Posted on June 17th, 2020 in News
In the newsletter from May, Julian Maddock spoke about the challenges of the current time that can make it difficult for us to stay present to what is. He described some of the ways we can use to avoid doing this hard, inner work. Even harder of course, when what we are invited to stay present with, is bringing us in touch with our lack of control and the painful emotions that can cause. What helps to return to a contemplative stance, to stay with “what is, as it is”? For me, there can be a letting go of my defences, when I deliberately stop, see what happens when I do so, and honestly give name to what is going on inside of me. Sometimes though I find that in order to get to this place, it needs the compassionate presence of another person, where I feel safe enough to express everything as it is right now. I realise that it is the experience of someone “holding the space for me” which becomes the catalyst to bring to light what I might be too scared or ashamed of, or what is too painful to express on my own. I believe Spiritual Direction at its core is precisely this “holding of the space” that can give someone the courage to name their innermost struggles, fears and shame.
Reaching out to a loving and present companion on our journey is an antidote to the sense of isolation we are finding ourselves in, which Ignatius describes as a “going against” in desolation. In making ourselves intentionally and voluntarily vulnerable where we feel safe enough to do so, lies a great promise and the opportunity to experience that we are not alone, although we might feel we are.
As a Spiritual Director, I hope to hold the space for my directees in such a way that they can tangibly experience unconditional love and thus are enabled to share honestly whatever they want to bring. I want to help my directees give name and expression to their experience, help them discover how they understand and relate to God right now, and to identify what at this point in time is life-giving for them and what is not. My call is to be as fully present to their experience as I can, and to hold their story and journey in prayer both during and outside the session. This of course implies that I am present to myself as much as I can, too – and this is where we come full circle: I, as much as my directees, need to know what it feels like to make myself intentionally vulnerable with my own Spiritual Director. It is the experiential knowing of myself, my gifts and my pitfalls, and my own neediness that paradoxically enables me to become free of myself in the listening to the other. I know that often the last thing I do is letting God know what is really going on, despite all my religious activity and prayer. It sometimes takes the gentle question of my Spiritual Director, whether I have spoken to God about this yet, to finally say what I was too afraid to voice. Once it is in the open, I can work with it, and as I experience that at least one other person still loves me, it becomes a bit easier to trust that God does, too!