A Sense of the Holy in Everyday Life
Practiced since the dawn of the Christian faith—and, indeed, in all of the Abrahamic traditions—spiritual direction provides a focused means for growing in relationship with God. Simply put, it is “holy listening”—a ministry of entering into the deep places of the soul with another, not to instruct but to witness and to listen.
Despite its ancient roots, spiritual direction has been largely absent in the day-to-day life of the church of the last century. More recently, the discipline has been rediscovered as an invaluable means for enriching and deepening the spiritual journey, and it is now undergoing a renaissance in the church worldwide.
“What exactly do spiritual directors do? The simple and most direct answer I can give is that they help others attend to God’s presence and revelation and prepare to respond to him. In other words, they help people attune themselves to God.”
In individual and group settings, director and directee meet in the presence of the One who transforms. According to spiritual director Elizabeth de Smaele, who practices in the Netherlands, spiritual direction “offers a voice of guidance and grace to those who are intent on growth, with special emphasis given to recognizing and responding to the presence of God in one’s life.” Eugene Peterson, in his course at Regent College “Tell It Slant: The Parables As Spiritual Direction,” suggested that spiritual direction is “listening truth into being.”
The language around spiritual direction may seem vague and mystical to those unfamiliar with the practice and with the contemplative aspects of Christian spirituality. It can be frustratingly difficult to understand what actually happens in a spiritual direction session, especially for those used to programs and other structured curriculum for spiritual growth. In essence, spiritual direction is simply what it appears to be: an intentional time of listening to and following the voice of God in the life of the directee.
While neither discipleship nor counseling, spiritual direction can and often does involve
The direction relationship is meant to be entered into with prayerful and careful attention. In general, a direction relationship lasts for a minimum of two years, but deep and growing direction relationships can last for a lifetime. Unlike counseling, the focus is not on problem-solving or dealing with specific life issues, although sometimes they will be addressed. In direction, the focus is on the individual’s relationship with God, which is constantly in motion, even when it feels like everything has stopped.
There are many metaphors for spiritual direction. Companionship, guidance, hospitality and listening are but at few. At Anam Cara, we are guided most strongly by the concept of a “soul friend,” a term coined by the ancient Celts. A soul friend is one who journeys alongside in a deeper way than a friend might, stepping into the story of the other in a manner that acknowledges the holy and nurtures its growth.
The second image that guides us is that of a midwife. We operate with the assumption that everyone who contacts Anam Cara Ministries is in some way pregnant with the life of God. The role of a spiritual director is to come alongside as a midwife might, to nurture that life within them and to walk with them as it is brought forth into the world.
Some topics spiritual direction explores:
Spiritual direction is the practice of coming alongside people to assist them in attuning their hearts to the movement of God in their stories. In individual and group sessions, the director provides the gift of holy listening, a sacred practice of welcoming the presence of the other and of God in a contemplative and transformative experience.
In a word, no. Spiritual direction is not about proselytization, propaganda or control. The aim of spiritual direction is not to tell another person what to do or to control their spiritual journey. Your story is uniquely your own, including your experience of God. A spiritual director’s role is to assist you in discerning the movement of the Spirit of God in your life, and to help you to align yourself to that movement.
Anam Cara Ministries is a non-denominational, ecumenical ministry that is not formally associated with any specific church body. We welcome directees from all denominations and faith journeys.
Our founder, Tara Owens, is a member of the International Anglican Church of Colorado Springs, Colorado. She has journeyed through and with several denominations, including the United Church of Canada, the United Methodists, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, and several non-denominational Bible churches—for each of which she is very grateful. While Tara lives out her faith in the Anglican tradition, her practice is ecumenical and welcoming to all.
Spiritual direction sessions are typically 50 minutes long. A session generally begins with a time of silence and centering, as well as a short time of prayer, if that is comfortable for you. Then, you and your director will often spend time discovering and dialoguing about the movements of God in your life recently. Other times, the session could focus on entering into silence well or exploring new prayer forms. The session will usually end with a time of prayer or silence as closure.
