This blog is part of a series on Spiritual Direction designed to answer questions about the practice of Spiritual Direction. Click here to see the FAQ full series.
There is an old celtic phrase that is said to have originated in Irish monasticism where it was applied to a monk’s teacher, companion, or spiritual guide. The heart of the phrase has its origins back even further to the early Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers where “This capacity for friendship and ability to read other people’s hearts became the basis of the desert elders’ effectiveness as spiritual guides.” -Edward C. Sellner
The phrase, Anam Cara, Soul Friend.
In his book, “Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom ”, John O’Donohue says, “In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam cara you could share your inner-most self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the “friend of your soul.” The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship.”
When we talk about spiritual direction, we can think of the director as an anam cara, a soul friend, to the directee. This type of soul companionship is unique. A soul friend is one who journey’s with you as you walk the path of faith in this life. They are one of compassion, who cares deeply for you, and to see your relationship with God flourish. They walk with you through the inevitable ups and downs of life and are a mirror which can reflect back to you the experience they witness you having to help you understand it even more. The masks come off, the soul is laid bare, tears flow, laughter is shared, and lived experiences are honoured.
Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?
Soul friendship can come into our lives in a variety of ways. Sometimes, we meet someone who feels like a kindred spirit, where conversations about the spiritual lay the foundation of our time together, where you share openly and feel supported, yet lovingly challenged, by this person in your life. Authenticity drips off of every word and the sense of being seen, known, and loved by the person you are with feels like a cup of tea for your soul. Words are spoken in confidentiality, what’s not said is heard as much as what is, and the pauses between conversation is comfortable.
Spiritual direction offers this kind of spiritual companionship to those who hunger for a safe space of authenticity. As your director directs your awareness and attentiveness to the Divine, their focus is directed to you; to hear you, to listen to what isn’t being said as much as what is, to draw you deeper into knowing of both self and God, and to be a companion who walks with you through all of life’s adventures, no matter what they are. Safety, compassion, and acceptance, are the foundations of every time you meet, trusting the conversation and relationship to God whose loving presence guides the conversation.
While the benefits to Spiritual Direction are many (See What are the benefits of meeting with a Spiritual Director?), the basis of having a spiritual companion in your corner can provide a safe space to land and a cheerleader to celebrate with during your greatest struggles and greatest victories, and everything in between that makes up our daily lives.
If you think spiritual direction might be for you, click here to book a meet + greet and we can chat about spiritual direction, I can answer any questions you have, and we can see if we would make a great fit.