being human,  embodiment,  reading,  spiritual direction

Mystery & Magic in the Unfolding

I lean in to the mystical. I can’t get enough of it … reading about it, having my own direct experiences (even if they’re brief and sometimes sporadic), living for the ‘big aha’s’ of life. So reading about boundaries and ethics didn’t set my soul on fire but I absolutely see the importance of it. The Virtual Residential Intensive (VRI) also made it come alive, as we talked about how we are physically integrating the principles more deeply into our lives. It might be one of the most important topics we cover related to how we do the work of spiritual direction.

In terms of ethics as a Spiritual Director, SDI does a great job of outlining them. It feels pretty straightforward to me, not unlike the ethics I’m bound to as a yoga teacher. It’s important to understand the power dynamics at play in both a yoga teacher/student role, as well as in the SD/directee relationship. Setting clear boundaries and being direct while also being kind, is important. I also appreciate the requirement of SDs meeting with a Supervisor each month, to keep us in check and ideally, to catch blind spots. 

The SD/client relationship is just that, nothing more. It should be limited to that type of contact primarily, not crossing into friendship and certainly not into anything romantic. This concept seems obvious to me, but I can see why it must be explicitly stated. We humans are an interesting species! I also loved the ‘warning signs’ article and the importance of an SD not choosing or communicating a particular desired path with their client. This is one of the reasons I love the concept of SD so much. 

This statement from Teresa Blythe’s work gave me pause: “Because we do a lot of listening and little personal sharing, we sometimes become a target for other people’s projections of anxious thoughts and feelings.” I never considered that and I think it’s a great awareness to have. Seriously, moment to moment awareness is incredibly important, and if I’m being honest, not the easiest for me to maintain.

Also, “it’s no fun to be on the receiving end of other people’s anxiety.” I never want to transfer my own anxiety onto another person. I am pretty self aware, but that certainly does’t mean it hasn’t or won’t ever happen. Often times we are so close to ourselves and our emotions that we don’t fully recognize our own behavior until after the fact, at least that is my experience. The more present I can be in the moment, the less error. 

In the Virtue Ethics piece, this statement in particular stuck out to me: “the practices of spiritual life are aimed at deepening our relationship with the Divine, raising our sensitivity to the numinous in the universe and especially in others, and cultivating ethical lives of devotion to service and the cause of justice in the world.” It feels elusive; it’s hard to define what we are doing in SD specifically, but I think this statement captures a bit of the essence of who we should be in relation to choosing the work of spiritual direction.

I also appreciated the boundary articles about LGBTQIA+ people and femmes as they were insightful and informative. As a heterosexual female, it was great insight into some of the challenges this population may/does face. We can never assume and we must always be aware of others’ feelings and emotions, as they may or may not be like our own. I think this plays into the concept of the ‘multiple storied selves’ that we learned about in a previous module.

This module was an interesting one for me, mostly because of my own anxiety and wanting to set boundaries around it, to protect myself and others. In our Peer Group this month, Lori presented and I found myself deep in anxiety as we came to the end of the call. I sat with the ‘why?’ of that interaction … Was it the group? The material? The energy of the exchange? I believe my angst was in relation to the conversation she had with her seeker. She did a great job of explaining things as well as handling the situation, asking questions and redirecting. But she also expressed some of the uncomfortable parts for her in it and I was drawn into that. I find myself using Pure Presence practices regularly because of my tendency in this. It’s quite easy for me to ‘lose myself’ in another person if I don’t properly ground into my body. To me this is an energetic boundary that protects both of us, and it’s alway a work in progress for me. I’ve been working on creating safety in group situations with my Somatic Experiencing practitioner and have recently articulated this new knowing so we can work more on energetic boundary setting in upcoming sessions.

In my last paper, maybe a few of them, I’ve written that ‘so much is moving in me.’ I imagine it is that way for all of us. This work is so deep and nuanced and it’s hard to put words to all that I’m feeling. I also feel that I keep going deeper in my own contemplative spiritual path, thanks to all of the reading and resources that were presented during my time in the Living School. Some of this points to the virtue ethics, I think. As SDs, our jobs are to be present and to listen, but it’s also important to continue to nurture our own spirituality which is a lifelong endeavor. 

Finally, it was so nice to come together as a group again for the VRI. My normal internal anxious movements happened prior to coming together and I was able to stay in my body, at least for parts of the intensive. When Kate and I were in our breakout session on Thursday, we talked about mystery … the words ‘the mystery of faith’ are spoken at every Catholic mass. When life moves along and things don’t make sense, that’s also a mystery. And maybe that’s the thing about life, about presence, about serving (I loved the Rachel Naomi Remen article); it’s not about the filter of the brain (at all). It’s about the content of the heart and the presence/being-ness of the individual. The magic that happens in relationship is healing, real, beautiful AND a mystery. We don’t know where things will go in SD; we step in and trust the process.

Analytical by nature, I often want to figure things out. But life isn’t always figure-out-able. It’s not supposed to be! We lose the magic when we try to make it so. This is particularly true with serving, in general, and SD specifically. We serve from our being, from all parts of us, and my truth is that there are some wounded parts that I continually work through. It doesn’t have to define me but it is part of me. These lines really hit home: “When we help, we become aware of our own strength. But when we serve, we don’t serve with our strength; we serve with ourselves, and we draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve; our wounds serve; even our darkness can serve. My pain is the source of my compassion; my woundedness is the key to my empathy.” And that’s the thing about my anxiety. It doesn’t have to be a label I give myself. It’s simply a wound, a limitation, a part of what makes me, me. It is also a deep place within me that drives my compassion for other struggling souls. I am humbled and grateful. There is mystery and magic in the unfolding of life.

SGTI Reflective Expression Module 7

(Photo by Diego Marín on Unsplash)