I finally found my religion!

I’ve taught thousands how to activate their wise loving Voice. That’s my job. My soul’s purpose. What I love to do. I’ve taught new soul writers in indie bookstores that know every customer and giant chains that don’t. I’ve spoken in tiny churches that meet in hotel rooms and large ones putting up new buildings. I’ve talked with intimate groups in living rooms and crowds at major learning centers.
 
No matter where I am, I tell my story–my wacky, wild, naked story–and answer any question I’m asked. I figure if I’m honest about my situation and how deep soul writing saved my life and transformed my world, then perhaps my listeners can have faith that the Voice is real and ready to help them, too. I know they get the message because they come up to me in corners and bathrooms to thank me for being so open and honest.
 
And I thought I was open and honest. That is until a Sunday afternoon in a packed hallway in Raleigh. I had just given the closing speech at the Body Mind Spirit Expo. The crowd and I were headed to the book signing table. Everyone was jabbering about soul writing and theta and the Hafiz poetry I’d read to them. Suddenly, a woman asked in a clear voice, “What religion are you?” 
 
The hallway got quiet. I paused. I did not want to answer that question.
 
Here’s why. Most of my readers are New Thought or Spiritual But Not Religious–the fastest growing sector in publishing. I personally love attending a Unity church and I adore speaking at Unity and Religious Science churches around the country. But deep soul writing is not limited to any religion or belief. If I know anything for certain, it is that everyone has direct and immediate access to the Voice of Spirit within. Everyone. Many of the people who come to my classes are New Thought or SBNR, but they’re also Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Wiccan, Agnostic, and everything else. I was raised Catholic and love Christian and Jewish sacred texts, but I love and honor all the ways humanity worships the divine.
 
I wanted an answer that would somehow honor all that.
 
I thought about how Suzy Maldonado would answer the question. Suzy was in my very first soul writing class. She shared something from her pages. She’d been exploring what she believed with the Voice and wrote: “Ask me if I’m Jewish. I’m Jewish. Ask me if I’m Hindu. I’m Hindu. Ask me if I’m Catholic. I’m Catholic. Ask me if I’m Buddhist. I’m Buddhist….”  I was stunned by the beauty and truth of Suzy’s answer. And I’ve repeated it many times when asked about my personal faith.
 
But in that cramped hallway, that isn’t what I said. I had my mystical poetry books in my hands. Without thinking, I held them up and said, “Mystical Poetry is my religion. The mystics of every religion and century say the same thing: It’s all God. And God is Love.”
When I heard those words come out of my mouth, I thought, Wow, what a great answer! And that’s how I’ve answered the question ever since.
 
That is, until three weeks ago.
 
My friend and facebook buddy, Rev Lauren McLaughlin posted a TED talk by Dr David Eagleman, neuroscientist and author of the new NYT bestseller Incognito. I love TED talks. I’ve included several in these newsletters. She said it was a great talk, so I clicked and listened. She was right. This is a GREAT talk, Dr Eagleman starts out with the Hubble Deep Space experiment and ends up announcing he’s a “Possibilian.”
 
I leapt out of my chair. That’s IT! I’m a Possibilian! I posted the link to the TED talk and told everyone, starting with my philosopher son, that I was now an official Possibilian.
 
That is, until last weekend.
 
I was the guest speaker at Unity of Melbourne on Sunday June 12. On the three hour drive across Florida that Saturday, I kept mulling over something a woman in Costa Rica said at our closing ceremony. We’d just spent ten days nose to nose with the outrageous beauty of mother nature. As we went around the table, each traveler spoke about the gift she received from Costa Rica. When it was Mary Jane’s turn, she said, “A couple months ago, I heard Mary Oliver, the great poet of nature, speak in Dallas. At the end of her talk a woman in the audience asked, What should we do? Mary Oliver said do three things: Number 1 Pay Attention. Number 2 Be Amazed. And Number 3 Tell Someone. The gift I received in Costa Rica is I paid attention and now I am thoroughly amazed.”
 
I grabbed a tiny pad in my purse and wrote the three things down. They’ve been cooking in my head ever since. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Mary Oliver has it all wrapped up. And it’s so simple. To have a rich joy-filled life, all I have to do is pay attention. And then, be amazed.
 
