You haven’t heard from me since December 1. Going a month without communicating is a giant no-no in my profession, but I just couldn’t. I set first one and then another and still another deadline to get a newsletter out before Christmas and watched as each one slipped away. I asked about this problem as I was falling asleep on Dec 21 and in the drowsy first moments the next morning the words New and Renew popped into my head.
I picked up my journal. “Dear Voice, what does new and renew mean? Let’s start with new. What’s new?” Well, my hand couldn’t write fast enough. I was stunned to see all the new courses, books, and events I had created in 2010. OK, I wrote, what about renew? “Look up” the Voice wrote. I looked up at my giant wall calendar. July and December were blank. “Oh,” I wrote, “to be able to produce the new, I have to step back and allow myself to be renewed.”
It was no accident that this awareness came on Solstice. The earth, our mother and primary teacher, shows us year in and year out that life is a cycle of birth, growth, death, and in the silence that follows, renewal. And what comes out of this fallow silent period? Why new birth and new growth, of course. Mother earth has been demonstrating this for eons.
But we humans live as if the renewal part of the cycle doesn’t count. Our employers, and indeed ourselves, place our value on our ability to wake every day and produce and produce and produce. Only we can’t. I mean, we can for awhile, for years even, but the day inevitably comes when the call for renewal must be heard. Call it burn out or exhaustion or numbness–a
day comes when we simply do not have the juice to keep going.
So this December, I’ve been following mother earth’s advice. She’s in renewal mode and so am I. I’m quiet. If you could peak in my window, you’d see me in my favorite reading chair surrounded by books and blankets and tea. Or writing in my sacred writing chair. Or devouring Italian cookbooks and experimenting in the kitchen. And you’d see me sleeping. Oh, how you’d see me sleeping. Some mornings, you’d look at your watch and shake your head: Surely she should be up by now!
To be honest I thought the same thing. But then I decided to let go of any judgment of what I should be doing and just be in the place of renewal. I sense this is a rich place. A lot is going on inside, whether I see it or not. And out of this quiet state will come a vibrant 2011 bursting with new ideas, books, and events. To ensure that happens, I’m going to cap my December renewal period with a “Soul Day” on January 1st.
I know from years of experience that the best way to call in a magical new year is to step into abundant quiet for 24 hours on the first day of the year and in that quiet have long chats with Spirit about what is important in the next year. The end result is a short list of crystal-clear intentions.
I am not talking about making New Year resolutions. We all know how long those last. And I’m not talking about setting goals. I played that game in my business life and always found the exercise flat and uninspiring. Sure, my company always met its goals, but I always felt like saying, “So what?”
I’m talking about something more. Something bigger and deeper. I’m talking about articulating your relationship with Spirit. I’m talking about stepping into a commitment to live a life in partnership with the divine. I’m talking about being of service to the spark of creativity that is begging to come to be born.
If this is a new concept, I have news for you: you have no idea just how delicious your life can be–no, will be–when you step away from the limited concept of resolutions and goals and step into the abundant possibilities of living the life you are here to live.
Those in my The Lotus and The Lily course have spent five weeks preparing to set their intentions on January 1. They have accululated a wealth of insights and resources, but you can have a profound and beautiful Soul Day, too. Here’s how. (More details in Writing Down Your Soul p 230-236)
1. Start by giving yourself the gift of Renewal. Set aside a half or full day to set your intentions for 2011.
2. On the page, in deep soul writing, have a nice long chat with your beloved Voice about last year. Talk about what happened and ask for guidance to extract all the gifts, learnings, and blessings of 2010. You’ll be surprised.
3. Next, write about all the people you cannot forgive for all the rotten things they did to you. Guess what, you can’t call in a magical new year while lugging them around. Let them go. Spirit will help you do it. And don’t forget to release yourself. Trust me, the number one person who needs to be forgiven is YOU.
4. Now, start talking over what you want next year. What matters? What would help you live a life of joy and purpose? Make a list. And don’t forget to talk about what you are you going to do for Spirit in return. This is a two-way street, after all.
5. Now it’s time to do something with your wish list. For years I made a Prayer Sandwich (Writing Down Your Soul p 188-199). Now, I make an Intention Mandala. And add the name my year at the bottom. You and Spirit can work out how to capture what both of you are going to do in 2011.
