The first spiritual directors were holy men and women who left their life in the city behind to lead a sparse and ascetic life in the deserts of Egypt. Amazingly, pilgrims from all over followed them to the desert asking them to speak a word of wisdom for them.
Not many of us live in desert caves anymore. You’re more likely to find one of us in an air-conditioned home, church or private office with a couple of chairs, a table and a lighted candle.
Although the form has changed over time, spiritual direction has always been about listening for a word from the Divine to assist us in our daily walk of life.
The contemporary practice of spiritual direction has expanded to include directors from many faith traditions and backgrounds—all with the same goal of helping people listen to a reality beyond the self . The cross fertilization of spiritual guidance practices from Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity has created a rich and varied field of directors from which to choose. It also has changed the definition of spiritual direction. Where the Desert Fathers might think of spiritual direction as forming faithful and orthodox believers, most spiritual directors today see it more open-ended. Take a look at a few popular definitions:
Spiritual direction is the process of accompanying people on a spiritual journey. Spiritual direction exists in a context that emphasizes growing closer to God (or the sacred, the holy or a higher power). – Spiritual Directors International
Spiritual direction is the practice of being attentive to God’s life and movement in our human quest for meaning, love and our true identity. –The Hesychia School of Spiritual Direction
Spiritual direction is a ministry of holy listening. -Shalem Institute
In our next session, I’ll offer an image that may help you better understand the role of a spiritual director.
For more about spiritual direction as I practice it, check out my website. If you have questions or comments about the content of Spiritual Direction 101, please let me hear from you in the reply section below.