“The way that can be told is not the Eternal Way. The name that can be named is not the Etermal Name.” – Tao Te Ching
We are each born into a particular time, place, culture, and family, and this shapes our basic spiritual (or anti-spiritual) beliefs from an early age. As we grow older, the beliefs impressed upon us get challenged by experiences ranging from profoundly meaningful, unexplainable events that support faith to tragedy and disillusionment that create skepticism. In between those two extremes lie the more common experiences of facing intellectual challenges to our belief system, feeling conflicts between our beliefs and our personal temperaments, and learning to deal with the knowledge that there are a multitude of expressions of religion and spirituality.
Many, many people end up with questions they feel like they should not allow themselves to have and that they would certainly never ask their spiritual authorities and teachers. But I think questioning is healthy. I think stifling such questions inhibits spiritual experience and spiritual growth. Instead of creating an opportunity to achieve a spiritual breakthrough, the questions are silenced, leaving a person unsatisfied and expecting less and less from their faith and expecting less and less in terms of personal experience. As I see it, stifling such questions leads to spiritual stagnation and rote, half-hearted participation in something that could be full of life, joy, and meaning.
A religion is an inheritance from your spiritual ancestors – those who went before you with their own questions about the nature of Life, God, and the Meaning of Everything: “How should we live? How should we react to our enemies? How may we succeed? How may we find peace? When should we sacrifice ourselves instead of fight? When should we fight instead of sacrifice ourselves? If I pray, does anything answer? If I experience an answer, how do I know it is anything more real than my imagination? What if I pray and experience no answer at all?” When they felt like they found good answers, based in their own experience, they passed them down to us in songs, stories, holy days, and religious practices.
The problem, however, is that until we gain knowledge of what they were talking about for ourselves, through our own experiences of it, the stories passed down to us seem to be merely stories told by crazy men and old women that are only fully believed by wide-eyed children. I believe we must sincerely seek out the answers to our own questions, pressing for our own personal spiritual illumination. After all, that was the way our ancestors in the stories lived.
To me, it does not matter what set of spiritual traditions you were born into or currently practice. I see each individual as ultimately on their own journey toward finding satisfaction in their spiritual relationship to everything else and everyone else around them. I see my purpose in Spiritual Direction as finding out where you are in your own personal, spiritual journey in order to help you figure out what it means to take your own “next step,” to work with you to create a structured set of practices toward achieving that next step, and to serve as someone to talk to about your journey – both the profound experiences as well as the “dry times” that come along the way.
My goal is to help you on your own spiritual journey. I have no goals at all that involve changing your beliefs to match my own. Your job as a potential “directee” is not to see if my beliefs perfectly match your own but instead to determine if I am at least the kind of person with whom you can have these kinds of meaningful and productive conversations.
I neither judge nor seek to shape others’ morality. I am open, however, to discussing any moral questions individuals may have.