6. There’s only one thing left to do: Celebrate! You have just engaged in the deepest dialogue of the year. And this dialogue is already working to attract all that you need to live the life you’re here to live. Be grateful. Be happy. Raise your glass in gratitude and joy.
Does a Soul Day make a difference? Oh baby! Every single thing on my Intention Mandalas since 2006 has come to pass. In 2006, I asked for a marketing partner and had UPI five days later. I asked for a publisher and had a contract with Conari Press that November. And it’s not just me. I started teaching The Lotus and The Lily course this year and now have dozens of stories, many of which take my breath away.
If you want more help attracting a delightful and holy new year, consider joining me and Margo Mastromarchi for 2011 Intentions with the Angels, learning how to write the most important prayer in your life–your Soul Vows, and learning how to Plug In to the creative force of the universe.
How are YOU planning on calling in a year filled with all the blessings the universe has in store for you?
I thought I understood what I was going to say about forgiveness this week. After all, I’ve been there. Done that. Had about the most profound experience of forgiveness you can have. Even got the miracle to show for it. (Details in “How I discovered the Voice or how the Voice discovered me,” in Writing Down Your Soul.
I know forgiveness is key. The key, even. The key to moving on, breaking through, and experiencing miracles. So when the December Plan began to form, I knew forgiveness would be important. So important, it would have its own week. What I didn’t know is that it would have a life all its own. A life I was not in charge of.
This morning, I was sitting outside in the December Florida sun having my soul writing chat with “DG” about forgiveness when a shadow flitted across my journal. I looked up. A vulture was soaring directly over me. So close I could see her lighter brown underfeathers. I smiled and said hello. Then her friends started to show up. Within seconds, there were thirteen majestic turkey vultures circling over my teeny townhouse yard.
I’m used to birds blessing me with their presence, but usually my messengers are ospreys. I could hear my osprey buddies calling in the distance, but for the moment I was drenched in vulture grace.
Hmm, vultures, I wondered. Turning back to the page I asked, “DG, what do vultures have to do with forgiveness?” I knew it was no accident that I’m planning a week of forgiveness and 13 vultures show up. But I wasn’t sure what they were trying to say. So I went inside to get Ted Andrew’s Animal Speak.
Like most people, I have a simple and not particularly pretty image of vultures: they eat dead things. Well, yes. They do. But put in the context of forgiveness, maybe eating “dead things” is a beautiful thing.
The vulture, according to Ted Andrews, is symbolic of purification. “Its medicine would restore harmony that had been broken.” From a biological standpoint, the vulture purifies the area by eating what’s dead, and with it all the decay and bacteria that could potentially harm other animals or people. Well now, let’s think like a vulture for a moment. How does forgiveness purify us and our immediate area?
The opposite — non-forgiveness — is toxic. You know this. You see it every day in people who can not let go of their anger toward someone. Perhaps they’re endlessly obsessing about a scurrilous boss, an abusive ex-spouse, a faithless lover, or a soul-crushing parent. Everyone has someone in their history who has caused them harm. You do, don’t you? Quick. Fill in the sentence:
“I have not forgiven __________ for ___________.”
So what are you going to do? You’ve got a rather simple choice. Hold on to that anger till it makes you sick or call in the vultures to help you. And make no mistake, obsessive anger will make you sick. We know this instinctively, but there’s plenty of research connecting the dots between long-standing anger and illness. Just this morning there was an article in the St Petersburg Times about a study demonstrating that men who didn’t express their anger were “twice as likely to have had a heart attack or died of heart disease as men who openly expressed their anger. Risk was highest for those who walked away.” The article doesn’t say exactly what happens inside your body when you swallow your feelings and walk away, but we all know from personal experience that the fury, hurt, and shame don’t dissolve on their own. They stay alive inside our guts, our hearts, and our minds. And the more we dwell on them, the bigger and stronger they get until we can’t “walk away” because they show up unbidden in our thoughts and our dreams — sometimes every day.
Here’s what I learned on the page with the guidance of the vultures swirling above me.
Step One: If you want to “kill” your anger stop feeding it. Stop talking about it. Stop obsessing about it. Picture your thoughts as “blood” that feeds your anger. Stop feeding it. If you’re not ready to do that it may be because you’ve never really told your story. Not fully. Not consciously. If that’s the case, sit down with your divine Voice and tell your story one last time, pouring out all the gory details and your deepest thoughts and feelings about what happened. In the loving, gentle presence of the Voice, dig underneath the story to find the story beneath the story, the emotions behind the emotions, the deeper meaning of this story in your life. When you’ve done that — and it may take some time — state unequivocably:
“Thank you for listening. I am finished now. I have no need to tell that story again.”
