Think of spirituality as a mountain so massive you can never reach the summit. Sometimes you’re on a well-worn path, sometimes you’re off wandering around trying to figure out a way forward. There are defining characteristics, the “geography,” of your place on the mountain, which are your personal spiritual and religious values. These values form a personal framework by which you see and experience the world and make meaning of your life and the universe. In this framework questions of life and death, love, choice, and free will can be explored.
We see from where we are; we understand from where we’ve been. Exploring your Spiritual Geography is like finding a “You are Here” sign on a trail map on your personal spiritual mountain. By exploring your personal spiritual terrain you can find how you use our spirituality to help make decisions more aligned with who you are, and find ways to feed your soul and deepen your connection to the divine.
We can explore our personal Spiritual Geography by examining which spiritual and religious values resonate with us and which ones we reject. What matters isn't merely what we believe, but also what we don't believe. Our Spiritual Geography includes where we are, the direction we want to head, and the paths from which we turn away.
Our premiere product is the Spiritual Geography Card Deck©, a values card sort exercise you do to prioritize the values that are most and least meaningful to you. Whether you consider yourself religious, spiritual but not religious, agnostic, atheist, or any combination thereof, the Spiritual Geography Card Deck© will help you explore your own spiritual and religious values, the “spiritual geography” in which you live. Purchase card decks under the "Products" tab, or schedule a workshop with Joni.
We have big questions in life: why am I here? what happens after death? why do people suffer? Although these questions are objectively unanswerable, we try to make sense of our world. The Spiritual Geography exercise will help you uncover both your understanding and your experience of that which is transcendent. The values are not about doctrine of various religions or specific beliefs, but things that many religions and spiritual understandings have in common, things like prayer, pilgrimage, purification, ritual, evangelism, compassion, peace, etc. This is a thought-provoking exercise and can be difficult. There are no "wrong" or "right" answers, although you may feel in conflict with what you believe your family, friends, or religious community value. Knowledge is power, so being aware of that tension can allow you to work toward resolution and growth.
The Spiritual Geography Card Deck© contains 47 cards with spiritual and/or religious values. There are 3 Heading cards, 1 instruction card, and 3 blank cards. To do the exercise, take the 3 Heading cards -- More Important, Important, and Less Important -- and lay them out on the table. Go through the 47 Value cards and put each under one of the 3 Heading cards. Each value card has a word or phrase on top and a brief description of that word or phrase underneath. Some examples:
Prayer - I engage in spiritual communion with that which is transcendent
Reason - I seek for my rational understanding to align with my spiritual beliefs
Religious Dialogue - We can learn from each other's understanding of our own religion and/or other religions
Religious Truth - My religion is the one, true religion
Ritual - Ceremonial and/or ritualistic elements are important parts of my spirituality
Some people choose to ignore the brief description and use their personal understanding of that word or phrase, which is an acceptable approach to the exercise. However, the card descriptions can prompt you to look at a word or phrase in a different way. For example, on the card "Evangelism" the description is "I believe I have the responsibility to share the Truth with all people." Many hear the word "evangelism" and think exclusively of religious believers trying to convert others. However, many of us evangelize in other ways. Someone who is an atheist and believes strongly in science can "evangelize" just as much as someone who is trying to convert others to their religious faith. In the end you should use the definition of the word or phrase that is most meaningful to you, whether that is the description on the card or your internalized understanding of the word or phrase.
Once you have placed all 47 value cards under one of the Header cards, look at all of the values listed under More Important. Of those, choose your top 5 Most Important values. Then look at all of the values listed under Less Important. Of those, choose your bottom 5 Least Important values. Now the fun begins.
How do these values show up in your life? In your interactions with other people? Were you to have done this exercise earlier in your life would the placement of the values be different? What changed such that you value something now more or less than you did previously? Are there values you think you "should" value more or less? If so, where did that "should" belief come from? What do you believe the values are espoused in your faith community or family? What is the role of community in your spiritual and religious values? What is the role of family in your spiritual and religious values? How do your values show up in your interactions with other people, especially your bottom 5 Least Important values? How do you relate to/interact with those who may greatly value that which you do not value?
And finally: How do you feel about your values? Do you feel so strongly about your value system that you feel others should learn from your understanding? How wed are you to your Truth?
"The Spiritual Geography card deck was helpful in identifying what is spiritually important to me and is something all people should do at least once a year.” – D.L., Silver Spring, MD
"My husband and I tried the Spiritual Geography card sort with one another. It is fantastic! We had a great discussion and our brains started turning about how we can use it in our small group sometime." - J.M., Crofton, MD