A spiritual direction session is a place of openness and safety, where you and everything you bring are welcome. Everything that happens in a spiritual direction session is confidential.
No, there is a wide variety. Spiritual direction is practiced in many faith traditions, so it’s important to at least have a general idea of your preferred faith tradition when you seek out a spiritual director.
The education programs available for spiritual directors also vary from state to state and country to country. The length and depth of training ranges from two-week programs to two-year intensive masters degrees. While proficiency and wisdom in spiritual direction are not necessarily related to education, this is something to take into prayerful consideration as you seek out a spiritual director.
Certification is also a topic of discussion in the spiritual direction community. In Canada, the Canadian Council of Professional Certification (CCPC) sets standards and issues certifications for a Certified Spiritual Director (CSD). If you are interested in the requirements, you can click here to learn more.
In the United States, there is currently no universal form of certification or oversight. Instead, the designation CSD is issued through a variety of different organizations with a variety of different standards for certification. There is now a global certifying body for both CSDs and Certified Spiritual Director Supervisors (CSDSs) called CCPC Global. It evolved from CCPC, and you can learn more about it here.
Tara Owens has a Masters of Theological Studies with a concentration in Spiritual Formation from Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which is a non-denominational evangelical seminary. She certified through the CCPC Global as a CSD and as a CSDS. She is a member in good standing of the Tyndale Association of Spiritual Directors (TASD), Spiritual Directors International (SDI), Spiritual Direction Colorado, ESDA, and the Spiritual Formation Network of Colorado Springs. As such, she is bound by the code of ethics for the TASD, SDI, and CCPC Global.
In discipleship, just as in mentorship, the person to whom the disciple comes takes an active, directive role. This often involves study, exercises to be completed, and lessons to learn in a successive pattern that is designed to track growth.
While spiritual direction does involve some teaching, that is not the main thrust of the direction sessions. Your director may sometimes give you exercises to try or may teach in regards to methods of prayer or other topics, but the predominant role of a director is as a listener and guide. Much as you wouldn’t expect your guide up Mount Everest to stand at the bottom and instruct you in the methods needed to reach the summit, a director takes the path with you, listening, watching, and only occasionally intervening when he or she sees that you may be veering close to a cliff edge.
Spiritual direction is quite explicitly neither counseling nor therapy. Counseling seeks to redress specific areas of wounding or dysfunction and equip the client with tools—both psychological and social—that will enable them to lead full, functional lives. Therapy aims to deal with the issues, both presenting and underlying, that brought the client to therapy in the first place and enable them to move out of the counseling setting into their lives independent of the therapist.
While healing may occur in a spiritual direction session, the focus of spiritual direction is deepening your relationship with God and with those around you. There is no sense that the directee needs to move on from spiritual direction. In fact, spiritual direction relationships lasting 10, 20, or even 30 years are considered healthy.
In general, our directors meet with directees monthly or every two weeks. Occasionally, life circumstances warrant meeting with the directee once a week. However, that intensity of direction is only meant for a season before returning to a twice-a-month schedule.
The rate for spiritual direction with Tara Owens is US$75/hour, plus applicable fees. If you are in financial distress, other arrangements can be discussed. This cost can be paid via check or verified PayPal.
However, each spiritual director runs their practice differently, as they continue to discern and live out their call to holy listening, their responsibility to the communities they serve, and their own families and needs. Some directors do not charge at all, some ask for donations, and others charge a fee but have a sliding scale.
If you’re looking for a low- or no-cost introduction to spiritual direction, many of our apprentices are open to taking on new directees.
Anam Cara Ministries is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The ministry, however, is both national and international.
Tara meets with local directees in person in her office in Colorado Springs. She can also travel in the Colorado area to meet with directees, which incurs a travel fee per mile in addition to the fee per hour. Beyond the Colorado area, Tara meets with directees over the phone or via Zoom. The latter is her preferred method for at-a-distance meetings, as it affords greater interaction at a variety of levels.
With a small number of directees, Tara also conducts a ministry of writing, in which letters are exchanged as a method of soul care. This practice of letter writing is an ancient one, undertaken by spiritual companions such as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.
