Desire in Spiritual Direction

Posted on May 5th, 2017

Julie Dunstan (Director of Formation & Professional Development) writes about our May Developing Direction workshop ‘Desire and Spiritual Direction’. It was led by facilitator Susanne Carlsson who celebrates the ‘return at last to the joy of finding God in our deepest desire.’

DESIRE. From Latin DE / SIDERARE: meaning: down from / the stars.

Desire in Spiritual Direction is what May’s Developing Direction session was about. It was led by Susanne Carlsson, Spirituality Advisor to the Rochester Diocese, and it was attended by 30 spiritual directors from greater London and beyond. It was a day both inspiring and informative.

With a legacy in the Christian church of hair-shirts and self-denial, the recovery of desire in the spiritual life is hugely significant. Susanne reminded us of the central importance of listening to what we long for and finding meaning and direction in that. But in an age when we are in danger of swinging to the other extreme, i.e., all desires must be validated and fulfilled, she helped us to think about how we discern the different levels of desire. She described three levels, which might be summed up as appetite, aspirations and longing. Deep longing, she said, is that level that takes us beyond ourselves and gives us a sense of who we really are. That desire, if you will, that comes ‘down from the stars’.

Phillip Sheldrake wrote, in his very good book, Befriending our Desires, that discernment is the sifting through all our desires in order that our life may be shaped by the best of them. The ‘best of them’, Susanne suggested, were the ones that carried with them a sense of home-coming.

And so, may the Spirit ever guide us, by the light of that star, to our true home in God.

Julie Dunstan, Director for Formation and Professional Development

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