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Guest Author: 
Ashley Davis Bush, LICSW

(Editor's note: Ashley Davis Bush does a beautiful job in this post describing the delights of a silent retreat in the Catholic tradition. It's worth noting that retreats are integral to Hindu, Sufi and Buddhist traditions as well - with meditation and yoga sometimes being themes in modern day silent retreats. Regardless of tradition or focus, retreants who stay silent over a period of days say it deepens awareness and refreshes the spirit.) 

I recently told an acquaintance that I was headed for a silent retreat weekend.  “I go to this monastery in Cambridge several times a year,” I beamed. She looked at me with a blank stare and asked increduously, ‘Why?’  The implication was that it must be dreadfully boring, even a waste of time.  

Why do I go?  Upon reflection, I would say that I go as an act of self-care -- to carve out space for personal contemplation, to be amidst a monastic community, to nurture my spirit, to rest; and to spend quality time with God.

Guest Author: 
Hans Hallundbaek, MDiv, DMin

 

Prison metes out segregation, isolation and punishment for ill deeds. Out of public sight, prison often becomes a place of brutality, mistreatment and unimagined human suffering for those incarcerated.

However, given the proper guidance, prison also has the potential to become a place of transformation and healing. An incarcerated person can also develop as a highly spiritual individual.

Once awakened to the inherent spiritual impulse, a person in longtime incarceration, with a little creativity and help from the outside, has the time and opportunity to turn his or her prison time into a “monastic” experience.

Guest Author: 
Rev. Dr. Peter Bentley

Australia is primarily a very dry and barren country on the surface. Much of the continent’s landscape is covered with semi-arid vegetation that comes and goes with the various seasons. However, hidden deep under 23 percent of the continent is what is known as the Great Artesian Basin, which is the largest and deepest artesian basin in the world, according to Wikipedia. This basin provides fresh water to many of the dry inland areas of Australia spanning four states and territories. The basin lies in some places more than a kilometre below the surface.

Guest Author: 
Alex Moore

For the better part of my life, I was a tried and true skeptic. I inherited my astute atheism on my father’s side of the family and my difficult childhood turned me into a full-blown cynical nihilist. For me, the world was a bland and robotic exchange of pleasantries. By the time I turned 18, I saw human interaction as an endless string of small talk that I had to put up with until the day I died.

Dealing with My Mental Illness

Simply put, I was lost. Oddly enough, my revelation came to me at a very strange and unexpected time in my life. I was 25 years old and dealing with the acute stage of schizophrenia. I didn’t even realize there was something this deeply wrong with me up to this point. Mental illness is funny like that.

It was a day like any other, not particularly memorable but not too glum either. I was at home watching the news, when all of a sudden, the world felt off. I can’t begin to explain that dreaded feeling, but if you went through it, you will know exactly what I mean.

And then the hallucinations started, and I experienced my first major psychotic break.

Guest Author: 
Janice L. Lundy, DMin

 

"To find one’s center—to become centered in the Infinite --
is the first great essential of every satisfactory life.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The world is not an easy place in which to live. There seems to be danger and trouble everywhere. The human mind is not an easy place to live either! Even when things seem good in our ordinary lives, the activity of our mind can easily slide us into fear, worry or anxiety.

Guest Author: 
Karen Lee Erlichman, D.Min, LCSW

The Unbroken

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken
a shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of which darkness we are sanctioned into being.
 
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open
to the place inside
which is unbreakable
and whole,
while learning to sing.

 ~Rashani

 

The journey toward wholeness invites us into a compassionate relationship with our own brokenness. Being in community creates a sacred space in which we can tenderly hold this paradox together. Poet, artist and activist Rashani writes in the above poem, we “break open to the place inside which is unbreakable and whole.”

Years ago, in my first experience with a Circle of Trust ®, I found a community in which my soul felt safe enough to reveal (to myself and others) the textures and terrains of my own brokenness. Over the years of participating in, and later facilitating, Circles of Trust ® and other retreats, this breaking through of true soul/self has yielded a profound experience of healing into wholeness.

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: 
Jance L Lundy, DMin

 

"And we are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love."
~William Blake

 

 "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Did you know that the "Golden Rule" is found in many of the world's wisdom traditions? And because it is, we are invited to regard it not just as religious dogma, but deep and lasting perennial wisdom. Here are some of  the various ways it is expressed:

Guest Author: 
Jeanette Banashak, Phd, EdD

No matter how, where, when, or by whom we were raised, scholars agree that there are 5 emotions that we all have in common: enjoyment, sadness, disgust, fear, and anger. As a spiritual guide, I am constantly looking and listening for clues that help me understand what a seeker is feeling. At the same time, I am listening for clues in myself that let me know what I am feeling.

This self-listening and self-awareness grows as I learn which emotions and conscious feelings I am experiencing in any given moment.

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