In a typical spiritual direction relationship, the director encounters me for about an hour each month. That's not much, and I've learned over the years that I need to be careful lest the particular mood I happen to be in that day give the wrong impression of my spiritual condition.
When I was a postulant I used to have my spiritual direction appointments on a Friday afternoon. Our postulancy program is pretty exhausting, and on Friday afternoons I was always at the low point of my weekly cycle of emotional and physical fatigue. That's just how I would show up for direction. To make things worse, Sister's office was right by Washington Square Park, so to get there I would have to wander through all of the students and young people enjoying themselves, full of the Friday afternoon giddiness and perhaps other substances, (apparently) unencumbered by all of the transcendental concerns that had got me into the mess of postulancy to a religious order. Because of this, my very walk to spiritual direction would require of me--already tired--a very rigorous 'guard of the heart' against indulging the emotions of self-pity, nostalgia, and resentment, all of which are very destructive in the spiritual life, especially for celibates, not to mention simpler and more superficial temptations like envy and lust. I didn't always succeed in all of this, and so Sister would often diagnose my spiritual state as much more negative than it really was, leading to a famous quote she offered to me and which I dutifully recorded in my spiritual direction notes: "Well, if that's how you feel, of course you should leave!"
I was thinking of all this the other day when I felt very tired and had my monthly spiritual direction that afternoon. Not feeling like I had time to nap, I decided to have a big cup of Starbuck's coffee. Well, by the time I got to my appointment I was talking a manic streak and full of insight, and I didn't get to any of the interior discernments with which I actually needed help and guidance.
This is part of the reason why I need to always take quiet time in prayer before spiritual direction. Yes, it's critical to pray for my director and for the Holy Spirit to come into the appointment, but it is also important to recollect myself so as to find the place that is below* the changes and vagaries of mood.
*In antiquity and the Middle Ages people would have said, 'above,' but the opposite metaphor seems to work better for us post-/late moderns. That really fascinates me.