This year's Lenten series for Holy Everything is focused on spiritual practices. Today we begin with our first of eight spiritual practices: spiritual direction.
Spiritual direction is time and space to be open to a sense of the sacred. Accompanied by a trained spiritual director, the process can happen individually or with a group.
Sessions often last about one hour, and the frequency is usually once per month, but that varies greatly based on the desires of the directee (the term used to describe the person experiencing spiritual direction).
Linda Wieser is a Rochester-based spiritual director as well as a Franciscan sister. With more than 30 years of experience, she has witnessed the way this process can add a depth of purpose, meaning and clarity to life.
Spiritual direction is not too much about being directed as it is being encouraged and supported. Wieser says that it is the Holy Spirit who is the actual director. She views her role as an ally to the spirit of the directee and a presence who can be eyes, ears, and a heart to walk alongside the individual.
"I am able to illumine the journey and listen in," she said. "Spiritual direction is being present to the presence of the directee wherever the person is on the journey."
About her work, Wieser said, "It's a total privilege. I love it."
A spiritual direction session often involves prayer, silence and reflective questions asked in such a way that the directee becomes increasingly aware of God's presence in the midst of life. Much of spiritual direction invites directees back to the same basic question: "What's the invitation in this?" This question is rooted in the belief God is present in everything that happens in life and is ever providing new invitations.
Spiritual Directors International (SDI) describes, "In spiritual direction, you reflect deeply on the experiences of your daily life. … You may come to realize how God's spirit is truly with you every day and everywhere."
A spiritual director's job is not to provide specific advice but to create a space where the directee is able to hear and feel God's guidance for himself or herself.
A person can begin a practice of spiritual direction at any point in life. Sometimes people visit a spiritual director in the midst of a major life transition or period of discernment. Others start spiritual direction in a more calm time of life. In all stages of life, spiritual direction can provide a meaningful environment for reflection, discernment and meaning-making.
Spiritual directors are often asked to describe the difference between counseling and spiritual direction. Both are important but not the same.
Counseling is generally centered around a specific life issue that needs attention, and counselors often delve backward into one's family system in order to help a person heal and process.
In spiritual direction, Wieser said, "We are in the right here, right now" and looking ahead. Sometimes there is overlap in the two processes, and spiritual direction occasionally addresses specific aspects of a person's past. But generally they are distinct processes with different goals.
For those interested in experiencing spiritual direction, Wieser recommends doing some research online and then setting up an appointment. Spiritual direction can happen in person or over the phone. In Rochester there are more than a dozen spiritual directors who come from a variety of religious backgrounds.
As a spiritual practice, spiritual direction has been adding a special dimension of meaning to lives since the fourth century. To learn more and find a director, visit www.sdiworld.org/seekers.