A disciple once asked the Ba’al Shem Tov: “Why does one who ordinarily feels close to God, sometimes experience a sense of remoteness from the divine presence?”
The Ba’al Shem Tov explained: “When a parent starts to teach a baby to walk, the parent steadies the child with both hands, and the guiding presence is always felt. Then, bit by bit, the parent moves away, establishing ‘growing’ distances which the child learns to traverse on its own. God may seem to move away from us sometimes, but perhaps God wants us to grow by taking hesitant steps toward God.”
We know we have to prepare to take a test. We study and review the material and learn whatever facts we need to know. If we are having a party, we plan for it by sending out invitations and creating a menu and even cooking the food (unless we are calling a caterer!).
But when it comes to preparing for a spiritual moment we are often at a loss. We are reticent to prepare, as we want our spirituality to be spontaneous and not planned. Planning to be spiritual feels too calculated. We think to ourselves, “If I force the connection, it won’t be authentic.”
Rose Mary Dougherty states it so simply: “The habit of discernment is an attitude of listening to God in all of life.” (22) Through years of discernment, I have come to recognize Who has gently accompanied me throughout my life and helped me to be open to the calling of companioning others.
As a global interfaith community devoted to spiritual care, Spiritual Directors International extends prayers for healing and compassion to the Sikh community in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, USA, following the August 5 shootings.
In response to this tragedy, spiritual communities have come together to condemn violence and promote harmony and respect for all spiritual traditions. Spiritual Directors International invites you to join in this movement of compassion by praying for healing, peace, and restoration.
How might we as spiritual companions reach out to the Sikh community? Please share your stories and suggestions here.
In the current issue of Connections, SDI members share about their experience at the Cultivating Compassion Educational Events in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Their words capture what they saw and learned as participants, but how was the view from the podium?
In the reflection below, Rabbi Amy Eilberg shares about her role as conference spiritual director. May these words encourage and enrich your ministry as spiritual companions:
It was a deep joy. During the few days before the conference, I noticed a little nervous
energy moving in me, despite the fact that I knew that there was no way I could really prepare for this—what was called for was nothing more nor less than showing up and being as present as I could.
This week marks the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar during which the Quran was first sent down to the Prophet Mohammed. Muslims around the world will observe Ramadan by fasting during the daylight hours and focusing more attention on their spiritual life. No matter your spiritual tradition, the beginning of Ramadan reminds all communities of faith to practice generosity, humility, and kindness. It is a sacred time of charity, of growing compassion.
The kaleidoscopic sensory experience of one locality will always remain with me when I remember Assisi, Italy. Each day when I awakened, I flew eagerly to my window and threw open the louvered shutters to the morning light. When I lifted my eyes beyond the reddish tiled roofs of the light stone buildings in the foreground, a glorious view of the Umbrian plain met my wondrous gaze. One early morning, the valley was shrouded in dense strands of white fog. But rising above the misty veil was a glowing dome of light, radiating the rays of the sun. It summoned me to the theme and pilgrimage focus of the day, for a few hours later we would trek to that very structure, the Church of Saint Mary Among the Angels.
SDI Pilgrims Walk in the Footsteps of Saint Francis and Saint Clare
“Once upon a time…” began David Liedl, TOR, at the SDI Interfaith Pilgrimage to Italy: Cultivating Compassion with Saint Francis and Saint Clare. His eyes, wide and inviting, beckoned pilgrims to enter fully into the stories of Francis and Clare with open hearts and minds. Over the following nine days, pilgrims from three continents and myriad spiritual traditions encountered the sacred sites of Assisi, Italy, discovering the spirituality of place and a message of peace.
Spiritual Directors International is pleased to announce the review of SDI member Michele Tamaren’s book ExtraOrdinary: An End of Life Story without End in Publishers Weekly. ExtraOrdinary, released June 1, tells the story of Tamaren's devoted father figure and his inspiring impact on her life. To read the full review, visit Publishers Weekly online.
As a global learning community, many SDI members are authors, poets, and artists. If you are an SDI member and have a recent publication landing on the bookshelves, we’d love to know! Share your story in the comments section below. We look forward to hearing from you.
Focus@4:00 on ABC 33/40 Features Spiritual Direction
Are you spiritual or religious? Or both? ABC 33/40 television in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, investigated this question during their news magazine Focus@4:00 on Monday, June 11. To learn more about the global movement of spiritual companionship, ABC 33/40 turned to Spiritual Directors International.
Across traditions, reports ABC 33/40, a growing number of people identify themselves as spiritual, claiming this term better defines their faith. At the center of this trend are young people under the age of thirty who express discomfort with religious institutions but still seek a meaningful life. ABC 30/40 pointed to the SDI Seek and Find Guide as a place where individuals can find a spiritual director from all spiritual traditions.