As I begin my eighth year as Executive Director of SDI, I wanted to take occasion to reflect on how the Public Square of Spiritual Direction and Companionship has evolved. When I first wrote about this idea years ago, I had envisaged an environment where people from across an array of spiritual traditions and orientations manifested fully, without compromising or sacrificing their unique identities, while still managing to commingle harmoniously with folks with differing beliefs and inclinations.
But despite the harmonic aspirations, there was bound to be a degree of “messiness” in the square—how can it be avoided? That messiness was both predictable and predicted, as differences need to be aired, resolved, and integrated into new forms of invitation, acceptance, and integration. We might also add that not only is messiness unavoidable, but we shouldn’t want to avoid it! It is, after all, the rich soil upon which learning and understanding grow. The same can be said of our shadows, which are not just our “dark side,” but rather the “nurturing” darkness, the fertilizer that allows us to flower. We can’t have one thing without the other, whether the reconcilable categories are characterized as growth versus toil, breakdowns leading to breakthroughs, suffering leading to wisdom, or other similar paradigms.
In our community of spiritual directors and companions, of late, that messiness has become more palpable in several of our offerings, including our conference a few months ago. Without going into all of the particularities, it is accurate to characterize all of these as tensions felt by individuals, and groups, around the following: “What about us? Are we acknowledged? Are we wanted? Are we respected, and our opinions valued?”
My answer to all is a resounding “Yes! We see you, we acknowledge you, we honour and respect you. And SDI benefits greatly from you being here.” So, whatever your religious tradition, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or so many others; or your unique orientation as a spiritual independent; your gender identity; or the racial, ethnic, or national group you belong to, among so many other categories, we all belong at SDI.
All we ask is for mutual respect and understanding. And while tensions can and do arise, we use them as building blocks as we work through them together with other directors and companions, as well as collectively. We can simultaneously honour our differences, and yet still hold space for our community as a whole, after all.
Our growing pains are true signs of progress, as we deal with issues that have gone on far too long unaddressed, such as the very rapid pace of change in our world, the growing alienation, loneliness, and division that have characterized recent times, and our own woundedness and brokenness. And while that may not sound (or feel!) great at times, it is good to remember that the cracks within us actually reveal the path to Eternity, as they are the true portal to God and
May we all continue our journey towards healing and wisdom together, inviting as many as we can to join us along the way.
— Humberto Ramirez
Rev. SeiFu Anil Singh-Molares
is the Executive Director of SDI and an ordained Zen Buddhist priest, as well as a practicing spiritual director/companion and motivational speaker. He is a veteran of numerous interfaith and interspiritual efforts over the years, including Seeds of Compassion in Seattle in 2008, where he was one of the chairs, and as founder and executive director of the Compassionate Action Network. He has a Master’s in Theological Studies from Harvard University.
is a multimedia, interdisciplinary artist and curator. His practice has emerged from a desire to bring together the spiritual aspirations of contemporary abstraction, together with the physical experience of the natural world. Recent projects include solo exhibitions at the Drury Art Gallery of Marlboro College, Landmark College and the William Feick Arts Center at Green Mountain College; MASS MoCA & The Museum of Modern Art, NYC.