This week (for what feels like the first ever time in my life) I was blessed by my tutor with some wonderful comments on an assignment on the different styles of Spiritual Direction. We were given free rein to do our assignment in whatever way we so chose ~ so long as we could demonstrate that we understood the difference between directive/non-directive Spiritual Direction styles and could demonstrate that we were exploring our own unique style. We didn’t have to use words!
We were led on a meditation into 4 different gardens. Each garden represented a different style of Spiritual Direction. In each garden we were encouraged to observe the different textures, structures, weather, the atmosphere, climate, and the feelings evoked within us. We were also to notice what is was that we noticed. And to hold this all in contemplation. This assignment was right up my street! I Love meditation, contemplation and prayer.
Upon returning home my creative side rose to the challenge, I bubbled over in prayer, creativity and motivation ~ JOY. I handed it in before Christmas. On returning back to the new spring term I was given my assignment back ~ Inside the notes said ‘Thank you for sharing your beautiful collection of images depicting your ‘gardens’ ~ I particularly liked your ‘application of the senses’ (the first paragraph) in the description of your own garden. Thank you for entering the assignment with magnanimity and generosity of spirit!’
My next few posts will be my expression (in photographic representation) of my personal experience during the ‘garden’ meditation ~ on the different styles of Spiritual Direction.
Below is the written piece which I used to accompany my 4 garden collages.
The ‘garden’ meditation.
I am unsure at present of what my natural style of Spiritual Direction is. I don’t do boxes very well. I know that my garden was full of beautiful nature ~ a natural setting ~ warm ~ relaxed ~ sunshiny ~ pastel soft colours ~ and little wildness’ ~ It felt very safe and secure and a presence within it of gentle warm all-encompassing love, like the sunshine gently and sublimely warming us on a perfect day ~ slow tranquil and meditative.
My garden was a place of contemplation, and slow strolling, a place like where Mary pondered the things in her heart, and a place of wonder as when Mary sat at our Lords feet listening to His stories, a place where she chose the better part. A place filled with intrinsic peace ~ and it was timeless (there were no time limits) and yet it appeared to be eternally early afternoon. 🙂
There were no hard structures or architectural plants, although gentle graceful trees, which moved softly in the breeze, secluded the perimeters of the garden. The whole garden has a softness, and is a romantic garden like a Monet watercolour ~ feminine and nurturing, and I can smell the grass and the roses and I can taste the floral scent of honeysuckle on my lips.
There are herbs and wisdom sensed in the ancient medicinal plants. There are gentle fronds like feathers almost breathing in the breeze. You can almost imagine a pathway through the longer grass, which leads to a little secluded glade. And there are birds which are peaceful and who have no fear. And there are bunny’s playing in the distance, and shy dear inhabit the borders and the shadows.
I have made 4 collages to represent the different styles of direction through my eyes. I think the style of direction I want to be – may well be different from that of what I naturally fall into. Naturally as a personality I would be motivating, encouraging and inspiring others, have energy and then retreat to my own place in quiet contemplation and often stillness.
My direction style (which I want to be) still has very romantic images ~ that of a wise woman ~ sage ~ somebody very real ~ compassionate ~ thoughtful ~ gentle ~ close to God ~ with gentle but profound words and generous in Spirit with deep words of wisdom. I always see myself an older woman when I become a Spiritual Director, and rarely as the younger me?
I desire to be not directive . . . . but thoughtfully present and directive only by witness in my presence with God. And yet once before when I experienced non directive Spiritual Direction (when I was new to Spiritual Direction at the beginning of my journey 5 years back) I felt very unsure of where it was all going ~ and of what the purpose was, and of what it was that I was paying so much money for. I saw it as a very expensive (for me) vague spiritual cup of coffee.
I am a very open person ~ who finds it easy to share. I am constantly sharing and exploring my God experience with many ~ so when I first embarked upon my journey with a Spiritual Director at that time, it all felt a bit too nothingy ~ because of the directors non-directive style, and it was frustrating, as if I was expecting/wanting Spiritual Instruction/formation and further inspiration, and coming away feeling forever like it wasn’t enough.
I do not want my directee’s to feel this about me ~ that the hour is an expensive chat over a coffee. And yet with hindsight and a little more understanding, those very early sessions looking back for me ~ in a very gentle and free way, allowed me to open up and share the ‘thisness’ of my life ~ even without being directed. A place to lay bare. But still the accompaniment didn’t feel enough somehow.
I guess they were the very beginnings of me wandering along an untrod pathway.
I want my directees to come away having felt closer to God ~ a God who is Love and Spirit. ~ That would be my perfect garden ~ a garden where Love and Spirit emanates.