If you don’t know enough about Quakers to stand in utter awe of their understanding of discernment, it’s time you learned. For centuries, The Society of Friends—popularly called Quakers—has been promoting discernment-in-community both for individuals and groups (especially their business meetings). Say a young Quaker couple wants to get married. They are advised to be part of what is called a “Clearness Committee,” a group of wise and trusted members of the meeting convened to pray in silence and ask… Read more

Not everyone wants or needs a step-by-step process for spiritual discernment. But for those who do, you can do no better than a process based on St. Ignatius’ principles for the discernment of spirits. Many books on discernment will give you outlines that look something like this: Stage One: The Preparation Begin in silent prayer. When you think from your deepest, truest self, what is your burning desire in life right now?  (Keep it concrete, and be as specific as… Read more

You could fill a library with books written about spiritual discernment. Here’s a distillation of what some of the better ones have to say. I have noticed about 12 key principles always mentioned in writings about discernment.  They come from the Christian traditions of St. Ignatius (Catholic) and the Society of Friends (Quakers). When at a crossroads and in need of discernment, consider these principles and ask yourself the corresponding questions to get to the heart of the matter. Discernment… Read more

Out of our awareness of God and our trust in God grows the practice of discernment.  Discernment asks the question, “What is God’s presence inviting me to be or do in this situation?” Whenever we come to an important choice in life—what work to pursue, who to be in relationship with, how to spend our time, effort and money—we can do our best to discern what God desires for us.  Spiritual directors, especially those trained in discernment, can help you… Read more

Many people come to spiritual direction wanting to better understand an experience of God from their past. Perhaps it was something that happened in prayer or worship. Or it might have been an experience in daily life that opened them to a deeper sense of being loved by God. A spiritual director is trained to help you remember times when you felt close to God or felt “at one with the universe.” If we stay with the memory and allow… Read more

Silence is sometimes referred to as God’s first language. But how you feel about silence probably has a lot to do with your personality type, your neurological make-up and your upbringing. Introverts may be more comfortable with silence than extroverts. People who were punished with “the silent treatment” may avoid silence at all costs. No matter how you feel about quieting down and being in silence, I’m going to encourage you to befriend it. Even if you can only be… Read more

The first step in any spiritual journey is awareness–becoming open to a reality beyond yourself. Many people enter spiritual direction to become more aware of God’s presence in their life and in the world. They want their belief in a Higher Power to make that journey from head to heart. They want to feel the love of God so they can live in harmony with that love. Even if you seek spiritual direction for some other reason, a good director… Read more

Spiritual direction is not professional counseling. Even though there may seem to be some overlapping practices (such as active listening), there is a vast difference between therapy and spiritual direction. Spiritual direction is primarily a wellness practice. First and foremost, spiritual directors do not diagnose or treat disorders of any kind. For example, if a person is clearly suffering from depression, a good spiritual director will notice that, share their observation with the directee and refer the person to a… Read more

At its best, spiritual direction can help you become more aware of where God is active and moving in your life. It’s designed to help you savor and remember God’s goodness and discern how it is you are being invited to follow God into a broken and hurting world. Spiritual direction is also helpful for people moving through tough spiritual questions that arise when your image of God is malformed or arrested in time, or when someone is recovering from… Read more

All kinds of people come to spiritual direction–there is no one “type.” Directees are lay people and clergy. They come from all classes of society. They are male and female. Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered and straight. Some are very religious and some fall into the “spiritual but not religious” category.  They are seekers and lifelong believers. They come from a variety of religious traditions. Although spiritual direction as discussed in this blog grew from Christianity, not all people who visit… Read more

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