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Contemplative Spirituality: Introduction to Your Life Story

October 28, 2019 @ 10:00 am - 11:30 am

Storytelling is the heart of many spiritual traditions, including your own personal journey. John Morgan will use a process he uses with his students in helping each compose his or her own book of life. Individual and group exercises will be used. Please bring a family photo (either of your current or past family or if neither, a photograph of yourself from your childhood).

Everyone has a story to tell, but the problem is that few are listening, being too occupied telling their own. Listening is an art seldom taught. You must practice listening on your own time. You must give someone your full and undivided attention, a real gift in this world of chatter and noise.

After too many years of talking too much, I have given myself time to listen to the stories of others. It’s amazing what I realize now I missed: the extraordinary tales of what I once thought were ordinary people. There are no ordinary people.

I have come to believe every person is the author of his or her book of life, though they may not think of themselves in this way. Each life has a theme and chapters which are seldom examined. In classes or workshops, I often ask each participant to complete his or her book of life, give it a title and think of chapters as seven years in length, roughly speaking. Then, each person is asked to take time to view their life in terms of chapters lived, jotting notes to remind themselves of key experiences in each seven-year period. Then they are asked to tell their story to one another in small groups, each person sharing what they feel comfortable telling.

Each group is asked to look at their life stories in two ways of thinking about time — clock time (Chronos) or the experiences related to a period of their lives and then to look at those special moments in their lives (Kairos) when they felt something life-altering had happened. It’s amazing to me how few people have ever told their life story to someone else or listened to another’s story, even though they might have been neighbors or classmates for years.

Telling your life story in a group that listens without judging can be a healing process, not just for yourself but for those listening. It’s a way of connecting at a deeper level not often done in the everyday world in which most of us live.

If you think about it, storytelling is among the most ancient of human experiences, a way of sharing lives in rewarding ways. Perhaps that is why the novelist William Faulkner said early humans drew pictures on cave walls, as if to say, “Kilroy was here.”

Each life story follows a certain pattern. There are victories and defeats, heroes and villains, moments of crisis when the outcomes hang in balance, lessons learned or not. And while no person can control every factor in a life, she is also the chief author of the story, the one who makes decisions or avoids them.

I often say there are four parts to every story, especially when shared in a small group. There is my story, which only I know. There is the story of one other person in the group, and there is the story of the group itself which evolves over time. And there is what I call the Great Story, which is the universal story of human beings on this planet.

Telling and listening to stories is the heart of what it means to be human. Taking time to tell and hear them is a gift. John C. Morgan is a teacher and writer. His weekly columns appear at www.readingeagle.com/everydayethics. Email jmorgan@albright.edu for more information.

The Contemplative Spirituality group meets at Christ Church United Church of Christ, 4870 Kutztown Road, Temple, on Monday, October 28, at 10:00 a.m. All are welcome.


October 28, 2019
10:00 am - 11:30 am
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Christ Church United Church of Christ, Temple
4870 Kutztown Road
Temple, PA United States
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