I think of spiritual direction as one person helping another to recognise where God is speaking to them, and walking with them as they seek to respond. There’s often a degree of mutuality about it.

My friend Keith and I have been meeting in that way for a long time. But he couldn’t make our last meeting as he was on holiday, and we have been unable to arrange an alternative time until the autumn. Not to worry he wrote, I’m meeting with a couple of wise friends over the next few weeks and “some valuable spiritual direction has also recently come from a rediscovered favourite poet”. I replied that in my experience poets often make very good spiritual directors, as do dogs. Dogs sit and listen, pass no judgement, and accept and love you whatever you do. As of course do cats, although cats can be a bit more choosey as to their availability.

Another friend, Marion, also used to meet with me in this way. One day she surprised me by telling me that in fact she had two spiritual directors. “Oh, so you sometimes want a second opinion” I thought to myself with a smile, firmly put in my place. “Yes” she went on “I value our times together but if I need a conversation between our meetings then there’s a hill near where I live, and I walk up it because God always feel close to me at the summiteers was , and I can usually sense what He’s saying to me and what I need to do next.”

So poets can be spiritual directors as can dogs, cats and even hills. That wouldn’t be permitted in the Diocese where I live, because you need first to have been trained on a course, then be checked for whether you have a criminal record, go for safeguarding trading, and finally have a supervisor. Interestingly, God seems to subvert the bureaucracy of the church in these matters as in much else: there surely must be a feral side to the divinity. Praise the Lord for that! But of course He was feral in these matters too.

Probably I need to review my understanding of spiritual direction? How about ‘When a part of God’s creation helps another part to discern God’s voice & respond to it’? And might there be a sense in which that’s always mutual and thus relational?