Sister Rose Mary Dougherty has offered retreats, workshops, and spiritual direction for over three decades, especially through her work at Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Maryland. As a sensei (teacher) in the White Plum Asanga school of Eastern meditation, she also teaches Zen and assists people in integrating contemplative practice and just action in their lives. Although many continue to think that discernment is the process of sorting out ideas and trying to decide what action to take in alignment with Divine will, Dougherty prefers to put the emphasis on a discerning heart:
"More often than not, material about discernment has encouraged a way of being or habit of the heart that disposes us to be responsive to God's discerning presence in our lives. The fruit of discernment is a deepening awareness of our oneness with all and a growing participation in God's caring love for all. Saint Ignatius speaks of this as 'finding God in all things, in order that we might love and serve God in all.' "
The author sees discernment as a gift that has been given to us. It needs to be uncovered and then nourished. This can be done through prayer, through the skillful means of noticing, or through the assistance of spiritual direction and companionship. Dougherty looks at Ignatius and his emphasis on discernment of spirits and discernment of God's will before moving on to meditations on consolation and desolation, and listening to the many voices of God.
Evelyn Underhill reminds us that "The creative life of God is always coming, always entering to refresh and enhance our lives." During a time of discernment, it is important to keep in mind that it is a process that interweaves love of God, freedom, self-knowledge, patience with mystery, and attunement to our inner wisdom.