I went to a Celebration of Life memorial service for the Rev. Geri Glinski at Unity Church of Palm Harbor today. Geri was a light. And I don’t mean metaphorically. Geri glowed.
At the service, her daughter read Geri’s favorite poem, “The Road Less Travelled” by Robert Frost. Immediately I wondered, what would they be reading if this were my memorial? What poem would my family and friends instinctively know is my all-time favorite. Hafiz, of course. I’m forever reading and quoting the great Sufi mystic, Hafiz. But if they had to read just one poem, I think it would be David Whyte’s, “All the True Vows.”
When I read this poem in 1997, my marriage had disintegrated and I was desperately seeking a core, an essence, an answer that could make the chaos make sense. Reading this poem, I knew that my answer lay in writing my own “true vows.” I call it my Covenant with Spirit. And from the moment I wrote my seven vows, they began to magnetically rearrange my life. I still repeat my seven-line Covenant every day. It’s still true, and it would still kill me to break them.
All the True Vows
(from The House of Belonging)
All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.
There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.
Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.
Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.
Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen
nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.
By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.
Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,
it wants to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.
in this place
no one can hear you
and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,
that way, you’ll find
what is real and what is not.
I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.
Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
for the first time
after all these years
in my own voice,
before it was too late
to turn my face again.
I, too, spoke in my own voice before it was too late. And that call, that voice, that new, personal, sacred promise created the life I now live. So, although I so want lots of mystical poetry at my celebration, lots of Rumi and Hafiz and Meister Eckhart, first and forever, there must be David Whyte.
How about you? What words have grabbed your attention, turned your head, and will not let you go? Whatever that poem or statement is, find it, print it, say it. Say it. Say it today.
And share it with us. What one poem do you want them to read at your memorial?
In Follow Up, the fourth step in Writing Down Your Soul, I talk about several ways to confirm or clarify your guidance. One of my favorites is to pay attention to the messages that come through animals. (p 183-185)
I was raised strict Catholic. Trust me, no nun or priest ever mentioned animals as vehicles for divine guidance. But in 1992, I took a Women’s Spiritual Empowerment class from Charlotte Starfire and my eyes were forever opened to the constant stream of messages in the air and on the land coming to me (and to everyone) in the form of animals.
Charlotte learned about the medicine, or healing messages, of animals from Sun Bear, the great Native American shaman and teacher. Since Charlotte’s class, I’ve kept my Medicine Cards close at hand and turned to them often to understand why a snake crossed my path or an osprey died a few feet from my door. I love my beautiful animal messengers and I welcome their messages.
But last night at 5:00 AM I got a new messenger and I didn’t love it at all. I was awakened by a cockroach crawling across my forehead. Instinctively, I threw it across the room and sat up in horror. I turned on the lights and pursued that thing for thirty minutes. I simply could not fall back asleep with a cockroach somewhere in my bedroom. This is Florida, and I know roaches are everywhere, but thanks to my pest control company, there’s never been a moving one in my bedroom before.
Well, this morning, when I did my deep soul writing, I asked, “What’s with the bug? If I perceive your divine messages in other more delightful animals, don’t I have to recognize the message this creature delivered, too?” It took me a few pages of writing to get the message. The bug had been on my forehead, my third eye, the seat of my knowing. So it was letting me know that I had bugs in my thinking, bugs in my programming.
And of course, it was right. I’ve been wracked with fear lately, fear about finances and fear about my son’s well-being. I desparately need to debug my programming.
“How do I do that?” I wrote. And the answer instantly appeared: “Ask the cards.” But this time, instead of going to the Medicine Cards, I went to a new deck my publicist, Jennifer Hill Robenalt, gave me when I met her in Austin: The Answer is Simple by Sonia Choquette. I love these cards. And they are, as the name implies, incredibly easy to use.
So I took a deep breath and prayerfully asked my question: “How do I debug my programming? How do I get the fear out?”
I drew three cards and laughed at the answer — and yes, it’s simple, clear and simple:
1. Say Thank You.
Suspend your fears long enough to recognize and appreciate those who are helping you. I recognized immediately that I’d been taking the small army of people who love me and my book for granted.
