We UU’s are not too comfortable with the idea of having a Spiritual Director. We resist the concept of direction and often find other terms for them like Spiritual Partner, Guide, or Friend. Sometimes the only choices we have available are people trained in the Christian tradition and the sessions take on a type of translation, or searching for an agreeable language. So how do you navigate this new type of relationship?
Sometimes it helps to know first what Spiritual Direction is not. It’s not psychotherapy. Individuals should not be looking for help to change behavior patterns, or to understand the motivations for neurosis. It’s not to solve problems with relationships or intimacy or communication. And it’s not to treat depression or anxiety or any serious Mental Illness.
Spiritual Direction is a journey you take with another in search of the divine. A spiritual director is a person who walks by your side and observes the path through an extra set of eyes. She helps you understand your relationships as soul expanders and challenges the edges of your beliefs. A spiritual director helps you seek and listen to the small voice inside yourself and see your struggles as growth. She holds open a door you have found and gives you permission to walk in.
The confusing thing is that we often talk to a spiritual director about the same kinds of things you might talk to a counselor about. We have the same life after all. But it’s the focus that’s different. The objective is to enlarge our understanding of our life to include a spiritual perspective. We may struggle with a relationship and wonder, how do I see myself in this person, how do I see god? That’s different from, how to I improve my communication skills to make this better.
This year as a seminarian, I offered to meet with three Wellspring individuals as a Spiritual Partner or Friend. As long as they knew I was a student, I felt I could walk with them on this journey and offer support. These relationships have become so dear to me and have deeply enhanced my life and my own spiritual growth. I remember my Spiritual Director from last year saying the same things to me. He said he felt enriched each time he walked away from our discussions. So maybe that’s it after all, a friendship rooted in deep listening and spiritual searching that feeds the heart of both parties. What a gift.