Step Two: Name the gift in the unforgiveable. And yes, there’s a gift in there somewhere. If nothing else, it has brought you to the edge of Forgiveness Gap and freedom lies on the other side. If Nelson Mandela can forgive after 27 years of imprisonment, you can forgive. If the gift still isn’t clear to you, keep writing down your soul until you find it.
“Help me find the gift in this experience. I still have hurt feelings, anger, frustration. I still feel a need for revenge. But I want to let go. So help me find the truth, the big T truth, in this experience. What did I learn? How did my soul evolve through it? What good is there in this?”
Step Three: Make a conscious decision to forgive. State twice — out loud and in writing on the page — that you want to forgive, are ready to forgive, and are calling on Spirit, your guides, your saints and your angels to come to your aid to help you do it.
“Dear Spirit, I am ready to forgive ________. I want to forgive __________. I want to be free.”
Step Four: Open your fist and let your anger go. You can visualize that or, if you want to do it physically, write “I forgive ________ now and for all time” on a small piece of paper. Hold the paper tight in your fist feeling the tension and anger of your history with that person move through your arm and hand and out of your body onto the paper. Then open your hand and let the paper float to the ground.
Step Five: Call in the vultures. Visualize them consuming the paper and with it all the “bad” bacteria of non-forgiveness, vengeance, anger, pain.
Step Six: Thank the vultures for purifying your body, your spirit, your soul and your space. And step into your true home, Freedom.
How does the freedom of forgiveness feel? Perhaps you have become so light, you can soar with the vultures.
Readers of my newsletter and this blog know my next book. I introduced the concept of The Intersection between your craft and your spiritual practice this summer. I shared the beautiful graphic Sandy Cromp designed, and taught the first Intersection teleclasses. My editor at Conari asked for the proposal. The next stage in my writing life was clear. Or so I thought.
Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love) spoke on Oct 8th at a Tampa event designed to coincide with the launch of her new book. In dozens of interviews in the past year, she talked about Matrimonium. But there were no books for sale in Tampa. Elizabeth explained why. She said she was halfway through the manuscript when she realized it wasn’t the book she wanted to write. So, she told her publisher she was starting over. But first, she went to the garden. For six months she planted, pruned, watered, and weeded. And somewhere in the midst of not writing, not thinking, not planning, her new book said hello.
My story is not so dramatic. I don’t have the weight of a mega-advance or millions of readers impatiently waiting. But like Elizabeth Gilbert, I knew my next book. I named it and started talking about it with my publisher and readers.
But then, something happened. On September 27th, I had my first low turnout for a workshop. Jennifer Hill Robenalt, my heaven-sent publicist and book sherpa, watched as I taught deep soul writing to four people. As a consolation prize she took me to Chuy’s, an Austin landmark.
Over enchiladas, she scolded me. “That turnout is proof that it’s time to let go of Writing Down Your Soul.” Jennifer could see the shock on my face and tears in my eyes. “Hey, listen,” she softened, “you’ve done a great job. You sold out the first run. You’ve done more to keep your book alive than anyone I know. But now it’s time to move on to your next book.”
I sighed. Jennifer was right. But it was so hard to hear. I love my book and I love teaching Writing Down Your Soul. But the turnout was undeniable.
“OK,” I sighed, “when I get home I’ll start working on The Intersection.”
“Oh, that’s not your next book,” Jennifer mumbled through her cheese enchilada.
“What!” I sputtered. Jennifer kept chewing.
“How many people have come to a Writing Down Your Soul workshop?” she asked.
“I dunno,” I said, “maybe a thousand.
“And thousands more have purchased your book? Right? And deep soul writing changes people’s lives? Right?” Jennifer pressed.
“Oh yes,” I smiled, “I get emails every day from people telling me what a difference Writing Down Your Soul is making.”
“So,” Jennifer stopped chewing, “that means there are thousands of great stories out there. Your next book is a collection of those stories.”
