What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction is an ancient practice – which “most generations of Christians have agreed is essential” (Eugene Peterson) – intended to facilitate personal awareness of God’s presence, voice, and activity. At its centre, spiritual direction holds two main convictions. First, that God is Immanuel which means that he’s always present, communicative, and involved. Second, that the typically frenzied and cacophonous nature of our lives numbs our spiritual sensitivity to this reality. In other words, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God” (Gerard Manley Hopkins) and we need help attending to this grandeur.
Spiritual direction offers this help. We often don’t know what we are experiencing – especially as it relates to God – until we’re given a safe opportunity to reflect, are asked precise yet gentle questions which invite sharing, and are compassionately listened to. In spiritual direction, a “director” provides such an opportunity so that a “directee” may more deeply understand how God is at work in their life and subsequently decide how they want to respond.
I desired spiritual direction long before I came across it. As my involvement in church and pastoral ministry grew and I became more preoccupied with others’ needs and lives, I realized I had little to no idea about what God was doing in me. I was active, but not contemplative. Where was the time and how did one embody this perspective, anyway? My ignorance was concerning. I longed to maintain a vibrant, interior life with God amidst the exterior activities in which I was engaging. I also knew enough people who burned out because of an imbalanced life and didn’t want to become another casualty.
Through the guidance of God masquerading as happenstance, I got a spiritual director early in 2015. It was entirely life changing. More than ever, I became aware of what God was doing in my life, and how and what he was communicating to me. And I also became far more aware of what was beating in my own heart – hope, fear, weakness and all. Naturally, and perhaps most wonderfully, my intimacy with God deepened. And with intimacy came greater freedom and (as St. Ignatius calls it) “holy indifference.” Now I often tell people that I can’t imagine how I lived without a spiritual director for so long, and that I imagine I’ll have a spiritual director till I die.
Biography and Training
- I was born in India, grew up as a missionary kid, and have lived in seven countries. My wife, Jennifer, and I have two children (Anaya and Marcus) and we live in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
- I did my undergraduate studies in English Literature and Philosophy at Wheaton College and completed my masters in Community Leadership and Philanthropy Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
- I’ve been part of the Vineyard since 2001 and serve as a National Catalyst (Vineyard Engage) for Vineyard Canada. Previously, I pastored at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard, and served as a worship leader at both Trinity Vineyard Christian Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois and at Kowloon City Vineyard in Hong Kong.
- I am the founder and director of Sustainable Faith’s School of Mercy and Justice and teach school cohorts. I also teach in Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction.
- I love film, music, reading, writing, travel, good conversation, and football (FC Barcelona!).
I’ve always found immense joy in being with people as they experience God. Propelled by this joy and realizing that it’s a significant part of my vocation, I began Sustainable Faith’s two-year School of Spiritual Direction in 2015. In addition to actually seeing directees during this time and receiving peer supervision, the most rewarding experience was making the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in the 19th Annotation.
After I completed the program in 2017, I continued seeing directees for spiritual direction, though I never called myself a “spiritual director.” I didn’t feel I was ready despite wanting to be so. Just before the summer of 2018, as a result of some interior clarity and outward confirmation from my supervisor and my wife, I felt it was time to finally call myself a spiritual director.
I have regular (monthly) appointments with my own spiritual director, am in regular (quarterly) supervision, and am a member of both the Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association (ESDA) and Sustainable Faith Affiliates.
- My approach to spiritual direction is informed by Ignatian spirituality and the tenets of Christian orthodoxy.
- I meet with directees for spiritual direction in person and online (via Zoom, FaceTime, Skype etc.).
- Each spiritual direction session is around an hour.
- Sessions usually feature:
- An opening prayer for the directee.
- Space for silence which the directee breaks whenever they’re ready to begin (I’ve had some directees who begin after ten seconds and some who begin after 15 minutes – either is fine with me).
- A closing prayer for the directee.
- The “body” of the session is directees sharing about their experience of God. During this time, my role as a director is to listen attentively and compassionately, to ask good questions (i.e evocative and contemplative questions – the former to nourish further understanding of something and the latter to facilitate attention to God), and to provide an unhurried and contemplative space – often featuring silence – for directees to deepen their awareness of God’s voice, activity, and presence in their lives.
