God is present in every time and place. To acknowledge this with our minds is one thing; to experience it with our hearts is quite another. A spiritual director can help us strengthen our awareness of the Holy and discern the movement of the Spirit in our lives.
I am a spiritual director. I also have a spiritual director. This ancient discipline is practised both within and outside the Christian church. While spiritual directors are not licensed, they have completed considerable training, especially in the art of deep listening.
My director listens to me, without interruption, without judgment, without unsolicited advice. My director, gifted with the economy of words and the ability to challenge me with carefully chosen questions, makes space for the Spirit to move in our presence. I experience the presence of the Holy.
Direction provides me with spiritual practices. Early in the morning, I sit in silence — breathing gently, enjoying the rhythm of my breath. I review the incidents of the previous day. I recall a variety of interactions. The wordless exchange of smiles with a stranger is just as remarkable as the lengthy encounter with a beloved member of my faith community. I am able to give thanks for the presence of the Spirit in these moments. And further, I give thanks for my awareness of this presence.
I move from a sacred time of sitting to a time of movement, embodied prayer. I walk in the park, alone, where I can rejoice in God’s creation. As I tread on the uneven grass-covered earth, I become connected with the Ground of Being. I walk with mindfulness, engaging all senses. I watch, listen, smell and touch. I am sensitive to the gifts each season has to offer. Whatever the month, I never cease to be in awe of the flash of ruby red that is a cardinal in flight.
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Spiritual direction leads to self-knowledge. I gain an understanding of myself as a flawed and broken yet truly beloved creature. I grow in the process of unveiling my authentic self. I learn to be loyal to this self, and nurture my ability to perceive myself the way God perceives me.
As I hunger for deep listening, for meaningful spiritual practice and for self-knowledge, I embrace the necessary beauty of silence. John of the Cross, the 16th-century mystic, said, “Silence is the first language of God.” It is a language that I have learned to embrace at frequent intervals throughout my busy day.
A life lived attuned to the Spirit’s direction is not easy, nor is it meant to be. It strips us down to our spiritual bones, drawing us into the Holy Mystery. And it’s that for which I yearn.
Rev. Ann Corbet is a United Church minister and spiritual director living in London, Ont. This piece first appeared in Broadview’s April/May 2022 issue with the title “Sacred practice.”
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