Three Year Spiritual Direction Certification Program at The Awakening Institute for Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Direction and Soul Care

Spiritual Direction is about “directing our attention to the presence of God in our lives.”

Gordon T. Smith

     Spiritual direction is a one on one or group experience in which the director (sometimes called a companion or friend) creates sacred space for both the director and the directee to listen too and be guided by the Holy Spirit, who is the real director.  Training, to be a Spiritual Director, at the Awakening Institute is designed to help the spiritual director  become more adept in the ability to listening to the person before them, while simultaneously being fully open and responsive  to the movement of the Holy Spirit in both the directee and themselves. The purpose of Spiritual Direction is to help other people move toward a  deeper experience and a more fervent response to God's gentle yet powerful voice in their lives. The heart of the Spiritual Direction relationship is prayer, thus the spiritual director must be a person of prayer. William Barry and William Connolly in their book "The Practice of Spiritual Direction" define spiritual direction "as help by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God's personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with God, and to live the consequences of the relationship." 

   Over the past 30 years there has been an explosion of interest in spirituality and spiritual direction. There has also been a tremendous increase in interest for the mystical side of spirituality, which has been ignored to the great detriment of the Christian community in our times. There is a basic human thirst for a consistent sense of God’s presence that is difficult for people to find in today’s world. People are hungry for sacred space that can facilitate and predispose one to the Holy Presence in which they seek.  Immersion into the mystery of God’s presence combined with the reality that God is present and is speaking to us, along with the human desire to know and respond to God’s divine presence and guidance, has led thousands to seek competent spiritual direction. The practice of spiritual direction is growing in virtually all Christian denominations as more and more people come to realize the orthodoxy of the practice and see the positive impact that it is having on so many followers of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, spiritual direction is tailor made for a society that hungers for such things as social justice, intimacy, commitment, true face to face relationships, as well as foundational truth and wisdom. Great numbers of people today, young and old, are hungry for inner peace, stillness, and order that make sense in the midst of so much suffering and emotional strife.

     The Awakening Institute’s Spiritual Direction Training Program is a three year program consisting of 20 sessions (53 hours) of both study and experiential learning for each of the first two years (40 sessions total), followed by an eight week practicum in year three. The program is designed to train up directees to become facilitators of sacred space in which their directees can better sense God’s presence in their lives. Directors are trained to experience and to help others (directees) experience God in fresh new ways, as together they navigate the spiritual hunger, desires, and impulses, all within the context of developing a deepening awareness of God’s presence in their directees and to interpret these God encounters in a holistically formational; spirit, soul, mind and body manner. Prayer and listening in a contemplative manner are tools that are used to better equip both directors and directees on their spiritual journey.

Becoming a Trained Spiritual Director


     What does it mean to be trained in Spiritual Direction? First, it is important for us to understand that Spiritual Directors are not made in the training. The training is designed to fine tune what God is already doing. Most individuals who seek to be fine-tuned in this manner are already called by God to the ministry and, in fact, may already have experienced people just naturally approaching them with spiritual questions and issues. Secondly, it is important to remember that Spiritual Direction is not the same as counseling, or pastoral care/ministry, however it does compliment, and in many cases completes, these vital callings, within the context of the church in general.

Being Trained at “The Awakening Institute”


The Awakening Institute program for the training of Christian spiritual directors has been carefully crafted in such a manner that aspiring directors are taught to know themselves (spirit/heart, soul, mind and body) in relationship with God, at a deeper level and to become more accustomed to ongoing growth in their relationship with God. In this they become prepared to learn how to do the same for their directees. This is accomplished through a variety of time proven approaches, both informational and experiential. I invite you to take a look at each individual gathering as they are described below and to feel free to contact us with any questions or comments you may have.

Course of Study for Certification in Spiritual Direction


     The course of study for Certification in Spiritual Direction through the Awakening Institute is a two year, 20 sessions per year, program that immerses the student in the practice of Spiritual Direction (sometimes referred to as spiritual companionship or spiritual friendship). This two year experience is then followed by an eight week practicum in Spiritual Direction with a competent supervisor at their side.

     Each session (usually weekly) is an experience by which the student engages the material on a daily, bite size basis, preceded by a weekly meeting 1. Each session comes with its own workbook that directs the student in their daily study and experience. Furthermore, the student has daily access to their professor via email as they move through the material.

