In November, the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute began its sixth cohort for training in spiritual direction/companionship. We also facilitated our first ever hybrid experience, with Zoom attendees and in person attendees at a beautiful and contemplative space on Lake Michigan. Our SGTI intern, Tejai, facilitated thoughtful discussions on identity and compassionate sacred activism, in addition to offering her compassionate and reflective presence; Our SGTI co-founder/co-director, Jan, led us into foundational practices of Pure Presence and gently guided us through deep listening exercises and conversations; our other co-founder/co-director, Jeanette, initiated dialogue and experiences related to inter-contemplation and interspirituality. Throughout our five days together, we were challenged, encouraged, and inspired by the care, respect, and love that each new student brought to the cohort. We are ever grateful for this incredible group as they continue in the tradition of spiritual companionship as old as humanity.
Photos by Kate Anthony, Sara Baker, Jeanette Banashak, Julie Brooks, Marybeth Redmond
The foundation of SGTI's sacred listening protocol we use with students, mentees, and colleagues is called Pure Presence. This interfaith and interspiritual approach to formal presence training is the most comprehensive way we know to both deepen and advance spiritual understanding and care in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces and religious communities.
One of the key questions we ask ourselves as a result of Pure Presence awareness and practices is this: 'Who are we to one another?' Today, we share an excerpt from the Pure Presence Workbook and Journal which offers an answer to this pivotal question.
We can keep in mind as we intersect with others that we are spiritual beings. We are also very human. We are “divine-humans”, and, because we are, every person is unique and of value. Every person is a unique expression of the Divine (and this includes you). Each person has a sacred tale to tell and to engage with them in all their uniqueness is a gift.
Whether you have been doing it for awhile now or have needed to switch due to the Covid-19, most spiritual companions have been using Zoom, Skype, or the phone to meet with our clients/seekers/companions. One of the things we are promoting now is using the phone more than Zoom or Skype. This may seem like the opposite of what you might have thought. After all, if we are in the service of relationships, shouldn’t we want to see our clients (especially those of us who were meeting in person up until mid-March)?
In an article entitled Why Is Zoom So Exhausting, Beckie Supiano explains several issues with the platform: “The body language and other cues that we expect but can’t access; the way we monitor our own appearance; the stimulation of staring into faces at close range; the inability to take a break, move, or change our surroundings.” Where Zoom used to be an opportunity – and still is – now it is an obligation in professional and personal relationships. Many of us are suffering from the void that we feel after the calls and meetings.
Supiano suggests that using Zoom is exhausting because we have constant access to monitoring our own non-verbal cues. When we talk on the phone with our seekers, we obviously still lack the non-verbal cues, but we do not feel a need to self-monitor, and we are less distracted by our client’s movements. This frees us up to access our intuition and trust the knowing in our own bodies without the distraction of our seeker’s face. On Zoom there is little physical distance between you and your screen, which may have implications related to intimacy. On the phone, we do not have a face right in front of us, allowing space for proper intimacy. Talking on the phone also allows us to move; we can change locations or even walk and talk.
There are certainly benefits to each of the ways to connect in spiritual companionship. The questions we are discerning right now are which ways promote deeper connection, integrity, and attention, and which ways might hinder deeper connection?
Submitted by Jeanette Banashak
It's not unusual for any of us here at SGTI to be asked by someone, "What is spiritual guidance anyway?" Wonderful question!
In one of our early learning modules in the 18-month training program, students are asked a similar question: What is spiritual guidance? Here are some of their answers:
• Spiritual guidance is a form of helping relationship in which together, one is guided in the discernment and development of intimacy with the Divine. Through deep listening and in creating and holding sacred space, the spiritual guide listens into being the Divine Story of the seeker. (M.W.)
• Spiritual direction is a dedicated container for exploration of the inner life through the lens of the sacred or the deeply meaningful. A spiritual companion’s role is to hold safe, nonjudgmental space for your questioning, healing, and deepening in your spiritual life and your relationship with the Divine as you understand it, with the understanding that you are the authority on those topics. (C.O)
• "Seeker and guide create an interconnected orb in sacred space and time – an orb in which the Divine is invited to join. In this sacred human/Divine triad intimacy between seeker and Divine grows. Often the guide strengthens her own intimacy with the Divine." (C.R.)
