Tonight at 9PM on 9-9-09 I was in the midst of a teleclass teaching people how to write their personal Covenant with Spirit. I knew it was a precious moment and wanted to honor it in some way. So ten minutes before class, I opened The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the great Sufi Master, and asked, “Show me the perfect poem for 9-9-09.” I read Hafiz every day, but tonight I opened to a poem I’d never read before:
Where does the real poetry
From the amorous sighs
In this moist dark when making love
With form or
Where does poetry live?
In the eye that says, “Wow wee,”
In the overpowering felt splendor
Every sane mind knows
When it relizes–our life dance
Is only for a few magical
From the heart saying,
“I am so damn
There could not have been a more perfect prayer for a perfect moment when 29 unique souls reached around the globe to affirm that indeed each one of us has a divine purpose that will be expressed perfectly and fully in our Covenant with our Selves and with Spirit–our Covenant that says, “Here I am, this is me, I am alive!”
And so we shouted from California to Australia in one exquisite chorus: “I am so damn alive!”
And we will always remember that at 9PM on Sept 9th, 2009 we were so damn alive!
Hope you had a memorable moment tonight. What was it?
Oh yes it could. Not that the holiday is going away anytime soon; I don’t mean that. Just the word. Wouldn’t it be lovely to put the word labor to bed? Labor. How does that make you feel? It rings in my gut as heavy, sweaty, and hard. Do I want more labor? No. No, I do not.
It isn’t that I don’t want to work. I love to work. I disappear when I write. My fingers start floating over the keyboard and the next thing I know it’s seven o’clock at night. I love teaching. If you’ve been to a Writing Down Your Soul event, you know how much I love teaching deep soul writing. And I love speaking, too.
I love my work. That’s my point. Work that is loved is a holy thing. A divine thing. A blessed thing. It’s the way we become the hands of Spirit soothing, lifting, and healing one another.
Or at least, that’s what work could be. Or should be. But for so many of us, it’s labor. And hard labor at that. I know. I labored my way through my first three careers. Yes, there were good moments, but those moments always got buried in the next tidal wave of activity and pressure.
When I was a headhunter, I used to give a cute little talk called “Sunday Night Disease.” The audience always laughed in recognition. I laughed along, but the truth is, I had a bad case of it. Around three on Sunday afternoon, my stomach would start roiling. I couldn’t enjoy dinner. Then, I couldn’t fall asleep. I’d wake in the night desparate for antacids. Come morning, the alarm would kick me out of bed unrested and unready.
So did I do anything to change this pattern? No. Because I thought my job was something I had to do sixty hours a week. This is an awful thing to admit, but I went to work the morning after my wedding. Insane I know, but I thought I had to work that hard to make the money to support my home, my family, and my precious son. By Friday, I was numb. All I could do was sit on the sofa, stare at the TV, and stuff pizza in my mouth. Go out? Play? See friends? Are you crazy! I needed the whole weekend just to recover enough to crawl out of bed again on Monday.
That job was labor. Pure unadulturated labor. It wasn’t healthy physically. That was obvious. But guess what, it wasn’t healthy spiritually either. And I knew it. I told friends, “I leave my soul on the side of the freeway at the exit to downtown Tampa and pick it up again on the way home.”
So, how do you know when you’ve stopped laboring and started working? There’s a clue, a big clue. I got it from Marsha Sinetar, author of Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. I was driving home from my labors late one evening listening to her on NPR. The reporter asked how you know you’re doing your right work. Marsha’s answer hit me in the chest. I pulled over and wrote down exactly what she said:
“You know you are doing your perfect work when you feel joyous as a result of your efforts.”
I sat there staring into the night as my fellow commuters flew past. Joyous? Joyous? Oh my God, I so want to feel joyous as a result of my efforts.
Looking at my life that day, that week, even that next year, you would not say that anything happened. I kept driving to my job. I kept laboring. I kept collapsing on weekends. But something profound had happened. I had been cracked. The idea that work could be joyous — should be joyous — had snuck into my head and, like a good little virus, begun to spread.
- Do you want to stop laboring and start working in sync with your soul’s purpose?
- Do you want to feel joyous as a result of your efforts?
- Do you want work that is physically and spiritually healthy?
- Do you want work that expresses your whole, authentic, holy self — your soul?
You can. And you don’t have to find a new job to do it. All you have to do is start working in The Intersection.
And the first step in The Intersection is developing and declaring your Covenant with your Self and with Spirit.
Do you need a soul-cation?
OK, that’s a rhetorical question. Of course you need a soul-cation. Everyone needs a soul-cation. Everyone needs a mind-body-spirit rest. We know that. We feel it in our hunched shoulders, tense tummies, and racing minds. We know it in our 3 AM worry fests. We see it in our relentless schedules and hopeless to-do lists. We see it in our piles–papers, projects, laundry–always, it seems, there are more piles.
We know we should stop. But we don’t. I didn’t. I had been feeling the call to stop for weeks but had not allowed myself to hear it. Because if I heard it, I’d have to stop. And I couldn’t afford to do that. I had too many events to plan, programs to edit, speeches to give, calls to return, proposals to write, and bills to cover.
Jennifer Hill Robenalt, my heaven-sent publicist, took matters into her own hands. “Stop!” she yelled, “you need to take five days with nothing. No email, no facebook, no computer, no phone calls. Nothing for five days.” “I know you’re right,” I sighed, “but I can’t.”