Be amazed is the easy part. I am constantly amazed. I’m amazed at how my life has unfolded. I’m amazed at the glorious souls who find my book and me. I’m amazed that I’m a writer. (I’m sure everyone who knew me in my CNN or headhunting days is amazed, too.) I’m amazed each time the Voice shows up on my pages and on yours. I’m amazed by the vibrant presence of angels in my life. I’m amazed at how ideas come to me in the morning. (I teach this, but I’m still surprised.) I’m amazed by my animal friends: the ospreys, grasshoppers, and snakes who come to call. I’m beyond amazed by how heaven sent the Icon Owl for my covers. I’m amazed by my body and how it works. I’m amazed by art. Sometimes I just sit and stare at my favorite painting by Denis Gaston, “The Awakened One.” I’m amazed by the books I love. I’m so amazed by Anam Cara that I know I’ll cry when it ends. I’m amazed by my son’s precious heart and mind. God, how I love him. And considering that my husband and I had zero plans for children, I’m amazed–stunned actually–that I have been so blessed.
 
I am constantly amazed. And I think you are too. If we pay attention, how can we be anything BUT amazed.
 
And then it hit me. Somewhere east of Orlando on FL 528: My religion is the Religion of Amazement. I laughed out loud. YES! I am a devout member of the Religion of Amazement. Now all I have to do is tell someone.
 
When I got to Melbourne, Paulette, my host, was cutting her daughter’s hair. I sat at the counter watching and had a cold glass of water. When her daughter left, Paulette started telling me about the church. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but she said, “I am continually in amazement… I am in a state of amazement all the time….” In two minutes, she used the word amazement five times. I had to stop and tell her about the Religion of Amazement. I felt Spirit had moved her to say that exact word. To me it was a little God-wink.
 
Paulette looked at me. “I don’t know why I said that. I don’t think I’ve ever said “amazement” like that before. But now that I’ve said it outloud, it’s true. I am always amazed at how spiritual principles work.
 
So now I have to tell someone else–YOU.
 
Everyone is welcome in the Religion of Amazement. Temples are on every corner of the world. Services are held around the clock, wherever and whenever you like. Just go outside and look around. Look at a cardinal. Listen to a woodpecker. Smell a gardenia. Stare at the moon. Watch a sunrise. Touch a river, an ocean, a pond. Look in the eyes of someone you love. Play with a baby. Pet your dog or your cat or your goat. Watch a wild bunny on the side of the road. Read a book with your eyes wide open. Say your prayers and watch what happens. Welcome the Voice and let the words pour onto the page. Savor your food. Then move. Notice how your body moves and digests and sees and hears. Pay attention. And be amazed.
 
Now, go tell someone. Because I’m quite certain that YOU are a member of the Religion of Amazement, too.
 
__________________________ 
 
Want to be even more amazed?

Do you know your theme for 2011

I have been deeply engrossed in how to create a life for quite awhile now. I’ve held a Soul Day and created an Intention Mandala on January 1st for several years. Does it work? Well, let’s see… I’ve “manufactured” a major UPI blog presence, Conari came out of nowhere to ask me to write a book, Writing Down Your Soul is approaching its third printing, the new matching journal, My Soul Page, will be out in May, people around the world have fallen in love with deep soul writing, I averted bankcruptcy last year by diving deeply into my Soul Day process, and that experience created my next book, The Lotus and The Lily.

So, you’d think I know what I’m doing. You’d think my Soul Day process was complete. You’d think I could just show up on January 1st and go through my magical motions and VOILA 2011 would unfold as it should.

You’d be wrong.

It’s always new. It’s always a mystery. Something new somehow always lands in my lap and surprises me. Today it was a poem. By Hafiz.

I love Hafiz. I know Hafiz. I keep Daniel Ladinsky’s books close at hand. So I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised that the first thing I did on January 1st was ask Hafiz to step out of the 14th century and tell me what I need to know about the precious gift of 2011.

I closed my eyes and opened The Gift and read a poem I’ve never read before, despite reading this book every day for 3 1/2 years.

The Seed Cracked Open

It used to be that when I would wake in the morning,
I could with confidence say, “What am ‘I’ going to do?”
That was before the seed cracked open.
Now Hafiz is certain:
There are two of us housed in this body,
doing the shopping together in the market
and tickling each other while fixing the evening’s food.
Now when I awake, all the internal instruments play the same music:
“God, what love-mischief can ‘We’ do for the world today?”

Thank you Hafiz, for my “theme song” for 2011. I printed out the poem, drew a cracked open seed in the corner, and posted it on my Intention Mandala for 2011. Every day for the next 365 days, Hafiz will remind me what my work is REALLY all about: Not me, but We. Not writing, but “love-mischief.

What a sweet blessing. Thank you, Hafiz, for showing me in just a few lines what the new year is REALLY all about.

Now, it’s your turn. Take your favorite mystical poetry book or sacred text or oracle card set, or anything really that speaks to your heart. Bless it, close your eyes, and ask from the deepest part of your being, “What message do you have for me? What do I need to know right now about the life that is right before me?”

Then open the book, let the words find you, and take them in. They are a gift. They are a blessing. They are an insight from your Self to yourself.


Our one and only job

My last blog post ended with a description of the mystical mandala I created on January 1 to call in my magical new year. The real magic, I discovered, was in centering my focus not on what I want, but on creating the conditions in my heart, my mind, my body, my soul, and my environment that will magnetically attract what I want.

After all we’ve heard and read about the law of attraction, I was rather stunned to realize I’d missed something so big and, once it was right in front of me, so obvious. This isn’t anti-law of attraction. Rather, I think it’s a deeper, more profound understanding of the true law behind the law of attraction.

I realized the magnetic power isn’t in wanting, or rather it isn’t just in wanting. Mind you, wanting is good. Wanting is important. Wanting sends a vibrational message into the universe. I’m not voting that we stop wanting. But I’ve had, and I know you’ve had, the experience of wanting and wanting and wanting but experiencing nothing in response. So the power isn’t generated just by the feeling or expression of wanting. It’s deeper than that.

That’s how I interpret Thich Nhat Hahn’s stunning sentence, “When conditions are sufficient, there is a manifestion.” You are Here.

When I read those words, I felt Thich Nhat Hahn was whispering in my ear: Don’t focus on the manifestation, Janet, focus on creating the conditions; the manifestations will take care of themselves.

That’s why the center of my mandala suddenly had to be a lily. As in, “Consider the lilies, they do not toil nor spin, but I tell you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of them.” (Matthew 6: 28-29) As the Voice and I had chats on the page on how to create the perfect conditions, I found myself drawing a lily with six petals. Each petal states one essential daily activity. As I repeat all six every day, I create the conditions that cannot help but generate my desires.

Petal 1 – Hold my intention to be of service
Petal 2 – Say my prayers aloud
Petal 3 – Create and cherish my sacred work space
Petal 4 – Do my holy work
Petal 5 – Keep my focus on the good (not the fear)
Petal 6 – Have a grateful heart

Of course you don’t have to draw a lily or follow my six conditions. Choose a symbol and the condition-creating activities that speak to you. Perhaps you see yourself and your perfect conditions as a star or ripples of water or something else. The specific image doesn’t matter. Thoughtfully choosing one, does.

But even if you’re not using a flower, please stick with me for a moment on this flower image because I think it holds a simple but profound truth.

What does a flower, or any other plant, do to grow? It doesn’t generate it’s food, the sun does that. It just has to turn to the sun and absorb the light. Nature takes it from there. Well, what if that’s true for us, too. What if our job, really our only job, is to turn toward our Sun — Spirit — and absorb the light. If we keep our eyes on God, we can’t help but blossom and grow.

Kahlil Gibran said it simply and clearly: “Be like the flowers, turn your face to the sun.”

The great Sufi mystic Hafiz expressed this idea in perfect poetry in “The Lute Will Beg” from The Gift. When Daniel Ladinsky gave me permission to quote his translations of the mystical poets, he said I had to include this poem in my next book.

The Lute Will Beg

You need to become a pen
In the Sun’s hand.