A few of our other spiritual directors offer distance options as well. If you are interested, we suggest you first download and read Spiritual Direction At A Distance and speak with Tara before deciding if this is right for you. Tara can be reached by email or by phone (719-233-5568).
Definitely not! In addition to being a spiritual director, Tara runs the Anam Cara Apprenticeship in spiritual direction, which is a relationship-based learning in the ancient tradition of apprenticeship. Tara also plans and leads contemplative experiences and retreats, teaches classes related to spiritual formation, and leads rabbinic Scripture study both in person and online. For more information, visit our Formation & Training or Resources & Events pages.
Tara also writes on topics of spiritual formation and spiritual direction, both here at Anam Cara as well as for the International Anglican Church. She has written two books (Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh & Bone and At Play In God’s Creation: A Contemplative Coloring Book) and numerous articles. She served as the Senior Editor of Conversations Journal, an ecumenical journal of spiritual transformation, for seven years. Her work has also appeared in Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction.
Ideally, the answer to that question is yes. However, we’re a long way from the ideal Church. We’ve forgotten—or not been taught—the very things that would allow us to truly be soul friends to one another. We live in a busy, distracted society and often congregate in busy, distracted churches, looking for the newest program for godliness.
Spiritual direction reminds us how to slow down, showing us what it means to truly listen to one another. It helps us practice the spiritual disciplines of silence, solitude, and guidance. It equips us not only to have a deep, transformative relationship with God, but also enables us to move in peace and love toward others. And when we have worked on interior freedom with a spiritual director, we often become agents of peace and change in our churches and our world.
Tara Owens (CSD, CSDS) is the founder and executive director of Anam Cara Ministries, where she has been accompanying others in their journeys with God for 15 years as a certified spiritual director and supervisor. Her deep longing is to see others move toward wholeness with themselves, with God, with their communities, and with the world. Tara holds a Masters of Theological Studies in Spiritual Formation, combined with a certificate in Death, Dying & Grieving, from Tyndale Seminary, and the Advanced Certificate in Supervision from the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University. She pioneered and leads the Anam Cara Apprenticeship, which is a relationally-delimited training in spiritual direction. Tara also teaches rabbinic Scripture study groups and trains others in the process of wrestling with God and the Word in community, and leads an intentional community of sojourners in the Anam Cara Abbey. In addition to her work with Anam Cara, she teaches for the Potter’s Inn Soul Care Institute, and is on staff with Paseo for their spiritual direction training program, Stewards of the Mystery, and guest lectures at various seminaries, churches, and non-profits. Tara is the author of two books, Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh & Bone (IVP, 2015), and At Play In God’s Creation: A Contemplative Coloring Book (Franciscan Media, 2016), and was the Senior Editor of Conversations Journal for 7 years. She lives out her own wrestlings in the mountains of Colorado with her husband, daughter, and rescue dog, Brother Juniper.
In addition to individual and group spiritual direction, Tara is available for speaking and teaching engagements. At the moment, Tara is not taking any new individual directees, but you can contact her if you’d like to be put on the waitlist or have her match you with one of the other Anam Cara spiritual directors. She also runs retreats and develops guided contemplative experiences. Tara can be reached by email or by phone (719-233-5568).
Rachel Reed is a spiritual director whose heart is to invite people into a place where they are free to engage the tension of the broken places alongside the hope of promised restoration to come. She believes it is here we can encounter the most beautiful echoes of God dwelling among humanity.
After working in ministry for over 12 years, Rachel’s work as a spiritual director has been a kind of coming home, where she listens with sacred curiosity to people, creating space that is willing to hold questions without the demand of answers and that welcomes the process of the journey.
Jamie Bonilla is a finder of lost things. She often uses found objects as part of her art practice, which she believes is just as sacred as “real work.” Jamie didn’t discover her creativity until well into adulthood, and she’s passionate about the fact that you, too, are creative.
