Can spiritual direction be enhanced through a process improvement approach?

by Hugh Russell on August 15, 2010

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A process improvement approach is more directive, structured and performance-based than spiritual direction. These differences are reasons why the Project-Transform method may be a useful complement for spiritual direction. A process improvement approach may help support spiritual direction, as well as psychotherapy and pastoral counseling, in four ways.

First, the individual may utilize a process improvement approach to analyze their whole life, their activities as well as their thoughts and feelings, for how well the individual is following the “direction” received from spiritual direction. Based on the review, changes may be made to optimize the individual’s adherence to the “direction.”

Second, the individual may focus on any specific activities or situations identified during spiritual direction as obstacles to spiritual growth. A process improvement approach can help:

1. Determine the root causes of the obstacles.
2. Identify action steps for removing or mitigating those obstacles.
3. Facilitate executing the actions.
4. Provide an ongoing mechanism for alerting the individual should those obstacle begin to reappear.

Third, the individual may enhance the quality of their participation within a spiritual direction session by identifying what hinders them from more fully participating in the session and then removing those hindrances. The individual may find that eating lunch before the session leads to drowsiness or they may find that an hour of meditation prepares them to be fully present to their spiritual director. The individual may treat the preparation for a spiritual direction session as a process and identify the steps that best prepare the individual for being truly present during the session. For some individuals, the process may be as simple as not eating lunch right before a session to prevent drowsiness. For others, it may be that they need to eat so that a growling stomach does not distract them. A more involved process might also be created and include activities similar to the following list. For example:

1. Review their to-do list so that they won’t be worried about what obligations they have to fulfill.
2. Review notes from the last session.
3. Journal about what to bring up in the session.
4. Meditate for 30 minutes to improve the ability to listen.

A process improvement approach provides the benefit of systematizing the preparations and may enhance the individual’s readiness for their session. Systematizing the process also provides the benefit of making it easier for the individual and director to discuss and optimize the preparations.

Fourth, a process improvement approach may help the individual evaluate the effectiveness of the type of spiritual direction they are involved with. Additionally it may provide a framework for deciding when it is time for the individual to end spiritual direction with their current spiritual director.

This site offers up a working definition of spiritual growth as a process involving a deepening awareness and refinement of the relationship between the individual and their conception of God. The deepening spiritual awareness may manifest during peak experiences or spiritual encounters, as well as become an integrated part of an individual’s ongoing experience of life. The term “God” is used for ease of writing but multiple terms such as ground of being, spiritual source, life force, or the Divine could easily be substituted.

The Project-Transform method is explicitly concerned with the human dimension of spiritual growth and the unique context that each individual brings to spiritual growth activities. It does not attempt to define the terms “spirituality” or “God.” Many authors and thousands of pages have already addressed those definitions. The definition of “what” or “who” is on the other end of the spiritual equation from the individual, does not factor in the usability of a process improvement approach. This type of approach may work equally well for those individuals believing in a monistic God as well as those individuals who practice a non-theistic spirituality. These definitions could include, among many other examples, the transpersonal concept of the “Higher Self”, nature, and/or altered states of consciousness.

The Project-Transform method was created under the proposition that some activities considered secular are necessary requirements for existing in the world and that this requirement does not mean that secular activities are inherently un-sacred. There is an ancient Islamic saying that addresses the intersection of secular and spiritual activities; “Pray hard but tie your camel first.” This method goes a step further and contends that secular and spiritual activities should exist as a union instead of an intersection; with the sacred serving as the framework for the execution of secular activities. As a result, activities that are not normally associated with spirituality may be used for spiritual gain. This sites examines how a process improvement approach may be used to manage secular activities so that they do not become a distraction from spiritual growth.

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