Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Care are two spiritually oriented ministries that can utilize BioSpiritual Focusing. Each is focused on being with individuals as they seek the Divine in their spiritual journeys, especially in difficult times and situations. Just as Focusing can be combined with a variety of therapeutic modalities, it can also significantly enhance the effectiveness of spiritual direction and pastoral care encounters.
Ongoing spiritual transformation that enables an individual to be in sync with his or her “authentic self” and the “Universe” is the goal of spiritual direction and pastoral care. The question faced by spiritual direction/pastoral care ministers is: “ What is the best way to facilitate spiritual transformation?” This is the same question (but in a different form) that was asked by Gene Gendlin in his research on what therapeutic modality was the most effective in helping clients transform their lives. What Gendlin discovered was that it was not what the therapist said or did that made any difference. Rather, it was what the client did in relationship to her or his felt-sense. The greatest level of personal transformation occurred when the clients engaged their felt-senses. Along with his fellow researchers, Gendlin created what he called the “ Experiencing Scale” that reflected their findings. Here is a simple approximation of that scale:
From the research, it is clear that the key to personal transformation and healing is through the engaging of one’s felt-senses. This discovery has significant implications for spiritual directors and pastoral care ministers because it provides a new lens through which the spiritual direction/pastoral care relationships can be seen. If engaging one’s felt-senses is the key to personal growth and transformation, then the focus of the spiritual direction/pastoral care encounter should facilitate that kind of interaction.
2. BioSpiritual Focusing Options
There are several options in the way that spiritual directors and pastoral care ministers might utilize BioSpiritual Focusing. The first option is to use single elements of the BioSpiritual Focusing flow as appropriate:
- “Clearing a Space” can be helpful in beginning a spiritual direction/pastoral care session. It enables the Companioned person to set whatever issues that might be troubling them aside and to create some “breathing space” from which to then engage those issues. It can also be an excellent way to help individuals who are overwhelmed with many burdens to find an inner place of respite.
- Reflecting back in a BioSpiritual listening manner may increase the Companioned person’s sense that she or he is truly being heard and understood. It also conveys the sense that “ I am not alone in this!” and “ I am more than all of this!” This type of listening is called “healing listening”. For guidelines and a checklist on “healing listening” go to our library and click on the Healing Listening folder.
- Asking the individual to “pause” and “be with” a felt-shift can amplify that positive experience and lead to deeper insights
A second option for a spiritual director or pastoral care minister is to Companion using the entire BioSpiritual Focusing flow. In this option, the spiritual director or pastoral care minister would follow the Companioning guidelines and suggestions that have been outlined in the previous two pages of this website section.
3. BioSpiritual Focusing Practice
The best use of BioSpiritual Focusing for Companioning ministers is to actually have BioSpiritual Focusing as a personal spiritual practice. Not only would the regular practice of “ noticing and nurturing feelings” be a way to tap into their inner wisdom and transformation but it would also be a powerful, grace-filled source of strength, courage and inspiration. It can also help minimize the possibility of personal burnout. In addition, being able to ground oneself and to be fully present to another is a key to effective and positive spiritual direction/pastoral care meetings. It also deepens one’s awareness of the privilege and honor to witness the sacred workings of the Divine in another person…and that is the greatest gift of all.
4. Necessity of Further Education
The use of BioSpiritual Focusing in spiritual direction and pastoral care settings is a learned skill. What has been presented here is only a brief articulation of the scope of BioSpiritual Focusing and Companioning ministries and is not intended to be a summary of all you need to know in order to utilize BioSpiritual Focusing in your ministry. Becoming competent in using BioSpiritual Focusing in spiritual direction and pastoral care settings requires further learning in BioSpiritual Focusing itself and in Companioning skills. Please refer to the Learning Experiences section of this website for the programs that are available through our Network.