In a publication offered by Spiritual Directors International, "Portrait of a Spiritual Director," one gets a more complete picture of who spiritual companions are and the purpose they serve, their "call" and skillset, along with their hopes for the people they companion. It says:
"Spiritual directors or companions support the unique spiritual journey of every individual. They are welcoming and present with those they companion, listening and responding without being judgmental. They are contemplative and honor silence as a spiritual practice. They are intuitive spiritual friends—accountable and compassionate, hospitable and open, loving yet independent."
To read the essay in its entirety, visit this page.
Locate the link which says, "Click here for a printable pdf version of the "Portrait"
If you feel the call to explore spiritual companionship/guidance training yourself, we'd love to chat with you. We are already accepting applications for the 2020-2022 training program which begins in August. You can contact us here.
Step out of the circle of time,
and into the circle of love.
When we attended the Spiritual Directors Conference in Seattle in March we became aware of the ever-growing need for spiritual companionship for people of all traditions (and none)—BY people of all traditions and then some.
SDI has been moving forward to expand the understanding and practice of spiritual companionship—beyond formal spiritual direction. We at SGTI support this effort. There are a myriad of ways we can companion individuals of various religious, spiritual and ethical traditions and many forms of training one might be able to take to get comfortable with doing so.
When we think of all the heart-centered individuals in various caring professions—chaplains, social workers, counselors, coaches, hospice workers and health-care professionals, clergy and lay servants, spiritual and secular community leaders, and more—who might want to expand their understanding and practice of compassionate presence and care, our hearts open even wider.
The world is in such great need of healing and many of its citizens are ailing, feeling spiritually uncertain, isolated or unsupported. A spiritual companion is someone who can hold presence for someone right where they are, just as they are. No matter their religious, spiritual or ethical framework, a properly and ethically trained companion can serve others individually and collectively.
Spiritual Directors International defines spiritual companionship in this way:
"Spiritual direction or companionship inspires people to experience authenticity in their lives as they connect with and explore the ground of all being, that deepest of truths which is beyond life and death and goes by many names, including God, and no name at all."
In keeping with this international movement to promote and expand spiritual companionship, SGTI has expanded its 5-month training program to be more inclusive.
We are pleased to announce "Interfaith/Interspiritual Wisdom Training." This innovative training program is for people in all the caring professions. online program results in a Certificate in Interfaith/Interspiritual Competence. This will prepare you to companion and serve seekers of various religious, spiritual and ethical traditions.
The premier cohort is now forming and we invite you to learn more about "Interfaith/Interspiritual Wisdom Training" and listen deeply to hear if this kind of offering might serve you and those YOU serve very well.
We welcome your questions and look forward to hearing from you and do hope you will consider joining us—and enter the "circle of love" of which Rumi spoke.
The Spiritual Guidance Institute recently spent a fabulous week together at our spring residential institute. We camped out at the Cenacle Center, a wonderfully hospitable retreat center on the northside of Chicago. The week’s activities were quite varied: We incorporated teachings on development and the enneagram, practiced deep listening with our unique methodology Pure Presence, had a day of silence, ate community meals together, met with a Cenacle sister, and visited the Hindu Temple in Lemont, an Ash Wednesday service at a Presbyterian church, IMAN (Inner-city Muslim Action Network), and a Muslim/Christian dialogue dinner. It was a week to remember!
We feel grateful to our students for the productive conversations and presence during the week. And we are grateful to our friends who hosted us and shared their sacred stories with us.
Our next cohort will begin in August 2019. An interfaith immersion experience like this could be yours! Learn more.
Here at The Spiritual Guidance Training Institute we assist our students in developing "sacred listening." One of the tools we use to do so is a unique protocol developed by Dr. Janice Lundy called "Pure Presence™." The methodology and practices are intended to open one's heart to listen to others in ways that are "pure"— without bias, judgment, or hidden agendas. This allows us to transcend religious doctrine, cultural prejudice, or anything that could keep us separated from our fellow human beings. It enables us to create a space for connection and healing to happen within a spiritual guidance session.
