What is spiritual Direction?

I am a psychologist and professor of psychotherapy who has chosen to practice spiritual direction & work in pastoral ministry. As I see it, the main difference between psychotherapy and spiritual direction is that the psychotherapy has a psychological challenge as the focus and spiritual direction has spirituality and human wholeness as the focus.  I have heard of psychotherapies that are spiritually focused and spiritual directors that are focused on challenges.  These are not mutually exclusive. That said, in spiritual direction I encourage a contemplative focus on God, integration and wholeness of the person, and a healthy and balanced cultivation of selflessness.

An alternative name for spiritual direction is 'spiritual companionship'.   Companionship better describes the quality of the relationship I encourage. I have had an interesting and winding journey, but I am not an expert qualified to direct someone.  I am more like a companion along the journey offering assistance when needed.  This emphasizes the walking together on the journey in which our daily lives –with all their details, struggles and celebrations– are encouraged and shared. 

My wish to help

I know that life can be very challenging from time to time. Sometimes, we need companions and guides on our journey. After many years teaching and practicing psychology, I decided that I wanted to help people navigate their lives with a stronger focus on spirituality and religion.

  • If you want a companion listening as you navigate some of your life challenges –who will join you in spiritually focusing yourself through the process– I would like to help you.

  • If you want to deepen your spiritual life through prayer, meditation or contemplation– I would like to help you.

  • If you would like to explore your life of faith in order to better understand your role in it or your service to it– I would like to help you.

  • If you are discerning a vocation as a priest, deacon or other minister of God – I would like to help you.

  • If you are questioning or doubting your faith and would like help studying or understanding it more fully– I would like to help you.

  • Finally, if you are a spiritual seeker and want someone to follow along with you and help you in this journey– I would like to help you.

I have great love for many different religious traditions and devotions. My education in religious studies can help in navigating the many different spiritual options and help you find a meaningful and focused path that suits you.  I am dedicated to the belief that all religious traditions have been right and wrong in understanding the mystery and truth of our universe and existence. I am dedicated to the value and truth found in science. I am dedicated to practices that focus our spiritual growth toward the absolute truth and toward our fullest humanity.

My influences

Of course, my primary influence comes from a deep calling from the Absolute to love God and to be of service to God’s people. Some other important influences in my spiritual life are:

  • Franciscan Spirituality

  • Carmelite Mysticism

  • Teilhard de Chardin

  • Reverend Juan Reed has been a great source of growth and spiritual love for me.  From the first day I met him, he saw a quality of spiritual depth in me that no one else had so explicitly acknowledged.  He continues to encourage me to be whole and integrated in my spiritual life, to trust in God's involvement in my life and to believe that I am loved by God. 

  • Swami Tripurari –known by many as the Thomas Merton of the East– has been a teacher for almost two decades. From him I learned about mysticism: experiencing God directly and forming a tangible relationship with Him.  I also learned the power of deep love of God which has the power to bend God's equanimity to a preferential intimacy. Most of all, I learned the rigor of spiritual life and a life of contemplative prayer. His unearned affection for me will forever bolster my spirituality.

  • Finally, I received so much from my psychoanalyst and friend Dawn Shifreen-Pomerantz. Her penetrating gaze, unconditional affection and deep insight into my suffering changed my life permanently.  It is impossible to summarize the impact she had on me. She made gratitude and loving possible for me. Can there be a greater gift? 

Social Justice

I want those seekers often impacted by religious abuse, inequity and injustice to feel affirmed and welcome to express themselves fully with me. This includes, but is not limited to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, women and direct and indirect victims of abuse.

A bit about me

I am so grateful that you decided to get to know me better.  My life has taken me along a complex and winding road and I am always curious about where I am headed.

At the age of 15, I became acutely interested in the Holy Mystery I call God.  I discovered the devotional practices of bhakti (theistic Hinduism). From that tradition and practice, I gained immeasurable theological insight and developed a rigorous life of prayer and contemplation. My experience with Christianity has been centered in The Episcopal Church with its powerful value of the Eucharistic liturgy and the risk-taking social justice mission of the Jesus Movement.

As a result of my love for, experience with and belief in multiple faith traditions, I am a committed interfaith believer, interreligious practitioner and ecumenical worker. I believe strongly in the Holy Mystery of this universe, the ground of being we call God, has been approached by all traditions and each tradition has a privileged insight into this irreducible mystery.

My practice of Buddhist Insight Meditation has been profoundly influential and growth promoting. It has helped me understand myself more fully, notice my own limitations and led me toward my greater potential. Although I have retained a theistic perspective, I find that this practice is indispensable. In fact, in many theistic traditions a formal self-assessment process is required in mystical experience of God. I find this to be very true and Buddhism has refined self-assessment.

With the help of these many traditions, I have deepened my engagement with God. Across my years of spiritual practice, I have become increasingly wary when my own faith becomes overly doctrinal and overly tribal (e.g. Christian, Buddhist, Hindu). It tends to lead me to a narrower view and experience of reality and pressure me toward a judgmental conclusion (e.g. true vs. not true faith/religion). I certainly hold particular beliefs and practices, but I am cautious that I do not box Ultimate Reality into my narrow mind and cultural program. Now in my 40's and in the latter half of my life, I am still dedicated to a life of prayer, contemplation and service to the world and humanity. I practice a form of self-assessment informed by Buddhism to deepen my knowledge of myself and to increase my humanity. I also practice a Centering prayer on the Holy Mystery we call God.

To hear more details about my journey, please visit my blog.

Memberships

  • Community of Francis and Clare: Candidate

  • International Thomas Merton Society – Chicago Chapter

  • Spiritual Directors International

  • Henri Nouwen Society