The third thing I’ve been thinking a lot about when it comes to endings and new beginnings is related to the stuff I shared about my work in the last blog; my course in spiritual direction (SD).
For the past two years I have been going to a one-week intensive training session every 6 months on a journey towards becoming a certified Spiritual Director. Then in between those sessions I was reading books (17 of them to be exact), writing papers, maintaining online contact with my mentor who lives in Cleveland, and providing one-hour direction sessions to folks who were willing to be ‘guinea pigs’ towards helping me get experience in this thing.
What is ‘spiritual direction’ you might ask. Well, without going into a long explanation, I’ll simply post a picture of my postcard here which is a simplistic view of it. If you google SD, there’s tons more on it.
Before ever taking this training step, I went through a pretty rigid discerning process to see if this might be a good fit for me. I had taken many retreats before this at Henri Nouwen’s house, known by many across the world as one of the gurus in this thing, and had a spiritual director there who was one of his best friends.
But here’s where you might think I’m losing it; It all started with a dream. I don’t remember dreams well, including this one, but I woke up the next morning feeling as though it’d be worth checking out becoming a SD myself. Up until that point in time, I never once had this thought. I then shared the idea with my good friend who happens to be a psychotherapist, expecting it to be shot down, and he told me he thinks it would be a perfect next step for me. That word from him gave the idea some legs. Then I got 3 random emails from very different places, all within just a few weeks of each other, telling me that they had dreamed about me the night before and wanted me to know about it.
By then I’m getting excited and a little freaked out about it all. Up until then I did believe that God speaks to me in my sleep through dreams, but I hadn’t experienced God speaking to me through other people’s dreams. That was kinda cool but a tad bizarre for me if I’m being honest, but I felt strongly that this was something to take seriously.
The next step of discernment was to randomly and out of the blue ask people who knew me if they thought this might be a good fit for me. Without exception every single person said it seemed like it’d be a really good fit for me.
That sealed the deal.
So the next step was to explore where I could go for this training. I did a lot of homework and narrowed it down to 2 options.
I chose The Haden Institute (hadeninstitute.com) for several reasons;
1. They are Catholic and all of my training to that point was at Protestant schools, so I felt I wanted a different perspective on things.
2. Catholics have been doing SD for about 1000 years or so longer than we Protestants so I figured they might know a thing or two about this thing.
3. It was clear to me that dreams were a centerpiece in me coming to this conclusion, so I wanted training that had a focus on that topic. Haden is very big on dreams and dreamwork.
4. The workload seemed manageable for me at my health level.
5. The training would be at Mt. Carmel monastery in Niagara Falls which was close enough to drive to and a beautiful space to be.
6. When I spoke to the guy on the phone who is now the director (and also now a friend), it was clear that they cared at least as much about the condition of my heart/soul as they did about how smart I may be.
That, once again, sealed the deal. The Haden Institute it was to be.
To make a 2-year story short, I loved my time there. I learned so much. I also, when I tallied it all up, provided about 50 hours of SD during that time to folks who were willing to come and share their spiritual journeys with me and be part of my training.
But most importantly to me was that I made some wonderful friends there. So now that the course is over, that’s an ending in my life that makes me sad. Even though many of us are connected in cyberspace which is nice, with everyone spread out over Canada and the US the chances of us crossing paths again in this life are slim.
That saddens me.
But the new beginning coming from this, especially now that my formal workdays have come to an end, is that I love providing Spiritual Direction/Companionship to folks who choose to come my way. I feel affirmed in it. I feel as though I’m in sync with The Spirit’s leading.
It brings me life.
It brings me joy.
It feeds my soul.
It gives me purpose.
And for that, I am grateful.
I was given a plaque from the Haden institute when I graduated. On it was a labyrinth which I’ve grown to love (there’s even one in front of this hospital which I use all the time), and words that I absolutely love and spoke to my heart ‘all the way down’. I will take these words with me for the rest of my life. It is a slogan that sums up my entire 2 years there. So I will end with it;