Saturday, 23 May 2020

River


The river of divine Grace flows around our feet, no matter where we are.
It is about being open and willing to take off our shoes and dip our toes into the fresh sparkling streaming water, to sense the presence of the Divine and listen to her voice. A voice, so soft, I can hear in the rippling of the water.

I don't know what your river looks like; maybe it is it full of rocks, fish or plants. We all have a variety of expectations.  Some sense the divine Grace in the middle of town, talking to friends over a coffee or a wine. While others need silence or birdsong, listening to waves rolling onto a beach or maybe when they are high in the mountains.

The river of Grace is always present to us if only we pause in our busy lives to explore it. Most of us need time out from the obligations and expectations of the world, making time for spiritual fulfilment. Personally, the river of Grace can flow better and is more accessible if I pay attention to my daily rhythm of prayer and meditation.  Taking the time to process and journal will help that too. 
After all these years, I know when I sense the river is running dry or the weeds are taking over, it is due to lack of me making time to stop and take stock.
Like healthy eating and exercise, spiritual well-being requires some self-discipline!

For me, the beach holds the secret of connection. When I have had a stressful day, nothing is more soothing than 'getting my feet wet'. Walking through the water, sand between my toes, and all my stress and concerns wash away.
When I am at the beach, with my feet in the sea, I can connect with what I call the Divine Spirit.
Big problems become manageable because I take the time to ponder and wonder.
               
Flowing in the river of Divine Grace is about finding our inner connection, and there is no need to travel far.
God is with us wherever we are. If only we paid attention.




Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Diet

Most people are interested in health and diets; Fad diets, healthy eating, Paleo, low fat and intermittent fasting. You name it, and there is some research to show the reason why it should make us feel better.  We will be slimmer, more beautiful, fitter and have loads more energy.

The food pyramid, which originated in Sweden, in 1974 gives a clear indication around a healthy eating plan. I wonder if that applies to a spiritual diet too? What would a mixed banquet, with taste bud teasers, full of colour, textures and excitement look like for each person?

Prayer forms the base of my Spiritual pyramid. Prayer is communication with God, listening and responding. Prayer is about relationship, inner stillness and reflection to guide us into the intimacy with God. Communication here is listening and responding to the small voice of the Divine. There are numerous forms of prayer and prayer preferences. To introduce new flavours or ways may 'tease the taste buds'. To step out of the comfort zone of the home kitchen, while leaving space for the mystical experience.

How we build our personal spiritual pyramid depends on individual temperaments. Extraverts and introverts have a different way of engaging with personal and spiritual matters. Silence may be an essential aspect in one pyramid, where some others may need a community aspect for their spiritual well-being.

In the various ways of gazing upon the Divine, there are a plethora of choices available to those seeking nourishment on their spiritual journey.
The concern for a spiritual director, is the directee's choice between a balanced diet and an unhealthy focus on a single food choice. Should spiritual directors reflect on the possibility (both negative and positive) of spiritual addiction or spiritual malnourishment? What would that look like?

For example, what if a directee so engrossed in their meditation practice that they ignore work and family? What about the directee who takes every opportunity to find new ways, but doesn't seem to find peace in anything?

In the end, it is up to each individual to find their way into the stillness. A spiritual director can walk alongside helping the directee notice where God is active in their lives.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Hungry

People are hungry.
Even if we don't know for what we are hungry.
We want something - but can't name it.

I think people are hungry for wholeness and God, the Divine Spirit, or whatever term for the Divine is right for them. We are hungry for what the mystics call the 'union with God'. The Oneness that makes us whole.

When the directee is ready to embark on this journey of (self)discovery, they talk about all sorts of issues. The topics range from family life to work-related concerns, general relationship challenges, grief and many more, before they embark on matters of spirituality.
The initial conversations are often more about general problems before we come to a place of trust, where we can unpack spiritual issues.
Spiritual matters are profoundly personal and intimate. To bare your soul to a spiritual mentor or companion, takes courage and time. To share your deepest thoughts and religious experiences is difficult. Difficult, because we often don't have the words to describe how we feel, or there may be a sense of shame, guilt or anger. 

In the world of today, we have uncovered most taboos. Somehow faith-related issues are no longer part of our day-to-day conversations, and there are a multitude of people who have been hurt by the 'Church'. Or to be more specific by people in a church community. Others have left because the dogma, rules and regulations no longer spoke to them. It is not God/their faith that they have left behind, but a faith community.

This site may be a starting point where you can dip your toes into the river of Divine Grace to nurture your soul.