     Those who are in a discernment period with regard to the necessary commitment needed to become a certified in Spiritual Direction through the Awakening Institute may want to consider taking the first course, “Introduction to Spiritual Direction”, as a way to help with their decision. (See enrollment application below).

Year One


Session 1: Introduction to Spiritual Direction:  The first class/seminar offered is titled, An Introduction to Spiritual Direction, which gives general overview of the practice and offers an opportunity for participants to in an intentional manner, their calling to Spiritual Direction. This is a time in which the participant considers their calling to become a trained Spiritual Director, but also provides an experience that opens one up to the practice spiritual direction as a directee, even if a calling to be to be Spiritual Directors is not pursued. Those called to go further then move toward an experience of self-discovery titled Spiritual Dispositions.



Session 2: Spiritual Dispositions: This is a time of self-discovery. For it is in knowing oneself that we are able to better live in response to the reality of God’s Love and God’s presence. We also consider the reality that we, as are all people, are created in the image and likeness of God.  When we experience these truth’s, in a fully alive manner, we are given the grace to be most effective in helping others to do the same. For it is in this self-discovery work that communication with the Holy Spirit, in an inspired perceptive manner, most profoundly and effectively takes place.

     Toward this process of self-discovery we first consider what we call Spiritual Dispositions. Herein the participant does an inward exploration of how the fruit of the Spirit,   as given to us in Galatians 5:22-26, are effective in our lives. Additionally, we also consider aspects of gratefulness, humility, compassion, and forgiveness. The goal of this exploration is to become more familiar with God’s work in us so as to be able to help others get in touch with God’s work in them. We have found this to be a wonderful way in which to become more finely attuned to God’s presence and thus help others hear God, through God’s movement in them, more clearly.  This experience sets the stage for one of the most important of all holy habits, as by the grace of God we begin to consider the gift of contemplative listening.




Session 3: Contemplative Listening: Contemplative listening, at its core, is listening to God with a growing awareness of God with us. In practice we learn to develop a listening ear so we may better hear God speaking to us as the director, while simultaneously developing an ear to hear God’s voice in the life of the directee. This enables the director to help the directee better hear God within the context of the spiritual direction session and beyond. This practice stands at the very center of the practice of Spiritual direction as it is important that we maintain a sense of Emmanuel, God with us, whenever we sit down with a directee. For this to occur we believe that one should have a good grasp of Jesus Christ, as God incarnate, which is addressed in the next gathering which focuses on incarnational theol0gy.



Session 4: Incarnational Theology: A key component of Christian spiritual direction, as well as the Christian mystical journey to unity with God, as Jesus expressed in John 17:20-24, is couched in the reality of which the Apostle John writes.


And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. NRS John 1:14


This combined with the incarnational concept that all believing Christians are the body of Christ, those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells and is leading us to unity with God, holiness of heart,  and a life that proclaims Christ’s glory, means that the spiritual director will thus be well served well by with a good grasp of what it means to say that Jesus Christ is God incarnate.

     In connection with incarnational theology we have found that the effectiveness of practicing the presence of God is greatly enhanced by an understanding of Christian Mysticism in Today’s World.



Sessions 5-9: Christian Mysticism in Today’s World: At The Awakening Institute we offer both a fourteen week as well as a condensed five week program (the five week program being part of  the spiritual direction training program) where the aspiring spiritual director can become immersed in and explore Christian mysticism, which at its core is a journey consisting of a transformative personal relationship with Jesus Christ, in interaction with the body of Christ, with special emphasis on how such an understanding may be helpful in the spiritual direction relationship; all of which stems from the understanding that God is Love (1John 8; 6). Thus, our focus is on spiritual formation within a mystical paradigm consisting of an awareness of Love, beholding Love, purification by Love, following Love, uniting with Love and eternal kenotic (self-emptying) Love. Because this is such an in depth look at the Christian journey the question of grief and suffering always comes forth, thus this is the focus of our next gathering.



