MY IDENTITY AS A SPIRITIUAL GUIDE AND COMPANION
By Alice Holstein, Ed.D. Class of 214-2017
Member, Spiritual Directors International (SDI)
People tell me I have a calming, comforting effect on them. I wasn’t aware of this until recently, but I hope to project that essence as a spiritual guide because it means acceptance, welcoming, warmth, the invitation for others to “be” plus the ability to listen compassionately from a deep place within. I see myself offering a place of safety and sanctuary where people can discover deeper meaning, a connection with the divine, however they may name that, and personal growth of many kinds.
When I pray I ask for guidance that I might “do the work of the incomprehensible holy mystery.” These words imply a more secular approach to spiritual guidance than many spiritual directors might employ. My spiritual path has been an eclectic one, culminating in my liberal faith choice as a Unitarian-Universalist, so I can relate easily to those who might be non-denominational or among the “nones” who identify as “spiritual, not religious. That said, however, I can relate to those of whatever path or background, such as a potential client who is a devout Catholic in search of a deeper spirituality.
My identity as a spiritual guide includes a strong background in both humanistic and transpersonal psychology. I am thus more comfortable with what might called a psycho-spiritual approach rather than with religious imagery. I talk more about a higher or true self, an inner voice, the movement of the spirit or the wisdom within and without. I want to be open to surprise and not be looking for prescriptions. I want to be able to invoke and enjoy laughter. I want to share sorrow and tears. I want to create a climate of reverence and deep caring.
Given my academic and philosophical background, which includes a grounding in Teilhard de Chardin’s work plus my 74 years of varied, unusual experiences, I also claim an ability to discern with relative ease. I am capable of moving deeply to the heart of things. I listen deeply; I “get it” quickly; I establish trust easily. I am wise and tender, able to sit quietly with silence and wait for “the next” to emerge. At the same time, I try to avoid having “the” answers or operating from the head rather than the heart. My intent is to stick to open-ended questions, allowing the seeker to discover their own answers, inner nature and reflections. I nonetheless seek to affirm and support wise decisions and important insights. I am learning all the time how to be a better spiritual guide and expect to learn from every session as well as to consciously, regularly evaluate myself and my practice.
My maturity and wisdom come from a life of both successes and extreme hardship/trauma. A long career has given me experience with business, government, entrepreneurship and educational institutions. My career as an Organization Consultant and college instructor has given me more than 20 years of experience with personal growth and organizational systems change and development. I have special expertise with mental illness/recovery, the military and veterans, the process of mid-life passages plus eldering as well as the “spiritual not religious.” I am a sum total of some interesting experiences and a lifetime of study, including significant examination of both “mistakes” and victories. I sowed my oats before consciously pursuing a spiritual path, which I see as a benefit to those seeking “forgiveness” or the process of turning painful experiences into lessons and wisdom.
I expect to model taking good care of myself in daily living skills and setting boundaries. Now that I am retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs, I see myself combining spiritual guidance with writing and having some fun. I would definitely like to do group spiritual direction, especially with the mental health population, perhaps using my book, Tough Grace: Mental Illness As A Spiritual Path. I possess trained facilitation and retreat design skills in my background. Given my current age, I hope to be able to do spiritual guidance into my 90s.
I see myself dealing with people’s search for deeper meaning, navigating transitions, processing grief, making sense of suffering, finding internal and external connections, owning strengths and gifts, knowing and clarifying one’s story, increasing authenticity, exploring both pain and joy, finding the opportunities in hardships and increasing abundance, truth and love. I am committed to being a vehicle for the love, hope and companionship of an incomprehensible holy mystery. Some may call that God; some may call it a higher power, a force, the spirit or love. Some may have no name or be non-believers or agnostics. I welcome all.
“We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves. We find it with another.”---Thomas Merton