Personal Training for the Soul

This summer I had one of those decade-turning birthdays. Like a lot of you, a decade marker often gets a little more reflection time than a typical birthday.

As a gift to myself this decade, I decided to sign up for personal training to improve my fitness level. Thirty years ago, no one had heard of this type of relationship, but it’s certainly in vogue these days. Why is that? Because working with a personal trainer helps us physically push ourselves a little farther than we could alone. The personal trainer motivates, suggests, encourages and celebrates with us. He or she create a safe space and guidance.

personal trainerOne of the five spokes of UU Wellspring is something called “Spiritual Direction” or “Spiritual Companioning.” It’s a lot like personal training, only for the soul. It is one-on-one time for a Wellspring participant and a trained spiritual counselor. Typically the meetings are one hour long and happen once a month.

We have found over the years that this part of Wellspring brings out the most resistance from our first-year participants. Participants say, “What am I supposed to talk about?” or “I don’t want anyone directing MY spiritual life!” or “I’m not comfortable talking to a stranger, one-on-one, about spiritual things.”

Ironically, at the end of a Wellspring year, participants often say this was the best part of the entire program. These sessions give participants a chance to more deeply explore spiritual questions, doubts, stirrings and thoughts – all with a non-judgmental fellow traveler trained in this process.

And yet the term, “spiritual “direction” might not clearly capture this role. Spiritual listener, spiritual companion, guide-on-the-path … these might be better names. The key skill is listening deeply and non-judgmentally, to help the client touch and savor her or his innermost self.

If you are curious, check out UU spiritual directors at www.usdn.org or more generally at www.sdiworld.org. Could it be time for a “personal trainer” for your soul?

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