Ascending the Mountain
Are you a spiritual companion? Or are you discerning your role as a spiritual companion? We invite you to discern on the Hallmarks of a Spiritual Director or Spiritual Companion, listed below. Read over these hallmarks, pray and meditate on them, discuss them with a trusted companion. They are not meant to be a complete set of qualifications, but rather these hallmarks represent various qualities that a spiritual companion resonates with and strives for in their companioning work.
Hallmarks of a Spiritual Director or Spiritual Companion
Deep listening is not a passive act, but rather a profound and supportive engagement with the people we companion.
“A prayerful, meditative, immersive approach. One that acknowledges that in order to access the Beyond, we must use channels beyond our rationality. And that we need to keep going back, over and over, to that wellspring.”
Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, USA
We are intuitives, and quiet guides. We provide reasoned feedback (only when asked!), and we also try to evince balance and equanimity at all times.
We are accountable to ourselves, to the communities we serve, and to our supervisors, who help keep us honest.
We are committed to constantly learning (sometimes the same lessons, again and again, until they finally sink in).
We honor the unique character of each person we encounter, and we try to leave our own predilections and inclinations to the side, even when doing so is difficult, to allow our companions to find their own way through.
We are compassionate to others, but we also know the importance of taking care of ourselves.
At the very least we “do no harm,” but more than that, we endeavor to always comport ourselves in an ethically correct manner. And to admit our mistakes, and apologize, when we invariably make some.
We position ourselves in groundlessness (so as to achieve maximum stability), moving towards the unknown with our companions courageously and fearlessly. We acknowledge that entering the field of the Beyond requires us to shed our preconceptions, to be humble, welcoming, and willing to let go. We also need to be ready to explore the shadows and sufferings that feed our collective spiritual growth.
We understand that our conceptual framings, as valuable as they may be, are in the end no substitute for a direct experience of God or the Universe. So we marry our intellects to our intuitions and encourage those who we walk alongside to find their own balance between the two.
Spiritual insight and revelations are critically important steps along the way, but, with some effort, are accessible to just about anyone. Spiritual maturity (or any kind of maturity really), on the other hand, is not. Consequently, beyond the flashes of realization our colleagues and we encounter, we keep practicing living into our principles, with the hope that some growing measures of wisdom result.
We are “intimacy workers,” committed to getting up close with those we companion, and with the essence of the Universe, even when that can be very challenging. At the same time, we always honour healthy boundaries.
Spiritual direction is a two-way street. And, as with most successful relationships, it is most fruitful when our preassigned roles start to fade away and we start to melt into each other. That is, when the false difference between self and others disappears, and we are swept into God’s embrace together.
We try to recognize where people are at, with understanding and compassion, and meet them there without judgement. That means having enough tools in our arsenal to engage in multiple modalities, as appropriate. And it also signifies recognizing when we have reached our own limits, and being able and willing to refer those who come to us to others as circumstances warrant.
If you are interested in becoming a spiritual director or spiritual companion, we invite you to become a member of SDI and join our community. What better way to “learn the language” of spiritual accompaniment than by surrounding yourself with people who are fluent! We offer many resources to grow and nurture your companionship practice.
We also invite you to check out our first SDI Course, an Introduction to Spiritual Companionship Across Faith Traditions, a deeper intro to the healing modality of spiritual direction and companionship.
Another step would be to train and certify as a spiritual director or companion, via a Formation Training Program. You can search for a Training Program in our Searchable database.
If you would like to receive spiritual direction or spiritual companionship, the next step is straight-forward. Please explore our free Find a Spiritual Director or Companion guide here. You can search for someone using a number of criteria, including geography, faith tradition and areas of expertise. Many of the spiritual directors and spiritual companions listed in our guide offer free introductory sessions so you can see if there is a “fit.” Some also offer a sliding scale for those who have limited financial resources.