"You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul."
~ Swami Vivekananda
Traditional religions purport we should “follow” someone and their teachings to get closer to God. This could be a guru or teacher, even the principal being upon whom the religion is based, like the Buddha or Muhammad. Some religions teach that this “holy one” has been directly sent from a divine source, or is a representation of Source itself, as in the case of Jesus or Krishna.
Yet, there is no one right way to practice a religion or to walk a spiritual path. We each must find our own way and listen to the voice that takes us into a greater daily experience of peace, love, and joy. As Fr. Richard Rohr explains it, “If truth is one, we must recognize we are all approaching that one divine truth from different angles, with different needs, in different eras, and with different starting points. But I find the final goal to be the same.”
When he walked upon the earth, the Buddha became famous for telling his followers to question everything, even him. He encouraged every person to find his or her own truth. He reportedly said, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
Fr. Anthony de Mello (a Hindu by birth and a Christian Jesuit by practice) said very much the same thing. In his book, One Minute Wisdom, he uses the centuries old tradition of using teaching stories, not unlike Zen koans, to startle us into thinking in a new way.
We'd like to share two of these spiritual riddles with you. Each one invites us to look at who we follow and what we believe.
You may wish to reflect on these questions:
How do these teaching stories sit with you?
When it comes to your own inner knowing, who do you listen to? Your soul, or the voice of someone else?
Do you trust that inner voice? Does it take you into a deeper understanding of how to live with peace, joy and love?
Janice L. Lundy, DMin
Ever since the beginning of our relationship, we have discussed spiritual guidance/direction in interfaith and interspiritual ways. We read books, wrote papers, asked questions, and listened to many wise teachers on what it means (and can mean!) to engage with people who have the same spiritual heart (our interspiritual nature), and may come from the same or different religious tradition, or none at all.
The Spiritual Guidance Training Institute began with a couple questions: What if we started a global institute that trained people to become interfaith and interspiritual guides? What if we organized pilgrimages for individuals and groups to sacred places around the world and in the United States? There are only a handful of training programs in the United States that focus on interfaith guidance, and none of them is in the Midwest. We wondered if this was the right timing and the right place to begin this adventure. We talked with directors of other spiritual guidance and direction programs who all energetically encouraged us to continue making our dream a reality.
We practiced discernment, together and separately, seeking guidance from trusted people with whom we live in our communities. We also accessed our inner teacher and became aware of how our hearts, minds, and bodies were responding to the question, what if?
Considering how the institute ought to be birthed, we asked what seemed like thousands of questions and answered hundreds of them. We considered our own strengths and limitations and took those into account as we continued envisioning the institute. We wrote a mission statement, as well as a vision statement and core values. We created a website that we hoped would be informative and beautiful. We agreed on a name after brainstorming and evaluating dozens of ideas. With every new decision, we consulted each other and listened deeply. But, not every decision was agreed upon by both of us.
The two most difficult decisions involved where the residential institutes (the two one-week face-to-face encounters) should take place and what organizational structure we should operate from. Again, we listened and discerned and discussed together the myriad possibilities and potentials. At one point, we even wondered if we should go our separate ways – because we were unclear about what our dream organization might be.
Friends, The Spiritual Guidance Training Institute is our dream organization and the result of much hard work and prayer. We have you to thank for cheering us on, inspiring us, teaching us, guiding us, and asking those hard and important questions. We look forward to meeting you if we don’t know you and continuing our friendship with you if we do.
Jeanette Banashak, PhD, EdD
About this blog
Deepening the understanding, practice and importance of spiritual guidance-companionship across traditions.
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