A few weeks ago, I went to the Retreat Association conference. There was much discussion about spiritual directors. A spiritual director is someone who accompanies you on your spiritual journey. According to one speaker at the conference, a spiritual director might also be described as an “anam cara”. I’d never heard this term before. I looked it up. It means “soul friend”.
This got me thinking.
According to Wikipedia, the term “anam cara” was greatly popularized by John O’Donohue’s 1997 bestselling work of the same name, “Anam Cara”. As O’Donohue puts it: “The anam cara was a person to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the friend of your soul.”
I’ve only ever had a spiritual director whilst on silent retreat, but this description certainly fits the director I was allocated to. He’s a wonderful man and I was certainly able to reveal the hidden intimacies of my life to him. We discussed everything from sex to the Bible. He is someone with whom I can share my innermost feelings.
The words “anam cara” were being used at the conference to suggest that your spiritual director is a soul friend: a person who accompanies you on that spiritual journey through life. But wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, if I could find someone to be both my “soul friend” and my “soul mate”? Wouldn’t it be wonderful, to have a sexual relationship with someone with whom I could also reveal the hidden intimacies of my life, as Donohue puts it?
We use the term “soul mate” too easily perhaps. Profiles on internet dating sites speak of people looking for their soul mate but have we really considered what it means? Do we really understand how amazingly deep that relationship would be if we found someone whose very soul could connect with our own?