Becoming the Aman Cara

Anam CaraToday I’m offering something different.  Because I am studying to work as a spiritual director or spiritual companion I wanted to appeal to you for some support.

As part of my studies, which has included a great deal of learning about mystics and thought beyond my familiar realm of Christianity, I am also required to have three “directees” to whom I offer the service of spiritual direction, free for the next ten months.

If you or someone you know may be interested in spiritual direction please contact me.  We will meet every three to six weeks.  Our sessions are completely confidential and discussion about them with my mentors/trainers will only be about vague references without sharing any identifying information.

Below is my recent reflection on what spiritual direction is.

The Aman Cara – Soul Friend

There are many descriptions of spiritual direction and many viewpoints for a description but as I search I find it difficult to find one succinct statement that expresses the nature of spiritual direction.

Perhaps the difficulty in description is the diversity of the experience.  While the modern, western, practice of spiritual direction is based in Christianity I am confident it is something that has been occurring, naturally and formally in every religious tradition for thousands of years.

From the beginning I would like to offer my own bias about the language of spiritual direction.  I recognize it is from the need for continuity that we use the term and that we speak of “God”.  I would prefer to find a less intimidating term like, companion, friend, or even mentor.  The Anam Cara or soul friend implies the entwining of souls with the Divine and is the image and basis I will chose for my own practice.

In my own simplistic definition spiritual direction is, “The seeking of the divine with a soul friend who is also a seeker but who is willing to support your journey without imposing on you, their own. “

Some of the strongest examples of spiritual direction which I know come from the ancient Hebrew texts in the stories of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha.  Each of these leaders mentored their second in command until the second became more capable than the first. Then the leader stepped away and allowed the combined wisdom to move forward with the Spirit of God as their guide.

Jesus was the prime example of spiritual director and taught his disciples to do the same.  Like the Egyptian Eunuch who rode with Paul when we seek for a mentor the Lord will provide one and they will travel with us for only as long as we need them.

The most straight forward explanation of spiritual direction I have found is from the Statement of Purpose of “A Code of Conduct for Spiritual Directors”.

It states: “Spiritual direction is an ancient ministry, a unique one-to-one relationship in which a trained person assists another person in search for an ever-closer union of love with God.”

William A Barry and William J Connolly of the describe the Ignatian experience this way:  “Spiritual direction is “help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to growing intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship”.  [i]

The assumption of the Ignatian philosophy is that God longs for us first and because of that longing we are aroused to long for God.  (Janet K. Ruffing, RSM, Spirutal Direction – Beyond the Beginnings.)

Part of explaining spiritual direction is finding authority which recognizes it.  Recently Pope Frances has been encouraging the use of spiritual direction in the Roman Catholic Church and uses the symbol of the three chairs to signify the presence of two plus the Holy.  Many church traditions, most notably the Anglican in Canada, have required their leaders have spiritual direction on a regular basis for many years.

While doing some of my own spiritual practice during lent I ran upon a “40 Day Journey with Kathleen Norris”[ii], modern day mystic.  Reworking some of the questions she asks in day two of the study I come up with a good foundation for what spiritual direction should be.

It is a place, with a person who allows seekers

  • to express doubts about faith, tradition or practice of their faith
  • to express negative thoughts, moods, feeling, or concerns about faith


  • encourages seeker to explore what they believe and wrestle with the questions of faith.

Norris also quite eloquently expresses the call of the spiritual director as I see it.  That is, to support and “to pray for people who have questions about their faith but don’t know where (or perhaps how) to ask them. “

There are many how to’s and don’t do’s of the art of spiritual direction.  It is not therapy, or counseling.  Both of those imply the person needs “to be told” what they should do.  While a spiritual director may offer suggestions and make observations as many counselors do, there is a basic understanding that the “directee” needs to find and has the ability to find their own answers.  They are quite capable of seeking and hearing the voice of the divine.  Perhaps all they need from the mentor is the assurance of that.

The anam cara simply listens to the person with the heart of the Divine and speaks truth and wisdom which is filtered in prayer and humility, knowing always that the Divine is the source.


[ii] 40-Day Journeywith Kathleen Norris, Kathryn Hausesen, editor, Augsburg Books, Minneaplois, MN




About Peggy Guiler

You just never know what show up on my blog. As the name implies it is about the stuff of life just like Spilt Milk. Everyday events spark thought and contemplation. Special events in the community, the country or the world may strike a cord and get me talking. Sometimes it's about people in my life or circumstances, sometimes about my garden, sometimes about a book or a political issue. Always it's about something I am passionate about. In my business, River of Hope Enterprises (, I work as an "Certified Coach" (International Coach Federation), a trainer, consultant and speaker. and as a spiritual director. I also drive a school bus to keep the wolf from the door while I build my business. I love the kids on the bus (most of the time). My family is grown and I have three grandkids who thrill my heart but I don't get to see any of them very often. Circumstances of life have made "family" difficult. My son died by suicide at age 16 in 2000 and the strain on our family relationships since has been huge. Mental health is a field where I worked for almost 22 years and where I still do some consulting and training. That combined with my own battle with depression and my son's death weave together to form some of my greatest soap box items: suicide intervention, suicide bereavement and peer support in mental health are right on the top of my list. Social justice is an underlying passion. Keeping the wolf from the door as a single parent was full-time work and my career path as a journalists was augmented with cleaning contracts, cooking, retail clerk, and bartending. I have known hard work and am grateful for the experience and perspective it has given me. A firmly grounded faith and a passion for learning has now taken me toward a new field as a Spiritual Director and I am soon adding to that a license to marry people. As I move toward retirement I am very aware that I have to keep working so I chose to do things which will meet my modest financial needs and also my love of supporting people in their life journey. Woven into all of this is my love of writing. Trained as a Journalist, and having worked in the field as a freelance news writer for many years, I have a great love for writing. This blog is a new beginning for me. As I hone my skills and begin to form a daily discipline of writing I hope it will lead to more writing in the future.
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3 Responses to Becoming the Aman Cara

  1. Pingback: Becoming the Anam Cara | Ontario Jubilee

  2. Colleen says:

    When my dad was in Palliative Care, I would read to him.. I read Anam Cara to him. It seemed to bring him some peace. Seems to me we have been walking some similar paths.. We must get together again. Much love and peace..

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