Spiritual direction is having a hiking buddy to walk with you and God on life's journey.
Spiritual direction is two people listening together to the Holy Spirit. It is a unique relationship where one person accompanies another person on their spiritual journey toward ever greater attunement, openness and responsiveness to God's presence and love.
“In spiritual direction we help people notice the signposts on their spiritual journeys, and make choices at a crossroads. We sit with them, tending the campfire when they are stuck; we celebrate when 'arrivals' of some sort offer a chance of rest and refreshment, and encourage them when God interrupts their complacency and invites them out on the road again.”
~ Sue Pickering, Spiritual Direction
People often seek out spiritual direction because yearn for a deeper, more connected life with God. Perhaps they have begun to question the meaning of their life, or want to develop a more responsive relationship with God. Spiritual direction can help a person find that meaning and connection. It can also help a person develop a set of spiritual practices that are in tune with the current realities of life, personality, and temperament.
What spiritual direction is not.
Spiritual direction is not a program or a process. Rather, in spiritual direction you spend time with God, and a spiritual director supports and encourages you. A spiritual director is not an authority or a coach. He or she does not "direct" by telling you what to do, rather he or she directs your attention to God.
In their book The Practice of Spiritual Direction, Barry and Connolly express it well:
Spiritual Direction is a helping relationship, but the help offered is more like that of a companion on a journey than of an expert who, before the journey begins, advises what roads to take and answers the travelers questions. The companion tries to help the traveler read the maps, avoid dead ends, and watch out for potholes.
Spiritual direction is not discipleship. If discipleship is a systematic process of becoming more Christ-like, then spiritual direction is more foundational. In spiritual direction you learn to know your own character–and God's–more fully. This experiential knowledge of self and God is vital. As we reveal more of our true selves to God and experience his acceptance and grace, we trust him more and more. Trust is the prerequisite for discipleship–I will not follow someone I do not trust.
Spiritual direction is not therapy. Therapy is an important and healing relationship where an expert helps you explore your thoughts, emotions, past influences, and other challenges so that you can transform and heal. Your relationship with God is not usually the focus of therapy, though it plays a vital role. In spiritual direction, however, you relationship with God is always the central thing.
If your life is a tree where all your parts are represented by branches and leaves. A therapist examines and seeks to help heal a withered leaf or a broken branch. A spiritual director compassionately watches and listens for the wind–the Holy Spirit–as he blows through your branches and helps you notice and attend to him.
The God question.
As you share your spiritual journey with your director, he or she will inevitably ask "the God question." This question can take many different forms, but it is this question that makes spiritual direction unique. Eventually your spiritual director will ask something like: "Where is God in this for you?" or "To what is God inviting you?"
This question directs your awareness towards God. It asks you to notice and attend to his presence, his word, and his leading. It also asks you to respond to him with trust, hope, and love. In this way, a spiritual director facilitates a more intimate and more real relationship with God.