Spiritual Director from Boldly Loved – Kathi Gatlin – recounts her own spiritual journey and how letting go is what deepens her relationship with God and those she walks alongside. She is able to merge her two passions; teaching and spiritual formation through her work. MysticMag finds out more.
What can you tell us about your own personal spiritual journey and how you came to guide others?
Usually, a spiritual journey starts with great suffering or great love. For me personally I was in a job where I was trying to make things happen. I lost this job outside of my own control. This really opened things up for me.
I started Seminary around this time and followed this journey more for personal growth and healing, realizing that I couldn’t force things to happen and coming to terms with my own powerlessness. I learned how to listen deeply, which is something that I had done before, but I was able to develop this gift, for my own healing as well as for that of others.
Through this training, I became a Spiritual Director, which involves hosting space and allowing people to recognize that they are beloved and that they are okay the way they are. My own tradition is Christianity. So that is my starting place. My hope is that people begin to understand a relationship with a God that loves them, which isn’t always emphasized in Christian theology. Spiritual Direction is about listening people into a greater sense of reality.
Do you believe that everyone should strive to deepen their relationship with God, or is it possible that some are innately and instinctively entwined?
‘Strive’ is the word that I notice in this question. In my understanding our relationship with God is not something we can strive towards. On the contrary, it is about letting go. It is constant surrender and letting go of something we think we need to be, our false self. I believe we are all created in the image of God or whatever you call the ‘thing’ that is bigger than us. Others call it something different. If that is inside each of us and we are created this way, then we all desire to connect to something bigger than we are.
We all have this. The invitation is clear; stop pretending to be who we think we need to be and actually be who we were created to be. Who we are created to be is enough and we don’t have to pretend to be different.
How do you go about awakening your directees to God’s presence and encouraging the relationship to grow?
I think it has to be compassion. As we grow to know ourselves, our own self-awareness allows us a greater awareness of God and as we get to know this God or Source, we in turn get to know ourselves better.
Compassion allows us to experience who we are as okay. Acceptance and belonging are instrumental to this spiritual journey. Once we know we have been accepted and we feel as though we belong, we become freer to be who we are. Our society is riddled with judgment, both internally and externally. God always invites us to greater freedom and wholeness and so stopping the internal fighting and judgment will allow us to heal and integrate and then we can begin to accept others as they are. Compassion opens this up as a possibility.
What noticeable differences can you witness once a directee spreads their wings, so to speak?
People soften and become more free. There is less turmoil and they are more comfortable to be who they are. This doesn’t mean that it is easy. It is recognizing that when you come across something hard or an internal reaction, the invitation is to be curious to why we are reacting in this way. Instead of judging the emotion or reactivity, we can sit with it, understand the internal movements, so we can respond in an open way. For example, social justice that comes from a place of response and knowing communicates to others in an open and nonjudgmental way. When it comes from a more reactive space, it doesn’t open others in the same way. When we recognize that all people are created in the image of God, no one is on the outside, then we can meet the needs of others instead of judging some as not belonging.
What studies or programs do you offer and how do you determine which is best suited for whom?
I let people follow what interests them. One study I teach is a Boldy Loved series which introduces contemplative prayer, using meditation, to recognize that we are all beloved and that God isn’t the wrathful, harsh Being that many teach or understand that he is – even using ‘He’ is a misnomer. The God of Christian Scripture doesn’t have a gender.
This study invites trusting God to meet people where they are and communicates an understanding of Scripture from a mystical and contextual perspective rather than from an authoritative, knowledge-based perspective. When we break this understanding down it helps us recognize our own Belovedness, and that maybe love is God’s meaning and not what we have thought it to be.
In this particular time in our culture we need people who can listen and host space for others. I am teaching a Three-Way Listening series through the Companioning Center that teaches how to hold space for ourselves, others, and God. In addition, we offer training programs for spiritual directors and supervisors to learn how and practice holding space for others in a non-judgmental, gentle, and compassionate way.
If you would like to find out more about Kathi Gatlin, visit http://www.boldlyloved.org/kathi.html or follow on https://www.facebook.com/BoldlyLoved/