Spiritual Memoir Preparation Reflection Questions
I am including a list below of selected questions for reflection that come from a process called "Quaker Dialogue," which was designed to prompt deep sharing among a small group of committed members of a Quaker community over a 6-meeting span. I am inviting you to spend some time prior to writing your spiritual history reflecting on these questions one at a time, choosing those that resonate to your experience, and just spending some time thinking or journaling about them. (However, this is NOT intended to replace your reading journal on the course readings and discussions - do these only for your own reflection, not to be handed in.)
The questions are intended to initially sharpen your memory of early experiences, and move you forward into your more mature years. You'll notice that both formal and informal religious experiences are included in the reflections. Skip any questions that don't speak to you. They are simply for your own use in self-reflection and reconnecting to your memories, not designed to shape your subsequent writing.
Questions for reflection:
1. Where were we around the ages of 4, 6, or 8, and can we recall some spot, occasion, or event that remains especially vivid and memorable to us?
2. What was the make-up of the family group or of those to whom we were closely related when we were young, and how did we seem to fit in? How would we assess the "minuses" and "pluses" or our early circumstances?
3. Have we had experiences of nature which were deeply meaningful to us? Do we recall experiences when nature seemed ominous to us?
4. Did we know some or all of our grandparents personally or through stories, and what did they mean to us? Did one of them mean the most? Do we see traits in ourselves like some we remember in our grandparents?
5. What is our experience with animals? Have we known pets who meant a lot to us? What did we value in them? What is our experience with animals today?
6. What were our experiences of friendship as a child? Were they happy or unhappy? What is our experience of friendship now?
7. What play and games filled out childhood? Whom did we play with? Was there a particular friend among these? How do we remember the influence of this person?
8. What or whom did we fear as children? When growing up? What did we do about it? What or whom do we fear now?
9. Who represented authority to us when we were young, and how was order maintained? Did we at some time rebel against authority, and in what way? Who or what is our authority now?
10. Where we now have authority over others, how do we use it? How do we obtain order?
11. How do we tend to relate to people in a new situation? Do we mix readily, or tend to hold back and let others make the first move? Has this pattern changed over the years? How does this characteristic affect the way we relate to others in a religious community?
12. What is our attitude toward our faults or imperfections, and how have we tried to deal with them? Has our attitude changed over the years, and if so, how?
13. What was the attitude toward faults and imperfections in our family? How were these dealt with as a child? How do we deal with them in ourselves now?
14. What kinds of things, in others or in ourselves, make us angry? How was anger expressed in our home?
15. When troubles arise involving other people, what tends to be our reaction: anger, withdrawal, or what? How do we express ourselves? What have we learned about handling ourselves in these situations?
16. What was our religious background? What sort of religious activities, if any, took place in our homes and elsewhere when we were young? And how did we participate? What meaning did these activities have for us?
17. Did we come to have religious experiences of our own, and of what sort? Do we have memory of some moment or happening as the first or early spiritual experience? Have we had crucial emotional or spiritual experiences which represented turning points in our lives?
18. Thinking of our earlier religious background, if any, have we had to find new ways, ideas, and words to meet our religious needs? Have we been able to recover the meaning of some of the religious ideas and words from which we may have been alienated at one time?
19. How has our earlier experience in religion affected our participation in a later religious community, if any?
20. Do we realize now that there were persons in our early lives who conveyed an unconditional sort of love toward us? Have we met such persons later in life? Can we distinguish this sort of love now, in ourselves and others, from other more limited sorts of love?
21. Have we had an experience when our ability to love failed another person? What did we learn from that experience?
22. How do we communicate with those we love? Do we express it in hidden or open ways? How does this differ, if it does, in communications with others?
23. Have we examined in the light of conscience or presence of Deity/Spirit our own attitudes and sublimated prejudices?
24. Have we had the experience of being in the majority group? Of being in a minority group?
25. How has gender acted to make us part of a majority or minority? In what ways have we responded?