That night I asked the Voice for the perfect Hafiz poem for the last night of the Creative Blessing teleclass. I opened The Gift to:
A Still Cup
For God to make love,
for the divine alchemy to work,
The Pitcher needs a still cup.
Why ask Hafiz to say anything more about
your most vital requirement?
As I read Hafiz’s words to the class, each of us, sitting in our homes from California to Florida, shared this vision of Spirit pouring–or rather, trying to pour–an boundless supply of love, light, wisdom, and grace into our little cups. But we, frantic with worry and responsibility, keep chasing something that is somehow just out of reach. All that we want is right there, so close we can smell it, but it falls uncollected to the ground. And so, we keep going, working ever harder to accomplish what we want.
Reading “A Still Cup” I knew what I had to do. I called Jennifer and told her I was going on soul-cation. I went to the library and checked out an armload of books. I sent a few “out of commission” emails so people wouldn’t worry. I told my twitter and facebook buddies I was going on soul-cation. Then, on Saturday, August 1st, I stopped.
That morning, as I walked past my office door, the computer called to me. My hands itched for the keyboard. My eyes begged for one quick glance at the calendar. I sighed, closed the office door, and walked away.
I knew I needed to do something dramatically different to break the visceral urge to work. For me, that’s cleaning. I hate to clean. I’d much, much rather write. So before I could talk myself out of it, I vacuumed the blinds, oiled the furniture, scrubbed the kitchen, and polished the floors. When I finished, I felt great and the house smiled. The next day I pruned the garden. The garden smiled. I ironed. The rows of linen napkins winked up at me. To celebrate my happy home, I invited friends over for an old-fashioned Sunday dinner of roasted peppers, marinated mushrooms, green beans, carrot salad, potato salad, pesto tomatoes, and Greek grilled chicken. Took me all day. I loved every minute.
For seven days I did not enter my office. Instead, I prayed and I slept. I wrote in my journal for hours on end. Sometimes I just sat in my chair. And I read. I read:
Fingerprints of God, Barbara Bradley Haggerty
Healing Words, Larry Dossey
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Wells
Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch
I read Conversations years ago, but I needed to read it again. There were the answers to all the questions plaguing me. I resolved to re-read Conversations once a year. If you read only one book on your soul-cation, make it Conversations with God.
On Tuesday, as I sipped coffee in my reading chair, I glanced up and looked at my favorite Denis Gaston painting, “The Awakened One” on the opposite wall. She’s a powerful woman with orange skin, huge green eyes and wild medusa hair. Thank you, God,” I said out loud, “for Denis Gaston. And thank you for this gorgeous, gorgeous painting.” My eyes drifted down to my lime green sofa. “Thank you, oh thank you, for this sofa. And thank you for the money that made it possible.”
Around the room I went. For three hours. Basking in the beauty of each and every object in my home. I thanked Spirit for the thing, the person who made it, and the person who gave it to me or the place where I found it. By the time I finished, my living room was pulsing with love and my heart was soaring. This was so much fun, I did it again the next day. And the next. That attitude of gratitude thing? It works.
At the end of the seven days I felt better. Stiller. Calmer. Quieter. Happier. And an amazing thing happened. On my first day back I received five new speaking invitations. On day two, travel arrangements that had eluded me fell effortlessly into place. On day three, the outline for The Joy of Writing in Theta tumbled onto the page. On day four, I was invited to speak to two professional writers groups. The truth is I accomplished more in the week I rested than I would have had I worked.
So now, I ask you again, do you need a soul-cation? It costs nothing. Well, you might spend a bit more on food. But that’s it. If you’d like to create a soul-cation for yourself, here are a few ideas to get you started.
I did NOT
• watch TV
• read the news
• turn on the computer (no email, internet, blogging, facebook, twitter…)
• pay bills or look at my bank account
• spend money (except for food)
• go anywhere (except for the produce stand and St Michael’s Shrine)
• talk on the phone (except to invite people over)
• give myself permission to take time off
• stay quiet
• sleep (some nights 12 hours)
• dream (dreams were loaded with messages)
• lots and lots of deep soul writing
• read (it’s a particularly delicious form of hooky for we workaholics to read in the middle of the day)
• do different things like clean (may not sound like fun for you, but it was an important shift activity for me. You’ll discover your own shift activity)
• eat with joy (I slowed down and really enjoyed cooking and eating. Plus, I set the table with my newly ironed linens and my mother’s crystal goblets)
• garden (with each weed, I felt I was yanking out dead fears)
• have friends over for slow, conversation-filled dinners
• visit a holy site (for me, that’s St Michael’s shrine in Tarpon Springs FL)
And one last essential item. I said my Covenant every day, more slowly and more thoughtfully than ever. I spoke it aloud, really hearing what I was saying. I stood perfectly still as I spoke, knowing that when I am those statements, I become a still cup and The Pitcher can and will find me and fill me up. (details on the Sept 9th Covenant teleclass)
For more ideas on how to create your soul-cation, look at how to create a soul day on pages 230-236 in Writing Down Your Soul.
Your soul-cation won’t look exactly like mine. There are no rules. The key is to stop. Simply stop and give The Pitcher a chance to fill your still, open, receptive cup. And then you know what will happen? Your cup will runneth over!
(This article was originally published in my Writing Down Your Soul Newsletter. Subscribe to the newsletter using the tab at the top of this page.)