Posted inOther Teachings

The Zen Teacher as Midwife, by Ruben Habito, Part 2 of 2

March 4, 2016

..the task of the Zen teacher is to help the practitioner be tamed by the Breath…


Click for Part 1 of The Zen Teacher as Midwife.

Zen spirituality can be described simply as the art of living in attunement with the Breath, and it is the Breath itself that will be the most reliable guide in the entire journey. Ultimately…

the task of the Zen teacher is to help the practitioner be tamed by the Breath, to be fully given over to its healing and transforming power.

In the Christian tradition, the spiritual director continues to play an important role in the spiritual development and deepening of individuals in their practice of authentic Christian living. The priest-confessor has been one traditional role model in this regard, to whom individual faithful could relate as an authorized representative of the Christian community. The confessor could also serve as a confidante to whom one could bare one’s soul in matters of conscience, and from whom one could receive guidance for the progress of one’s spiritual journey.

Such a role of spiritual director can also be taken by persons who are not necessarily ordained to a clerical or ministerial function in the church. These could be individuals who are graced with the gift of being able to listen and tobe for others something like a mirror by which they can see themselves and their own souls more clearly and objectively.

* * *

Also, it is a precious gift to be friends with a person who can be one’s spiritual confidante. Such a confidante may not be a director in the proper sense, but the very sharing of one’s spiritual life with another person enables one to see some things a bit more clearly than when one keeps them to oneself.

The role of a spiritual director can be especially crucial for an individual’s progress in meditation and contemplative prayer. In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the role of such a director who is well versed in these exercises is indispensable, especially for help in that very delicate endeavor called discernment of spirits. This is the task wherein one is called to look into the movements within oneself to discern if these originate from a divine source and therefore must be ascertained and given heed to, or from another source that must be shunned. Such discernment is especially crucial in making decisions that affect one’s way of life or way of dealing with persons.


This article was excerpted from Healing Breath (Orbis Books) and originally published as The Zen Teacher as Midwife on the Maria Kannon Zen Center website.

Featured Image: Birth of a Zen Master, by Jon Betts, CC by-ND 2.0, from
Image: Zen, by Angelus Yodason,  CC by-ND 2.0, from

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