We need for the earth to sing
Through out pores and eyes.

The body will again become restless
Until your soul paints all its beauty
Upon the sky.

Don’t tell me, dear ones,
That what Hafiz says is not true,

For when the heart tastes its glorious destiny
And you awake to our constant need for your love

God’s lute will beg
For your
Hands.

We are all pens. And God is begging for our hands. God’s presence in this world comes through our pens, our computers, our eyes, our art, our words, our work, our beauty. And to feed our souls, to find the energy to do our holy work and create the life we are here to live, we have only one job: to turn our faces to the Light.

This morning when I woke, I imagined divine Light on my face. In my mind, I turned my face to that sweet warm nourishing Light and whispered, “God, God, God.”

Try it. It’s a delicious way to welcome a new day. A new day in which your soul once again paints all its beauty upon the sky.


December Plan Day 16: The universe runs on a special currency. Want some?

This is the beginning of Week 3 of the December Plan to call in a magical 2010.

Thanks for joining me in this December Plan to prepare our hearts, minds, and souls to call in a magical new year. It’s been quite an adventure so far, hasn’t it? The first week we set our intention and created our rituals and process. That was fun. (I continue to light my candle and say my December Prayer every evening and write one wish on a teeny card. Always renews my spirit.) Last week we unearthed the gifts of 2009 — all of them. I had quite a few surprises; bet you did, too.

This week we plunge into the richest spiritual work we can do.
It’s the most freeing, the most important, the most essential.
But, truth be told, we don’t want to do it. Guessed it yet? Yup. Forgiveness.

Hafiz, the great Sufi poet, described the magical power of forgiveness perfectly:

Forgiveness is the cash you need.
All the other kinds of silver really buy just strange things.
Everything has its music.
Everything has genes of God inside.
But learn from those courageous addicted lovers
of glands and opium and gold —
Look, they cannot jump high or laugh long
when they are whirling.
And the moon and the stars become sad
when their tender light is used for night wars.
Forgiveness is part of the treasure you need
to craft your falcon wings
And return to your true realm
of Divine freedom. 

The Subject Tonight is Love, Daniel Ladinsky

Forgiveness is the cash you need. The cash I need. The cash we all need to return to our true realm of divine freedom. Freedom. That’s what we really want in 2010. That’s the whole purpose of calling in a magical year. Did you think it was the house, the car, the lover, the job, the contract, the money? Or as Hafiz says, “the glands, the opium, the gold?”

What’s the real reason you want the things you want for next year? Because you want to be free. To feel free. You want to “craft your falcon wings” and fly. Fly to the place where you are who you want to be — who you came here to be. To the place where you are the fullest, richest expression of your whole, authentic, holy self.

Next week, we’ll get real clarity about our wish lists. Hey, I’ve got an idea. From now on, let’s call them our “Freedom Lists.” But first, we need some cash to spend. The universe, you see, is a store. Like any store, it’s run on currency. You want something, you exchange currency for it. In this divine store, the currency is love, forgiveness, and gratitude.

Think about it. Is there really anything else?

  • If you love and are loved…
  • If you forgive and are totally and completely forgiven…
  • If you are filled with gratitude and the people around you are filled with gratitude for all you are and all you do…

You’d be incredibly rich, wouldn’t you? The truth is you’d have quite a stash of universe-currency. And you could “buy” anything you wanted. Well, we are going to be doing some serious “shopping” on New Year’s Day, but first we’re going to gather some universe-cash, quite a bit of it, in fact.

So, join me this week as we dive into the miracle of forgiveness. We begin tomorrow forgiving the the person it is hardest to forgive. Do you know who that is?

(This post was originally published in the Writing Down Your Soul newsletter. To receive it click on the Subscribe tab above.)


What did you do on 9-9-09?

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:

WOW

Where does the real poetry
Come from?

From the amorous sighs
In this moist dark when making love
With form or
Spirit.

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
Seconds,

From the heart saying,
Shouting,
“I am so damn
Alive.”

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?


Do you need a soul-cation?

A Still CupDo 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)

I DID
• give myself permission to take time off
• stay quiet
• pray
• 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.)