Session 10: Grief and Suffering: An important topic, which will undoubtedly arise after the director and directee have met several times, will be that of grief and suffering.  The primary focus in the director/directee relationship is always that of the directee’s relationship with God. Difficult times in a person life will invariably have an effect, either positively or negatively, on a person’s relationship with God.  Therefore, it is important for the director to do their own inner work in this area. This inner work is addressed as we grapple with grief and suffering in our own lives, so we may be better grasp the struggle in the life of the directee, and more importantly help them see God in the midst of the pain and struggle.  Furthermore, it is important to consider end of life issues when they arise. Thus, it is beneficial for the director to consider the formidable issue of death and dying as well. By discovering ways to live and to die well, both on a daily basis and as an ultimate reality the spiritual director can be a great blessing for the directee who find themselves in such a situation. Having considered grief and suffering we have found that a gathering, which is unique to The Awaking Institute, as far as I know, is one titled “Beholding”.



Session 11:Beholding: An important concept for the Spiritual Director is that of beholding. In beholding we perceive that on which we look in a deeper re-contextualized manner. Beholding is based on the understanding that God who is Love, is in our midst. Thus we are enabled, if we allow it, by God’s grace, to see everything within the context of Loves’ presence. In this we become willing to allow that on which we place our gaze to change us in accordance with Love. In other words, with a conscious awareness of God’s presence nothing, and certainly no one, is trivial or unimportant, because we behold that on which we are looking within the atmosphere of Love. The practice of Beholding thus is developed through various disciplines that open us to behold self, others, creation and God in Love, as we become surrendered to Love, fully willing to allow Love, God, to change us and our relationship with that on which we are beholding, all in accordance the will of God, which of course is always for the better. The practice of beholding becomes more and more profound the more we allow the regenerative power of   the Holy Spirit and purification by and in Jesus Christ to become effectual in our lives. Thus, it behooves us to have a good understanding of the person and actions of both.   



Session 12: Christology and Pneumatology: As we are being trained in the art of spiritual direction, we must consider our understanding of Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, which in theological terms are studies referred to as Christology and Pneumatology.  Since our primary concern, in the practice of Christian Spiritual Direction, is the directee’s relationship with God, it behooves us, as spiritual directors, to have a good grasp on our own relationship with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

    Christ Jesus is the Word (see John 1:1-5); the Savior who became flesh (see Luke 2:11; John 1:14), who conquered death (see 1 Cor. 54-56), purifies us of our sin (see John 1:29), gives sight to the blind (see Luke 4:18; John 9:1-41), is the light of the world (see John 9:5) and is Emmanuel, God with us (see Matthew 2:23; 28:20). As such, Christ Jesus becomes the one who reveals to us the truth of who we are, as God’s image bearers and in Christ as God’s children and also reveals the reality of God with us, moment by moment. With this the Christian spiritual director understands that eternity is open before us and that sight can go beyond the temporal and into the spiritual as well. The idea is to be able to point to the light of life, who is Christ Jesus, as the one who reveals truth and love. In this belief becomes sight, thus we see God with us and guiding us; directee and director alike.

     The spiritual director understands the work of the Holy Spirit as wooing the world to belief in Christ Jesus, while empowering believers to follow Christ Jesus to holiness and union with God. The Holy Spirit is sent by God the Father, called forth by God the Son, to regenerate the human spirit that is dead in sin. At the heart of the Christian spiritual directors understanding of the Holy Spirt stands a concept referred to as, “Perceptible Inspiration.” For it is by the Holy Spirit that regeneration of the human spirit occurs, born again, coupled with Christ’s purification of sin that we are able to see and to respond to God’s work within us and through us, as within in and through others. This is what it is to be contemplative. Thus, we move quite appropriately and naturally to the practice of contemplative prayer. 



Session 13: Contemplative Prayer for Every Believer: Within all the various practices, disciplines, and experiences that go into becoming a trained spiritual director, as the practice is taught at The Awakening Institute, it is important to realize that each of these, within the actual course of study, are comprised of 2-3 hour seminars and a weeklong study, all designed to inspire a lifelong learning process. At the heart of it all stands the firm belief, based on an experience of Emmanuel, God with us. Christian spiritual direction therefore is founded on belief in Jesus Christ from a Trinitarian (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) perspective as with us at all times. In other words, it is contemplative practice, which means to practice the presence of God in a palpable, ever deepening, and more intimate manner, as a way of daily, moment by moment, living. Furthermore, we believe that this experience is not just for a chosen set of special Christians, but for all Christians, which includes of course the spiritual director and directee. This is the foundational teaching we have titled, Contemplative Prayer for Every Believer.