2. Reclaim Your Art
I didn’t even have to read this to know the answer: get back to my creativity, my writing, my love, my joy.
3. Say Yes
“The ego gets fearful…it waits until it’s absolutely sure that it will be safe before it acts. The trouble with this approach to life is the ego never feels safe, so it never acts, it reacts…. Don’t allow the ego to hold you back from the gorgeous opportunities in front of you. Take a chance and trust life as it unfolds.”
The cards perfectly diagnosed the fear “bugs” in my programming and showed me three simple steps to take to get de-bugged. I’m on it right now: I am grateful, I am writing, and I joyfully say YES! to my life’s purpose.
And so, I have to say once more to all my messengers, from the majestic birds to the creepy bugs, thank you for your words and your wisdom, your guidance and your grace. I see you. I hear you. And I learn from you. I am so blessed. And thank you to Sonia Choquette for her fabulous cards.
I am not special or unique. The animals are talking to all of us all the time. Consider this: What animal is delivering a message to you right now? What’s the animal? What’s the message? And what are you going to do with your message?
Here is the third of four youtube videos produced by Bizz Buzz Video in conjunction with Jennifer Hill Robenalt of HooplaMedia when I was in Austin Texas. Man oh man, but they did a great job. Not only are the production values superb, but it was an effortless experience. When we were finished recording four of these, I said, “That’s it!?”
This video answers the question: What is the difference between journaling and writing down your soul? The answer in a nutshell: just about everything!
The chart I mention that compares traditional journaling and deep soul writing is on page 246 in Writing Down Your Soul. If you want it in color check out writingdownyoursoul.com.
The second question on this video is about the value of deep soul writing for professional writers. But it’s not just writers who love the flow that deep soul writing generates. All creatives love deep soul writing because the creative force of the universe is available in theta. I feel like a cheerleader for theta. Go theta!
How about you? What mysteries of the universe do you unlock in theta?
Bridgitt, a young mother in a Writing Down Your Soul teleclass, sent me this amazing photo of Wesley, her four-year old, throwing himself into writing down his soul.
And this story:
Shortly after beginning my daily soul-writing practice, my four-year old son Wesley asked if he could draw in my journal. I told him, “This journal is just for Mommy, but how would you like to have your very own journal?” This was very intriguing to him, so we went right out and got journals for Wes and his little brother Owen. They chose black imitation-leather notebooks (because my notebook is black) and blue pens (because blue is their favorite color.) This past week, Wes asked me three times for his “journal” all on his own!
The boys’ souls have much to say; I really don’t have to even guide them. Owen mostly scribbles in his journal and attempts to draw the letter O. It seems no matter how much time I give him, I have to pry the journal from his little hands as he wails at the end of each session. I am guessing because he is nearly two-years old, his soul has a lot to work out on paper!
Wesley, on the other hand, is very orderly with his journal and has a variety of ideas to express – sometimes scribbling, other times little drawings, often dictating dreams or memories for me to document, and occasionally asking me to draw a picture so he can color it. Yesterday, he “wrote” about his toys – his Lego’s, his slinky, and “all my other toys.” After about 10-15 minutes, he tucked his blue pen in the pocket at the back and declared, “OK, I’m done now. I writed all I needed to, for now.” What intuition!
I love this picture. This is us, all of us, throwing our souls on to the page. People often ask me how you know when to stop writing for the day. I always tell them you’ll know when to end. You’ll have a feeling, a knowing, that this enough for today. Or as Wesley puts it, “I writed all I needed to, for now.”
Why does writing work? Why does something so simple, so inexpensive, so effortless have such profound impact? Why does your life change when you write? That’s what I wanted to know when I wrote Writing Down Your Soul. I knew that daily deep soul writing had changed my life, but I didn’t know WHY. So I set out to discover what happens in our bodies, our minds, our brains when we write this way. I had no idea going into my research that the answer would be brain waves!
Does this surprise you?