Spiritual Direction

What is Spiritual Direction? ​

Spiritual direction is time spent on the sacred ground of your soul with another person who is able to listen deeply, present both to you and to God with you—an anam cara, the Gaelic word for “soul friend.” A spiritual director has been trained to hold space for your story, your emotions, your experience (or lack thereof) with God. In spiritual direction, you may simply find a much-needed listening ear for all things related to your spiritual life. You may discover new ways of being with God in silence or imaginative prayer or creative play. You may explore pieces of your story that have left you feeling “stuck” for so, so long. Your entire self is welcome in spiritual direction, and your body and soul and relationships may come into the process just as much as the things we might usually think of as “spiritual.”

Spiritual direction is not a new thing. It has been practiced for millennia in all the Abrahamic traditions, including Christianity, and is the accompanying of another, witnessing to the spiritual life. It has looked different ways in different eras (we can still read some of the spiritual direction entered into by the men and women of past ages because they committed their questions and responses to paper in a practice of spiritual direction through letter-writing!) and different cultures.

“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.”
David Benner, Sacred Companions, p.106

What to expect

In individual and group settings, director and directee meet in the presence of the One who transforms. According to late spiritual director Elizabeth de Smaele, who practiced 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 the spiritual journey. 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.

There are many metaphors for spiritual direction. Companionship, guidance, hospitality and listening are but at few. Our name, Anam Cara, is 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.

Options for Spiritual Direction

There are many options for both individual and group spiritual direction. You may find yourself in a season that simply needs another person with you in the mess that real-life faith can sometimes be; or it may be more helpful for you to have a group that can witness each other’s joys and pains, and listen both to and with each other and God. Spiritual direction is not therapy, or mentoring, or discipleship, or pastoral counseling—though it shares some similarities with these. In essence, spiritual direction is simply what it appears to be: an intentional time of listening and responding to God in the life of the directee.

You may enter spiritual direction because you’ve hit a crisis point in your faith and things seem to be crashing down around you. Or you may have gone through a process of deconstructing some things and are looking to sort through and see what is still there as you continue to relate to God, but in new ways. You may feel like everything is good; you just have this inexplicable longing to go “further up and further in” and spiritual direction seems to be drawing your attention. If you have more questions about spiritual direction, check out our FAQs below (or contact us!):

Spiritual direction is not a new thing. It has been practiced for millennia in all the Abrahamic traditions, including Christianity, and is the accompanying of another, witnessing to the spiritual life. It has looked different ways in different eras (we can still read some of the spiritual direction entered into by the men and women of past ages because they committed their questions and responses to paper in a practice of spiritual direction through letter-writing!) and different cultures.

When might you seek out a spiritual director?

  • when desiring a companion on the way
  • when heading out on a path of growth
  • when finding oneself in the wilderness
  • when seeking God in the complexity of life
  • when needing wisdom from within and without
  • when making decisions on life direction
  • for discernment in decision making
  • when experiencing a season of deconstruction
  • when desiring new language or experience of God

Some topics spiritual direction explores:

  • exploring the image of God in one’s life
  • exploring, wrestling with or deepening one’s life of prayer
  • practicing the presence of God
  • witnessing to grief or loss
  • increased self-awareness and insight
  • strengthening human relationships
  • honoring hurt from religious experience
  • exploring a deeper intimacy with Jesus
  • anything! (spiritual direction is not limited to those things we consider “spiritual”)

Do you have further questions?​

Looking for a spiritual director? Start Here . . .

Rachel Reed

Spiritual Direction Ostiary

At Anam Cara, we believe that the process of finding the right spiritual director deserves the same amount of care and accompaniment as spiritual direction itself. Seeking a director is a courageous and vulnerable process, and we have someone whose role is to help match you with a few spiritual directors who might be right for you. The term ostiary has its roots in just such a role. An ostiary is another term for a doorkeeper, especially of a church or sacred structure; someone who ushers you in and helps you to find your way into the places and relationships you need.

 

Rachel Reed is both a spiritual director & supervisor with Anam Cara and someone who is adept at listening inside your story, desires, concerns, and hopes with compassion and grace. If you’re looking for a spiritual director, but would like a little more companionship in that journey, contact Rachel at rachel@anamcara.com or use the button to book a free consultation.

Tara Owens

Founder and Executive Director

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. She is also co-director of Together in the Mystery, a ministry of supervision and continuing education for spiritual director supervisors. 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 seven 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 taking new supervisees, but 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).

Jeremy Frye

Director of Sacred Community

Jeremy Frye is a spiritual director, supervisor, retreat leader, and Director of Operations for Anam Cara Ministries. With a profound commitment to guiding individuals along their path towards embracing and expressing their inherent worth, he finds immense fulfillment in walking alongside others on their journey of self-discovery.

His vocational pilgrimage began with serving for 20 years in full-time pastoral ministry in the local church. This rich experience has given him a deep understanding of and empathy for individuals navigating the intersection of personal spirituality and professional contexts—sometimes seamlessly, sometimes amid profound turmoil.

He is deeply acquainted with grief and loss as well as the good but difficult work of the disordering and reordering of one’s faith. Jeremy has completed a certificate in Soul Care from the Soul Care Institute, through Fuller Seminary, a 2-year apprenticeship in spiritual direction through Anam Cara, and a graduate of the Companioning Center’s program for Supervision Training.

Jeremy lives with his wife, two children, one dog, six chickens, and whoever else needs a place to rest their head at An Téarmann (Gaelic for the refuge), their cozy urban homestead in East Nashville, Tennessee. He is taking both local and at-a-distance directees and supervisees.

Meet our Community of Directors
and Apprentices​