"Contemplation happens to everyone. It happens in moments when we are open, undefended, and immediately present."  Gerald May


Our Lord, Jesus Christ, is our supreme example of this practice.


But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray. NRS Luke 5:16


     Contemplative prayer is an intentional act by which we enter into sacred space, where we become open to God’s presence. This sacred space consists of, the space of time, the space of place, and the space of spirit. 



Time: Jesus had regular times of prayer in the morning (Mark 1:35), during the day (Luke 4:42), at night (Mark 6:30-31) and sometimes

          all night (Luke 6:12).


Place: He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. NRS Luke 22:39


Spirit: But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; NRS Jude 1:20

Having considered Contemplative prayer we move toward a gathering in which we consider how we respond to our practicing of God’s presence. This is titled Contemplation in Action.



Session 14: Contemplation in Action: This experience is centered on the understanding that one who practices the presence of God is one who is called to grow increasing into the likeness of Jesus Christ, God, whose presence we practice and experience, for the sake of others, and all creation. For, to know God’s presence and to sit in God’s counsel and to follow God, then fail to respond in some manner, for the benefit of all that God loves, is simply disobedience. On the other hand failing to spend time with God, yet still doing things that we think is God’s will is to act out of ignorance. Contemplation, which is our personal “with God” experience, and Action, which is our “for God and others” experience, cannot be separated. In fact they feed one another and are necessary for the Christian to move toward holiness and union with God. It is important for the spiritual director to keep this in mind, for themselves and for their directee. In the next session we then continue to go deeper by taking a close look at the prayers of Christ Jesus.



Session 15: Praying Like Jesus: As we have discovered along the way, prayer is the foundational spiritual discipline. Likewise, prayer, for both  director and directee, is a crucial consideration in the practice of spiritual direction. Thus, it is imperative that spiritual directors are people of prayer who encourage their directees to be people of prayer as well. We have found, within the context of training spiritual directors that one of the best ways to learn about prayer is to turn to our Lord Jesus Christ, in the same manner as did the disciples when they said, “Lord teach us to pray.”

   Therefore, an immersive study that takes a close look at the prayers of Jesus in Scripture is of great benefit for the well trained spiritual director. In this seminar/workshop we experience,  The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ Prayer at Gethsemane, and Jesus’ great prayer in John 17, along with several others from the perspective of content, place, time and spirit.  Therefore we consider…


Stages of prayer

   1. Prayer of the lips (say it with your mouth)

   2. Prayer of the mind (think it with your mind)

   3. Prayer of the heart (felt and known, in your



     It is also important for the spiritual director to be aware of aspects of prayer that speak to such things as gratitude, attitude, physicality, and healing. This also includes a look at, Private devotional prayer; Prayer demonstrating powerful inner strength; Prayer of solitude; as well as Long term, patient, prayer; and Prayer of glory, all as given to us in God’s word, by Christ Jesus. The next two session then consider two other ways to pray that may be employed by the spiritual director for self-edification or for that of their directees. These are Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina.



Session 16: Prayer of Intention or Centering Prayer: Often the spiritual director will hear a directee speak of distractions and wandering thoughts during prayer. It is important for the spiritual director to have addressed these in their own prayer lives so they can help their directee in theirs. A time proven approach to the problem of distraction and wandering thoughts is a practice known as Centering Prayer.  At its core this practice offers the praying person a way to enter into God’s gift of sacred space, a deeper sense of the physicality and tactile sensations of prayer, and to declare our intention to be present with God. In this we recognize the sacred space in and around us in which God is present and active. This creates an atmosphere of grace by which our entire being spirit/heart, soul, mind and body can gently rest in a deep awareness of God with us, to whom we pray. This can effectively do away with distractions and wandering thoughts. The following is an outline of the nuts and bolts of this session.


 Guidelines for Centering Prayer


1. Find a quiet place.

2. Sit upright in a comfortable position.

3. Choose a sacred word as a symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within. I personally choose the name of

   “Jesus Christ.”

4. Close your eyes. Become aware of your breathing. Take three slow deep breaths and settle into the space around you.

5. Silently introduce your sacred word as a symbol of your consent for God’s presence and action within. Repeat several times, then allow the

    word to drop into your subconscious. 

