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 Groups) with 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:
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