We could say that we at SGTI are trying to foster "hearts as wide as the world." In our final learning module with Cohort 1 students we explored this concept, and invited them to share their understanding of "a heart as wide as the world." This is what one of our students, Jeffrey Phillips, wrote:
“The heart of the world” – what is that? Is it the social world misshapen by structures and systems that seem unchangeable, and that, more often than not, go unnoticed by people who have been taught to not see and question unjust schemes? Is it the world itself – beautiful, dying, the original body of God? Is it the world of creativity, imagination, science, curiosity, discovery, spirituality, primal experiences, social bonding, sexuality, and the arts?
Or it is God – that which beats (like a heart) at the center (the heart) of all things? The goodness, the joy, the love, the moral imperative to care? Being, Consciousness, Existence, Spirit, Mystery, Eternity – experienced in shared, sacred story, symbol, rituals, concepts, and completely unorthodox (“profane,” “secular”) and unexpected numinous, luminous places, people, and circumstances?
How does one listen to that Heart? By taking time in the daily practice, by stepping outside the ordinary routines to attend the festival of a different social group or take a new course. By paying attention to your toothbrush – really looking at it for the first time! By sitting when you could be busy. By resting when you could be working. By savoring a conversation, a meal, a day. By being when you could be doing. By reading a poem slowly – really chewing on it - rather than reading the news. By “praying the news,” and considering those stubborn social systems and the suffering they inflict on innocent folk.
And then by reflecting on that toothbrush-looking, that sitting, that being, that soulful reading, that news praying. And doing it again the next day – or doing something completely different. Or maybe by approaching a daily practice with no agenda at all other than to Be Open, and to see – and hear! - what happens in the moment, in the here, in the now. I have learned that this last year and a half.
On Monday, January 7, 2019, we celebrated the graduation of SGTI's first cohort of interfaith/interspiritual guides. This was a landmark moment for the Institute as well as for these students because they are some of the first in the U.S. (the world!) to have received formal training and certification in interfaith/interspiritual direction. We are so very proud of them. Congratulations, graduates!
Students for this cohort hailed from California, Texas, Illinois and Michigan. We initially gathered with them in August 2017 in Chicago, IL. for a one-week Residential Institute. We took trips to various holy houses in the greater Chicago area to expand our knowledge and experience of various traditions. On our first full day together (pictured above left), we visited Mishkan, and participated in a Shabbat service and potluck afterwards.
Over the next 18 months, our students continued to learn and grow together in an online format (one learning module every two weeks), by doing spiritual guidance in their own cities, and receiving one-on-one supervision. They went deeper into their spiritual lives and learned with and from the voices in our texts, guest speakers, peer groups, and directees. Their instruction included written, audio, video and "real time" interaction with one another; 30 learning modules, a rigorous training. They learned the art and practice of Pure Presence™ Listening. In April of 2018, they returned to Chicago for another one-week Residential Institute. Students completed their training in January of 2019 by submitting a final project/paper.
A long-distance graduation ceremony was held (pictured above, right) online. We acknowledged each student's gifts and achievements. They also acknowledged one another in this way. They were commissioned to go into the world and offer spiritual guidance with open, curious minds and wise, compassionate hearts, which we know they will faithfully do. We wholeheartedly support their ongoing efforts to serve and grow in the charism we call spiritual guidance. Congratulations, again, to our gifted grads!
"The gift you give another person is just your being."
SGTI is currently hosting its 2nd cohort who will graduate in January 2020. We are currently accepting applications for Cohort 3 to begin in August 2019. Contact us for an application.
In August of 2017, SGTI's first cohort met in Chicago, Illinois, to experience its first Residential Institute. We've just posted slide shows from this stellar, interspiritual experience. They present a more in-depth look at our training, Interfaith Immersion experiences, along with Cultural Appreciation, and contemplative practice opportunities. Enjoy!
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Deepening the understanding, practice and importance of spiritual guidance-companionship across traditions.
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