What is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual Direction is an ancient Christian tradition in which one person invites another to accompany them as they seek to enter a closer and more vibrant relationship with God. A spiritual director is someone who is trained and gifted to listen, discern, ask questions, and walk with another as they grow in their faith and deepen in their awareness of God’s presence and activity throughout their inner and outer world.

Together the “director” and the “directee” listen to the true director, the Holy Spirit, for God’s presence, invitations, and movement in the directee’s life. While this listening time together is contemplative and reflective in nature, it results in a more purposeful and grounded engagement and loving involvement with God in the world.

Where is God?

Spiritual direction or companionship inspires people to experience authenticity in their lives as they connect with and explore the ground of all being, that deepest of truths which is beyond life and death.

Some definitions to consider:

There are many ways to define the practice of spiritual direction. Here are some I like to use. Consider which one might resonate with your deepest desire in this season of your life journey:

  • Spiritual direction is the practice of being quietly present with another person, listening deeply to their sacred story, and reflecting back to them where the Holy may be present and active in their life.
  • It provides the opportunity to experience an encounter with the Holy while in the loving, attentive presence of a companion on the spiritual journey.
  • It gives us space to begin to recognize where we are experiencing the most life and freedom.
  • It creates safe space to explore our joys, burdens, frustrations, questions, longings, and callings without judgment or expectation.
  • It makes the lonely journey shareable, the difficult journey bearable, and the obscured journey visible.
  • It allows us to discover and take the next step on our spiritual journey.

Spiritual companions

  • Spiritual companions are contemplative and honor silence as a spiritual practice.
  • Spiritual companions recognize the agency of the people they companion.
  • Spiritual companions are intuitive spiritual friends — accountable and compassionate, hospitable and open, loving yet independent.

“Spiritual direction is a time-honored term for a conversation. In our postmodern age, many people dislike the term ‘spiritual direction’ because it sounds like one person giving directions, or orders, to another. They prefer ‘spiritual companionship,’ ‘tending the holy,’ or some other nomenclature. I like to call it Soul Care. What we call it doesn’t make any real difference. The reality remains conversations about life in the light of faith.

Although spiritual direction has had a burst of new life, it is really quite ancient. Across both the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures, we find people seeking spiritual counsel. The Queen of Sheba sought out the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus gave us examples in his conversations with Nicodemus, with the woman at the well, in the ongoing formation of Peter and the other disciples. In the early church, people flocked to hermits in the desert for spiritual counsel. Across the centuries we find striking examples in some Irish monks, in some German Benedictine nuns, in Charles de Foucault, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, and others. Today, spiritual directors come from many traditions …” Marian Cowan, CSJ

Spiritual direction today is one way God is moving us to that place mentioned in scripture, 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 14:34-35. We can be “there” for another, seeing God’s vision, loving unconditionally and risking exploration. It is a safe, confidential, loving sacred space.

Road to Emmaus by Daniel Bonnell
used with permission