When I was a freshman at university, I felt deep-down that learning itself was a calling. But my ego refused to accept this and pushed me to use learning as a lever to achieve other objectives that were easier to equate with recognition and money. It has taken me this long – I’m now 62 – to discover my intuition as a young man was right. Learning is enough. It is abundance. And the most profound learning we can do is within. This kind of learning is itself a spiritual practice. It is also a metaphor for how to live our lives fully.
I am the Director of Content & Communities for SDI, Spiritual Directors International. We are an educational nonprofit serving 6,000-plus spiritual directors and spiritual companions in 42 countries around the world as well as all the people they companion. Spiritual companionship is present in all religious traditions. It also serves those people who honor multiple traditions or none. Spiritual directors hold space for others with deep listening, respect for the agency of the other, contemplative practice (prayer, meditation, nature, there are many ways to connect to the infinite) and open-ended questions that help others find their own life-giving questions. The goal is to support others as they find their own path to wholeness. As they learn.
I believe the key to such life learning is contemplative practice within a companionship model. Some folks think of the lone monk isolating for long periods when they think of prayer or meditation. This ironically fits our modern American tendency for do-it-yourself solutions. And contemplation of any kind is good. But it misses the community piece – which brings the wisdom and love of contemplative practice into our connections with other humans and all other beings.
I believe that the approach and skills of deep listening can transform all relationships. What if each person we meet offered us a chance to give and receive hospitality? In real-time. In every moment. What if we could all listen each other into self-discovery? What would that mean for families, neighborhoods, communities, nations?
This is an aspiration, of course. But it is also a “concrete” tool for ordinary folks who feel isolated and depleted – not just by the pandemic – but by their day-to-day existence. How might they bring joy, rapture, insight, fulfillment, meaning into their lives?
Finding a daily practice that fits their faith – or their spiritual fluidity or their spiritual independence – is key. But equally important is finding someone that can walk beside them – someone who can accept them as they are and also gently challenge them to listen to their deepest truths.
In the rush of life that envelops most people these days, spiritual directors and spiritual companions are door-openers to the deepest wisdom of all – that which people hold in their hearts already, that which they can discover for themselves.
Blessings to all those who read these words.
May you grant yourselves permission to make learning your calling.
And may you all find a companion to listen with you as you find your way.
Love to you all,
Some Background if you would like to learn more:
Here is the SDI website: https://www.sdicompanions.org/
Here is our Seek and Find Guide. It’s a way anyone can find a spiritual companion that might fit their interests – and it’s free : https://www.sdicompanions.org/find-a-spiritual-director-companion/
Here is the web page for our upcoming conference: https://www.sdicompanions.org/sdi-events/conferences/conference-2021/
And here is a poem of invitation for you and all those you serve:
Can you hear it?
There in your heart.
It heralds a fresh start –
a greening, a blossoming, an awakening.
Can you feel it brush gently past your skin –
like the first warm breeze of spring after the privations of winter?
It’s the invigorating whisper of hope–
an invitation to begin exploring again
after a season of suffering, darkness and seclusion.
Open your heart:
Imagine the transforming connection you feel when you connect with God or the Universe,
When you hold space for another human being’s self-discovery,
When you no longer feel separate from love.
The alignment. The knowing. The oneness.
That’s your destiny.