- At present, I charge $50 per session. Payment is by cash, check, Stripe (including an additional fee of 3.5% + $0.3 of the total), or (if you’re in Canada) Interac e-transfer.
- I encourage directees to choose a rhythm of spiritual direction that feels desirable and doable. Most directees book appointments once a month, and I have seen directees twice a month. Anything more frequent is usually not beneficial.
- I recommend that new directees try spiritual direction for at least six months before deciding whether to continue or not.
Meeting monthly for spiritual direction has been a wonderful way to make space in my life for God and for tending to my spiritual life. Suhail creates a quiet, contemplative and prayerful space for me to pay attention to God’s activity in my life. The space feels safe, confidential, prayerful, and explorative. Suhail’s deep listening and insightful questions help me become increasingly aware of God’s movements and invitations in the very ordinary Stuff of day-to-day life. I look forward to these meetings and I often leave with new insights, with a sense of comfort from God, with new energy for my prayer practices, or with a greater sense of God’s affection for me. ~ K
Jesus likes to talk about eyes that see and ears that hear, and about how people think they’re seeing and hearing when they’re actually not. The longer I do life with God, the more aware I am becoming of just how much my spiritual vision needs to be corrected. I get stuck in the dark, when God feels too far away or too quiet, and then I get frustrated. Spiritual direction, for me, has been about the “unstuckness” that comes from visiting a spiritual ophthalmologist, someone who helps you see what God might be up to. Working with Suhail, specifically, has been helpful – and I mean that in the strongest way possible: our sessions have been fortifying, steadying, encouraging, and insightful. I encourage you to meet with him – you will find a kind and generous listener who will help you see and receive God in your own life. ~ C
Spiritual Direction has been one of the most centering things I have done. It helps me to sift through / between my feelings from my thinking. It has also helped me to hear what Jesus is actually saying to me in the midst of it all. Suhail is very sensitive to the presence of God and is uniquely gifted to guide someone through a meaningful time with Jesus. I have recommended him to many friends. I feel loved by God to journey in this life with Suhail by my side. ~ J
Being quite introverted I’ve found that it’s important for me to hear myself articulate what’s happening in my mind and soul; which happens all the time in spiritual direction. What stands out for me is that […] I believe I’ve heard Spirit affirm who I am as a person, often in the details of life. That affirmation has grounded, encouraged and sustained me despite the challenges of the past and present. Suhail has become an important part of that affirmation as he has journeyed with me for over 3 years now as my present SD. I am still moved by his wise, Spirit-led questions and comments. Even when I don’t know what to say he gently guides us into conversations which reveal God’s love at work in my life. Having a SD who teaches spiritual direction and draws on the wisdom of saints, new and old, is a blessing. I am grateful for his contemplative and invitational way of accompanying me and look forward to God using him to deepen my relationship with The One who loves me just the way I am and yet loves me enough to help me become a better image bearer. ~ S
Spiritual direction has been a very enlightening experience for me. It has continually taken me deeper and closer to God and has helped me see more clearly His ultimate love and grace in my life. It has brought great encouragement and consistency as I continue growing and becoming more like Christ. Suhail has always been very caring and patient and his ability to listen accurately, ask the right questions and redirect my attention to the work of God in my life has been an absolute blessing. ~ R
I have been receiving Spiritual Direction from Suhail for the past five years, and it has truly been a gift. Through his hospitality, presence, care and wisdom, Suhail helps cultivate a space in which I can hear God and see what God is doing in my life in ways that I might otherwise miss. In Spiritual Direction I feel the freedom to ask the difficult questions, the encouragement to be fully present to my emotions, and the certainty that whatever I share will be received in kindness and respect. ~ E
The following are excellent albeit brief articles on spiritual direction that provide a more firm grasp on what spiritual direction is and what to expect of it.
- Spiritual Direction in Daily Life (William A. Barry) (PDF)
- Finding a Spiritual Director (Eugene Peterson) (PDF)
If you would like to have some conversation about spiritual direction, or would like to see me for spiritual direction, I’d be happy to talk with you. You can use the form below to get in touch: