Spiritual Memoir Challenge

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As announced yesterday in my Plans for 2023 post, I’m starting a new reading challenge — primarily for myself, but anyone who is interested is welcome to join. The Spiritual Memoir Challenge (also hosted on The StoryGraph) is intended to help us expand our inner world by reading about the spiritual journeys of others. Exploring the diversity of spiritual traditions and paths is encouraged, as well as finding spirit in some surprising or unexpected places.

What is a spiritual memoir? It’s up to you to decide what that means for you. To me the essence of spirit is freedom, so I am not going to define spirituality for you.

However, I’ll say that for me, the spiritual quest is that which leads us to go beyond mere physical survival and personal gratification, to look for something more, both within us and in the non-material world we experience through our minds and hearts. In a sense all memoirs are spiritual memoirs, perhaps, because any story that doesn’t include some element of that quest will be pretty boring. But I will define a spiritual memoir as one which engages with that “something more” in a purposeful and conscious way. This may mean engaging with one or more religious traditions; it also may mean rejecting religious traditions and seeking to make an independent relationship to moral or epistemological questions. It can also mean focusing on how the spirit approaches us through daily life, in our creative and scientific striving, or in our obstacles and challenges.

I’ve created twelve prompts, but you can also decide how many you want to complete to consider yourself sufficiently challenged, and there is no need to go through them in order. The focus is on true stories, but a bonus prompt has been added for outstanding fiction, as well as one for books about writing as a spiritual or healing practice. I’ll do a periodic check-in to share my own reading and see if there is anyone else who wants to share.

More details:

  • To express your intention to join, just leave a comment below.
  • The challenge runs through December 21, 2023.
  • You can start any time during the year.
  • You can read one or more books as part of the challenge, choosing from the prompts below..
  • Share your posts or reviews in the quarterly check-in.
  • In December, there may be some surprise offerings for those who have stuck with the journey!
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20 thoughts on “Spiritual Memoir Challenge

  1. I’ll have a think about this, Lory, possibly adapting it or making a stab at one or two of the categories. I’ve a couple of titles I’ve had my eye on for a number of years – The Unvarnished Gospels for one, a Richard Dawkins for another – which might fit, but I make no promises!

  2. Oh Lory, this is wonderful and right up my alley. I am actually reading The Autobiography of a Yogi at the moment, I recently bought The Snow Leopard and I have a book on writing and publishing books on spirituality and would love to engage with all the prompts!

    I will consider this seriously when I start blogging again.

  3. This topic is exactly up my alley. I may not be able to do it every month (I would already be behind for January!) but I will participate as often as I can. I read quite a few books on Buddhism last year that were so fascinating in both nonfiction and fiction, so I’d love to read more in other spiritual traditions this year as well. I believe there is something we can learn from every faith tradition.

    1. That’s why I wanted to make this a focus at some point. As for the challenge, there’s no compulsion to complete all categories as far as I’m concerned, just wanted to give some suggestions for different angles. Any level of participation is welcome. I’m looking forward to a very enlightening year!

          1. Hm … I appreciate Yogananda’s earnestness and sincerity, and some of his ideas are interesting, but I am having a hard time getting past all the miracles and answered prayers that seem so trivial and arbitrary, cheapening the spiritual journey and turning it into a kind of carnival sideshow. For me it’s all on the one hand too one-sidedly spiritual, and on the other oddly materialistic. I’m missing the middle element that could integrate the two. I am curious what people find so wonderful about the book, although I could imagine Yogananda being an impressive presence in person.

            1. His master Sri Yukteswar addressed the miracles as not really being miracles, but natural phenomena that is possible when you reach a certain level. Jesus said something similar.

              In this latest reread I am realizing my attraction to Yogananda is partly based on his desire to know God from a very early age and the roadblocks put in his way by family in which he would not stop seeking. Very relatable to me.

              1. That certainly came through. His devotion is impressive. I think I’m going to have to do a full post about this book so we can discuss it.

  4. I’ve been told over and over I need to write mine. But… Just time and not knowing how to start this has been a block. Don’t know where this will lead but it will be good for me.

    1. I’d encourage you to start somewhere and give it a try, not worrying about how good it is or what anybody else might think. Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew at spiritualmemoir.com has good resources, that encouraged me to get started. Welcome to the journey!

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