And that is how I came to read a coaching manual for aspiring spiritual directors.
First of all, what is a spiritual director?
Through a diversity of methods, an S.D. creates space for another so that they can experience the healing effects of divine Love.
In a world full of counsellors, therapists, pastors, support groups, 12 step programs, life coaches, self-help guru's and psychologists, is there a niche left for the spiritual director? Yes, a very ancient niche. A Spiritual Director of the Cathy Hardy variety is essentially a mystic, and they've been around forever. As long as people continue to believe that truth lies beyond the intellect, there will always be a need for them.
A mystic seeks to help people through "heart knowing" and "body knowing" instead of the prevalent "mind knowing" of our Western world. Direction, help and healing for life come through silence, stillness, visions, art, dance, smells, story, dreams, intuition, tears, emotions, gut instinct, songs, manipulating the environment, ancient rituals, and timely asked introspective questions.
S.D's don't give advice or tell the people under their care what to do. Instead, they create space for the Spirit of God to speak.
Cathy Hardy's mysticism is cut from the cloth of Celtic spirituality. Like her predecessors, she roots herself in an understanding of God that regularly reveals himself in nature. God is everywhere present if we would but have eyes to see. Mainland European ideas such as human depravity and God's justice and wrath fade into the background with her. Instead, the human soul is precious, fundamentally good and thoroughly loved and accepted by God. The human soul does wander, unfortunately, so the S.D. helps a person rediscover their "true selves" by assisting them in realizing "their intrinsic value just because they are." When a human embraces the idea that divine Love is in them, around and through them, the need for soul-killing validation that we usually seek through our accomplishments, relationships, knowledge, and abilities fades away, and we are free to "touch the presence of God."
What do you want, God in a box or God out of a box?
I think Cathy and her barefoot in the dirt, wild wind blowing through her hair, eyes closed, arms extended to the sky approach to experiencing God is wonderful. I agree that Christianity regrettably has become a science more than an art. Faith reduced to theological constructs, dogma, technical apologetics, and tedious lectures about what God is like and what we should and shouldn't be doing might just be killing our faith. Having said that, I know the subjective, feeling-oriented, intuitive, gut sort of Christianity that Cathy is peddling will freak a lot of Christian people out because there doesn't seem to be any rules to it. It's just "God and me wild and free." Isn't that a recipe for heresy? Probably, but the rigid structured, predictable "here are all the right answers about God" version of Christianity is starting to stink in my nostrils also. Humans are different creatures. Some will thrive connected to Divine Love in unorthodox ways as Cathy prescribes, and others will probably fall in Love with Jesus by reading Calvin's Institutes. So, for now, I guess I won't throw too many stones in either direction.
Men are real stinkers.
I'm pretty sure Cathy has a hard time trusting men, but who could blame her. Men have hurt her repeatedly. She mentions three men in this book that caused her immense pain. One particular wound caused her to cry every day for three years. Men suck! I'm the first to admit it. Unfortunately, I think her experience has clouded her ability to articulate accurately what healthy masculinity looks like. Healthy masculinity to Cathy is represented as a "still mountain" She refers to "healed masculinity" as "unhurried," "calm," and "slowed down." Feminine energy, she says, "knows what it knows and is listened to," and "healthy masculine energy will serve that knowing." When I first read this, I squinted my eyes and cocked my head like a bird who senses that something isn't quite right. "wait a minute," I said to myself. "Cathy seems to be saying that a good man will sit down, shut up and do what women tell them!" Wait; what? Wouldn't there be more to a conversation on masculinity than this? In many ways, this is good advice for a lot of meat-headed men. Cathy's plea is for men to affirm, validate, appreciate, and follow the intuitive gifts women have. For too long, women's subconscious superpowers have been dismissed, insulted, and ignored by men. Cathy's passion is to free women from the masculine chains that bind them and prevent them from being who they truly are. No argument from me, but from my perspective, she misses so much of what it means to be masculine that her comments become unhelpful.
I'm thankful for the direction that Cathy has given to my wife and many others. I salute her courage to strike off on her journey with God regardless of what "religious experts" might say. As a Celtic mystic, she stands in a much-maligned religious tradition that's making a remarkable comeback, and I, for one, am happy about it.