Jamie was a pediatric nurse for 10 years, but her care of others has now shifted into the arena of spiritual direction. She received her Master’s Degree in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care this year, and the many hours she has spent in spiritual direction have been some of her greatest joys. Other joys are at home, where she loves spending time with her two boys and their dad. Jamie is a 9 on the Enneagram, a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), and definitely an introvert, which has her both excited and concerned about her family’s recent new adventure: homeschooling! People say her superpower is that they immediately feel calmer in her presence and that she gives really good hugs. She loves to ask questions that invite people to discover new things in themselves and God. She also loves liturgy, coffee, and naps.
Jamie can be reached by email.
Craig Hamlow loves sitting with others and hearing where God is working in their lives to shape and mold them into His image. After serving 10 years in Alaska caring for pastors and missionaries in bush villages, Craig, his wife Karen, and their three children moved to Colorado to shepherd others through Potter’s Inn. Now, as a Member Care Specialist at Mission Aviation Fellowship, he has found a wonderful convergence of his journey.
Craig is a graduate of the apprenticeship with Anam Cara Ministries. He loves to worship in the beauty of creation through fly fishing, hiking, camping, and sitting in wonder of what has been made. He is currently taking new directees in person and at a distance.
Craig can be reached by email.
Niecy LoCricchio is founder of The Soul Care Place, which helps the community of Christ to experience greater wholeness, healing, and intimacy with the God who loves us. With nearly 20 years of ministry experience, Niecy is passionate about coming alongside others and attending to God’s voice in ordinary moments. In addition to her work in spiritual direction, Niecy creates and leads retreats and workshops where she loves to incorporate creative expression to help attendees discover new avenues for connecting with God. As a recovering perfectionist and overachiever, Niecy has found play and slowing down to be life-giving practices in her spiritual rhythm. She loves to spend time with her husband and family, especially her granddaughter—you might spot them paddleboarding, playing laser tag, or having fun with paint.
Niecy is available for spiritual direction, creating and leading workshops, and speaking on topics of soul care, spiritual formation, and spiritual practices.
Niecy can be reached by email or phone (720-213-6372).
Suzie Richard’s passion is to create safe environments and opportunities for people to experience God. She specializes in guiding personal spiritual formation and soul care for ministry leaders, and she is trained in emotional healing prayer, which is an integration of psychology and spirituality. Suzie also uses the Enneagram to partner with the healing process and develop spiritual rhythms of the soul.
Suzie graduated from Westmont College with a degree in Interpersonal Communication. She studied spiritual formation with the Soul Care Institute and received her training in Spiritual Direction from Anam Cara Ministries. For the past 25 years, Suzie has served in a variety of roles for both small and large ministries. She has actively promoted the spiritual development and soul care for scores of Young Life staff and volunteers, and she has served as a retreat leader, soul formation group facilitator, and Sabbatical coach. She lives in Boulder with her husband Gill and two teenage children.
Suzie can be reached by email.
We’re excited to introduce you to our incredible community of apprentices at Anam Cara Ministries. These delightful folks are all in various places in their journey of apprenticeship, but we believe in their hearts for God and those whom He loves. Each one carries a God-story that will enrich and bless your own walk with the Trinity.
Brandon Booth has spent 25 years in ministry as a teacher and speaker. He is the father of five children, an intellectual explorer, an amateur entrepreneur, and is serious about pursuing authentic faith and life with God.
Growing up on the eastern plains of Colorado gave him a love for paradox: mountains and expansive prairies, leisure and hard work, the love of home and an insatiable wanderlust.
These days he lives in Canon City, Colorado, where he reads too many books, works a little too hard, plays with his kids, and takes long walks with his wife. He is learning to stay behind Jesus, following him where he leads and at his pace, and God has given him a passion for befriending fellow travelers along the way. Brandon can be reached by email.
Ashley Cleveland is a musician, author, and new apprentice with Anam Cara Ministries. Located in Nashville, Ashley has 22 years of sobriety and is active in both AA and Alanon as a member and also a sponsor. She has an affinity for the broken and those who struggle in the margins. Ashley also has a love of the contemplative, the Scriptures, and discovering God in the unexpected. She is actively taking directees, women or men, in person or online. Ashley can be reached by email or by phone (615-714-6473).
