What is Contemplative Spiritual Direction? 

My training and education in Spiritual Direction is grounded in the early Christian Contemplative tradition which began with the Desert Fathers and Mothers a few centuries after Christ walked among us. It is based on two essential foundations:

1. Contemplative Presence

God is alive and active in all of created life as a loving, dynamic presence. This includes moving within every human being. A spiritual director is a person who deeply listens for these movements of God, with the person seeking direction. A director provides a contemplative, compassionate, and deeply engaged presence in which the directee can open to and understand how God is present with them. In this way, the relationship between director and directee is a crucible. A crucible is a container that molten iron or glass is placed in while it is being cooled and formed. The relationship crucible of Spiritual Direction is the container in which the directee places his or her self and experience for forming the directee’s relationship to God.


2. Evocative Approach

The relationship crucible is maintained by a process described traditionally as evocative. An evocative approach has only one goal: lived encounter with God. Beliefs, events or traditions may be important in informing these lived experiences; however, the goal of Spiritual Direction is to help bring about dynamic, enlivened experiences of God. These breathing encounters are the source of the transformation that results from allowing the being of God to manifest in human life.

Here are the further foundations of my own Christian faith that I bring to the Spiritual Direction crucible.


Benedict reminds us as Christians to listen for the guidance from God with the “ear of the heart”. This means patiently and consistently staying open for the movements of God in whatever way they might stir within our psyches or in the circumstances of our lives. These movements might not be huge or earth-shattering. In fact, they are often much more like a “still small voice”. They may be difficult to discern and it’s easy to say, “This isn’t working”, or to feel that God isn’t listening. Stability means staying the course, continuing to listen for and be open to the working of God, on God’s terms, not ours.
This doesn’t mean staying in a toxic relationship or a bad job. It might mean having the courage to move in a different direction, even when that new course isn’t clear or obvious. It may mean continuing to listen for God until one knows which way to go, and that could mean staying put until that happens. At other times, moving first, then understanding later may be the path. Stability means always listening for the presence and action of God regardless of inner or outer circumstances.


We’re created for relationship. Babies die without it. Toddlers’ brains are shaped by the quality of the caregiving provided to them. We have special brain cells whose only function is to help us understand and respond to others. As Paul reminds us in Philippians, God became Jesus in order to live and move among us, for the service of us all. God lived through Jesus not as royalty or grandiose magnificence, but as a human among humans. This is the meaning of humility. I am here for the good of creation, somehow, and creation is here to maximize my created existence. To be is to be in community for the benefit of God’s fulfillment in this world. Humility tell s me that if I want to know myself, I would do well to listen to what others’ responses to me might be telling me about that. On the other hand, if I am to be impactful to anyone else, I need to know who I am. The crucible of Spiritual Direction is one form of community that helps a person know themselves as they walk with God.
Community also means that I need accountability to help me be all I need to be to manifest God as fully as possible. Spiritual Direction is one way in which a person can be reminded and held to their greater purpose amid the forces that sway our course.

Conversatio Morum:

This is the Latin phrase which means that the spiritual journey is one of ongoing transformation through dialogue with our Loving Creator. “Conversatio” translates to dialogue or interaction. God doesn’t just do things to us or for us. God lovingly interacts with us in ways that transform us, deepening our relationship to God as we become more truly who we are. The compassionate listening presence of the Spiritual Director is the crucible in which this ongoing transformation can take place.

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