Living Well

What is a spiritual direction session like?

Good question! Often when I am first talking with people about spiritual direction, this is a question that arises. What does a session ‘look like’? What happens when we’re together?

I often begin by saying a spiritual direction session ‘looks’ something like a psychotherapy session in these ways:

  • it is a one-on-one conversation
  • we generally meet for one hour*
  • there is a fee that is paid for the time together
  • all that is shared is held in confidence

It is not unusual for a person in spiritual direction (directee) to also be working with a psychotherapist. While the format and framework might be similar between psychotherapy and spiritual direction, the intent and design of the sessions are different.

3 chairsSpiritual direction sessions are intended and designed to follow the leading of Spirit. This can be manifest in a variety of ways. We usually begin with silence, inviting ourselves to be attentive to the present moment. This can also be a time of slowing down from the, often, frantic pace of life, to breathe deeply, and to acknowledge the participation of God/Holy Love/Divine Presence.

Often the directee will share experiences that are calling his or her attention. Many times we will pause after some sharing to notice what might be arising from within. A guiding understanding is that the directee already has Holy Wisdom within, and that our shared intention is to listen for it. As spiritual director, I am paying to attention to where I notice freedom and aliveness in the words, actions, and spirit of the directee, trusting this is a place where she or he feels fully herself/himself, able to connect to deep truth and wholeness.

Sometimes, I will invite consideration of a spiritual practice or a resource that I believe will support the directee’s spiritual journey. As spiritual direction itself is an ancient practice, so also is there a rich storehouse of spiritual practices and resources that have been used by spiritual seekers for generations.

As the session draws to a close, we enter silence again, allowing some time to gather in all that has been shared, and to become aware of ideas, images, and themes the directee wants to reflect on going forward. We close in prayer – sometimes just me praying, sometimes each of us praying as Spirit guides us. Before we part, we schedule a time to meet again – usually in a month, though more or less often as need and intention inform us.

It is important to note that the process and approach to spiritual direction is unique to the one offering spiritual direction, and that the experience might be different with other spiritual directors. (More about this in an upcoming post).

*Most often, I meet with directees in person. However, more and more people are asking to meet by phone or Zoom, and this can offer more flexibility in time and resources.

“This God with whom we have to do, this God whose thoughts are not our thoughts, claims from us, I believe not static and confident belief but active and humble attention.”–Marilynne Robinson

 

 

 

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Living Well

3 chairs“Prayer is not just spending time with God. It is partly that – but if it ends there, it is fruitless. No, prayer is dynamic. Authentic prayer changes us – unmasks us, strips us, indicates where growth is needed. Authentic prayer never leads us to complacency, but needles us, makes us uneasy at times. It leads us to true self-knowledge, to true humility.” ~ St. Theresa of Avila

Wow. St. Teresa’s words are powerful, maybe even a little frightening. Prayer can do that? Be that? You mean it’s not just folding our hands, bowing our heads, and reciting familiar words? There is something that happens in us, because of prayer?

As many of you already know, I have an app on my phone that I talk about often. Called ‘Insight Timer’, it is an app I use every day. I was drawn to it many years ago because it provides a way to set a timer to begin and end my prayer time. I can choose the bell sound I want from a variety of different tones, and I can pre-set times and sounds I want to choose from.

Last Spring, another company bought the app, and late this Fall, they unveiled a number of new features. Now, when I open the app each morning to prepare for my prayer time, the first page that comes up shows a map of the world, with dots that indicate where people are praying at that moment. And below, it lists first names of people who are meditating or praying right then. They are from: Nackenheim, Germany; Paekakariki, NZ; Belmont, MA; Los Angeles, CA; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Thailand; Buffalo, NY; Thunder Bay, ONT; Melbourne, Australia; Lexington, KY; Brownsville, TX; Dublin, Ireland . . . As soon as I see this map and these names and places, I am comforted and enlivened by knowing that I am praying and meditating with a worldwide community.

Because there is also a social network feature, sometimes I receive a quiet bell sound on my phone with a message “Thank you for meditating with me today.” When the bell rings to end my prayer time, a page opens with a cascade of small images filling the page. And at the top it says, ‘You just meditated with 4015 people’ . . . or ‘5140 people’ . . . or . . .

If I am going to engage in this powerful, maybe even a little frightening, practice that needles me, and makes me uneasy at times, and that also leads to true self-knowledge and true humility, I need this community of people with whom I pray and meditate each morning. I am reassured by their presence, by their participation, by their willingness to connect.

As well, I need to reflect on my experience of prayer, and of God, with a patient companion, who listens deeply, questions openly, and challenges thoughtfully. He is my spiritual director, and my spiritual life depends as much on his companionship as it does on using my Insight Timer.

I’m wondering – what supports do you have for your prayer life? For your spiritual life? I can recommend the Insight Timer app for your devices. And I also invite you to consider seeking the companionship and support of a spiritual director, who can listen openly, honestly, and spaciously for Divine presence in and through your life.

I have spaces available to receive new people for spiritual direction. Also, you can find a spiritual director near you by following this link: http://www.sdiworld.org/find-a-spiritual-director/seek-and-find-guide. Remember, “authentic prayer changes us, unmasks us . . . needles us, makes us uneasy at times. It leads to true self-knowledge, to true humility.” Let me know if you’d like to explore this together. (leave comments at http://www.susienallen.com)