I liked that idea. I liked it a lot. I love telling people’s stories when I speak. I love sharing actual quotes of the Voice. “Hmm,” I thought out loud, “I wonder what the title would be?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Jennifer said, “Love Letters from the Voice.”
I dove into my purse for paper. By the time the waiter cleared the table, Jennifer and I had the title, the chapters, the structure of the individual stories, a list of people to ask to contribute, a how-to section to help readers receive their own Love Letters, and a list of product extensions including the matching journal and card set of Love Letters from the Voice. In the time it takes to consume a plate of enchiladas, I had my new book and I was madly, deeply, and totally in love with it.
When the check came, I grabbed it. “You really are a book sherpa! “I gushed. “The very least I can do is pay for this miraculous dinner.”
The next day I had an event at the Story Circle Network in Austin. As 7pm approached, I said a prayer of acceptance. It’s not about the numbers, I prayed. It’s not about the numbers. The door opened. In came a half-dozen women, then a dozen, then a dozen more. Someone got more chairs. By the time we began, there were 52 people in the audience. Things were back to normal for me and Writing Down Your Soul.
The next day, the Voice and I had chats about the low turnout on the 27th. Well, the Voice pointed out, if you’d had your normal house, Jennifer would not have pushed you to move on. Yeah, I agreed. We’d still have gone to Chuy’s, but we’d have celebrated instead of taking a download on my new book. So let’s see, you nicely arranged for a depressing turnout to get Jennifer to push me. Well it worked. I was so unhappy that day. Nothing was coming out the way I expected. But now, I’m grateful. That “bad” result created room for my new book to sprout. And I’m madly in love with Love Letters from the Voice. Thank you.
OK. Your turn. What isn’t working out the way you expected? What looks and feels like a rejection, a refusal, a problem, a wall?
Now, consider the possibility, if just for a moment, that nothing is actually wrong. Look at your “dirt” with different eyes and perhaps, like Elizabeth Gilbert, you’ll discover something good growing in your garden. Not what you expected perhaps, but something good.
When you get that gut feeling, that knowing, that “intuition” to do something or more frequently not do something, what is sending the message? Is it you or something outside you? And can you trust it?
What has happened to you when you’ve heeded or ignored your intuition?
No one is taking a vacation right now. Perhaps because they don’t have a job from which to take a break –or, even if they have a job, they don’t have enough money to leave town. Or they can’t walk away from the relentless list of all the things they should be doing.
Whatever the reason, people are either working through their “vacation,” or taking a “staycation”– the going term for the no-cost, no-go, stay-at-home one-week rest. One week at home — and we’re supposed to return refreshed and ready to plunge, once more, into the fray of business and profit.
Well, I can’t. On many, many levels, I simply can’t.
I can’t leave. I can’t spend nonexistent money for a nonexistent vacation. Yet in my own home, my own space, my own office, I can’t stop the relentless dance of research, email, twitter, and facebook. I can’t stop the necessary updates on book tour or my website or eventbrite or the newsletter. I can’t stop toying with my next book proposal or teleclass or product launch.
In a word, I can’t stop. But it’s only in stopping that I can refresh this frazzled soul.
And so I stop. Just stop. I say no. No to twitter, no to email, no to facebook, no to teaching. No to “let’s go here” or “let’s have lunch, ” or “can you talk.”
But I need so much more than just sitting home and pretending to be on vacation. From what? The job I don’t have? How silly.
So here I am in my home with the same view, the same morning paper, the same food in the frig, the same wine in the cupboard, the same books on the same shelves and the same relentless list of things to do.
But I refuse. I refuse to do the same things for the same reasons in the same schedule. OK, so I can’t travel. I can’t leave the house. So how do I take a break from the jaws of the necessary, the needful, the now?
It may not be the ideal answer. But this is the answer I’ve got. Stop. Stop and look the OTHER way.
The “other” for me is the functional, the ordinary, the necessary — like cleaning, laundry, gardening, pruning. And so, for the past 48 hrs, I’ve polished floors, pulled weeds, ironed napkins, and scrubbed the fountain.
Is this a vacation? I think so. Not in the go-to-europe sense or the pampered spa sense, but in the soul sense. At last, there are only two persons present in this house: me and my soul. I’m letting this honored guest sleep as long as she likes, read for hours on end, step outside even when it’s hot and miserable, and spend a day cooking for friends.
And she is grateful. What about you? Can you take a soul-cation? Will you?
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?