Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What is SDI?

One more acronym to figure out. Oh no!—another “stupid dumb institution.”

SDI stands for Spiritual Directors International. Not stupid. Not dumb. Not institution.

SDI is a an organization dedicated to the ministry and practice of Spiritual Direction (SD) a discipline with ancient roots and contemporary practice of guidance in deepening your relationship with divinity in your soul and divinity all around you.

SD spans all religious traditions and many secular humanists come wondering and seeking. The longing persists for something beyond human effort alone, something beyond human beings—Being itself.

SDI is a global learning community of people from many faiths and many nations who share a common concern, passion and commitment to the art and contemplative practice of spiritual direction. There are annual conferences, a monthly journal called Presence and a website where you can learn more about SDI history and purpose and locate a Spiritual Director in your area with the Seek and Find Guide.

Recently I attended a meeting of this organization at which Boston area directors gathered to network, eat cookies, pray in silence together, share our hopes and concerns, and get to know the coordinating team.

The value of this meeting was to see faces of our community. Most of us practice alone in offices or homes and only connect on line. In the age of Facebook it was inspiring to me to see real faces and hear voices too. I confess I get tired of electronic connecting that is deaf, dumb and blind even if it is convenient and quick.

SD’s don’t just sit around and pray; nor do their directees. We don’t simply go on retreats or spend time on our knees looking at icons. Nor do we seek to strengthen our personal spirituality for self betterment or happiness. We seek to transform the soul of the world.

SD is not for narcissists or the faint of heart. We talk to God about peace, justice, simplicity, love. Our lives exemplify these values.

That mission is why the SDI committee made a last minute decision to cancel the Boston accommodations for the annual conference in April, 2011 and move the conference to Atlanta. Why? The large conference had been scheduled at the Hyatt in Boston.

The Hyatt recently made some management decisions that conflict jarringly with our core spiritual values of faith, hope and love to say nothing of the common good. They trained people who would work for less money, then fired their maintenance staff and put in the new and cheaper team. I’m sure there are nuances and official excuses for the inexcusable but that’s the nutshell.

The decision was of course a great disappointment to Boston SD’s. SDI’s director Liz Budd Ellman told us the decision was made with much reflection and prayer.

It is impossible to discern exactly what God wants but this one wasn’t hard to guess. What the Hyatt did in the interest of their own profitable survival. I doubt they will suffer from SDI’s decision as their former employees suffered from their executive decision.

Bostonian SD’s were disappointed but affirming of the rightness of this discernment. Everyone praised and overpraised. I wondered.

Rightness can be close to righteousness.

What about the present staff, hired under such inauspicious circumstances. How do they feel? Are they ashamed of needing and having a job at whatever cost? Do they cringe at the publicity and the protests? Are they treated with respect? Did they know the circumstances?

I have no doubt about the sincerity of SDI’s decision. I know it wasn’t knee jerk bleeding heart liberal spiritual reactivity. I pose my questions to caution against any syrupy jargon that stultifies and sets us apart from the hard truth that all decisions, God or no God, are extremely complex and likely painful even for those we imagine to be haughty.

I have faith in the long slow movement of the divine Spirit in and through everyone involved.

No one can know what Holy Wisdom works in human hearts.

SDI will continue on in its fine ministry, making decisions to the best of their limited capacity, trusting that time—grace and circumstances acting on our own good will—will bring about goodness and truth.