Chad Conant is currently the Area Director for Littleton Young Life. He has been on staff in Littleton for the last 25 years working alongside teenagers and young adults. He desires to walk side by side with others in friendship as they discover the movement of God in their lives and as they seek transformation. Chad has studied spiritual formation at the Soul Care Institute and is currently apprenticing in Spiritual Direction with Anam Cara Ministries. He is celebrating 25 years of marriage to his wife Elly. They have 5 kids ranging from 22 to 8 years old. In his spare time, Chad can be found working out, reading, or cheering on all of his favorite local college (Go Buffs!) and professional sports teams. Chad can be reached by email.
Kaylene Derksen grew up a farm girl in northern Wisconsin to parents who loved God and loved people. One of eight siblings, she spent long hours being read to from scripture around the breakfast table and at night in family devotions. It was instilled in her from a very young age that everyone has value and should be treated with the dignity befitting God’s creation.
After college, she felt a call to spend her life in mission work. This call has taken her to Central America, the southern United States, the Netherlands, and Germany. She has a deep love for other cultures and languages and speaks both English and German fluently.
While in the midst of her productive life she became aware of a deep longing for a more sustainable rhythm. Her hunger for God led her to delight in Sabbath, which subsequently opened the door to her enjoying other spiritual practices. Going further on the journey inward, Kaylene became a student of the Soul Care Institute. This altered the course of her life by awakening a desire to live the Jesus way as a wholehearted and integrated person. She and her husband, Jimm, are both Soul Care Providers now leading the Institute.
She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where she enjoys long walks, cooking dinner for friends, singing, and birdwatching with her husband. She and Jimm have one adult daughter, Helena, who is married to James, their son-in-law. Kaylene can be reached by email.
Sandy Davis has a boulder at the end of her driveway inscribed with the words “Closer to Heaven,” and that’s how she feels about living in Buena Vista. Such a place of respite and beauty! A retired R.N., Sandy enjoys reading, creating things, hiking with her Australian Shepherd, and introducing guests to the restfulness of God’s creation in the Rocky Mountains. In addition to working in Labor & Delivery, Sandy was also a perinatal loss nurse. Grief and loss have been areas that the Lord has used in her own life, too. One of the most difficult times in her life has been in walking through cancer with their oldest son. Sandy and her husband of 41 years have three sons, and one son that they will see again someday in glory. They are blessed with three granddaughters and one grandson.
Sandy spent two years in transformation in Jesus in the Soul Care Institute with Potter’s Inn. She is an apprentice in spiritual direction with Anam Cara and is taking directees. Sandy can be reached by email.
Jeremy Frye serves as the Director of Sacred Community for Anam Cara. For twenty years, Jeremy served as a full time pastor in the local church, most of that in the mountains of Colorado. Following his time at Ozark Christian College where he received a certificate in Bible knowledge, Jeremy earned his bachelor’s in Christian Leadership from Colorado Christian University and is a graduate of the Soul Care Institute where he received a certificate in Soul Care from SCI and Fuller Seminary. He began his college career by earning an associates degree in theatre and music, two subjects for which he has a deep love to this day.
Jeremy and his wife Rachael have been married for sixteen years and have two children; nine year old Katie and five year old Wesley. It is with much affection that he would tell you that his children are a little feral and could regale you with hours of stories about their antics. In addition to being an incredible wife and mother, Rachael served as a children’s minister for 15 years and is a graduate of the Transforming Center with Ruth Haley Barton in Chicago. Jeremy and his family reside at An Téarmann (Gaelic for the refuge), the name of their little urban homestead in East Nashville, Tennessee.
Jeremy offers spiritual direction both online and in person from his home in Nashville and co-leads soul care retreats for pastors and their spouses in various locations around the country. Jeremy believes more than anything that the truest thing about you is that you are the Beloved of God and desires to help you live into and out of that truth. Jeremy can be reached by email.
Will Forsythe was born and raised in Colorado. He currently serves as the Lead Pastor of All Souls Church of Boulder. He is deeply passionate about the interior journey we can take, in which we descend into the immense palace of our souls to experience the mystery of God within, as well as the beloved community we walk side by side with on this journey and how we are able to bring our whole selves—broken and beautiful—for the good of others.
