Yesterday I led a second workshop on spiritual autobiography at my church.  Most of the people who attended the first one came back, and about ten new folks showed up also.  The big table was full!

We shared a meal together, recalling rituals from our childhoods–mealtime prayers both serious and comical, night-time prayers.  We talked a little about memory itself and its function in our lives.  Most people were in their fifties and above, so reflection on the past came easily.  I described my grandfather’s practice of “returning thanks”–a second prayer–at the end of a big family meal.  Someone in the class said, “That is a German tradition.”

Again we divided the workshop into two parts.  I will detail them below.  Anyone could duplicate the process.  Feel free!

I.  This exercise was taken from Tristine Rainer’s book Your Life as Story: Draw the floor plan of the favorite house you lived in as a child.  Imagine yourself coming toward the house, open the door, enter, look around.  What do you see inside?  What do you remember about living here?  “Place yourself inside this room and allow your writing to go where it will, exploring your feelings and thoughts at the age you were when you lived in this house, concentrating on your interaction with the other people in the house.”  Reflect, remember, and then write rapidly for 5-7 minutes.  Share your writing with the group if you wish.

II.  Choose a biblical or hymn text that has meaning for you.  Chew on it lectio divina style.  Then write rapdily for 5-7 minutes.  Share voluntarily.  Discuss.

This simple structure allowed us to become a community in just a few hours.  Most of us knew each other, some for quite a while.  But some folks knew only one or two people in the room.  The conversation hummed.  We laughed and were touched by each others’ wisdom.  Something magic guides the pen when body, mind, and spirit concentrate on collective meaning making.  Psalm 91 will always be Carolyn’s psalm for me from now on.  I will ponder Karen’s comment on how writing within a group brings out thoughts we might never have on our own.  And I will remember the look of loving attention on the faces of each person as they listened to each other.

We celebrated our entwined lives the way Grandpa would have liked–by returning thanks.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Memoir as a Healing Art | 100 Memoirs on March 22, 2009 at 10:33 am

    […] Healing Story by Linda Joy Myers belongs in your library of books about memoir.  Like Tristine Rainer’s Your Life as Story, Maureen Murdock’s Unreliable Truth: Memory and Memoir, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down […]

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