence: what is my purpose? Is there life beyond this life?  For questions and moments such as these, the struggling person may turn to a spiritual director. What follows is a brief overview of spiritual direction as well as some ways that spiritual direction intersects with mental health therapy.

Guest Author: 
Valerie Brown, JD, MA, PCC


Editor's note:  A remarkable SDI spiritual journey unfolds in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico in November, 2019. As Valerie will be leading the retreat, I asked her to briefly try to capture the essence (and the opportunity) this remarkable area presents. Carol Kortsch will co-lead the retreat with Valerie.

Sacred, spiritual, deeply inspirational places have voices. They say:  ‘Pause, notice,  breathe.’ They pull us out of mundane preoccupations and into timelessness, awe, and wonder.  Sometimes they are stripped down, elemental landscapes, where we feel an immediate connection with the land and with Spirit.  From time immemorial, people have journeyed to these places to pray, to be, to be transformed from the inside out.

I came to Ghost Ranch, 21,000 acres of wilderness in northern New Mexico, in the United States, in the summer of 1978.  I tooled around Albuquerque on the back of my boyfriend’s motorcycle, exploring Santa Fe, Taos, and surroundings and came upon the red rocks and the painted desert of Ghost Ranch made famous by the iconic American painter, Georgia O’Keeffe.   The ranch touched a spark, something inexpressible within me.  I remember feeling an internal shift and stripping away of everything except the land, an intimacy with nature—down to bare essentials.

Guest Author: 
Jance L Lundy, DMin


"And we are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love."
~William Blake


 "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Did you know that the "Golden Rule" is found in many of the world's wisdom traditions? And because it is, we are invited to regard it not just as religious dogma, but deep and lasting perennial wisdom. Here are some of  the various ways it is expressed:

Guest Author: 
Jeanette Banashak, Phd, EdD

No matter how, where, when, or by whom we were raised, scholars agree that there are 5 emotions that we all have in common: enjoyment, sadness, disgust, fear, and anger. As a spiritual guide, I am constantly looking and listening for clues that help me understand what a seeker is feeling. At the same time, I am listening for clues in myself that let me know what I am feeling.

This self-listening and self-awareness grows as I learn which emotions and conscious feelings I am experiencing in any given moment.

Guest Author: 
Imam Jamal Rahman

A question I am often asked is, "What is a Sufi?" Sufis are Muslims who emphasize essence over form and substance over appearance in their spiritual practices.

If the institution of religion can be compared to a cup and the water in it is the spiritual message, Sufis lament that we spend too much time polishing the outside of the cup and neglect to drink the water.

They do subscribe to outer rituals, but are mostly eager to do the inner work. They aspire to taste and live the essence of their faith. To give an example of the Sufi approach to teachings, a conservative Islamic theologian might say that a Muslim who does not perform the five cycles of daily prayers will suffer punishment in the hereafter. A Sufi teacher, on the other hand, will liken prayers to attendance at celestial banquets. A practitioner who fails to pray is missing out on the joy of the feast. That loss is the punishment.

Guest Author: 
Steven Crandell


Try following these steps.

Let me know how it goes for you in the comments.

  1. Cultivate stillness.
  2. In that stillness acknowledge whatever pain, hurt, doubt, vulnerability, fear or other negativity you feel.
  3. Watch yourself and notice if you fall deeper into shadow by judging/blaming yourself or others - but do not judge your judging. Simply accept it. If possible, say aloud what you acknowledge. For example, "I know I am feeling vulnerable/anger/fearful because ... I feel I failed at work, or my spouse yelled at me, or my child wouldn't follow my instructions" -- whatever expresses your present feeling.
  4.  Discern. Use the same patience you would offer a person you companion -- witness what truth arises.
  5.  Consider asking this shadow self to dance, so you might know it better ... and then, when you are ready, let go of this shadow and end the dance.
  6.  If appropriate, say thanks for the dance, even though (and especially) you will be thanking whatever negativity you acknowledged.
  7.  Discern over the irony that it is often easier to release what you have first acknowledged and held.
Guest Author: 
Janice L, Lundy, DMin


In recent months, Spiritual Directors International has provided much for us to think about in terms of “Welcoming the Stranger". When I hold this invitation in my heart, the passage that Rumi offered to us in the 13th century still rings true:  Indeed, each “one” who crosses our path is nobody other than a unique and marvelously made manifestation of the divine. Who knows what opportunities for growth might come from our meeting?

