Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mud Season in Nairobi: more news from Bekah!

I thought to check Bekah's blog this morning, knowing she has been back in Nairobi for a while (most recently from Tanzania). And I was pleased to find a new post!

There's so much going on--glimpses of Swahili lessons, what's big in the news in Kenya that barely earns a blip on the screen here, and what inspired this particular group of college students to have a sleep-over to watch The Sound of Music! (Question: do you consider "Do, Re, Mi" a "spiritual" song?)

Here's the link to Bekah in Kenya: Mud Season.

Now I suppose it's my turn to blog. You think?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

So, what's spiritual direction, anyway?

Sunflowers, Late September (detail), ©Sukie Curtis, 2011

So, what's "spiritual direction," anyway?

Spiritual direction is collaborative, personal detective work, or like a treasure hunt in which the treasure to be found is you--and the Spirit who dwells in the depths of you.

It is giving ear and voice to the conversation that your life keeps inviting you to have.

How is spiritual direction different from life coaching?

"Spiritual Direction" is the old-fashioned name for a practice that has been around for centuries (perhaps even millennia!) and yet is very, very contemporary. I think of spiritual direction as the ancestor of the much newer field of life coaching.

Both take place largely in the collaborative work of conversation--listening, asking questions, finding answers, focusing, zeroing in, listening some more, trusting the process to lead where it needs to. One-on-one consultations take place either in person or over the phone.

While the focus of spiritual direction is most often described in terms of one's own relationship to the Spirit, to God, or the spiritual dimension of life, I approach both life coaching and spiritual direction from the perspective that the primary focus is the client--her experience, her questions, her hopes, dreams, likes and dislikes, passions and fears. It is in those realities, not somewhere else, where the Spirit, the creative energy of life, or the "God who dwells within," is met and experienced.)

Spiritual direction is usually a long-term relationship, and sessions usually take place once a month. Life coaching may be more intensive, with more frequent sessions contributing to the support and momentum for reaching one's goals.

In addition, coaching enlists helpful tools to further focus on identifying and articulating goals and the inner resources one has for meeting them as well as the process of naming and being accountable for the steps to get there.

Compassionate support and accountability are part of both processes. Your own focus, desires, and intention--how you imagine what it is you are looking for--more than the name of the process, are what matter most. Simple practices, writing exercises, or other forms of homework also support the work.

Unlike many coaches out there, I don't promise to "change your life in six weeks!" and I don't follow a prescribed program. But I know that the work we can do together really makes a difference to help you hear and respond to what "calls" to you from within your own life and beyond it.

Who am I?

I was first trained in spiritual direction in 1990 and have supported women through this work ever since. My understanding and approach to the process have evolved considerably over the years. I am a former Episcopal priest; in 2008 I followed my own soul's "calling" to leave ordination behind after 24 years of ordained ministry. In addition to my work as spiritual director and life coach, I am a painter, writer, nature-lover, wife and mother.

I bring my painter's eye, my curiosity and keen observation, my poet's ear for language, my creative mind and playful spirit to the collaborative work of spiritual direction and life coaching. 

I draw from centuries of spiritual wisdom of various traditions as well as from the wisdom that arises between us as we work together.

I will help you hear your soul's unique language so that you may live more fully from your own truth, delight, and freedom.

To explore either spiritual direction or life coaching, I invite you to call (207-781-7320) or email me ( to set up a consultation of up to thirty minutes at no charge.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Progress Report: What do you do?

I realized this morning with a small jolt and a sliver of regret that yesterday was an important personal anniversary for me and that I'd forgotten to mark it in any way. I hadn't paid much attention to the date, and it just didn't really sink in until today.

What anniversary? The third anniversary of my "leap to freedom," otherwise known as the day I renounced my ordination and returned to the ranks of the vast majority of humanity as a blessedly ordinary human being.

On the first anniversary of this occasion, I chronicled the days before and after my renunciation ceremony in several different blog posts. There was the famous (and perhaps my favorite) story of the Two Books, and the story of The Day After.

Last year I told a fuller yet still condensed version of my journey from childhood to ordination and out the other side when I spoke one Sunday afternoon at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland. I posted the text of what I shared that day in four installments, each of them titled, "Upside-down and Inside-out." Here are the links to parts Two, Three, and Four. Just in case you are new to this blog, or you feel like reading what I wrote a year ago.

So, here I am, three years out of ordained ministry, and what do I have to say for myself? Where has the journey taken me?

There are so many ways to answer those questions, and I'm going to respond by answering still another question--one that I believe I've posted about before. The question I have most dreaded being asked (even more than the "Why did you quit the priesthood?") during the months of these intervening years. That most dreaded question has been: So what are you doing now? or, more simply, What do you do?

It's a question that has often found me feeling inadequate, even ashamed of my seeming lack of progress toward any sort of clear new "identity" to replace the one I had given up. By identity, I guess I mean "professional identity"--otherwise known as an occupation, a career niche, or even simply a temporary job, like, "I'm a barrista at Starbucks" or "I am working the phone bank at L. L. Bean."

There have been many times when I've felt that anything, any one clear specific answer would be better than the vague, amorphous nowheresville that has been my deep down, frank reply. "What do I do?" I ask myself, wait a few heartbeats, and come up empty. Then make up something to cover up my shame and embarrassment--either a lame joke or my best and clearly unrehearsed babbling answer. (The singer-songwriter, blogger, and women's coach Christine Kane once said that when we're in those in-between places, the ego, ever vigilant and out to protect us, is apt to advise us loudly and clearly: "Quick! BE SOMETHING! Anything! Anything's better than being nothing!" It takes great fortitude not to obey.)

Funny, I've often not felt that painting was a legitimate part of the answer, even though painting is something new, something joyful and energetic and true that has entered my life since leaving my ordination behind. (My painting life began in earnest barely a month before my ordained life officially ended.)

But things started to shift last fall. I at least began to have a rudimentary answer to the "What are you doing these days?" question. I gave myself a little preamble about living a "patchwork" life, stitching together a couple of different avenues of work for which I'm paid--some consulting, some writing, some spiritual direction, and my painting. That at least felt truthful and got me off the starting block, though my answer at times was still rather mealy-mouthed and apologetic.

When I told a friend of mine just after Christmas that I was "kind of a spiritual director and kind of a life coach," she said in her lovingly, humorously honest way, "You might want to sharpen that up a bit."

Little by little, sometimes feeling as if I'm clawing and scraping my way along a sheer rock face, I think I'm getting somewhere. Getting closer to being able to answer with wholehearted integrity-bordering-on-enthusiasm. My attempts to practice and hone an answer feel more genuine and less driven by ego-panic. (It's always easier in the privacy of my own writing than in the face to face moment. Guess I need to keep practicing!)

So here's where I am today in answer to the hypothetical question: What do you do?

I do many things! But I feel hugely blessed that I especially enjoy doing two kinds of work: First, I'm a painter, and I love giving people experiences of delight and celebratory energy through my paintings. And second, I'm a spiritual director and life coach, and I love helping women to connect more fully to their inner wisdom, truth and authority. I love helping women to listen for and pay attention to their soul's language and longings, to claim their passions and power, set goals and take the steps to reach them.

What a difference three years can make!