As rivers have their source in some far fountain,
So the human spirit has its source.
To find this fountain of spirit
is to learn the secret of heaven and earth.
In this fountain of mystery,
spirit is eternally present in endless supply.
Tao

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Terminology

Let's have a look at the traditional terminology used for spiritual direction.
The term spiritual direction describes a discipline in the Christian tradition, probably starting with the Desert Fathers around 300-600AD.  Initially found mainly in the Roman Catholic Church; however, spiritual direction has gained interest in different denominations. 
Traditionally, spiritual direction focused on clergy, and those with a commitment to the religious life and a director would often direct and suggest what the directee was to do.

In more modern times, spiritual direction is about having an intentional spiritual conversation. The director walks alongside the directee, rather than in front and showing the way, helping the person explore what was said, or delving into a shared experience.
So I wonder if the term spiritual reflector or soul companion may be a better way of describing this intentional working relationship, where what is shared is reflected back—helping the other further along the road towards a deeper awareness of self and the divine.

Although I offer a mirror and explore with the directee the nudging of the Spirit/God/Divine Presence in their lives, I think that soul companion is a more accurate description. What speaks to me is a sense of equality in the wording.
What do we mean by spiritual direction? Ultimately it is about a person growing in awareness, responding to, paying attention to God's communication. In whatever way the directee understands God/divine presence/ the wholly other etc. It is about growing in intimacy with this God and what that means for their daily lives.

The term 'directee' is slightly awkward to substitute. Changing is only helpful if there is a viable alternative. There is a possibility for 'friend' or 'client', however this does not give the right vibe. I wondered briefly about the term 'traveller', as we are on a journey. Somehow it does not sit well with me. So directee it remains, for now.

I think all people are spiritual, all people ask questions about the point of life, their purpose etc. But not all people are religious, in the sense that they are part of a church community. They may be 'religious' in the way they exercise, or engage with their hobbies. I see my role as a spiritual companion as a carer for the soul of those I am privileged to accompany on their journey. It is a matter of finding the right words and terminology that works between two people who are engaged in an intentional spiritual conversation.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Breathing Space

Most people benefit from some quiet, reflective time.
Time to meditate, contemplate, pray or 'be'; whatever your personal preferences are.
For some of us finding time comes naturally; others may have to put in a bit of effort to find a 'breathing space' in their busy days.

Friday, 24 April 2020

Silence

'Be still and know that I am God', the psalmist writes.
Be still and know that in the silence, you can hear my voice and sense my prompting.

Silence and stillness are not the same. Silence, to a lot of people, means the absence of noise.
There is silence and silence. We all know the difference between a hostile silence and a companionable silence. The silence I am referring to is distinct from the ones mentioned above. It is a sacred silence; without noise and distractions, an inner silence with a quiet mind.
This sacred silence is not something we achieve instantly. Entering the stillness is growing our inner silence so that we may encounter the Divine Presence / God.
To experience this sacred stillness, is not dissimilar to developing a personal relationship with people; it takes practise and commitment.
Relationships are about mutuality, sharing, enjoying each other's company and getting to know the other. You will find it is the same for your experience with growing your inner stillness.

Stillness, for me, is about inner peace; the place where I may encounter the Divine Presence.
To quieten the mind is the first step to inner peace. Like a lot of things, you cannot expect to get the result you desire after one session. Time after time, you need to train your mind. To let go and breathe in and breathe out.
There are many techniques one could use; from both the Eastern and Western traditions. The Christian tradition has a variety of meditation practises, although it is not uncommon for Christian monks to practise Zen Meditation.

Ultimately, it takes practice
and more practise
to grow the inner stillness
and wait for a glimpse of the Divine Spirit.

Friday, 17 April 2020

Monkey Mind


Thoughts and images are jumping backwards and forwards and chasing around the trees in your head.  Brilliant ideas are rushing around and are fighting for attention. In the meantime, you remain focused on your breath.

People say it is simple. You only have to breathe. Breathe in and out, in and out. Sounds easy enough, to focus; to breathe with attention. To be able to enter the ever-present stillness.
Research tells us that the mind struggles to remain in the present moment. It either goes back to rummage through past- experiences or daydreaming about the future. Staying 'in the moment' is very difficult.
Monks, in a diversity of faith traditions, will tell you that meditation is called a practice for a reason. It takes years to tame the stream of thinking, years to tame the monkey mind.

There is a variety of meditations to help you quieten the mind.
The more familiar are the word-based meditations; Buddhist and Christians using Mantras and Sacred Words. Some traditions use walking meditation or art for their practice.
Whatever you use as your focus, when the Monkey Mind takes over, gently return to your candle, mantra or sacred word. 

Stillness, a place to encounter the Divine/God. This place of stillness is always inside us. Inside each one of us is that quiet place. 'Entering the Stillness' is about acquiring inner peace.