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What is a Spiritual Director?

"What to expect in Spiritual Direction*


Many people want to grow in a spiritual life… so what is Spiritual Direction, how do you go about it and what is it supposed to do?


Spiritual direction is an I-Thou encounter where the ultimate goal is spiritual growth. Persons of all spiritual traditions are in search of the Divine and how their experience of the Divine operates in their life.


What is a spiritual director?


Like you, I am a spiritual seeker, I have not arrived; I am still very much on the way. I seek a livelier sense of God (or the Divine) in my life, a closer relationship, a more perfect alignment with the Divine’s purpose in my life. I am not perfect; however, I try to discern the Divine’s message and purpose and support others to do the same. Some have called me wise, but I am very human, fallible but seeking more.


My role as a spiritual director is to be a companion, a more experienced traveler, walking with you on a journey of self-discovery and growth. I offer guidance and support, mentoring if you will on this lifelong journey, through all the ups and downs. Journeying alone can leave us vulnerable to getting trapped in our own minds, going round and round in circles, missing the core of the matter and remaining lost. You will find me a careful listener, doing more talking than me; this is all about you, not me. Just as I listen for the voice of the Divine in my own life, I will be listening for it in yours. We will be companions and co-listeners.


I will not tell you what to do, I do not know what you ought to do in important matters. Your endowments, circumstances, choices, and destiny are uniquely yours. The real spiritual director is God or the Divine in your life, whatever that means to you. The One who is and has always been quietly prompting you. I play an auxiliary role, supportive not leading. It is not my role to push you into any particular way of being spiritual and if it feels like I am – please let me know.


Getting started…


The process of spiritual direction unfolds gradually over time. It is s series of conversations, each usually an hour or so, perhaps once a month. To enjoy its benefits, you have to give it time. I need to get to know you and your world. You need to know me too, so you can gradually develop trust and open up more. All of this can only develop organically.


So how do we begin? I will lead the way. Let me ask you some questions. Tell me what brings you in. Tell me what you are hoping for from our relationship. Tell me something about your present life, and whatever history you feel is relevant including your spiritual journey to date.


You will notice that I mostly listen, sometimes I ask for clarification or elaboration, inviting you to unfold. It might be a while before I have very much useful feedback for you; but you are probably observing that you are becoming clearer in your own mind just by having to put your experience into words for another person. This will always be an important benefit of our sessions, even when I say little back to you. I hope you are also feeling, as we talk, my acceptance of you, my respect for you, my interest and support.


In this first session there will be an opportunity for you to ask me some questions, to get to know me a little. At the end of the first session, you will know me a little about me, and I about you, ready to proceed in our journey together.


The ongoing process…


So how do we proceed from month to month?


There is no part of your life that is irrelevant to our work together; your whole life is your spiritual life. God or the Divine is in every part of it, the enjoyable parts and those you struggle with, your dreams and your worries, guiding, gifting, delighting, challenging you, presenting you with opportunities to mature, deepen and grow. You and God are co-creating your life, wherever the action is in your life is where God is most involved with you. That is where you are making the choices that determine what and who you are becoming as a person. So that is our focus. In every situation my question will be where is God in this, or what are you being called to do or be? There will be your own complex relationship with God and how to work on this and with this in your own life.


Throughout all of this there will also be our developing relationship, we are both responsible for this relationship. If you are unhappy about something or are not feeling understood, please let me know – I can take it! We are both learning and growing. If the relationship is not meeting your needs, let us finish it and find someone else to move on to.


Growth in the spiritual life…


It is growth in the spiritual life you are seeking, but what does this mean?


An authentically spiritual person is seeking a set of traits – truthfulness, hopefulness, acceptance of self and others, compassion, non-violence, generosity, humility, forgiveness, simplicity of life, service to others and prayerfulness (whatever that means to you).


So how do we know if you are making spiritual progress? Are you becoming more hopeful or serene? Simpler in your lifestyle? More generous towards others? More accepting of each person as is, readier to forgive? Are you growing more grounded in the gracious Mystery from whom and for whom you live? Are you less anxious, less controlling, more trusting?


This is the spiritual life. This is the practice of holy living. How profoundly challenging and rewarding it is. It is a love affair with the Divine, a venture of open-ended growth, the project of a lifetime!"





*Adapted from “What to expect in Spiritual Direction” by Thomas Hart. 90% of the words are Thomas Hart’s, I have summarised it as a guide for those who might be interested. The full article is available at or from “Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction” Volume 13, no 1. March 2007


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