Something extraordinary happens when a Listener bears witness to our life. To our story. No judgement. Just wonder and curiosity. Curiosity expressed through patient questions that invite us to go deeper, deeper, deeper into what it is that makes us come alive.
Who am I?
Who is God? Is God?
What gives me joy?
What is breaking my heart?
This is spiritual direction.
“Talking to you feels like sitting beside a deep, still lake.” (M.H.)
Spiritual direction offers quiet heart, quiet mind
The first time I (Sandra) sat with my spiritual director I was a jangle of discomfort and vulnerabilities. Mid-forties, exhausted, and confused, I did not want to be there. I had no wish to talk about my self, my life, or my feelings. No. Wish.
I arrived with suspicion and doubt and burst into tears almost immediately.
It took me a long, long time to feel okay about turning my attention inward. That was partly because I’d been dissociated from my own life forever (that’s the Stuff of another post about being raised in a kind of Christianity that bordered on #ThatCultLife). It was partly because I just had no idea how to say things out loud. I asked my director over and over again, “Does that sound true?” or “Is what I just said even real?”
The patience, non-judgment, and skill of my own spiritual director invited me to freedom, safety, and (tired-word-warning) something approaching authenticity in many parts of my life. She is a companion, a confidante, and a co-learner with me. And my gratitude to her is without measure. Our desire as spiritual directors at Still Lake Listening is to offer the same to you: to be a companion, confidante and co-learner with you on your unique journey.
“I felt unburdened by being able to feel and say what I wanted to in your safe space.” (I.M.)
Spiritual direction is about you
The role of companion, confidante, and co-learner is to bear witness to your story. It’s that simple. For you, that may be the telling of stories you’ve been unable to speak aloud before. You may have things you need to get off your chest. Or, you may have already explored the shadow and wondering and curiosity that is You and be feeling stuck in other ways.
The role of spiritual direction is…
“…not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.
It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.
It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment.
It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories, and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit…The paradox of hospitality (spiritual direction) is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free….not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find their own.”~ Henri Nouwen
“When I’m with you, and talk to you, I feel like the best version of myself.” (C.R)
Spiritual direction happens on your terms
Spiritual direction is “…the simple gift of sacred presence offered to another…” ~ SoulStream
Spiritual directors (compassionate listeners), do not offer advice. You will be challenged by questions that guide your attention to your own deepest longings — your interior life, your untended wounds, and an awareness and deeper understanding of your own vibrant, generative, spiritual Self.
You can be met one-on-one, or in a small group. At Still Lake, group session enrollment is held between three and five women to ensure that everyone who wishes to be heard has ample time.
Curious about what a one-on-one session might be like?
- Contact us for a free first time conversation: This call will give us a chance to hear more about you and your current needs. You will also get a chance to learn about us and better understand this kind of listening care.
- Schedule your session: You can opt for an in-person session in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada, or a virtual meet-up. You can expect that we will be on time. We will have our listening space ready for your arrival if you come to us; you can expect us to send you a link, or to call you on time if we meet remotely.
- Sessions are one hour long. We will be mindful of your time. There may be sessions when we go past the hour, but we will check in with you if it feels important for us to continue longer.
- We may begin your session by inviting you into silence for just one or two minutes: This practice is intended to create space for you to turn your attention inward, without interruption. This can be done with a prayer, a poem, a sacred text, or nothing at all. Some people come with something already in mind. Others prefer us to guide this. We will find our way together in what serves you well.
- Then, we’ll check in with how you are in that moment with genuine curiosity about whatever might be stirring in you. The rest of your session is yours. You will be listened to deeply in a safe, nonjudgmental space where you can explore what matters to you. We are listening for ways you might name the sacred* in your life. We may point these out to you to come alongside as you delve deeply and notice where your own soul may be leading you.
* “Sacred” may mean something different to everyone! In a spiritual direction session we will meet you in whatever it means for you. And we can be surprised together by finding the holy in things like nature, relationships, art, music, and texts that are important to you.
“You hear me in a way that no one else in my life does.” (B.M.)
The benefits of spiritual direction go beyond listening
Being truly heard is one of the healing outcomes of spiritual direction. If you are considering exploring this kind of deepening in your own life, there are other benefits of spiritual direction to be curious about:
Attunement with the Source of Your Being
Do you feel a connection to God as you understand Godself? This can be closeness to God, relationship to Nature, oneness with the Universe.
Discern what truly matters to you: What has real meaning in your life? What is your life’s purpose? What feels true, or feels alive in you?
Do your mission, purpose, and meaning align? Do your habits, work, and relationships inhibit or run counter to your longings (your heart, your Soul)?