And, yet, my heart also knows that on a deeper level we are not strangers at all. This knowing comes when I am able to connect with someone on an “interspiritual” level. What do I mean by this?

In his landmark work, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Traditions, Br. Wayne Teasdale explained interspirituality as “the sharing of ultimate experience across traditions.”

Guest Author: 
Elizabeth Kelly

I keep the above quote from Douglas Steere, the Quaker, in my office, and I read it before every meeting I have, especially with directees.  (It comes from his book, On Listening to Another).

The first time I ever read this line in school for spiritual direction, I copied it by hand and sent it to my best friend with a note that said, “This is what you do for me; you listen me.”

I hope you all have friends like that, someone who listens you. 

When I was living in Alaska, I worked for a think tank called Commonwealth North. (In case you’re wondering, I was a note-taker, not a thinker.) The year I worked with them, they were meeting to discuss the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. A series of experts in anthropology, sociology, economics, public policy, wildlife preservation, and the like met with the group each week to discuss the impact of this legislation, which in part, meant that Alaska would never have reservations like the rest of the lower 48. It’s an interesting system and not without its own serious problems. But I’ll never forget one sociologist who visited our group to speak about some of the common practices of the various Native American cultures in Alaska.

He told us that in some indigenous populations, when one of the tribe suffered a particular trauma, the whole tribe would be gathered together in a circle, and the person who had suffered the trauma was invited to share his or her experience with the first person in the circle. When they were finished, they moved on to the next, and then the next, and the next, just as long as it took. They went around the circle telling their story—until they were finished, until they were listened through the trauma.

Guest Author: 
Steven Crandell

Are you new to SDI? Never been to our conference? Visit this webpage to see photos and watch video from the 2018 conference so you can get a sense of what it's like.


WATCH: New Contemplative Sally Kingsland describes her SDI Conference experience. She talks about finding her "new tribe."

When we connect, we are complete.


The SDI Conference "Seeking Connection - Across Generations" (March 14-17, 2019) is an invitation to create community in a way that creates positive change.

Why attend?

  • Experience a community of integrity.
  • Learn from other generations & traditions.

  • Witness transformative wisdom.

  • Discover through body, place & spirit.
  • Celebrate our global contemplative calling.

  • Be spiritually replenished.


What makes this conference an opportunity to grow?

It’s not just the remarkable speakers. It’s not the workshops you can attend ... or  the option to make a spiritual journey … or go on a 4-day retreat ….or to join a full-day seminars to learn in-depth. 

It’s the people.

Guest Author: 
Lauren Santerre

I currently work part-time as a chaplain for Silverado Hospice in Houston, Texas. I am thirty-six years old, spunky on most days, and often a surprising face for my clients. (I think most people expect an older, male minister for a hospice chaplain.) I regularly wear sparkly Keds and red lipstick which is not necessarily what a family expects to see when they hear the chaplain is coming by for her first visit. Often I am asked how I got “to be a chaplain” for hospice. I smile when a client or a family member asks me this question because below the surface I sense that they do not quite understand why I am doing this work or maybe they even think I am not qualified.

In 2003, I began having daily headaches. These headaches escalated into migraines. They still do. For fourteen years I have battled chronic pain that varies in severity and regularity. I went from being an avid athlete who regularly engaged in volleyball, spinning, hiking, swimming, and running to being incapacitated by my body. I have had days where I cannot even lean over to load the dishwasher. I have had weeks where I can barely move from my bed. Rarely do I have a day without a headache or pressure in my head. This change started when when I was twenty-two years old. I have tried, what feels like, every treatment and medicine possible. Currently my headaches are managed, and I have a team of both Western medical and holistic care practitioners that help me to function in life.

Unfortunately, I am not alone. In fact, the numbers are staggering. In 2015, the U.S. National Instititute of Health reported that 25 million Americans suffer from pain every day, while 40 million face intermittent severe pain. Another survey estimated the number of chronic pain sufferers at 1.5 billion worldwide.


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