James Birren: “Ask participants to draw a visual map of their spiritual journey”

This summer I’ve been teaching a Guided Autobiography class following the curriculum laid out by Dr. James Birren, as faithfully as a new bride in the kitchen with her first cookbook.

This is the core curriculum that over the years I’ve adapted to create my own workshops, such as “Start Writing Your Memoir,” “Write Your Family History,” “Write Your Selfie Obituary,” and others. The first time I taught this curriculum was in summer 2004. It was the first time I’d assembled people and taken the lead in a classroom. It has been pleasant “going back to basics” over the course of this 10-week workshop.

Dr. Birren guides the instructor throughout his helpful “Joy of Cooking” for reminiscence facilitators (titled  Telling the Stories of Life through Guided Autobiography Groupswith discussion questions and writing prompts, always couched in the phrasing “Ask participants to…”. I found very useful as a beginning teacher 12 years ago.

This week (#8 in the curriculum) Birren challenges us to:

spirituality map

(c) 2001, page 118, Telling the Stories of Life Through Guided Autobiography Groups

Birren does not include a sketch from his own life or a student’s, as he so helpfully has with other challenges, like creating your Life Graph or Life Portfolio. “What does Birren mean,” they asked, “a spiritual journey map? We’re talking about time here, not space.”

Now, I don’t know what Birren meant. But I think it’s something like the Game of Life playing board. Or Candy Land. They represents time, in space. Sorta makes sense, right?

So this week, I told my students: If you try it, I’ll try it. And now I ask you, dear readers, to try it too. Get out your art supplies or just have at it with a pencil and pad.

Send me a jpeg of your Spiritual Life Map and for feedback on this challenge. With your permission, I’ll share in a future post.

— Sarah White



About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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1 Response to James Birren: “Ask participants to draw a visual map of their spiritual journey”

  1. marketing4introverts says:

    Hi Sarah, Long ago, when I was studying to be a psychotherapist we also learned this tool for working with clients. I still remember my first life roadmap…. wonder where it is… I bet I kept it somewhere. Time to get out the crayons! Thanks. Dhyan


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