6. When distracted, gently return to the sacred word.



Session 17: Lectio Divina: Lectio Divina is a form of sacred reading designed to help the student experience Scripture in a transformational manner that compliments and transcends the usual exegetical or informational approach. Lectio Divina is Latin for “reading spiritually.” Lectio is an ancient practice designed to bring the disciple to an ever deepening awareness, experience, and responsiveness to God’s presence and guidance, ultimately leading to contemplation and union with God. Traditionally lectio divina consists of four movements called lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. At The Awakening Institute we expand these four to seven, which include a form of contemplation from the cataphatic tradition, of imagination and symbols, with to the apophatic contemplation of mystical negation, which is found in traditional lectio divina. We also include a sixth reading focused on action, in which the disciple is encouraged to respond to any guidance that God may have placed on the heart during the Lectio experience. To all these we have added a time of silent preparation as a way to rest in the Lord’s presence in a preparatory manner.

     The last two sessions of year one of the Awakening Institutes Training for Spiritual Direction are titled, Discerning God’s Will and Developing Holy Habits.



Sessions 18-19: Discerning God’s Will: Discerning God’s Will is an experience where the director is exposed to three powerful ways to discern and respond to God's will in the Christian Journey, which are 1) The Wesleyan Quadrilateral; 2) Ignatian discernment through the "Prayer of Examine", and 3) The Clearness Committee. In this experience we employ an Awakening Institute, 29 page, resource titled, “A Brief Guide through Ignatian Discernment, with a Wesleyan perspective and Perceived Inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” The scriptural premise for this experience comes from Romans 12:1-2 which reads…


I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-- what is good and acceptable and perfect. NRS 




Session 20: Developing Holy Habits: it is imperative for the Christian spiritual director to develop a Rule of Life which includes spiritual disciplines that provide direction and sustenance for their journey in Christ Jesus toward union with God. This session considers practices such as  regular daily practice of prayer, silence, experiencing the Scriptures, worship, and meditation, as well as having their own spiritual director with whom they meet regularly, all in accordance with how these practices fall into line with how God is working in the director, or the directee, during various seasons of their life . Additionally, the director is encouraged to explore any number of other spiritual disciplines that may be conducive toward maintaining a vibrant and effective life in Christ Jesus.


Year Two


Sessions 1-5: Introduction to the Enneagram: the enneagram is an ancient tool for personal transformation based on nine 9 personality types and 27 sub-types. In this session we will explore the enneagrams ability to identify and explore inner barriers to spiritual growth, and realize unique gifts and strengths, by discovering predictable behavioral patterns based our unique wiring. The student will also learn how, as a spiritual director, to administer and score the enneagram, thus discovering their own predominant type, as well as that of the directee with an eye toward paths to spiritual growth.        



Sessions 6-10: The Journey: The participant will be introduced to a unique holistic, body, mind, heart approach toward recognizing and responding to God’s touch. The heart of the class is the discovery of ways we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, participate in our own transformation. The course is designed to help the participant move toward a deeper biblical understanding of spiritual formation and soul care in both personally, and to help others do the same in the role of spiritual director.



Sessions 11-15: Knowing as We Are Known: This is a twenty nine day experience of contemplative prayer.  The class is in five parts consisting of an introductory class, followed by classes on contemplation, holy waiting, hope and assurance. The primary text for this class is, "Knowing As We Are Known" by Gene Yotka.



Sessions 16-20: Encountering and Responding to God’s Presence: This offering consists of five sections designed to explore historic and unique ways in which humanity experiences and responds to God’s Presence, through the spiritual disciplines of inner stillness, humility, gratitude, and service. Our objectives will be to gain a fundamental knowledge of various practices that can prepare the participant to become more aware of God’s Presence and to cultivate ways in which the participant can better respond to God’s Presence. A primary goal is to come to a better understanding of our, human position in relationship to God. (Six weeks)


Year Three (Practicum)


Over an eight week period the director (you) will schedule eight different weekly spiritual direction meetings with directees of your own choice. The director (you) provides a written contemplative reflection (form provided) of each weekly session to be looked over by one of our spiritual direction supervisors, who will then discuss your session with you so as fine tune your spiritual direction skills. Full details and resources will be provided at the time.    

Please note that each class is able to be taken independent of the certification program. To register for a specific class, and for more information as to times and dates,

please click on the registration button next to description of the  class in which you are interested