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 full FAQ series.
Entering into a new experience can be stressful. Whether you’re excited, nervous, or a mixture of both, having a baseline of what to expect can be helpful to find a sense of calm as you arrive.
I remember entering into the first session of spiritual direction with my director and not really knowing what to expect. After our initial little ‘meet and greet’ to chat about what spiritual direction is and isn’t, I knew I wanted to embark on adding this practice to my faith. As a trained life coach (see Spiritual Direction, Therapy/Counselling, and Life Coaching), I knew about the power of active listening and of powerful, open-ended questions, but I hadn’t experienced these two in partnership with a guide whose sole intent is of deepening and exploring my faith and relationship with God.
I was excited. I was nervous.
The session unfolded and now, after meeting with my director for 3 years, I’ve become familiar with the rhythms she brings to our time together. Even when we paused our regular monthly meetings to accommodate my immersion in the 18th annotation, where I met with a director weekly to walk through ‘the exercises’ with me, the first session newness fell into a pattern of familiarity and comfort.
While all directors bring their own unique flavour to a session, there are similarities we all bring to offer; spaciousness, contemplative and evocative questions, prayer, and deep listening.
You may read that blurb above and still, so many questions swirl. Do we chat? Is there prayer? How does it all unfold? So, let’s dive into what a session is like…
A note, I am sharing my own experience offering spiritual direction and all directors are a little different. Please be sure to ask any director you’re considering working with what a session is like.
The flow of a session:
- Settle In + Centering Practice
- When we meet, after the ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’ portions of warm greeting, we begin our session with a grounding practice to help us settle in and be fully present to our time together. First, you’ll close our eyes (if that’s comfortable for you) and take a moment to acknowledge the loving presence of God here with us. I encourage you to do this in a way that feels authentic to you. This could mean an intentional inhale and exhale, a moment of silent prayer, or even allowing a smile at the thought of God being present with you. Next, we take 3 to 4 deep inhales and exhales. Deep, intentional breaths are known to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, aka, our rest and digest mode, helping to calm us. Then, we do a check-in. We check in to see how our mind is feeling, how our body is feeling, and how our heart is feeling. We do this as a means of discovering a baseline for our arrival so that, as we move through our session, you’re more aware of thoughts, feelings, and body sensations and can bring them forward throughout our time together as things you are noticing, allowing them to be cues to follow.
- Next, I take time to pray for us as we enter into the practice of spiritual direction. I often thank God for you, the directee, for the time we have together, and ask God to help us be good listeners to what the Divine is saying.
- Contemplative Practice
- The final piece is a contemplative prayer practice. This could be a simple reading from scripture, Lectio Divina, breath prayer, or imaginative contemplation. Engaging in a practice allows you to already begin intentionally connecting with God and self, listening for the Spirit, and noticing your own experience.
- Spiritual Direction Conversation
- As the contemplative practice comes to a close, you, the directee, are given space to share anything you’d like. Perhaps you’ll share about your experience during our beginning practices, or maybe you’ll share about something you made note of during the most recent month to connect about. The floor is yours and you’ll share what feels most significant to you in context to your current experience and awareness of God.
The role of the director is to compassionately listen to you and notice where the Spirit may be prompting them to direct the conversation. We often call this paying attention to the ‘shimmer’ of the Holy Spirit. The director will ask questions that will offer extended space of intentional reflection and prayerful connection to God, questions that may aid in discernment if necessary, and questions that will facilitate attunement to God. These questions are both evocative (asking you to share more about what it is you’re sharing about) and contemplative (where might God be in your experience) in nature.
You will take time to notice what is happening internally, where you may be sensing the Spirit, and will enjoy taking your time to respond. There’s no need to answer anything right away. A session of spiritual direction is marked by a slow, spacious rhythm. We take time to think, to pray, to experience. Your director is there to fully support your experience. The director isn’t there to answer questions or offer advice, but to offer questions, reflect your experience back to you, notice the details, and listen well as they assist you in noticing the presence of God in your life. The title director could be used to think of helping the directee ‘direct’ their attention to God.
- The session ends with the director praying for the directee. Often, this time of prayer incorporates things the directee has mentioned throughout the session; from areas of affirmation and growth to areas of trial and struggle.
Altogether, the session takes a total of 60-minutes from start to finish and is completely confidential. After we close in prayer, we will often pencil in our next session time so we can stay on top of our monthly rhythm.
Perhaps you are beginning to see how a session of spiritual direction differs from conversations with friends about your spiritual life. While conversations with friends are often marked with shared stories of experiences, spiritual direction is wholly focused on the directee and their experience of God. There is no interjecting of thought, feeling, or idea by the director. This allows you to be fully heard, seen, and known and be fully immersed in your own experience of the Divine.
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.