Posted: June 22, 2011 Filed under: Amazement, Hafiz, Mary Oliver, mystical poetry | Tags: amazement, finding my religion, janet conner, journal writing, Mary Oliver, soul writing, Writing Down Your Soul
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?
Posted: March 24, 2011 Filed under: A Grateful Heart, Mary Oliver, Molly Fumia, pain, Rainer Marie Rilke | Tags: janet conner, Japan earthquake, pain, Writing Down Your Soul
My Divine Feminine book group met Sunday night to discuss Left to Tell, the story of Imaculee Ilibagiza, a 22-year-old Catholic Rwandan woman who was home from college when the slaughter of 3 million Tutsis broke out. She survived the holocaust hiding in a bathroom with 7 women for 91 days. She went in weighing 115 pounds. She came out weighing 65.
As the title says, she was “left to tell.” Her beloved family was hacked to death by neighbors and friends. Why, you’re probably asking, did we read this book? Because it’s an astonishing story of a profound spiritual life. In that bathroom, Imaculee prayed–I mean prayed. And in 91 days of continuous prayer, she found deep communion with God and even the miracle of forgiveness.
As we talked about the unimaginable story in Left to Tell, the conversation drifted to Japan. We struggled with how to even talk about Japan. The pain was just too great. We stared numbly at one another. Then one of us said, “Oh God, and now we’re bombing Libya!” No one knew what to say to that. The pain was just too great. A woman began to talk about her son’s life with the Marines in Afghanistan–what he saw and how often he was shot at. Our eyes got wider and wider. We tried to talk about what’s happening in the Middle East and remember the people in New Zealand, but it was all just too much.
We sat there, picking at our pot luck feast. How do we respond to all the pain in the world, we asked each other. To feel the full impact is unbearable. To ignore it, inhuman. The usual American response to send a donation seems so paltry.
We are a spiritual group, so the conversation rolled around to Jesus. He said, “be in the world, but not of the world” one woman reminded us. We nodded. Yes, but how do you do that?
In the end, we didn’t have any big solutions. I did offer that I haven’t had a TV since last May and that helps, but I admitted I still feel assaulted when I read the morning paper and I am not ready to give up the paper. I’ve loved it too long. I also talked about how the angels told me to use light to protect myself when I go out. The group seemed to think that was helpful, but we still didn’t know how to respond to massive tangible pain.
As I fell asleep, I whispered into the dark, “Thank you in advance for the information we need to help us live surrounded by so much pain. Help us. We need to know.”
If you’ve been hanging out with me in these newsletters, my book, and my classes, you know that I trust my divine guidance to respond. But even I was a bit floored by the power and speed of the response. Monday morning, I opened an email and found this quote from Mary Oliver, the exquisite poet of nature:
“You have to be in the world to understand what the spiritual is about, and you have to be in the spiritual in order to truly be able to accept what the world is about.” Mary Oliver
I chewed over that for a bit and decided it’s the best explanation I’ve heard for the paradox “in the world but not of the world.” I whispered, “Thank You,” but Spirit had more in store for me.
The next email was from a friend wrestling with personal, overwhelming physical pain. She said this quote really speaks to her. It’s from Rainer Maria Rilke, the German poet.
“How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races – the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are only princesses waiting for us to act, just once with beauty and courage.
Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love. So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises before you larger than any you’ve ever seen, if an anxiety like light and cloud shadows moves over your hands and everything that you do. You must realize that something has happened to you; that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hands and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.” Rainer Maria Rilke
I’m awestruck by this definition of pain: something helpless that wants our love. I can feel the truth of that in my bones. When my son is in pain, when I am in pain, when a friend is in pain, when a people is in pain, a country, a gulf, a sea…when the whole earth is in pain, it is something helpless that wants our love, our prayers, our belief in the possibility of goodness, peace, and wholeness.
Something “has happened to us” watching news of Japan, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen…. But the sweet truth is “life has not forgotten us;” it holds us–all of us–in its hands and will not let us fall. When Imaculee was praying in that bathroom, Spirit was holding her, holding her tight, and did not let her fall.
I wrote this article Monday and stopped for dinner. I opened A Grateful Heart at a random page as I do every night, asking for the perfect blessing for the day. Listen to what I got:
“Resurrection. The reversal of what was thought to be absolute. The turning of midnight into dawn, hatred into love, dying into living anew.
If we look more closely into life, we will find that resurrection is more than hope, it is our experience. The return to life from death is something we understand at our innermost depths, something we feel on the surface of our tender skin. We have come back to life, not only when we start to shake off a shroud of sorrow that has boundus, but when we begin to believe in all that is still, endlessly possible.
We give thanks for all those times we have arisen from the depths or simply taken a tiny step toward something new. May we be empowered by extraordinary second chances. And as we enter the world anew, let us turn the tides of despair into endless waves of hope.” Molly Fumia
All I can say is “Thank You” for the divine guidance that brought me these precious quotes. Through them, I am renewed, restored, heartened, and ready to embrace life again, even, or especially, the helpless parts.