God works with, not in spite of, the ways in which we have been created: Reflections on a Developing Direction event by Charles Hippsley

Posted on January 4th, 2021

On a Friday in early November, some thirty of us gathered for a Director Development Day. Entitled “I think therefore I am”, this day was the brainchild of Maria Manuela Silva, who leads the third year of LCSD’s Encounter course. We hear quite a lot about the heart in spiritual direction, but Maria was keen to explore some of the rich contributions that thinkers can offer, and how spiritual direction can help this sort of person in particular.

This was not the physical gathering at St Edmund’s that we had planned a year ago. We gathered in cyberspace - some might say appropriately for a day on thinking! And yet once Maria had opened the day with a welcome and some introductions, and with an opening reflection, it really didn’t seem to matter. We were soon in the flow.

Our pattern for direction days is to run one main session in the morning and another in the afternoon with plenty of space in between for personal reflection, breaks, and discussion groups to really embed the material. I led the first session, “What am I thinking”, and we were soon exploring together how different people process life: some lead with the head, some with a heart, and some with their gut. Then we focused on people who lead with their head, and reflected on what the early and later stages of the spiritual journey look like for these people.

A deeper dive into different types of thinkers followed, each with specific behaviours. And we ended the session with some reflections on the ways in which these tendencies are shown in spiritual direction, and some of the things that we as directors might look out for in order to offer sensitive support.

After lunch, Maria led us in a fascinating discovery of “What lies beneath” - the emotions that can drive our thinking and behaviour (the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ of anger, shame and fear) using the Genesis creation story as a biblical foundation. She helped us to grasp some of the brain’s defence mechanisms, including the traps and fixations we can fall into. And ended with an encouragement from the story of Moses and the burning bush that God works with, not in spite of, the ways in which we have been created. Again, we then explored some implications for spiritual direction.

We were joined at the end of the day by Alianore Smith so that, between Maria, Alianore and myself we could represent the spectrum of people who think first and ask questions later! Observing-Investigators, Loyal-Guardians, and Enthusiastic Multi-taskers. And we finished the day with some reflections on the prayer practices that help each of us, and a good Q&A session to allow everyone to ask what was on their minds.

I learnt loads listening to Maria and Nell, and joining in the breakout discussion groups and Q&A session. So do take a look at the Director Development programme going forwards and join us for one that piques your interest.

Charles Hippsley

Encounter Year 2 Tutor

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