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.
At the Parliament of World Religions in Toronto last November, I attended a session entitled “GenInterfaith: Claiming Complex Religious Labels”. Author and speaker, Susan Katz Miller, began with a premise that speaks to us at the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute. From her description she wrote, “Few of us have singular religious identities. Most of us have extended interfaith families, are multiple religious practitioners, live in post-colonial environments with religious layering, and learn from and draw on the many religions that surround us.” We interact in face to face and online encounters with diverse representations at the intersections within our community.
In her presentation, Susan Katz Miller highlighted the fact that ¼ of our population in the US is growing up in interfaith families. In addition, the fastest growing interfaith couples are Christian and Atheist. We are in need of new practices, given the rise in intermarriage, multiple religious practices, and spiritual fluidity (a term by Dwayne Bidwell, author of When One Religion Isn’t Enough). The following four practices were suggested:
We would like to add one more and are also curious about what practices you would add.
At the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute, we celebrate the multitude of religious identities as well as the identities of race, ethnicity, class, gender, ability, sexual/attractional orientation, age, socio-economic class, work, education, veteran status and more. And, we trust that our practices align with our words.
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.
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Deepening the understanding, practice and importance of spiritual companionship across traditions.
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