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Spiritual Directors International

The Home of Spiritual Companionship

office's blog

Guest Author: 
Jennifer Olin-Hitt

It’s not uncommon for Americans in our 21st century to find their way to a mental health clinic. In the U.S. today, according to the DSM-5, 46% of adults are likely to develop a diagnosable mental disorder.  There are a variety of reasons for the statistics: economic stressors, environmental challenges, inadequate social resources, and often, simply a greater awareness of and the reporting of diagnoses.  For the millions of people affected by mental health disorders – depression, anxiety, personality disorders, etc. – mental health professionals provide relief and hope. Psychiatrists, counselors, marriage and family therapists are important resources, contributing greatly to the well-being of society.

Not all intrapersonal suffering can be summed up in a diagnosis, however.  The human condition is filled with moments and seasons of struggle that are not categorized neatly in a mental health textbook. Loss can lead to deep grief.  Ethical dilemmas in the workplace can open up great turmoil of conscience. We become angry at our loved ones. We can act in ways that we regret. Mid-life can bring questions of meaning. Children challenge our values. Some of us wake up in the night with questions of existence: what is my purpose? Is there life beyond this life?  For questions and moments such as these, the struggling person may turn to a spiritual director. What follows is a brief overview of spiritual direction as well as some ways that spiritual direction intersects with mental health therapy.

Guest Author: 
Valerie Brown, JD, MA, PCC

 

 
Editor's note:  SDI's next spiritual journey unfolds in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico in May. As Valerie will be leading the retreat, I asked her to briefly try to capture the essence (and the opportunity) this remarkable area presents. Karen Lee Erlichman, DMin, LCSW, will co-lead the retreat with Valerie.

Sacred, spiritual, deeply inspirational places have voices. They say:  ‘Pause, notice,  breathe.’ They pull us out of mundane preoccupations and into timelessness, awe, and wonder.  Sometimes they are stripped down, elemental landscapes, where we feel an immediate connection with the land and with Spirit.  From time immemorial, people have journeyed to these places to pray, to be, to be transformed from the inside out.

I came to Ghost Ranch, 21,000 acres of wilderness in northern New Mexico, in the United States, in the summer of 1978.  I tooled around Albuquerque on the back of my boyfriend’s motorcycle, exploring Santa Fe, Taos, and surroundings and came upon the red rocks and the painted desert of Ghost Ranch made famous by the iconic American painter, Georgia O’Keeffe.   The ranch touched a spark, something inexpressible within me.  I remember feeling an internal shift and stripping away of everything except the land, an intimacy with nature—down to bare essentials.

Guest Author: 
Jennifer Olin-Hitt

It’s not uncommon for Americans in our 21st century to find their way to a mental health clinic. In the U.S. today, according to the DSM-5, 46% of adults are likely to develop a diagnosable mental disorder.  There are a variety of reasons for the statistics: economic stressors, environmental challenges, inadequate social resources, and often, simply a greater awareness of and the reporting of diagnoses.  For the millions of people affected by mental health disorders – depression, anxiety, personality disorders, etc. – mental health professionals provide relief and hope. Psychiatrists, counselors, marriage and family therapists are important resources, contributing greatly to the well-being of society.

Guest Author: 
Lauren Carlson

Several dying trees in the cemetery that faces my house were cut down and removed this past fall. Before the process was complete, I had ample time to show my three children how a stump can tell the story of a tree, that each ring is a year of the tree’s life, that wider rings mean wetter and productive years, while thin ones indicate drought and scarcity.

Guest Author: 
Carissa Kane

While oftentimes society can see “legacy” in terms of what meets the eye, and what can be measured, legacy is much deeper than that. William Shakespeare wrote, "No legacy is so rich as honesty," in his play All's Well That Ends Well (Act 3, Scene 5). Catherine of Siena wrote, "For people become like what they love," in a portion of a letter (Letter T29) to Regina della Scala, a noblewoman. When fiction gives way to truth, and one scratches beyond the surface reaching the heart of the matter, therein lies what will be left behind and passed along, whether individually or collectively. What stands the test of time, whether for good or bad, is legacy.

Guest Author: 
Jim Leach

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  
                 —Albert Einstein                                         

My dog, Ziggy, loves to power sniff through town. Random tufts of grass, low-hanging bushes, and granite curbs grab his smelling fancy. When we go to the local dog park, he doesn’t play with other dogs. Instead he indulges himself with an intense investigation of all the local aromas. If he finds something particularly pungent, he will roll around in it with much delight. He puts his whole being into the experience.

In a way, he was the inspiration for my new spiritual practice. I call it “awe walking.”

Guest Author: 
Barb McRae

Thirty-five years ago, American writer and social activist, Anne Herbert wrote the instantly popular phrase "practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" on a place mat in Sausolito, California, USA. Ten years later, her book, Random Acts of Kindness, was published and a movement begun. Kindness became the leading virtue of the day for many. Bumper stickers proclaimed the revival and quietly, neighbors, colleagues, friends, and strangers sought ways to do a mitzvah, a good deed, for a fellow creature.

Guest Author: 
Jean Wise

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul—
and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.”

Emily Dickinson

I spotted the first robin a few weeks ago.

The return of the seasonal birds in my area announces the coming of spring. A welcomed sight after a cold, snowy winter.

The next day I saw a deer, an opossum, and a raccoon. The animals were waking and starting to move—another muffled whisper of spring.

Yet the weather remained dreary, the winds chilly, and gray clouds hid the sun. Winter persisted. The frozen ground imprisoned spring flowers. I began to wonder if the animals were wrong.

Guest Author: 
Mary Lou Logsdon

I have many sacred places I go to refresh my spirit. Some are simple and serene, others spacious and grand. My favorite will soon be renewed—my garden. While this muddy, messy piece of earth hardly looks like a sacred site in early March, it slowly reveals itself as an urban sanctuary. I clear tangled stems and sodden leaves from autumn’s late blooms only to find tender shoots of this season’s new beginnings.

Guest Author: 
Scott McRae

“Cindy” felt buried and in the dark when she first came for spiritual direction. She had been divorced two years earlier. Her daughters were estranged and siding with their dad. She had a manufacturing job she hated. And, her friends had stopped calling; “I wouldn’t want to be my friend either,” she quipped.

She walked into my office for the first time with eyes and shoulders that slouched. “I’ve been in therapy for a year, and feel worse than ever. My sister told me to come, but I don’t know why I’m here.”

Hopelessness loomed around Cindy like a dense fog.

She recounted her losses and failures in a monotone. Her prayers and her God had dried up years before.

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