Contemplative Spiritual Disciplines: Spiritual Direction

P.S. Krøyer – Summer evening on Skagen’s Beach

Pictures of Spiritual Direction: Gregory’s Pastoral Care

Spiritual direction is a contemplative spiritual discipline that calls us into an intentional life transforming journey with at least one other person who loves God and who seeks to listen to God’s Holy Spirit at work within our life. Spiritual direction can be taught and learned, a spiritual discipline that is developed intentionally through guidance and accountability. Spiritual direction most often occurs in the ordinary settings of our lives, with people we already know and trust.

I love P.S. Krøyer’s painting of Anna Ancher and Marie Krøyer walking together along the south beach in Skagen, Denmark on a summer evening. This painting is from 1893, by one of Denmark’s most loved impressionist paintings, depicting Kroyer’s wife Marie, walking together with a close friend, Anna, along the beach in the evening.

In 2015, a book I wrote, Soul Mentoring: Discover the Ancient Art of Caring For Others was published by Cascade Books, this painting is featured on the cover. This book is based upon St. Gregory’s classic book, Pastoral Care, written in 591AD, during the first year he became Pope.

Consider the following images of Spiritual Direction, all images found in Part One of Gregory’s Pastoral Care. Which of these pictures speak most clearly to your desire for being spiritually cared for by another person? Which of these best describe something of the way you have cared for others? Which of these attracts you and makes you desire to learn more about this ancient approach to spiritual direction?

  • Artist in an Art Studio where we learn “the art of arts:” If spiritual direction is the ‘art of arts’, as Gregory writes, consider apprenticing your life to a master “artist” of the soul, someone able to guide you with vision and creativity along your journey into mentoring.
  • Medical Clinic where we together seek Christ to heal and make us healthy: If spiritual direction is a healing practice where we get healthy, who is currently helping you become healthier in your inner life?
  • Master—Apprentice: Jesus is our Master, we are apprentices. If spiritual direction is like a Master–Apprentice relationship, what wise, older “master” has been in your life to lead you closer to Jesus our Master, and has helped train you, guide you in the way of prayer and spiritual growth?
  • Seeing person leading blind person: If spiritual direction is like being led by a seeing person when we are blind, who has assisted you in ways where you couldn’t see God or God’s ways very clearly?
  • Shepherd leading sheep to watering source: If spiritual direction is like a shepherd who leads us to a good watering source, who is currently leading you to drink pure mountain water to deepen your meditation with a good life?
  • School of adversity with adversity our teacher, we the students: If spiritual direction is like going to school, who has helped instruct you in the way of faith, helped enroll you in the school of adversity and walked alongside you with compassion, willingly suffering with you when you were suffering?
  • Trail guide walking together along a pilgrimage including along a cliff edge: If spiritual direction is like walking or hiking in the mountains, including on the edge of a precipice, who has helped you keep your balance, find your way along the path to God, and focused your attention on the compass of the heart?
  • Candle or headlamp in a dark place: If spiritual direction is like light in the darkness, who has shone God’s light from a lamp of their wisdom and faith, so that you were able to walk in the light and not stumble in the dark?
  • Gardener tending plants in good earth: If spiritual direction is like being a garden of the soul, who has been a good gardener in your soul, helping you to cultivate humility, like good soil, able to bring forth the health of new life and growth in the soul of another?
  • Mary Poppins with a cheery disposition yet disciplined life: If spiritual direction is like Mary Poppins, who in your life has been mature with a well-balanced life offering you both grace and truth, encouragement and exhortation, praise and correction?
  • Guiding a ship in a storm at sea: If spiritual direction is like sailing, who has taken the time to become a seasoned spiritual director by being with you in the ‘ship of the heart’, in the midst of storms, as you’ve faced ‘many dangers, toils and snares’?