“a spiritual teacher does not tell us what to do, they show us who we are.” (Lawrence Freeman)
“before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity.” (Parker Palmer)
“the whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of our lives, get behind the façade of conventional gestures and attitudes which we present to the world and draw out our inner spiritual freedom.” (Thomas Merton)
to continue to discern inner wisdom’s invitation towards personal wholeness, authentic communal belonging, and joyful humility and reverence for the mystery of being human within a wondrous universe. (Kaye Twining)
Personal spiritual mentoring is an ancient spiritual practice reclaimed for our Time. In its reclaimed form, the practice involves a mentoree meeting monthly with a qualified spiritual mentor in order to express, explore, discern, integrate, and celebrate their own spiritual questions in relation to meaning and belonging. As each mentoree explores their own spiritual questions and discerns their own responses, they articulate their own unified narrative from which to source their experience of identity, purpose, values, and experience of belonging. In turn, they can celebrate their own growing awareness of their self-in-the-world.
As each mentoree continues to grow in Self understanding they may live within, and act upon their world, with inner freedom, personal wholeness, and authentic communal response-ability. In this way, the formal practice of spiritual mentoring follows a bi-directional pathway, i.e., towards the mentoree’s inner being and towards their outer world.
The labyrinth symbolizes such a bi-directional pathway. A labyrinth pathway twists and turns its way from the outer edges – to the centre, or, the deep – then back out again. Therefore the pathway commences and concludes at the outer edges. The outer edges relate to the shallows of daily life. The centre, or the deep, refers to the inner ground of being, or innermost orientating reference point. Why does the pathway commence and conclude at the outer edges? We are not called to make our home in the deep. We are called to live authentically in the shallows – on the other side of the deep. Such an understanding aligns with a Buddhist teaching: before enlightenment, wash potatoes – after enlightenment, wash potatoes. As a result, the practice of spiritual mentoring draws from and flows back into daily life.
By way of symbol the labyrinth encompasses four particular movements:
- Drawn to engage in the inner journey and choosing to take the first step.
- Following the inward path of recognizing and accepting the reality of current lived experience and attending to the meaning giving questions arising.
- Reaching the centre – allowing deep change to take place in our ground of being.
- The outward journey of integrating a transformed ground of being with the outer world; of living authentically in daily life, with inner freedom and personal wholeness.
One model of spiritual mentoring
Because spiritual mentoring has traditionally been viewed as a religious practice, most of the present day models sit within the context of an existing religious or spiritual tradition. Such models are extremely valuable for mentorees who are seeking to explore their personal spiritual questions within an existing religious or spiritual tradition. At the same time, numerous people are now seeking to explore their spiritual questions within a framework beyond that of god and/or religion. The model presented below offers a different orientating reference point for the exploration of personal spiritual questions.
Spiritual mentoring, beyond god and religion
We each view ourselves-in-Life through a particular frame of reference, or world view. Our frame of reference both informs and limits our current view. Frames of reference are not static. They continue to change and evolve in response to an expanding knowledge base and beliefs regarding how the world came to be/continues to be and the human place of belonging within that. Beyond an existing religious and/or spiritual tradition, one new frame of reference is that of evolutionary spirituality drawing from a world view of conscious evolution. Conscious evolution here involves: intentionality in the form of a considered and deliberate choice to participate in the ongoing dynamic Life process of being and becoming. Evolutionary spirituality has been described in the following manner: “an integral way of thinking and being in the world grounded in a personal, meaningful experience of the epic of evolution as one’s own creation myth, or cosmological sacred story.” (Wikia.com) Integral here means that each part is necessary to, and included within, the whole. An integral way of thinking and being gives rise to the principle of unity with diversity.
Two themes within the framework of evolutionary spirituality, via the principle of unity with diversity, are: 1. The greater Story of Life itself, which is forever and continually in the making, and 2. The human tradition. Within the theme of the greater Story of Life itself, we choose to locate our personal identity within the dynamic “Big History” (Barbara Marx Hubbard) of the universe Story. Within such a big history context, we each know ourselves to be unique human beings in our own right seeking personal realization, and that we are intrinsically connected and response-able to a greater whole. We recognize that we participate in both our own, and Life’s, wondrous transformative dance of both being and becoming. Such an understanding of participation within the whole, transforms our inner ground of being and animates our daily lived experience with purpose. In terms of the human tradition, it is a tradition which draws from the rich tapestry of wisdom, beliefs, knowledge, and values accumulated within human experience from ancient times through to the present. The human tradition includes that which continues to resound in our time and place in history and transcends that which does not.
Within the framework of evolutionary spirituality drawing from a world view of conscious evolution, contemplative Self discovery guides us towards fully embracing our humanity-within-the-whole, with all the attendant strengths and limitation involved, rather than seeking to transcend the human condition. Fully embracing our humanity-within-the-whole shapes our experience of meaning and belonging in the following manner: 1. self-in-Life: joyful humility and reverence for the mystery of belonging to Life’s creative dance of being and becoming; 2. self-in-community: giving rise to relationships built on trust rather than similar belief systems, and response-ability emerging from a shared values system which seeks the flourishing of all life; and 3. self-in-lovingkindness: giving rise to personal wholeness in the form of the inner freedom to live authentically in daily life. As we each undertake our own adventure of fully embracing our humanity-within-the-whole, we are enabled to grow towards becoming the change we want to see in the world.
Lawrence Freeman, Jesus, Teacher within
Barbara Marx Hubbard, Conscious Evolution
Parker Palmer, 40-Day Journey
Thomas Merton www.thomasmerton.org
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara
Anne Hillman, Awakening the Energies of Love