We are storytelling creatures, shaped by the narratives that surround us from birth. The myths, tales, and wisdom texts we absorb form the sacred scriptures of our lives, infusing our experiences with meaning and purpose. As we navigate our spiritual journeys, certain writings emerge as particularly powerful guideposts – be they holy books revered across centuries or beloved novels and songs that speak truths into our souls. These become our personal scriptures, the texts that illuminate our paths.

Just as impactful are the traditions – both religious and cultural – that pattern our days, weeks, and years. The rituals, symbols, and folkways woven through our families and communities contain deep reservoirs of teaching. Whether celebrating seasonal festivals, honoring rites of passage, or simply gathering for meals prepared in long-held fashions, we imbibe whole worldviews through these lived traditions. They provide shared languages for expressing our core values.

Our personal experiences, however, remain the inescapable lenses through which scripture and tradition are filtered and understood. The joys, pains, epiphanies, and questions arising from our unique biographies collide with ancient stories and time-honored customs, sparking recognition or dissonance. We cannot divorce ourselves from these experiential contexts as we seek to make meaning. Our life stories shape how spiritual truths land within us.

This interplay – the dynamic dialogue between the sacred narratives that have guided humanity for millennia, the embodied practices linking us to ancestors stretching back through the ages, and the interior landscapes of our individual journeys – forms the heart of the spiritual path. We are constantly integrating the streams of wisdom flowing from scripture, tradition, and personal experience into coherent worldviews that can orient and sustain us through life’s flux.

At times, we may find ourselves prioritizing or gravitating more towards one of these spheres over the others in a given season. Some of us were raised steeped in a particular religious tradition, its rituals and texts so deeply ingrained that our personal experiences initially get filtered primarily through that lens. Others come from more secular backgrounds where individual introspection or resonant cultural mythologies served as primary meaning-making frameworks before we encountered the wealth of spiritual traditions humanity has cultivated.

Inevitably, though, all three wheels of this interpretive tricycle eventually become engaged if we commit to an unfolding path of wholeness. There is an integration that happens, a looking through multiple lenses simultaneously, each wheel’s revolution impacting the others’ motion. Sacred text, ancestral custom, and personal narrative braid into one profound, inexhaustible stream of wisdom and truth.

We may find ourselves unexpectedly moved by scriptural verses that seemed dry before, their nuances unlocked by insights from our latest life chapters. Or we may experience ancestral rituals with refreshing new potency after our perspectives have been cracked open by illuminating texts or transformative personal ordeals. The dance continues, our understanding evolving fluidly as we cycle between these three vital domains of meaning.

Ultimately, each of us is authoring our own sacred scripture, our life experiences weaving into an epic narrative encoded with spiritual lessons. By attuning to the dynamics between our interior journeys, our cultural-religious inheritances, and the eternal truths carried through humanity’s hallowed myths and texts, we can read our lives as revelations. We can write our stories as pathways of awakening for those who will follow the branching trails of our lineages into future generations.

This is the invitation embedded within the Tricycle model – to spin thoughtfully through the wisdom wheels of our spiritual ecosystems. To receive their timeless gifts with humble grace while offering back the fresh translations our unique lives can provide. For the process is ongoing, the well never running dry, as scripture, tradition, and personal experience flow together in one wisdom stream, simultaneously ancient and ever new.


The “Tricycle Model” developed by Richard Rohr presents three interrelated “wheels” that inform one’s spiritual journey: scripture (the sacred texts of major religions), tradition (the rituals, teachings, and stories shaping those religions over centuries), and personal experience (the individual lens through which scripture and tradition are interpreted). This model suggests these elements dynamically influence each other – scripture and tradition shape how we understand our personal experiences, while our experiences shade how we engage with scripture and tradition. Similar frameworks exist, like the Wesleyan Quadrilateral adding reason as a fourth interpretive lens alongside the other three. Identifying the “scriptures” and “traditions” that have profoundly molded one’s worldview, whether religious texts or resonant cultural narratives, can reveal how we derive meaning from life experiences. The school of life curriculum explores this model by beginning with personal experience, then scripture and traditions, to guide students in reading and writing their own sacred life stories. The dynamic interplay of these three “wheels” offers a powerful hermeneutic for making sense of our spiritual journeys.

Key Points

1. The “Tricycle Model” is a framework developed by Richard Rohr that identifies three major resources or “wheels” that inform one’s spiritual journey: scripture, tradition, and personal experience.

2. Scripture refers to the broadly recognized sacred texts of major religions like the Bible. Tradition encompasses the centuries of rituals, teachings, and stories that shape those religions. Personal experience is the lens through which each individual interprets scripture and tradition.

3. The model suggests these three elements are dynamically interrelated – scripture and tradition influence how we understand our personal experiences, while our experiences shape how we engage with scripture and tradition.

4. Similar interpretive frameworks exist in various Christian traditions, like the Wesleyan Quadrilateral which adds reason as a fourth element alongside scripture, tradition, and experience when interpreting theology.

5. Identifying the “scriptures” and “traditions” that have profoundly shaped one’s personal worldview, whether religious texts or influential stories/cultural narratives, can provide insight into how we make meaning from our life experiences.

6. The school of life curriculum is structured around exploring and embodying the tricycle model, beginning with personal experience, then engaging scripture and traditions, to help students read and write their own life stories as sacred texts.