Ramona Harris is a Spiritual Director and author of “Awakening the Mystic in You: Messages of Light from the Christian Mystics“, and an inspirational card deck entitled, “The Wisdom of the Christian Mystics“. In this feature, she Ramona shares insights with MysticMag about how spiritual guidance can help explore and nurture your spiritual journey.
Please tell us a bit about your background and what led you to help guide others?
I have a Master’s degree in Education/School Counseling and a Master’s degree in Pastoral Studies with a focus on Spirituality. While going to graduate school I learned about spiritual direction & found someone to guide me in a holistic, nonjudgmental manner. I loved the interaction, the ability to talk about my feelings and my spirituality to someone who would listen objectively. I felt I would also like to help people in this way, so I sought out training to become a spiritual director. I was trained in the art of spiritual direction at the Sisters of Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA. It was a summer residential program and one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. People with a variety of belief systems came from literally all over the world to be trained in our cohort.
How would you describe Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction is format where a person (known as a directee) comes to share their sacred story in a safe space with another who is especially trained in a non-judgmental way of listening. That listener is called a spiritual director (also known as a spiritual companion or spiritual guide). The word “director” connotes telling one what to do, which is a misnomer. A spiritual director is analogous to a compass which always points to the direction north, so one can find their way. A spiritual director helps the directee to find or stay on their path, north being the direction where they desire to be spiritually, in communion with the Divine. Spiritual direction invites a person to deepen their connection with the Holy Mystery we call God, or whatever name that is used by the directee to denote the Transcendent. Spiritual direction is not therapy, nor does a spiritual director give advice. A spiritual director helps the directee notice where God is in their everyday life experiences and supports the directee in their discernment of the choices that are challenging them concerning life-changing issues. Usually, a directee will meet with a spiritual director once a month for about an hour.
In your opinion, why do people lose hope in difficult situations and what can be helpful?
I think people lose hope in difficult situations often because they don’t have someone who will listen to their concerns in an objective manner, someone who can help them picture the “more” of life that they may not be able to envision. Some others feel a lack of self-worth and feel they have no reason to go on. A spiritual director recognizes the uniqueness, dignity, and worth of people and helps such people see and understand their own value and their gifts which can bring hope to them and point them toward the future. A spiritual director can quietly sit with a person who is grieving and be a gentle presence listening to them and providing a safe space for them with no judgment. Sometimes people lose hope because they feel alone in their situation, sometimes thinking that God has given up on them. A spiritual director can help them recover their sense of God’s love for them which can be very helpful in giving a person hope.
What advice would you offer someone discovering Spirituality and looking to start their journey?
I say, become a lover of nature and creation. See the awe & wonder of planet earth, the stars, the clouds, the cosmos. Read great spiritual authors from a variety of faith traditions. Read sacred scriptures. Read books of poetry, philosophy, and psychology. Get to know the wonder and intricacies of the way the world works, the marvels of the human body, science, and quantum physics. Learn about other cultures. Have stimulating conversations. Be a lover. All of these things are intricately intertwined and are not only physical but spiritual. The human mind and heart yearn to be filled with such reverence, really. We desire to be filled with delight and joy which is all around us if we just open our eyes to it. . . the invisible made visible, in a spiritual sense. As Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 19th century poet and Jesuit priest once wrote, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
Do you have any spiritual or self-care practices that you regularly follow or would recommend?
Before I put my feet on the floor every morning, I say thank you to the Transcendent (the one I call God). Thank you for another day and another opportunity to find the best in this world. Thank you for another opportunity to be better than I was the day before. Thank you for another day to find the Divine in all things and to let the Divine find me too. Giving gratitude throughout the day is a practice that is very helpful in keeping one a bit humble and appreciative, recognizing that there are graced moments to be had and to be given throughout the day.
I like to read the Sacred Scripture of my faith tradition daily. I would recommend that some sort of “holy” reading, “sacred” reading be done on a regular basis, however that might work for each individual. It helps to get us out of “small” selves and opens us up to knowing that we’re not “finished” yet. That as long as we are alive, we have the capacity to enhance our spiritual development and grow in love. We are on a journey, an adventure that will affect those around us and in turn have a ripple effect we cannot even fathom. So, let’s make our time on this planet the best we can, relative to our capacities.
Another important self-care practice is to laugh every day. Whether it be with friends or while watching a movie or tv show or reading something wildly hilarious. Laughter is such good medicine. It helps us keep a balanced perspective on life and it is good for the mind, body, and spirit.
It’s also vital to find some time for quiet and solitude each day. For me, I like to take a time out – focusing on my breath and giving gratitude for my breath. I like to imagine I am breathing in the breath of God and then breathing God out into the world as a healing energy. Working with the breath is a lovely, meditative practice.
Finally, moving one’s body is important, be it exercise, walking, gardening, biking, bowling, dancing, window shopping, or whatever works for doing something physical.
I believe doing something that is good and positive for our mind, body & spirit every day is necessary. Balance in these three areas is key to good spiritual health.