“I am so grateful for the experience and gift that allowed me to bring out the pain and replace it with hope.” (D.W.)
When we live in alignment, we grow in our experience of Peace. Might this be true in times of suffering? In times of restoration? While we mourn and while we heal? The synchronicity of the “peace that transcends all understanding” reveals itself to be something deeply personal.
What would it be like to experience the rhythm of work, play, rest…maybe even a little Sacred Idleness? Without guilt or fear; with wonderment and hope-filled curiosity?
In spiritual direction, you have a place to unpack what is happening in your life; where you feel stuck, a sense of desolation, boredom, frustration, confusion. Could it be that if your deepest truths are heard, that you will find ways to move from despair into joy, breath, imagination, formation, and healing?
“You offer us the opportunity to explore the richness of a deep, fulfilled life.” (MGK)
Mystery is all around us. Have you had experiences that were unexplainable or hard to understand? Maybe they felt strange or out of body? Maybe the experience doesn’t match-up with what your faith tradition teaches? Sometimes these are easy to describe. Other times, we feel uncomfortable sharing these experiences. What if we are judged? Perceived as crazy or broken? Here, you can bring these experiences forward and we will receive, hold, and honour your sharing of them with no judgement. We believe you!
“And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin, Risk
Could it be that “growth” is simply an awakening, a forming, a deepening and opening…even a re-emerging as our Truest Self? What would it be like to be companioned in this journey with dignity, patient tenacity, and hopeful curiosity?
We gratefully acknowledge Matthew Whitney for some formatting and content regarding the benefits of spiritual direction.
“I was astonished that I wasn’t alone in my sense of lostness.” (MGK)
Spiritual direction offers safe companionship
Can you hear your own longing, fear, frustration, and wonder? What would it be like for you to experience a companion for your own journey deep into Who am I Now?, or Who is God Now?
You are not alone. Whatever the cross-roads of identity or faith and spirituality you may be bumping up against. However the relational ground beneath you may be shifting…or even collapsing. There is companionship for your journey.
I (Michelle) had no idea what spiritual direction was until one weekend when I’d been a keynote speaker on the topic of shame at a women’s conference, and one of the attendees approached me afterward suggesting that I become a spiritual director. I didn’t even know what she meant. I had never had a spiritual director, nor did I even know that they existed. And so I started looking into it. My curiosity led me to enroll in a course for spiritual direction.
In order to take the course I had to sit with my own spiritual director. So, I set up my first appointment and went not knowing what to expect, or having any agenda, really.
“To be listened to, to be heard, and to be valued for who you’ve said you are — what an awesome gift!” (Anonymous)
My (Michelle’s) first session was one of exploration where I was given the freedom to ask any questions I had about spiritual direction. My director outlined the essence of what it is: an opportunity for encounter with Self, with God, through the telling of my story, my journey as a human being.
I was nervous going to see my spiritual director as I hadn’t had the best of experiences with going to therapy in my past – Is this going to be just like that? I felt awkward and afraid. I wasn’t convinced that I wanted (or even needed) to be there, but I found that my nerves calmed and the awkwardness settled as soon as I came into my director’s presence – she was very open, very kind.
She was SAFE. There was no judgment; I was just being accepted for who I was. Unlike my experience of therapy, there was safety there.
I’d been to therapy before, and this was not that. This was more me-led – it became apparent very quickly that this was more about my interior journey. It was not only about mental health (although that came into play); it was much more than that.
After two or three sessions I noticed in myself a relaxing, a calming. I found myself to be much more in tune with my own needs, my own story, my own understanding of my self and my past. I felt safe enough to relax my self-protective ego. I felt validated in a way that I’d never been validated before.
I find myself, even now, sometimes going into sessions without a clear understanding of what I’m going to talk about that day. It always surprises me that as soon as the session begins, things arise. I trust in that offering. I am amazed at what I take away from my interactions with my spiritual director. It’s not that she sits there and teaches me; she asks the questions that allow me to explore deeper, truer levels of my own self-journey. Levels that I wasn’t able to get to or see on my own.
“A big Thank You for the opportunity to participate in this ‘Co-Learning’. I am consistently touched by your kindness & respect, and always amazed by your ability to listen and hear, and in the case of groups, to hold all that is said and respond to it in a way that is appropriate. Wow!” (Anonymous)
Find a spiritual director
Still Lake Listening offers one-on-one, group, and special program care. We can meet you in person, or online. Check out our Co-Learning page to explore our extended group sessions, or pop us an email to book a complementary session.
‘Looking for this kind of contemplative experience in your small group? Michelle and Sandra have adaptable programs for your faith-based organization, church, continuing education, wellness, and business groups.