Spiritual Direction

What Is Spiritual Direction?

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.

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

 

  • being exposed to and learning new prayer practices,
  • understanding the vital nature of the spiritual disciplines,
  • experiencing silence in the context of spiritual growth,
  • exploring the false self and moving toward the true self designed by God,
  • interior reflection and healing prompted by the movement of the Spirit.

 

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.

When might you seek out a spiritual director?
  • when heading out on a path of growth
  • when seeking God in the complexity of life
  • when needing objective wisdom
  • when making decisions on life direction
  • when desiring accountability
  • for discernment in decision making

Some topics spiritual direction explores:

  • the image of God and one’s identity in Christ
  • deepening one’s life of prayer
  • practicing the presence of God
  • maturing in Christlikeness
  • increased self-awareness and insight
  • strengthening human relationships

Do you have further questions?

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is spiritual direction?

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.

2. Will a spiritual director tell me what to do?

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.

3. Are you associated with a church?

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.

4. What typically happens in a spiritual direction session?

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.

5. Are all spiritual directors the same?

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.

6. How does spiritual direction differ from discipleship?

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.

7. How does spiritual direction differ from counseling?

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.

8. How often would I meet with my director?

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.

9. How do I get started?

The first step is to contact Tara Owens, by email or by phone (719-233-5568), to discuss your desire to enter the spiritual direction relationship.

 

After reading the Preparing for Spiritual Direction page, you can download the Anam Cara SD Consent Form and return it as an email attachment.

10. How much does it cost?

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.

11. Where is Anam Cara located?

Anam Cara Ministries is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The ministry, however, is both national and international.

12. Do you only meet locally with directees?

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).

13. Is spiritual direction all that Anam Cara and Tara do?

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.

14. Shouldn’t spiritual direction be unnecessary if the church is being the Church?

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.

15. What are others saying about Spiritual Direction?

What Is Spiritual Direction? from Metamorpha.com

16. Who can I talk to if I have more questions?

Please feel free to contact Tara by email or phone (719-233-5568) if you have any questions.

Anam Cara Ministries Spiritual Directors

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 more than 14 years. 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 from Tyndale Seminary. 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. Tara also teaches rabbinic Scripture study groups and trains others in the process of wrestling with God and the Word in community in the Anam Cara Apprenticeship. She believes we are all a mix of doubt and faith, brokenness and restoration, laughter and grief. 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).

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Rachel Reed

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Jamie Bonilla

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Craig Hamlow

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Niecy LoCricchio

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Suzie Richard

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Current Anam Cara Apprentices

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.

Ashley Cleveland

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Chad Conant

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Sandy Davis

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Kaylene Derksen

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Will Forsythe

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Jeremy Frye

Jeremy Frye

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Justin McRoberts

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Becki Parr

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Lindsey Rowe

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Heather Swanson

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Graduates of the Anam Cara Apprenticeship

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:

  • Nancy Good
  • Craig Hamlow
  • Josi Larson
  • Niecy LoCricchio
  • Rachel Reed
  • Suzie Richard
  • Angie Tingle