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About Spiritual Direction

The term “spirituality” is very popular these days, but there is no single clear definition of what the word means.

Spirituality is that aspect of the human psyche that seeks experientially to connect us with that which is beyond time and space, commonly thought of as the Divine, the Eternal or the Transcendent. Human spirituality is reflected in stories, myths and beliefs and acted out in the world through values, morals, ethical behavior. It is what gives our lives meaning and purpose.

This is a generalized definition of spirituality. Particular religious traditions would have more exact definitions, such as Christian spirituality, Buddhist spirituality or Jewish spirituality.

Simply put, spiritual direction is a way of helping another person strengthen her or his spiritual life and fostering wholeness, healing and growth.

Spiritual direction was developed and practiced for centuries in the Roman Catholic Church, mostly in the context of various religious orders. In more recent years, spiritual direction has become more embraced by Protestant Christians and lay Catholics, as an effective means of enhancing and clarifying one’s relationship to God. These days most spiritual directors work from an interfaith perspective, unless otherwise stated. Spiritual directors seek to meet the people with whom they work, wherever the individual is on his or her spiritual journey.

Normally spiritual directors meet with their “directees” on a semi regular basis, guide them through various spiritual exercises(prayer, meditation, readings), designed to help the directee discern more carefully God’s leading in their life and become more fully aware of God’s presence in their lives. “Direction” is a bit of a misnomer. Spiritual directors do not so much direct, as they do guide. Around ICC, we prefer the label, “spiritual mentor.”

The conversations in spiritual direction focus around several themes: 1) where and how the presence of the Divine can be experienced in an individual’s life; 2) how to better discern God’s presence and God’s will for an individuals life; 3) how to enrich spiritual life through the disciplined implementation of various spiritual practices: especially through prayer and meditation; and 4) how to cultivate the soul and its role in the individual’s life.

In the Bay Area, the two major centers that train spiritual directors are Mercy Center in Burlingame and San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo. Most trained spiritual directors belong to Spiritual Directors International, a professional organization dedicated to overseeing the quality of the preparation spiritual directors receive and upholding ethical practices in that field. If you are seeking the services of a spiritual director look for someone with some formalized training in the arts and skills of spiritual direction.

R. Scott Sullender, Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist PSY 8931.

Updated January 2017

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