What is Spiritual Direction?

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What is Spiritual Direction? By Laurie Wevers


In my work as both a therapist and spiritual director, I often get the question, “what is spiritual
direction?” Asking this question was also a part of my own journey. While in college, I lived
through some painful, confusing experiences which caused me to turn my back on my own faith
tradition and left me feeling like I was left with no spiritual grounding. I had no idea who to turn
to. I needed someone to sit with me and my questions and not just give me packaged answers.
A wise professor at the time noticed these changes in me and suggested that I go see a spiritual
director. This was my moment to ask, “what is spiritual direction?” I’m honestly not sure how my
professor answered, but what I do know is that the experience of spiritual direction
saved/expanded my spirituality and continues to take me deeper even today.


So what is spiritual direction? I think there are many ways to explain the answer to this question,
so I’ll do my best with narrowing it down as best I can. Spiritual direction is the practice of being
with people as they attempt to deepen their relationship with the Divine, or to learn and grow in
their own personal spirituality. The person seeking direction shares stories of his or her
encounters of the Divine, or how he or she is cultivating a life attuned to spiritual things. The
director listens and asks questions to assist the “directee” in his or her process of reflection and
spiritual growth. The questions asked by a director are meant to expand the directee’s
perception/awareness/consciousness of the situation, and not aimed at fixing or giving answers.
Spiritual direction differs from therapy in that it is not goal-oriented like therapy often is, and
generally meets less often. Traditional spiritual direction meets once per month for one hour.
For some, spiritual direction can be an excellent compliment to the therapy experience.


In order to help paint a wider picture of what spiritual direction is like, I have asked two of
mydirectees to answer three different questions surrounding their experience with spiritual
direction.


Directee #1
Q1. How would you describe spiritual direction?
A. I would liken it to a coffee date with a trusted confidant, but in a cozy office, on a couch
instead of a clamoring espresso lounge. I am free to honestly talk about parts of my life that are
impacted by my faith. Sometimes I share how I am sensing God move in my life; other times I
talk about how I feel lost, conflicted or confused. All the while my spiritual director patiently
listens, questions, and reflects back what she’s hearing unfold in my journey.


Q2. What made you decide to see a spiritual director?
A. I had been seeing a therapist for almost two years and some significant areas of my progress
and healing revolved around spiritual matters. Although my therapist was more than willing and
capable to address these issues in our sessions, I thought it would be more helpful to have sessions dedicated solely to working through spiritual territory where I felt stuck or unhealthy.
Many of my views of God were far too narrow and were keeping me from living wholeheartedly
and authentically. When I discovered that beliefs that once helped me were now causing
distress for me, I knew I needed a guide to listen to walk with me as I navigated new ways of
living and believing.


Q3. How has the experience been beneficial for you?
A. Ironically, it is a very reassuring and clarifying experience! It’s so different than meeting with a
pastor or other religious leader because my director doesn’t focus on giving me a ton of
answers. I feel more freedom and peace since working with my spiritual director to untangle
unhelpful beliefs. I also feel more open to changes in my relationship with God.

Directee #2
Q1. How would you describe spiritual direction?
A. Spiritual direction is a mix of therapy, Scripture study, and meditation with the goal of
increased self-awareness and inner growth.


Q2. What made you decide to see a spiritual director?
A. For me, this was a transition out of normal therapy to a less regular, less structured practice.


Q3. How has the experience been beneficial for you?
A. This has been the impetus to one of the hardest walks I’ve done in my life which overall has
been GREAT. I often get more from spiritual direction and the aftershocks during the following
weeks than church as of late.

As you can see, the experience of spiritual direction can be experienced differently for each
individual. One of these directees was also a part of a spiritual direction group that I ran which
included two other participants, where we learned to listen and ask good questions for each
other without needing to “fix.” Both individual and group spiritual direction have proven to be
rich, intimate experiences for the participant.


I hope this brief explanation has given you a better picture of what is meant by the concept of
spiritual direction. I am happy to answer any questions and/or set you up for your first spiritual
direction session/group!
Peace,

Laurie Wevers, MA, LMFT
Certification in Spiritual Direction
P. 651-726-4940
E. Laurie@cultivatesandiego.com