Spiritual Direction…For Real

100_0327It is one thing to talk about, think about and learn about the art of spiritual direction. It is another thing altogether to actually do it.

I’m not sure this is for me. Even though I signed up for a course to learn how to be a spiritual director, and have so far enjoyed it very much, now that I actually have to start doing it I am having some doubts.

First, I don’t think I’m very good at it. Spiritual direction is very hard, one has to be extremely tuned in and adept at ‘hearing’ on a whole new level. It’s intimidating! I’ve been working with my volunteer ‘directees’ for a few months now, and it seems I’m always vacillating between the pull to be their friend and the fear of getting stuck and just saying things I think other good spiritual directors might say. In other words, I’m not a natural.

Secondly, I’m not sure I’m helping. I do think I’m a good listener and that my ‘directees’ feel heard. But while I do see the value of feeling heard, I don’t think that’s all spiritual direction is supposed to be.

I was telling my own spiritual director this, and she said it was normal. We’re not just learning a new skill, we’re learning a new way of being. It’s not supposed to be easy! This way of ‘listening’ to how Spirit is moving in our lives, gently nudging us in new directions and toward our Truth, is profound on so many levels. But in reality — in the moment-by-moment practice — it is extremely subtle.

The further I venture down my own spiritual path, the more subtle life becomes. I’ve learned to tune in to my own spiritual compass more and more, and at times I’ve even followed it. This becomes possible as I learn to distinguish directional guidance that is coming from my logical brain, and the instantaneous flashes of ‘knowing’ that are clearly coming from somewhere else. I’m getting better at recognizing these nudges for their two very distinct characteristics: they feel ‘dropped in’ from somewhere else, and they don’t justify themselves. There is no logical rationale behind these ideas from above, they just land with a plop! into my awareness and look at me with bright eyes, waiting to see what I’ll do.

Now that I’ve said ‘yes’ to a few of these, I have a better understanding of how this works. My goal is that the process will snowball — the more I say yes, the more often they come, the stronger my spiritual compass becomes.

I think this is why they say spiritual direction isn’t something you do, it’s how you live. For now, I’m taking baby steps and falling down a bit but I am on the path. I have deep gratitude for my teachers and fellow students who are on it with me — and for the willing ‘directees’ who have agreed to let me practice on them.

Let’s all enjoy the ride.