Sacred Listening

Sacred Listening 

Spiritual Counseling 

What is my purpose in life?. . . What is the right next step for me?. . . How can I go on after this loss?. . .I want to talk about God, but I can’t go back to the church I was raised in. . . .

These are the kinds of tough questions we each ponder at times in our lives. Sometimes we feel a need to discuss our challenges with a person of faith we can trust. This is traditionally called “spiritual direction,” but  I prefer to call it “spiritual counseling,” since I believe the process I engage in with clients is a collaborative one.

I am a certified spiritual director, having completed a training program at the Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley, California. I offer one-on-one spiritual counseling sessions on an occasional or ongoing basis to people who want to explore their personal beliefs and faith, whether they consider themselves religious, spiritual or secular. My intention is to help you recognize and clarify your own values; see how they are operating in your life; and make changes in your beliefs and/or your actions to find greater peace of mind and compassion for self and others.

Ours is a sacred conversation in which we recognize the presence of a Higher Power—a divinity known by any name or simply a reverence for our human connectedness. In spiritual counseling we may wrestle with issues from your religious history, including the fear, guilt, shame, doubts, threats and promises of dogmatic faiths and religious leaders. We may discover the true nature of a Higher Power you can embrace, and who embraces you. We may open new channels of communication between you and that in which you believe. I have no agenda other than your spiritual well being and continued spiritual development. I never promote any particular deity or religion; I listen without judgment, meeting you where you are on your life’s path.

I will see anyone who seeks my assistance, but there are certain people I feel I am especially skilled in helping, including artists and other creative individuals; the chronically ill and dying; members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community; and women undergoing major life transitions. I am available to see clients in person or long distance (by phone or Skype). Please contact me at hollisadairwalker@gmail.com to set up an appointment.

Private Chaplaincy 

My mother is very old and homebound; she doesn’t belong to any particular church, but I know she would appreciate having a minister or someone to talk about things with besides me. . . .My partner has cancer and doesn’t have long to live. We’ve been trying to talk about it, but we don’t know where to start. . . .I’ve had this disease for a long time, but it’s getting much worse, and I’m getting more afraid about my future. . . . 

There will come a time in each of our lives when we face illness, infirmity and death. Even those of us who have experienced much suffering and tragedy in our lives find it almost impossible to deal with our own, and those of our most beloved friends and family, without help. We may have difficulty talking to our nearest and dearest about these tender topics. Sometimes we are afraid of getting upset and crying in front of others: Won’t we make them feel bad, too? Sometimes we are embarrassed about our fears and feelings. Sometimes family members actively discourage us from talking about our thoughts and feelings about sickness and death, believing all will be easier if we “think positively” or “put on a happy face.”

These are circumstances in which a trained chaplain like me can be of greatest service. I come to visit. I ask gentle questions and I listen to whatever the sick or dying person wants to talk about. Often, conversations arise in which a person explores, questions and resolves issues of faith and belief: Why am I sick? Why am I dying? Is God angry with me? What did I do wrong? Many people have a deep-seated need to talk to someone outside of their circle of family and friends, to revisit aloud their history and express what has not been expressed before: sorrows, regrets, shames, joys, accomplishments, triumphs. Some people are fearful about the future, their illnesses, their deaths, the afterlife. As an interfaith chaplain, I bring no religious or spiritual agenda to the table; I meet the individual on their terms, and support them in defining their own beliefs. I am glad to offer prayer and provide other religious or spiritual rituals, but only if individuals want them.

I do not have all the answers, of course. Each of us makes the passages between health and sickness and from life to death alone. In my seminary training, hospice work, nursing home chaplaincy, and hospital chaplaincy, I have learned how to facilitate the individual’s journey through these difficult times, and also to provide support to family and friends who are sharing that journey.

In some medical settings such as hospitals and in hospice care, you or your loved one will be provided with the opportunity to see a chaplain as part of your care. If you do not have access to a chaplain, or prefer to see a chaplain privately, please contact me. I am glad to have an initial consultation at no charge in order to determine whether I can be of assistance to you. You do not have to walk through this period of tremendous change without spiritual support.