Amy Rio is a spiritual director and founder of Wingspan Spiritual Wellness, a practice that offers individual and group spiritual direction services, workshops, and retreats. With a passion for helping individuals connect with their spirituality and find meaning and purpose in life, Amy provides a safe and compassionate space for exploration and growth. Amy is also an ordained United Methodist minister – MysticMag finds out more.
Can you tell us about your background and journey into becoming a writer, reader, minister, spiritual director and guide, and wedding officiant?
I am an ordained United Methodist minister with over 31 years of experience. My grandfather was also a Methodist minister, so it’s a family tradition that I have continued. Throughout my career, I have worked in local churches and collegiate ministry, where I worked with people of various faith traditions, beliefs, and backgrounds. It was during my time in seminary when I found a spiritual director, which had a profound impact on me. This experience led me to pursue becoming a spiritual director myself, and I completed the Haden Institute for Spiritual Direction seven years ago. I founded Wingspan Spiritual Wellness and have been seeing individual clients for spiritual direction on the side while working full-time as a college chaplain and now serving a church full-time. I also mentor other spiritual directors through the Hayden Institute, which has been a great joy for me.
What draws you to the work of spiritual direction and guidance? What are some of the key principles and practices that you bring to this work, and how do you help clients deepen their spiritual awareness and connection?
For me, exploring existential questions is at the core of the human experience, and spiritual direction is a way to delve deeply into that work and discover where we are being called. As a spiritual guide, I don’t necessarily direct or tell people what to do. Instead, I create an environment where the divine presence is felt and individuals or groups can uncover their own spiritual paths. Each session looks different since I work with a diverse range of people, but the key element is hospitality. I strive to create an open and welcoming space where people can truly be themselves and connect with the divine presence in their lives.
As a wedding officiant, what do you see as the key elements of a meaningful and memorable wedding ceremony? How do you work with couples to create a ceremony that reflects their unique values, beliefs, and vision for their future together?
Couples usually find me through a friend or my website since many of them don’t have a religious affiliation. They want their wedding to have meaning and shape, so I typically have several meetings with them to get to know them and offer options for creating a meaningful ceremony. We discuss readings, vows, and traditions they may want to incorporate from different faiths or cultures. I see myself as a guide and offer suggestions, but ultimately it’s their ceremony and we co-create it together. I always emphasize that I won’t impose anything on them or insist on any particular approach.
Can you talk about your experience as a writer, and how this fits into your broader work as a spiritual guide and minister? How do you use writing as a tool for personal growth and self-reflection, and how do you encourage others to do the same?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, even as a child. I’ve used it throughout my personal journey as a spiritual director, including teaching group spiritual direction courses where we focus on spiritual journaling and sharing our writing prompts. When working with individual clients, I sometimes give them writing prompts or have them focus on a phrase or image that has deep meaning for them. I’ve had a few essays or chapters published on spirituality and the spiritual journey, which I hope reaches a broad audience. I would love to do more writing, but it’s a matter of finding time to fit it in.
Finally, what do you see as the future of spiritual guidance and support, both within and outside of traditional religious institutions? Are there any emerging trends or opportunities that you’re particularly excited about, and how do you see yourself contributing to this future?
In my opinion, religious institutions have become more like formal organizations. Although I am part of one, I have noticed that many people are finding that these institutions do not fulfill their spiritual needs. There is often a hierarchical and patriarchal structure in these institutions, which can be limiting for many individuals. Furthermore, we are living in a time where we are facing numerous challenges, such as climate change and gun violence. It is a greatly divided time, and people are struggling with anxiety and mental health issues. Spiritual direction does not replace mental health care, but it can help people find a grounding and center that can assist them in navigating these challenges.
I strongly believe that spiritual direction is needed now more than ever. The world has seen a movement towards wellness and well-being, and spiritual well-being is a critical part of that. In my practice at Wingspan Spiritual Wellness and in the training I provide at the Hayden Institute, I have noticed that more and more people who do not have a spiritual background are searching for ways to find meaning, peace, and centeredness in the midst of a stressful world. Therefore, I think that spiritual direction will continue to be a significant need and draw for people in the coming years. I am excited to continue working in this field and helping people on their spiritual journeys.
If you would like to find out more about Amy Rio, visit https://amyjrio.com/