Sharon’s interest in spiritual formation began with her study of the Christian Abbas and Ammas (desert Fathers and Mothers) who lived during the first few centuries after Christ. Wanting to learn deeper ways to pray, discern, and listen to God, these early Christians left their comfortable homes in the cities and renounced the world by embracing a life of fasting and prayer in the deserts of Palestine, Egypt, and Syria. Today’s spiritual directors, however, offer this sacred process in their homes, offices, or churches and view the process through a more holistic body-mind-spirit lens.

In traveling her own spiritual path, Sharon has also explored the mystic traditions of Judaism and Islam. During her trip to China in 2010, she was immersed in Taoism. Its belief that The Holy is an unnameable source of wisdom truly resonates with her experience as a spiritual companion.

For Presence

Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
Respond to the call of your gift
and the courage to follow its path.
Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.
May anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror
an inner dignity of soul.
Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles
that seek no attention.
Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift
woven around the heart of wonder.

—John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us:
A Book for Blessings

Sharon characterizes spiritual direction as the distinct discipline of “listening with the ears of the heart,” as opposed to the more objective listening of psychotherapy or pastoral counseling. (See Tilden Edwards table below). When meeting for the first time with directees, i.e., those seeking spiritual guidance, Sharon often begins by asking them to describe their images of the Divine or The Holy. As an experienced spiritual director, Sharon allows the directee to lead the way and set the agenda for the listening space. Consequently, she will only introduce spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, Lectio Divina (sacred reading), forgiveness, and/or reconciliation, when and if she discerns that the seeker wants to understand more about them.

Tilden Edwards table

—Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, Reclaiming the Gift of Spiritual Direction.

Sharon’s 30-Year History As a Spiritual Companion

Sharon’s experience in spiritual companionship began in 1988 while she was a student in a Master of Divinity program. In 2004, she enrolled in a two-year program to study spiritual formation at The Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Maryland. In 2008, after her years of experience in offering spiritual direction for clergy, Sharon felt called to convene the Consortium for Clergy Health and Wellness of the Miami Valley. This Consortium consisted of Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Methodist pastors as well as two parish nurses. Consortium members advised Sharon during the development of a yearlong program they named The Path to Siloam. It was designed for pastors who were seeking to learn self-care practices to ease the burdens caused by stress from working long hours and frequently being on call. In 2009 the program was offered in coordination with the Office of Special Programs and Continuing Education at the University of Dayton.

From 2009 until 2017, Sharon continued to facilitate covenant groups of local pastors who supported one another’s spiritual journeys by learning better self-care techniques while increasing their knowledge of the Christian mystics and practicing various spiritual disciplines together. In 2018, after experiencing the deep grief caused by the death of her second son, Sharon has set aside more time to continue her studies of comparative religions, to practice mindfulness meditation and centering prayer, and to engage in walking meditation.

Sharon continues to offer spiritual direction to pastors and lay people as well as to teach workshops on spiritual healing and the Christian mystics. In addition, she is often asked to lead retreats focusing on self-care, self-compassion, and prayer for members of the clergy and laity. She feels deeply blessed by those who continue to place their trust in her ability to be present alongside them on their spiritual journeys and intends to offer spiritual direction as long as there are those who wish to seek her services.

There are times when the exact words we want to say to express our deeper meaning are suddenly unavailable or all at once become non-existent. At best, they may falter on their way out, stammering only half of what we truly feel or may fall away to be lost in translation. But when we finally connect with the rare ones who we are blessed to call kindred spirits, it will be our hearts that end up doing most of the talking. And it will be within our silences that we can hear what is hidden inside our souls.

While our spiritual necessities are essential, we must also strive to become dedicated and attuned to the must-haves outside the soul. The physical house, the body, requires attention and upkeep, just as we do for the spiritual temple. We must endeavor to prioritize our offering for those lacking food, shelter, clothing, and education. In the spiritual world, the least are recognized as the greatest. Devotion is only significant when concomitant with love for all sacred life, compassionately engaged and in harmony with both the spiritual and material needs alike.

The heart’s cry to be seen is perhaps even greater than the fundamental need for acceptance. Taking time to acknowledge another by simply looking at them with warmth, or even an act of kindness, is so much better than looking past them. Your littlest smile can lift a heavy heart. For when you truly see and affirm another, you are magnifying a soul’s worthy presence.
—Susan Frybort, Open Passages: Doors and Windows to the Soul, 2018
(author of Hope is a Traveler)

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The name is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source, but differ in name; this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.
—Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching
Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English
Appearing before the first chapter in
The Tao of Psychology:
Synchronicity and the Self
by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. 2004,
Harper Collins, New York, NY
Come, come whoever you are
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving—it doesn’t matter
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times,
Come, come again, come.
—Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi
(from God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam,
p.94, 2012 by Mirabai Starr)


Copyright 2019. Inner Well Institute, Dayton, Ohio