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?
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Maybe an ordinary day isn’t ordinary after all

Last Sunday’s Mystical Poetry Love Fest exceeded all our expectations. The four presenters–Nancy Barton, Neale Lundgren, Diana Wentworth and I–had a delightful time. Based on the feedback, I feel certain the sixty-eight souls listening around the world did too. Special kudos to Jude in Perth who kept herself awake in the 3AM hour by reading poetry to her cat, Thomas.

But, as so often happens, the person who got the biggest AHA may well have been me. Via Diana Wentworth. Or rather, via Anne Sexton.

Nancy and Neale and I read our many favorites from Hafiz and Rumi and other long ago poets. But Diana kept bringing us into the present with modern poets–poets many of us didn’t know or didn’t recognize as “mystical.” There was one poem in particular that left everyone on the Love Fest in stunned silence. The topic was “What is mystical poetry really all about?” Nancy and Neale and I shared some pretty lofty stuff from professors and Hafiz and William Blake, but Diana capped the conversation with this jewel:

Welcome Morning

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.

~ Anne Sexton ~
The Awful Rowing Toward God

When Diana finished reading the rest of us sputtered something about our morning coffee being changed forever. And indeed, when I went downstairs on Monday morning, my kitchen glowed through my new eyes. I blessed my kettle, praised my orange cup, thanked God profusely for my ten-year old french press. I thanked my frig for chilling the cream and blessed the farmers and roasters who magically deliver Italian roast to my cupboard. Then, as I inhaled that first exquisite sip, I closed my eyes and thanked Diana for bringing us Anne Sexton and Anne Sexton for changing my ordinary morning into a temple of gratitude.

But why stop at breakfast, I thought. I spent the whole day seeing my bed, my sheets, my office, my computer, my windows, my walls–everything–through Anne Sexton eyes. Welcome morning. Welcome afternoon. Welcome night.

If you’ve ever wondered what mystical poetry is about, this is it. It’s all God, it’s all love, it’s all life, it’s all joy. And the only response is THANK YOU.

If that feels good, turn around and look at the room where you are right now. Look at it through Diana Wentworth eyes, through Anne Sexton eyes, through your own divine eyes–and see the joy.

What do you see?


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 21: Finally Forgive–the miracle prayer.

Today we wrap up our week of clearing our spaces–our heart spaces, our mind spaces, our soul spaces, and even our body spaces–of the silent (or not so silent) anger and resentment festering within. Is this necessary? Ask any therapist. Ask any spiritual counselor. Ask any metaphysician. Ask anyone. But really, there’s only one person’s opinion that matters. Ask yourself.

You know if you’ve got old crusty crud blocking your spiritual arteries. You know if you’re carrying a pocket of anger toward some jerk who done you wrong. You know if deep inside you still wish that something rotten would happen to someone. You know. And you know if this anger is getting in the way. You know if it’s gotten in the way all last year — or all last decade for that matter. And you know, somewhere deep you know, if it could get in the way of calling in your magical, glorious, joyous new year.

So once and for all, it’s time to let go. To move on. To release. To forgive. To finally, totally and completely forgive. Want to do that? Well, it’s your lucky day because it just so happens that I know how. No, wait, let me amend that. It isn’t that I “know” how to forgive. Not in the sense of having an intellectual understanding of what forgiveness is and how it happens. I’m not sure anyone, no matter how many books they’ve read or written, “knows” that.

But we who have had a profound experience of forgiveness, do know something special. We know that forgiveness is miraculous. We know that when we forgive — not in the mind or even the heart but at the deepest, let’s call it cellular or even soul level — something happens. Chains really do break. Spirits really are released. And not just the other guy’s. Both people are released. You and the person you are forgiving. You are both instantly and miraculously free.

So, do I “know” something about forgiveness? Can I explain why this particular prayer works? No. Not really. It’s a mystical experience. It’s a miracle. All I can tell you is that it works. This is the prayer that released me and my ex-husband. Within two hours of my writing this prayer, my ex-husband wrote a check for the first time during our divorce. A check for half our son’s last dental appointment. Doesn’t sound big? Not to you maybe, but for us it was nothing less than the parting of the Red Sea. And, more than that, it was a harbinger of the giant life insurance miracle to come. (If you don’t know the story, you can read it in this excerpt from Writing Down Your Soul.)

And this prayer, “Finally Forgive,” doesn’t just work for me. Every time I read it in public, I get phone calls. I don’t know why, but they always come on the third day. And they always start the same way, “You’re not going to believe what happened….” I always smile. Oh, yes, I am. Yes, I am. Yes, I am. I am absolutely, positively going to believe what happened. Because forgiveness works. Forgiveness works miracles. Forgiveness works miracles every time.

Here’s the miracle prayer, “Finally Forgive.” I wrote it about my situation with my ex-husband. But it applies to everyone. Just change the sentence, “The truth is…” and fill in your own Truth about your own relationship with the person you are forgiving. Adjust this prayer any way you want for yourself.

  1. Listen to me say it first.
  2. Then make any changes you want to personalize the prayer for yourself.
  3. Then speak the prayer out loud. This is important. Say it standing up. Say it aloud. Say it slowly. With conviction. With meaning. With heart. Hold up your hands as you see the corners and make the choice. Because that’s really all you’re doing. You’re making a choice. THE choice. The most important choice you’ll ever make.

