These journal prompts are to be used in conjunction with my book, From Eden to Heaven: Spiritual Formation for the Adventurous (Smyth & Helwys, to be published later this year). They are categorized by the chapter.
Essentially, they are an invitation for you to roll up your sleeves and do the difficult work of going on your own peregrinatio (an adventure for one seeking to be spiritually formed, something I talk at length about in the book).
To help you embark on your own inner peregrinatio, I’ve created these journaling exercises. These are not Bible studies or objective questions to test your knowledge. There are no right or wrong answers (for the most part). These are simply designed to provoke an experience.
Make sure to allow the material from each chapter to sink in, first. If you do not own a journal, purchase one and begin practicing this important spiritual discipline. Thomas Merton was a master at this, and most of his books are products from his journals. If you are new to this, study The Intimate Merton and study how he wrote.
Ideally, your insights should be shared. The ancients did this in community, with a confessor or mentor or spiritual director who had years of wisdom behind him/her to act as a guide to the novitiates. Henri Nouwen’s book, Spiritual Direction, has a great appendix offering advice for choosing a spiritual director. However, you may want to get with a group of friends, or with your small group in church. By sharing your experiences, you can gain new insights you never thought of before.
The important thing to remember is that each person’s journey is unique. People in the group may feel compelled to provide answers. RESIST! Remember, a major part of a peregrinatio is struggling to find the answer yourself.
Think of this process like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar. If you try to intervene, even with the best intentions, you will kill the butterfly. The struggle that the butterfly goes through in emerging from the cocoon is a necessary workout that strengthens the wings, gives them sufficient time to dry, and prepares them for the long journey. The best you can do is to provide a safe environment for this to take place.
To that end, leaders, or other members of the group must view their role as one of encouragement, listening, and only sparingly providing a little guidance through feedback. And the best way to do that is to ask questions, not to give a lecture. The group has to be a safe place for everyone to struggle. Let the tension exist. Allow for the sessions to end without closure.
For each chapter I identify a major question that the material provokes. This will be the parameter for journaling and for discussion. In addition to a question, I will identify a fear. As you jot down insights, reflect on how your fears are shaping your thoughts on the content of the chapter. As will be discussed more thoroughly in the book, if we allow our fears to be the main motivator, it will lead us down paths that lead to dead ends, self-destruction, or worse! As St. Anthony taught, fears must be faced and battled. For only then will we figure out who we really are and what God has called us to do. As you identify where your fears are pushing you, push back, and look to see what’s on the other side. More than likely, that is where you need to go in your journaling. Look to the stories of others as your guide and inspiration.
In this site you will find readings, film clips, and thought-provoking questions to help you with your journal. These are organized by chapter titles. So after you finish a chapter, go to the corresponding page online and work through the material. Expect some of them to be helpful and others to flop. As I mentioned, there is no cookie-cutter approach one can take. Learn to trust your instincts. If an exercise deeply disturbs you, frightens you, or moves you, there is probably something there you need to pursue. Spend some time with it, and even do some further research on your own. But don’t be legalistic about it. Your inward journey may take you in a completely different direction than what I offer. Go! Just make sure to record it in your journal. Remember, you are responsible for finding your own path.
John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain