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Author's Note: These twenty-one open-ended questions are intended, and have been used, to generate group dicussion and also personal reflection and contemplation, potentially leading toward a journal or a spiritual autobiography. The questions are meant to provoke insight and response, and getting the insights down in writing can help make them clearer and more lasting. I'd love to hear about your experiences.
1. How would you distinguish between spirituality and religion? Is there a difference? Is it important?
- Listening to and learning from others is one enjoyable way to grow spiritually.
- Answering some of these questions may be difficult. This difficulty can mean that you are looking beneath answers others have given in order to express your own experience.
- Some experiences are meant to remain private and unspoken. As you consider these questions, respect this need for yourself and for others.
2. What needs does your spiritual practice meet or answer? How have these needs changed through the years?
3. What were the circumstances that led you to choose and accept the path you have chosen?
4. In what specific ways have you benefited from your spiritual practice? To what degree are these benefits ones you could have foreseen at the outset?
5. If a person asked you about beginning a spiritual search, what insights or perspectives would you share that you have gained from your experience?
6. Is a sense of a personal spiritual mission important to you? If so, how has your sense of a personal mission unfolded through your spiritual practice?
7. What is the most valuable thing you have gained from your spiritual path?
8. Everyone is more aware of a spiritual presence and spiritual insight at some times than at others. What circumstances, attitudes, perspectives, etc., have you found that are conducive to spiritual awareness and insight?
9. Are there "spiritual signposts" along the way that help you see yourself honestly and show you where you need to grow? What are some examples of these signposts and their significance, from your own experience?
10. What useful spiritual tools have you found to help you deal with discouragement, despair, a sense of setback, etc.?
11. How do you respond to friends or family members who question, criticize, or misunderstand your spiritual path?
12. We need the reassurance and guidance of the divine presence most during sickness, pain and suffering of any kind, and death. Yet these times also frequently represent the greatest challenges to faith, trust and love. If you feel comfortable, relate an experience or insight you have had, or which someone close to you has had, which reveals the often hidden spiritual opportunity behind all such occasions.
13. Many people have a favorite song, poem, religious passage or insightful excerpt from a book which they have made a part of their inner life or personal spiritual practice. If it feels appropriate, share one of yours.
14. Most people have a creative outlet in their lives, which may not always be commonly recognized as "creative." Some garden, some collect coins, etc., some enjoy cooking or entertaining. In what ways have your creative outlets changed during your spiritual practice? In what ways has your spiritual practice affected your creativity?
15. We often learn profound lessons from other people who may have no apparent connection to our spiritual practice. Can you give an example of someone who taught you something valuable about life? What did you learn? What were the circumstances?
16. Do you have friends who follow other spiritual paths? What have you learned from your relationship and from their experiences?
17. Sometimes people maintain a journal or other record of their spiritual life. If you do, what insights have you gained, both about your spiritual life and about keeping a record of it?
18. How do you respond to others who are proselytizing, promoting their religion, or attempting to convert you?
19. Most spiritual paths have recurring events, holidays, days of special observance, etc. How have these days helped you in your spiritual growth?
20. Are there spiritual laws or principles which seem to you to be universal, and to govern all life? If so, how have you learned to work in greater harmony with these laws or principles?
21. Some form of love or devotion is central to spiritual growth. How has your experience and understanding of love changed and grown? Are there any particular experiences which served as major turning points for you in your understanding of love, and your capacity to give and receive love?