Will is an apprentice in spiritual direction with Anam Cara Ministries. In his free time, he can be found fly fishing, reading Wendell Berry, listening to boring philosophy lectures, wrestling with his kids, and enjoying craft coffee way too much. Will can be reached by email.
Kate has worked in large churches, tiny churches, para-church ministry, and academic institutions. A couple of questions she has found herself asking (and being asked) in all these settings are: what does it look like to truly ground one’s identity in their Belovedness? And, what does it look like to love our neighbors near and far, especially the least, the last, and the left out? Kate plans to be asking these questions her entire life. She is passionate about the intersection of anti-racism and spiritual formation and believes that our inner work is not merely for our own liberation, but for the liberation of all of God’s good creation.
Kate lives in North Carolina with her husband and two young children, but is a Michigander at heart. She loves everything about the morning except talking and believes that dancing might just save the world. Kate can be reached by email.
Jo Newell is a mom of 6 adult daughters (and one son who she can’t wait to see in heaven), a grandma to 9 grandkids, a widow (after almost 42 years of marriage), a cancer survivor, and a lover of many animals, including her 21-year-old cat, Sophie! She works in staff care with The Navigators. She lives in TX, but a big part of her heart is in Colorado, her home state. She is a graduate of the Potters Inn Soul Care Institute and a current Anam Cara apprentice. Among her favorite activities are reading, hiking and camping, gardening, and eating New Mexican cuisine. Her heart’s desire as she meets with others in spiritual direction is that they would be able to hear God’s voice calling them the Beloved and learn to live out of that love. She can be reached by email.
Becki Parr desires to help others recognize God’s image in them, God’s love for them, and God’s work through them. Lingering with God and people are two of her favorite things. Becki enjoys sitting with people from a variety of streams of Christian faith. Whether a person is exploring a relationship with God, wrestling through questions or doubt, seeking to deepen their experience with God, or serving in ministerial leadership, Becki hopes to create safe places for others to be their authentic selves and be seen in their belovedness. She delights in fashioning space for people to recognize and experience God’s presence. One of her greatest passions is leading intimate retreats.
Becki provides spiritual direction for individuals, facilitates Lectio Divina ,and offers group spiritual direction. She has 20+ years of experience working with ministries for teenagers, young adults, women, and children, as well as engaging with people who have diverse cognitive and/or physical abilities, and serving those who love them. Becki lives in Arvada with her husband, three boys, and dog. She loves coffee, unstructured time with her boys, playing outside (but using the bathroom inside), hiking (but not camping), and the beach. As an apprentice with Anam Cara Ministries, Becki is taking limited new directees in person and at a distance. Becki can be reached by texting or calling 925-708-1012.
Heather Swanson is an educator, currently teaching in an urban high school, and a mother of two. She completed training at the Soul Care Institute in 2018 and is currently completing an apprenticeship in spiritual direction through Anam Cara Ministries.
Heather has been active in pastoral support and church ministry for two decades. During that time, she learned firsthand the value of soul care and spiritual direction in our journeys with God. Grateful for the hospitality she experienced and the soul friends who walk with her, Heather offers that holy hospitality to others on the spiritual journey. Heather can be reached by email.
Justin McRoberts lives in Martinez, CA with his wife Amy and their two children, Asa and Katelyn. After two decades making music and writing books, it is the connection art forms Justin came to value most; a connection he seeks to help make in spiritual direction.
Lauren Winner is Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality and Duke Divinity School, and an Episcopal priest currently serving a parish in the Diocese of North Carolina. She’s also a writer, whose books include Still and Wearing God. Lauren can be reached by email.
The Anam Cara Apprenticeship graduates people on a relational rather than time-delimited basis. Each of these apprentices has proven not just competency but also individual agency and dedication to the art and practice of spiritual direction. Our graduates often go on to be a part of the Peregrini Program at Anam Cara Ministries as associated spiritual directors.
Our current graduates are: