This is a basic understanding of spiritual direction. Each person makes it their own experience, bringing whatever they need to to the conversation. Depending on the stage of life, people look for different things: in the younger years, you could be looking for career and gift discernment, in the middle years, questions of the deeper meaning of life can come up, and in later years you could be evaluating a life lived, reflecting back on patterns, relationships and experiences.
I enjoy working with people in all stages of life, since each has its gifts to celebrate. I like to encourage people to move beyond traditional images of the Divine and explore images that give life and health and joy. I practice out of the Celtic Spirituality tradition of "Anam Charaid" which means "Soul Friend". I have studied theology and have taken various trainings in prayer ministry. I have worked in church and para-church organizations as well as in the "secular" workforce. I have an interest in many varieties of prayer and spiritual disciplines. I have a particular love of labyrinths. I practice in the Christian tradition, and I am open to explore with you outside of the box.
The Spiritual Directors International Guidelines for Ethical Conduct outlines the covenant between the Director and Directee to include a mutual understanding of:
a) the nature of spiritual direction
b) the roles of the director and the directee
c) the length and frequency if direction sessions
d) the compensation, if any, to be given to the director or institution
e) the process for evaluation and terminating the relationship.
a) Carolyn Gratton writes that Spiritual Directors “… are aware of how distortions can occur in a person’s unique, possibly one-sided dialogue with divine revelation, particularly in regard to his or her image of the ultimate source of that revelation. They perceive conversion, the shifting of one’s personal fulcrum from sinful self-preservation to a renewed fidelity to one’s deepest self, as always experienced for Christians as dying and rising with Christ in the fullness of God’s love.” (Catholic Dictionary of Spirituality, Spiritual Direction by Carolyn Gratton, p. 916.)
I hold to a basic belief that spirituality is inherent in all people. The practice of spiritual direction is to draw this spirituality out of the directee, “awakening the heart to participation in the Mystery’s self-communication” (Gratton, p. 912) through establishing and maintaining an atmosphere of active listening, sacred trust, occasional skillful questioning and always a posture that acknowledges the ever-present Holy Spirit of Divine Love.
The relationship explores the directee’s lived experiences, acknowledging the interrelatedness of body, mind and spirit; not seeking to divide or compartmentalize, but to integrate these aspects of the whole person, in order to facilitate a “re-membering,” that is, re-connecting all the parts of the person as created through Divine Love.
Confidentiality in the spiritual direction relationship is an important factor in establishing a healthy experience. The obvious exceptions to this principle would be if the safety of a minor or vulnerable person were at risk.
b) Spiritual Direction is not about giving the directee the right answers, but focusing on discovering and celebrating the directee’s genuine experiences of the Divine. This is not a critical relationship, but one of affirmation. It is a relationship built on the exploration of a personal spirituality rooted in the directee’s experience and traditions, which takes into account her images of the Divine and the work of the Divine in her own life.
The role of the director is one of facilitator. This is not a counseling or psychotherapy session, nor is it an equal exchange where each one listens to the other, but a time set apart where the time belongs to the directee. This is also not a time for the director to preach. Occasionally, there may be a need on the directee’s part for confession. This can become a part of the activities of a session, but by no means is it always the focus.
The directee agrees to focus on aspects of her relationship with the Divine and how that is worked out in everyday life. This does not preclude talking about emotions, physical well-being, personal relationships, including family and other aspects of life, however, the focus is on how it relates to her own spirituality and ultimately her relationship with the Divine.
c) Sessions often occur for one hour about once each month, though there are times and seasons where a more frequent schedule is practical. If a directee is working through some intense issues, it may make sense to meet more often, such as once a week. Sessions can often be intense, so the limitation of an hour is usually best, unless agreed upon by both director and directee. There may be times when a significant moment occurs and it makes sense to both that the session be concluded before the hour is over. This is also perfectly normal and respectful of the mystery of the process.
d) It is important that fees be discussed between directee and director. Some directors have a fixed fee schedule, whereas others have a sliding scale, based on income and other realities. A directee should expect to compensate her director unless otherwise arranged, since it is a professional service.
e) The spiritual direction relationship is somewhat akin to dating in that a good fit is necessary for the relationship to move forward on fruitful grounds. Personality, personal philosophy and “vibe” are all important factors in directees deciding to move forward in the spiritual direction relationship. There must be easy termination procedures, especially near the beginning of the relationship. It is also important for each to be aware of other factors in considering continuing or terminating the relationship. It could be that the directee is interested in exploring spiritual direction for a season or for a particular goal. When that season is over or that goal achieved, it may make sense to terminate the relationship. However, it may also be that once the relationship is established, it continues to bear fruit in other areas. Some spiritual direction relationships continue for decades, becoming life-long sources of nourishment, refreshment and healing.
Preparation for Spiritual Direction
Two sets of questions for self-reflection
a. Review the broad stokes of what you've experienced and learned; what stands out to you?
b. How would you describe your relationship with God at the moment?
c. How open and responsive to God have you been lately, and what has affected this?
d. What things has the Divine been speaking into your life and what has your response been like?
e. What real life issues would you like to bring into a process of discernment or guidance?
1. If I were to use colours, images, one or two
words, or music, I would express life lately as the following:
2. The following events, experiences, relationships, etc. have communicated to me a sense of God's presence:
3. My thoughts and feelings about #2 above are:
4. I would describe my manner of prayer lately as:
5. The following has helped me to stay attentive to the Spirit:
6. I have experienced difficulty in staying attentive to the Spirit in the following area(s):
7. I sense God inviting me to growth or to deeper
surrender in the following areas. I am attending to this by:
"My spiritual direction sessions with Laura Funk were significant.
She is a guide who encouraged self-discovery without being intrusive.
Her quiet careful listening skills inspired gradual but constant introspection.
As the name Butterfly Journeys suggests one goes from cocoon to butterfly."
"My experience with Laura has been life altering. Her wisdom and knowledge of spirituality and scripture has enabled me to see and connect with my creator in a new and different way. Laura has seen me through the joys and the sorrows of my lives journey and enabled me to relight by Shekinah, the internal flame within that connects me to the never ending and limitless love of Jesus Christ."
"Your ministry is such a profound gift to me. God's loving welcome is reflected so clearly through you, and I so deeply value and appreciate the way you hold onto hope for me when I may not be able to see it myself, the way you have gently taught me to honour my emotions and expreiences, the way you welcome me most lovingly even when I feel most vulnerable and unlovely. I see Jesus in you so often, and it's beautiful and I thank God for you."
I have been doing spiritual direction with Laura for nearly two years now. In our sessions I have encountered God and have learned to recognize and feel how God has been at work in me and around me. Especially when I have experienced challenges,when it is more difficult to see outside my own narrow perspective, sessions with Laura help to draw me back into the calm spaciousness of God. There, I am reminded of God's love for me and am renewed and strengthened.
Spiritual Direction has been a touchstone for me. A place to be reminded of God’s generosity and abundant love. A place where I am reminded each month of who I am in Christ and what is important in this life. A necessary and welcome pause. A place to take the masks off. A place to lose one’s self and then find one’s true core, over and over again – at times emptied out, at times filled to over-flowing. A place of restoration.
A place to scrape at the earth and kick at the darkness. A place to be.
As Laura lights the candle at the beginning of each session, the path to my favourite spiritual spot is lit – a rocky ledge overlooking a creek teeming with life. The creek opens into a lake surrounded by boreal forest. My soul sinks into the green-grey moss, all is well...
“All shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well.”
- Julian of Norwich
It is a tension that I live with every single day – that we all must live with – this being well... The truth is that I have often not been well over the past 4 years. The last two especially have been the loneliest years of my life. So much so, it is like my spirit is gasping for air at times. Hope has become a spiritual practice. It is these tensions that we explore together - how to hold them, how to live with them and how to live further and further into the Great Mystery.
And from time to time, Laura has lovingly held my faith for me when I struggled to find a way through. After all, this faith that God calls us to is a bit of outrageous cheek, as C. S. Lewis so aptly puts it!
She is a true pilgrim and spiritual friend, offering gentle accountability and a safe place to go out from as I step across her front porch back into the wilds of life each month. And I carry the sticky-notes she writes as reminders of things we discussed - these spiritual inukshuks that point the way.
Much love and light for the Long Walk.
I met Laura Funk in a “care-group” to do a bible study many years ago. At that time, we were an ecumenical group of people at varying stages of spiritual development. Laura always respectfully shared her ideas and opinions and offered enriching insights to the conversations. When she was not able to attend, her presence was greatly missed.
