Ruah

My own journey over  these many years has led me to the profession of spiritual direction. It has been a path, common to many of us,with twists and turns and revelations and dead-ends – and over and over the surprise of discovering another aspect, one more face, of the Divine.

Like many children, I was gifted with ‘mystical’ experiences that nurtured and grounded me. When I left the Catholic Church of my childhood at 12 – distressed and discouraged by the attitudes towards women and people of other faiths – I stepped away from Christianity and Jesus-but not the God I met in beauty, nature, mystery and silence.

Through high school and college, my connection with the numinous was through the arts – particularly poetry. Then in the 70’s I became involved in the women’s movement, and the spiritual revolution bringing forth the wisdom of the Eastern and Indigenous traditions. I studied archetypal psychology and dreams, Buddhism and the Upanishads, tarot and astrology, shamanism and energy healing. I joined a women’s coven, and trained in altered- states work. This was a time of tremendous healing and growth…and at the center always lived my longing for union with Spirit. I was a happy and devoted ‘spiritual but not religious’ spiritual eclectic.

Then...

Then something began to happen that shocked and frightened me. Jesus began to show up – in my transpersonal hypnotherapy sessions, shamanic journeys, medicine wheel (always in the north-the position of Teacher–dressed in white buckskin, his hand resting on the head of Buffalo). I fought with him. I told him to go away-he said “No”.  I asked him why he was following me, and he said ‘Wherever you go…there I am’.

A good friend, who knew how upset I was, suggested I seek spiritual direction-which I had never heard of. She reassured me that,despite the name, it was not ‘directive’ (I had had enough of 'spiritual teachers' in the New Age), and that the spiritual director would sit with me while I sorted out what was becoming increasingly painful. She also reassured me that the woman she was referring me to was "Catholic, and catholic; rooted in a tradition, and also able to perceive and love and honor how God reveals God's-self in other paths."

It helped me to remember that every path has a shadow- has to grapple with ignorance, ego, and missing the mark. I had experienced that in my own study and explorations- there is no 'perfect' religion or spiritual community because all are embodied in imperfect humans.
It helped to read the Christian mystics and social justice activists, and to meet some amazing folks who live this path with integrity, humility, grit and compassionate wisdom. And practicing centering prayer each day helps me focus more on my own false self and distorted desires, judgements, confusion. I was also delighted to meet Thomas Keating, the 92 year old Trappist monk and co-founder of the centering prayer movement–here’s a Catholic whose simple, joyful, wise child energy reminds me of the Dalai Lama, and embodies the Gospel teaching to 'become like a little child'.

A while ago, after speaking with a colleague who had been very involved with the Vatican ll renewal of the church, I found myself asking why I couldn’t have waited just a couple of more years/why I left before that season of life-giving Spirit,and I heard an inner voice saying, “I needed you to go. You left for Me.”

Now when I listen to my directees I know the truth of this. Because of my own spiritual journey, I know and continue to be moved by the many ways in which God shows up in people’s lives. Although I now work primarily with Christians of various denominations who are seeking to go deeper, become more contemplative and attuned to Mystery, I know and respect many of the paths in which Spirit is found. I know and respect the language of other faith traditions, and I value the spiritual eclectic path as a viable and true path to the Holy. I work with a number of eclectics, and am so glad that they can find me supportive and respectful. This is a path many are called to right now.

If I had not left, and traveled so far into these other places, would I recognize these many faces of the Sacred? I don’t know. But what I do know-is that I hope and pray I can be for my directees what my first director was so graciously and tenderly for me– ‘Catholic…and catholic.'

And of course the journey–for all of us–continues.

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