Have You Heard of Spiritual Direction?
The year was 2010 and I was the Executive Director for a local hospice agency. Our Volunteer Coordinator, Carol Shull, had developed a truly remarkable volunteer program for the organization. Our volunteers sang in acapella groups and barbershop quartets in nursing homes, hospitals, assisted livings and patient homes. They brought their dogs, cats, a pony in sneakers, and a skunk on a leash to brighten the days of so many people. They were a truly remarkable group of people who taught me so much about selfless service, and giving from the heart.
By that time, I had been a Reiki Master for ten years. I received my first attunement while hiking with a friend at Shenk's Ferry Wildflower Preserve. The healing energy of Reiki was so soothing, so comforting, I knew I wanted this modality to be available to our hospice patients. I asked Carol what she thought, and she was more than willing to implement this new service into our volunteer program.
While orienting a new group of Reiki volunteers, I got into a conversation with a woman named Tammy Bray. Not only was Tammy a Reiki practitioner and a therapist, she was also a Spiritual Director. This was an entirely new term for me. I had never heard of Spiritual Direction, but I could tell from Tammy's warm heart and kind demeanor that it was something I wanted to know more about. Within an hour of her leaving, I was on the website for the training program she had attended.
Tammy had attended Oasis Ministries in Camp Hill, PA. By the fall of that year, I was enrolled in the two year training program. I will forever be grateful for meeting Tammy, learning about this amazing practice, and attending the program at Oasis, which truly changed my life.
Through my time at Oasis, I was introduced to the fiery loving hearts at the center of Christian Mysticism and contemplative practice. I studied and contemplated works by Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, St. Francis and Clare of Assisi, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Julian of Norwich, Pema Chodron, St. Hildegard von Bingen, Roshi Joan Halifax, James Finley, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Anne Lamott, Thich Nhat Hanh, and so many more. My life and Spirit opened in ways I could have never imagined.
In addition to the radically open and inclusive worldview I received through these studies, I also practiced the skills of deep listening. I had studied and practiced active and reflective listening in nursing school as part of the skills of therapeutic communication. I had gained even more hours of training as a leader in healthcare administration. None of this scratched the surface of the depth of listening I learned at Oasis Ministries.
My Spiritual Director, Ellen Dionna, taught me the word kything, which comes from the old Scottish kythe, which means "to reveal." Madeleine L'Engle used this word to describe a sort of mind-melding telepathy in the Wrinkle in Time. Although we don't have Vulcan mind-reading powers, there is a sort of attunement and entrainment that becomes available in Spiritual Direction sessions. We enter a field of Holy Listening together, our intuitive faculties are amplified, and the fiery Love at the center of it All gets to work in us. We "listen with the ear of the heart" as they say at Oasis. Tender truths emerge. Parts of ourselves that have been hidden from us emerge into the compassionate gaze of our loving awareness. Everything becomes possible. Suffering has meaning. We are held in love, no matter what our circumstances, our history, our fears. We remember our worthiness, and our wholeness.
The Irish Priest and Theologian, John O'Donohue, writes about the deep work of Spiritual Direction in his book Anam Cara, which means Soul Friend in Gaelic. To be an Anam Cara is to be someone who sits at the threshold with another, between the visible and invisible. Between the emotional and the practical. Between the event and the meaning we make from it. From this threshold space, the anam cara helps to breathe life and hope into the emerging spiritual reality.
This kything, this learning to become anam cara, this deep attunement to the spirit of another while held in the fiery heart of all-inclusive love, this is Spiritual Direction. It is an ancient practice that is deeply relevant in our modern lives. Lives that move too fast and are often too shallow. Sitting with another human who knows how to help your spiritual life come into focus, that knows how to lovingly support you in making meaning, can be radially life changing. It has been for me.
If you would like to work with a Spiritual Director, I offer just a few sessions a week these days due to being busy with kiddos. You can find the slots I have available on my website. You can also schedule with my Spiritual Director, Ellen Dionna, who is fantastic. Like me, she has deep roots in Celtic spirituality, nature and earth reverence, and is committed to inclusive, affirming love. In additional to being a psycotherapist, ordained minister, and spirit worker, Ellen received her training as a Spiritual Director from the Silver Dove Institute of Spiritual Development in Vermont.
If you have questions about Spiritual Directions sessions or training, don't hesistate to reach out.
“May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul. May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe. May you have respect for your own individuality and difference." John O'Donohue in Anam Cara