This website collects some of the work I have been privileged to do surrounding spiritual exploration and world religions. You can get a glimpse of this work and try it out through the “Sample Journal Prompts” page. These prompts are excerpts from a manuscript I’ve written called Soul Explorations: A Journey/Journal for Two.
Soul Explorations takes people on a soul-adventure. Readers create a spiritual travel-log as they engage in thirty different journal prompts rooted in five of the world’s great wisdom traditions. Through these experiences, journeyers deepen their own self-knowledge as they encounter some of humanity’s most enduring spiritual practices. And when they choose to do this work with another person, they gain valuable feedback while cultivating a special relationship as “soul-friends”.
Soul Explorations is not another book about spirituality; it is a book leading you to your own spirituality. It recognizes that what is important comes from you, and from the relationship formed as you engage in this work with another person. Soul Explorations is not just a text, but a meeting place for trusted soul-friends. Soul Explorations, rather than telling people how to self-help, engages people in practices by which their highest selves and the strong personal relationships they desire organically emerge. For these reasons, I am confident Soul Explorations will distinguish itself from all other spiritual guides, self-help books, and journals.
Soul Explorations: A Journey/Journal for Two is a relational, experiential journal, sold in pairs, that engages people in an exploration of one’s self through a study of the world’s religions and an exploration of the world’s religions through a study of one’s self.
This method emerged from my own personal seeking, my daily work with students as a teacher of religious studies, and the ensuing realization of the importance of relationships on the spiritual path. The desired outcome of Soul Explorations is threefold: individual spiritual awareness and growth, strong interpersonal relationships, and knowledge and understanding of world religions.
I developed these journal prompts to get students to enter other worlds. I wanted them to use their imaginations to have an experience within each of the religions we study in my classes. Ultimately this may be an unattainable goal, but its pursuance has led to some wonderful outcomes. Students began taking their inner lives seriously. They started looking critically and curiously at their own worldviews and the worldviews of others. They began to articulate spiritual and psychological insights, goals, frustrations, and longings. These journals have lead them to engage their spiritual journeys in a more intentional way.
Prompted by the outcomes of these journals, Matthew Geiger (M.A. U. Chicago, Th.D. Virginia Theological Seminary) studied this journal work for his 2016 dissertation, giving the prompts to about a half dozen teachers to use with their students. The results he found were revealing. In exit interviews, about half of the students both talked about and displayed spiritual growth, while the other half merely “went through the motions” to get a grade. The difference between these two groups was in the quality of the responses of their teachers. Half of the teachers only gave cursory or vague feedback, while the other half engaged in dialogue with their students on each page, asking questions, offering advice, connecting the students’ ideas with the ideas of spiritual masters, or relating similar experiences that they have had in their own lives. In a word, successful teachers made themselves vulnerable. This research confirmed the potential of these journal prompts while shedding light on the crucial element in all of this: the presence of a relationship.
I know that we cannot publish a meaningful relationship for people, but I believe in the power of these journal prompts to provide a platform for the development and deepening of these kinds of relationships. I wrote this manuscript with an introduction explaining how the reader might ideally engage these prompts with another person: a trusted spiritual seeker, friend, spouse, student, or mentor, and offering instruction on the kinds of feedback that are most helpful in this endeavor.
Soul Explorations is already being implemented in whole at National Cathedral School in Washington DC. Excerpts of it are being used in about a dozen schools around the country. Once it is published, I hope it will be implemented by several different constituencies, including religious studies teachers, book clubs, ropes course-style personal development retreats, corporate retreats, synagogue and church and temple groups, youth groups, psychologists, family counselors, and prison writing programs. Most importantly, I envision friends or spouses using this book to help each other embark further on their spiritual journeys together. I am especially excited by this idea.
Whether you are a teacher or a seeker, I hope you will try out some of these prompts and let me know what you think!
Note: This website also collects the various homilies, sermons, dharma-talks – whatever you want to call them – that I have been privileged to give over the years. Most of them have taken place within the Christian tradition, but they draw on the wisdom of many traditions. They betray my preference for “Perennialism,” a point of view I made a primitive attempt to explain in a short video called “What is Perennialism?” You can view it and critique it on the page of the same name.
A note on the “Perennialist Catholic” label: I no longer feel comfortable with any label. I am sure you have felt that way too. We are all beyond labels, although we sometimes choose to use them. “Perennialist Catholic” is the last label I felt comfortable with, and, even in its imperfect state, gives a bit more of an orientation than the word “teacher” would all by itself.