By Diane Glass
Spiritual directors use the power of words and images to help others develop self-awareness, a relationship with what they consider sacred, and meaning and purpose in life. Rather than “direct,” spiritual directors listen, reflect, question, and affirm, calling upon the Holy to be present in the conversation.
I describe it as deep-sea diving with words. In listening to people describe their life experience, I note words that shimmer with possibility and hint to greater depth. They serve as portals to the interior life of the person.
Let me give you examples.
*A “directee” used the word “pioneer” in one of our sessions.
“Hmmm,” I said. “What does ‘pioneer’ mean to you?”
And as the conversation continued, “How are you a pioneer?”
And, “What does this say about how you experience the sacred in your life?”
*Another directee came seeking to restore a relationship with her mother, who objected to her daughter’s lack of belief in God. Turned off by what she experienced as an abusive childhood in a fundamentalist church, the directee said she takes refuge in her garden. Our conversation took off from there.
“Describe what you mean by garden,” I said.
“What is a refuge like for you?” I asked.
“How does it soothe you?” I continued.
“How does your love of the soil connect you with others?”
“How is gardening a sacred experience?”
Her mother is an avid gardener. Equipped with some new words to use, the daughter approached her mother to talk about the gifts of the soil and the virtues of caring for it. They bonded over the earth as a sacred trust given to them and all of us.
*A third directee reported she did not like the word “God.” The God of her childhood was a judgmental, stern and punitive father. She could not imagine praying to
such an entity.
So the deep-sea diving began.
“What comes up for you when you hear the word ‘God’”?
“What words do you use to describe something that is loving, comforting and safe?”
“What experiences have you had that made you feel that way and that connected you with others?”
“What words do you use to identify what is sacred to you?”
We read poetry and Scripture that offers alternative imagery for God. Women may be attracted to God as a nurturing feminine entity, but the possibilities are unlimited. My own search for God led to envisioning the Sacred as a dance partner. Together, we create and improvise steps to a joyful and meaningful life.
So what are the jewels, the gems of the sea, we seek in using words as portals to a deeper reality?
We seek the true self apart from cultural and family expectations of who we are and how we should act.
We seek assurance that a divine spark exists within each of us, placed there by a caring creative force.
We seek deep self-understanding of our values and guiding principles, important in making life choices.
We seek a sense of belonging, that we are part of something bigger and precious.
We seek the confidence that we have what we need to be happy.
Spiritual direction is a transformational language tool for emerging from the depths of reflection and discernment with a sense of purpose and direction.
Editor’s note: This is Diane’s third blog in fulfillment of her Transformational Language Certificate.
Diane Glass serves as a spiritual director, helping individuals find meaning and purpose in their lives by deep listening and companionship. She teaches at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center on the role of the body in revealing our significant life stories. In October 2015, she published a memoir, This Need to Dance: A Life of Rhythm and Resilience (Amazon).