The Spiritual Disciplines Project

By: Alice Wood  

Students in an online world religion course are encouraged to try six traditional disciplines found in almost all of the world’s religions. Emphasizing common practices found in religious communities, including their own Christian tradition, encourages students new to religious studies to find commonalities instead of only differences. Practicing the disciplines in the Christian tradition allays fears of studying unfamiliar religions. The first three disciplines, to be practiced for three consecutive weeks, are the “inward” disciplines of prayer, fasting, and silence. The second three disciplines, to be practiced for another three consecutive weeks, are the “outward” disciplines of chastity, simplicity, and charity. After each of the three week periods, students write reflection papers on their experiences—both positive and negative—and connect their practice to spiritual disciplines around the world. Students’ personal accounts of both successes and failures with the disciplines themselves provide insight into the millennial generation’s values and struggles. The popularity of the project speaks to students’ desire for connection between learning and lived experience. Results and trends among student responses to the project will be presented, along with excerpts from student papers about their experiences of the various disciplines. Copies of teaching materials will be available to participants.

Comparative Religion, Religious Diversity, Interfaith, Education, Spiritual Practices
Religious Community and Socialization
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Alice Wood

Associate Professor of Religion, Religion, Bethune-Cookman University, United States
United States