By Diana B. Barbera, Spiritual Director and Nina Todor, Spiritual Director
Wellspring is one of the most formative Adult Religious Education programs that UUCWC offers. In an effort to build Unitarian Universalist understanding, identity, and community, it engages participants’ minds and hearts and challenges the spirit, too. Since 2012 when Wellspring first began at UUCWC, we have learned that some people who are interested in this program shy away from it once hearing that participants must find a Spiritual Director. Two issues typically arise here: 1. UUs tend not to like being told they have to do something and 2. What on earth is a Spiritual Director?
As two of the Spiritual Directors who are also members of UUCWC, we thought we’d dispel some of the myths, offer some insight, and put a face to the latter part of this hurdle so that more might join into the Wellspring program and benefit from all that it offers.
What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual Direction is experiential and uniquely personal. It is an invitation to look within, to explore the deeper relationship with our connection to the Source of life.
Spiritual Direction is not about being directed. No, it is more a gentle invitation to draw closer to the Mystery, the Divine, to find our own answers and to sit with our questions. We are free to speak about spirituality in language that is significant to us. It is a time when attention is given to a deeper awareness, where hopes, struggles and dreams can be shared and our connection to Spirit can be integrated.
Each of us has inner divine guidance that can often be overlooked or disregarded in our very busy lives. Spiritual Direction calls us back to those precious, tender and wise parts of ourselves, to explore and to give attention to that movement.
“Spiritual direction has emerged in many contexts using language specific to particular cultures and spiritual traditions. Describing spiritual direction requires putting words to a process of fostering a transcendent experience that lies beyond all names, yet the experience longs to be articulated and made concrete in everyday living… “ (Liz Budd Ellman, M.Div. Executive Director, Spiritual Director’s International)
What happens in a Spiritual Direction session? A spiritual director creates space for silence, as well as for voicing whatever is in the heart. It is a time for self-reflection, opening to whatever calls and being heard with full attention, without judgment, in complete confidentiality and safety. How beautiful and rare is that!
Spiritual direction can involve a variety of ways to help focus inward, including stillness, silence, deep listening, mindfulness meditation, poetry, conscious movement, journaling, dream exploration, music and prayer, or whatever else helps with the movement to Spirit.
A spiritual director trusts in the gentle timing of exploration and discovery and understands that questions themselves deserve relaxed contemplation. New awareness comes in its own perfect time.
Sessions are generally scheduled on a regular monthly basis, regularity being important so that a growing trust develops. Each session lasts an hour.
How is it with your soul? What a beautiful question and one we don’t often hear, but it can be a question to consider when sitting with a spiritual director. The soul can be like a wild animal, elusive. In order to glimpse and connect to it, we need patience and stillness. If we go chasing it, yelling for it to come out and show itself, just like a wild animal, the soul hides and retreats from the demand. Spiritual direction is gentle and helps us find the quiet so that we can connect to our soul and hear its wisdom.
What Spiritual Direction is NOT. It is not coaching, not goal oriented and there is no agenda. Yet we can find clarity.
It is not psychotherapy or counseling. There is nothing to treat or fix, for nothing is broken. Yet we can feel full, revived and restored from the inside out.
Spiritual Direction Training: The Oasis Ministries Program for Spiritual Direction is a two-year program, which is intense, beautifully enriching, deeply interactive and self-reflective. There is much reading of some of the finest soul-showering books, along with exploratory writing required. The training is directed with powerful and kind leadership in the midst of a rich contemplative and supportive community. There is a third year of training for graduates, Deepening Year for Direction Ministries.
Nina Todor: As a nurse I experienced the power of ‘being with’ someone as they went through transitions, either transitions from hospital to home, or transitions in disease states. Many people desire companionship as they go through life changes or if they have questions about their beliefs. I studied spiritual direction (SD) in order to be with people, in a more focused way. I work with people who are interested in exploring avenues to the divine. My training in SD allows me to be a companion to people as they go through their “dark nights” and joyous times. I now find I can be present with people as together we grapple with the questions that arise in our meetings. I do not have the answers, but I am comfortable sitting with people who question. I use dream work and poetry as an opening to the spirit. I have been told by people who sit with me that “this is the only quiet time I have all month”- this is a gift SD can offer.
Diana B. Barbera: Having a spiritual director has blessed my life in so many ways, supported me along my path, and most importantly continues to nourish my connection to Spirit. When I have a session with my spiritual director I am directed inward to seek answers and have learned to trust, to keep my eyes open and discern how the Divine moves in my world.
When I serve as a spiritual director my intention is to hold the light for others as they walk their path, so that their inner knowing, divine direction and wisdom can be illuminated. It is an opportunity to invite others to turn inward, to be gentle with themselves, even in the unknowing, and to relax and trust in this inward and outward spiritual journey.
Would you like to learn more about Spiritual Direction or Wellspring? Nina and Diana will be offering information sessions on Sundays during the middle hour and after the second service. Wellspring Facilitators will also be in attendance. Keep a look out in Crossings II when dates will be announced.