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Posted August 31, 2005

Book: Spiritual Direction: Beyond the Beginnings
Author: Janet K. Ruffing, R.S.M.
Paulist Press, NY, pp.183

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

The following reflections focus on advanced themes, issues, and dynamics that occur in directees’ spiritual lives and in the process of spiritual direction itself, and that require continuous and careful attention on the part of spiritual directors. There has been, in the past, a noticeable lack of written material on the subject of mature spiritual development and the experience and issues of directees who have remained in spiritual direction for more than five years after a spiritual awakening. Spiritual Direction: Beyond the Beginnings addresses this lacuna in the literature and represents some of my most significant learning as a spiritual director and supervisor.

. . . I offer spiritual directors an opportunity to reflect on their experience both as directors and as directees and raise a variety of concerns in each chapter “beyond the beginnings.”

An Excerpt from the Book:

A spiritual director made this observation in one supervisory session: “Spiritual direction is like panning for gold. A directee comes and together we dip into the stream of their life and pull up all kinds of things. Rocks of all sizes --- I can never guess what’s coming next – all kinds of conflicts and problems, then all of a sudden some fleck or nugget of pure gold emerges into view in the bottom of the pan as we swirl the water around, emptying out the rocks.” This is a powerful and captivating metaphor for the process of spiritual direction. Together, the director and directee look at everything – whatever is in the water and in the pan – during their session. The director receives the directee’s life and everything in that life, helping the directee contemplate the gold among all the conflicts and blocks and stuck places. A skillful, graced director gives that gold reverence, time, interest, and attention until the directee realizes how much more valuable and significant are the flecks of gold – the experiences of grace and the Spirit – than are all the stuck or problematic areas of his or her life.

In spiritual direction, we hear incident after incident of grace, of discovery, of struggle. As directors, we persist in gently asking, “Where is God in all of this?” Our directees may become tired of this question, but directors cannot cease looking for the answer in the directee’s experience. Proficient directors, relaxed in the spiritual director role, learn to ask this question more with the quality of alert attention than with words, just like the director who saw himself panning for gold. Directors may well glimpse, even before directees, the flecks of gold in today’s swishing-through of the streams of their lives and so help their directees to discover those riches, too. These flecks of gold are the directees’ experience of the Spirit.

Table of Contents:

1. Praying for what we want: sorting out our desires

2. Endlessly inventive evasion: resistance in spiritual direction

3. “Panning for Gold”: Attending to theological themes in spiritual direction

4. Searching for the Beloved: Love mysticism in spiritual direction

5. Mutuality with God: “Where Beloved and loved one shall wholly flow through each other

6. The “as if” relationship: Transference and countertransference in spiritual direction