More recently, I have been working with Laura Funk as a spiritual director for a couple of years. This experience has enriched me immensely. My practice with prayer and time with God has become a more rich, personal and life-giving experience as a result of working with Laura. My spiritual experience is actually difficult to put it into words. But it has been very powerful.
Laura makes a person feel comfortable and accepted, yet her guidance simultaneously enables one to grow. That is a skilled teacher in my opinion. She takes people where they are at and helps them move from there with compassion and encouragement.
Furthermore, Laura offers a wide variety of resources when they are needed. If she does not have them to lend out, she finds an alternate way for a person to access the information.
Laura Funk is a warm and inviting person who demonstrates joy in doing what she does. Her passion for the life long journey of growing and learning alongside others doing the same is evident from the first time meeting her. From my personal experience,
I would highly recommend her for a formal position in ministry.
I have been seeing Laura for spiritual direction on a monthly basis for the past year and a half. Over this same period of time, I have also had the opportunity to experience Laura’s ministry as a spiritual director in a retreat setting, providing retreat leadership and group spiritual direction. I deeply appreciate Laura’s ministry as a spiritual director and want to wholeheartedly affirm her giftedness for ministry.
Laura is an attentive and gracious listener whom I have come to trust as a safe person with whom I can share even the most personal or difficult aspects of my spiritual life. Laura consistently receives what I share without judgment, asking questions for clarification and reflecting what I say in such a way that I often am enabled to hear my own story afresh. Laura is often the first person with whom I am able to speak aloud my wonderings about what God might be inviting me to, and I have come to appreciate the safe space which she offers that allows me to do so.
I believe that it is in large part thanks to Laura’s ministry as a spiritual director that I have grown in intimacy with God over the past year. In part, that is thanks to Laura’s invitations to engage in prayer and reflection concerning significant moments that come up in our conversations. I recall in particular Laura’s invitation to pray about a particularly painful moment in which I felt that God was asking me to walk away from something that had come to be particularly important to me. Laura encouraged me to invite God’s Spirit into that experience. I was hesitant, because the pain that I carried about that particular loss felt deeply personal, and to allow even God to enter into that pain felt extremely vulnerable. However, because I trust Laura and the safety that she has created in our spiritual direction sessions, I was able to allow God to enter into that moment of pain as I remembered it with Laura. It was in that experience of prayer that I came to know at a deep level that God is gentler with my pain and vulnerability than I had expected, and I experienced relief and healing in allowing God to revisit that inner place of pain with me.
That experience shaped my understanding of the character of God and has allowed me subsequently to risk being more vulnerable with God, having experienced with Laura’s help that God can be trusted in similar situations. Praying with Laura has been an opportunity to experience God’s presence and to come to know God in a personal way that has had a profound impact on me.
Laura has invited me through conversation and prayer to a spirituality that is more holistic—more deeply rooted not only in my intellect, but that also incorporates the wisdom of body and of emotion. I have learned to be more attentive to beauty, to incorporate practices such as walking the labyrinth, or practicing visio divina, or being attentive to God’s creation into my regular spiritual disciplines. I have become more comfortable with acknowledging my emotions and incorporating them into my prayer life.
I have been able to pay attention in new ways to the wisdom carried within my body and my emotions and to allow them to guide me into new ways of experiencing the presence of God. I have become increasingly aware of God’s inner presence that I carry within me, and increasingly able to draw upon that presence as a resource in my own life and as I minister to others.
As a person in ministry, Laura has been instrumental in reminding and encouraging me to draw upon the resources of the Spirit in my work, which can tend to slide into the realm of social services instead of pastoral care. She has helped me to be able to articulate my call and my gifts more specifically for myself. I also see in Laura a model of the care I want others to experience as I engage with them in my own ministry.
I am greatly appreciative of the impact that Laura’s ministry has had upon me and of the way that she has led me by introducing me to different practices and by inviting me to encounter God’s presence through prayer to a deeper place of knowing and of being known by God. I am confident that the same gifts that I have experienced have been a blessing to many others as well, and it is my hope that Laura will continue to find ways to use her gifts to invite others into a deeper relationship with God as well. I sincerely hope that Laura will experience the blessing and encouragement of the Church in having her gifts for ministry acknowledged by the wider Body of Christ within which she serves.
December 6, 2016