After you’ve said the prayer, be still. Let the words wash over you. Feel the fetters burst. Don’t be surprised if you’re a little woozy. If that happens, just sit. Be still. And whisper thank you. “Thank You, God for this gift of forgiveness. I am free. I am free. At last, I am free. Free to live the life I’m here to live. Free to come from love. Free to love my life, my soul, my purpose, and my gifts. Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, I am free at last.”

Finally Forgive
a prayer of finally, really, truly, and completely choosing to forgive copyright 2009 Janet Conner

Part I   The Gap
There is a gap between you and me.

In the gap is pain and fear and anger.
In the gap is our history of ugly thoughts, ugly words, ugly actions.
In the gap are the sounds of screaming, crying and swearing.
That gap is killing us and hurting our child.

What good is there in that gap?
What good is there in refusing to cross it?
What good is there in staying angry?
What good is there in not forgiving?

Part II   One Love
If there really is only one love—God’s love—then:
How can I love my work,
if I don’t love you, in some way? Just a little.
How can I love our son with my whole heart,
if I don’t love you, in some way? Just a little.

How can I love my new relationship,
whomever that may be, whenever that may be,
if I don’t love you, won’t love you, can’t love you, in some way?
Just a little.

How can I love my home, my family, my friends?
How can I love my purpose, my reason for being,
if I don’t love you, in some way?

If I could love you, just a little
I could love my life all the more,
love my child all the more
love my work, my home, my friends, all the more.

Part III   The Choice
I have it in my power to hate you, to ignore you, to blame you.
I have it in my power to make your life difficult, set up little traps,
say small nasty things.
I have it in my power to paint you as the bad guy, the stupid one, the fool.
And, I have it in my power to forgive you, to love you, in some way. Just a little.

The truth is your presence in my life was a gift.
For now and for always, you gave me our precious child,
the sweetest gift on earth.
And you taught me, finally taught me, to say no.

Thanks to you, I learned, oh God, how I learned.
Thanks to you, I grew, till I became bigger, stronger, richer, fuller.
Thanks to you, I walked. I walked a long tough journey, but I walked
to this place, this moment, when I know who I am.

I know what I’m thinking. I know what I’m feeling.
And I see a clear choice:
I can hold you in this corner, where you are forever wrong.
Or, I can hold you in the light, where you are free to grow, and change, and be happy.

Dear God, I’m choosing.
I’m closing the gap,
filling it with forgiveness, plugging the holes, and posting a sign:
Only love is spoken here.

(Finally Forgive comes from Spiritual Geography, the soul-writing system that heals the broken heart. Click on the Country of Peace to learn more about forgiveness. If you’re interested in more information about Spiritual Geography please contact me at janet@writingdownyoursoul.com. I invite you to forward this and all the posts on forgiveness in the December Plan to friends. Encourage them to subscribe to this blog and to the Writing Down Your Soul newsletter.)


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.)


December Plan Day 11: Don’t go back to sleep

Rumi said it perfectly:

“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”
(From Love Poems from God by Daniel Ladinksy and quoted in Writing Down Your Soul on p 221.)

The door is round and open. How’s that for a simple truth. But what do we do? Why, we fall crashing into the sleep of the unconscious life and then whine and complain about how hard life is, how unfulfilled we feel, how disconnected, how lonely, how sad. We complain that we don’t get what we want–what we so clearly deserve.

But is that the door’s fault? No. The door to the inner world is open. The door to your soul is round. The door to the inside journey, the door to real human and spiritual connection, the door to peace, the door to fulfillment, the door to deep inner joy is open. So who’s got a problem here? Why, we do.

So, in your December Plan, as you are reviewing your year to date, uncovering all its gifts, ask yourself: When was I wide awake this past year? When was I aware of what was happening? When was I in touch with my soul’s purpose? When was I connected with my best self, my God-self, my fullest expression. When did I walk through that door and touch what’s real, what’s true, what’s holy?

And when did I look the other way? When did I stay so busy busy busy that I stayed oblivious of what I was feeling deep inside? When did I avoid real conversations–with myself, with my soul, with my source? When did I pretend I didn’t feel the pain? Didn’t see the dishonesty–mine or others’? When did I pretend to myself that everything was OK, when everything wasn’t OK?

In Rumi’s words, when did I go back to sleep? Back to the old habits, the old fears, the old assumptions?

Look at your year for a pattern of waking and sleeping. When you get your arms around what keeps you alive and what sends you reeling backward into sleep-walking through life, you’ll know something big about yourself. You’ll know something that could make a profound difference in 2010. Want a magical new year? You can have one, but magic comes to those awake enough to see it happening.

So here are a few questions for your deep soul writing on Day 11 of your December Plan. Plunge into these and your eyes will be knocked wide open:

How often was I asleep in 2009?
What are my sleep triggers?
What kind of situations or people make me want to go back to sleep?
What happened to awaken me?
What were my most awake moments? What kinds of situations or people make my soul sing?
How did it feel to be awake, really really awake?
How awake do I want to be in 2010?
How am I going to stay awake in 2010?
What do I think could happen, if I lived a more soul-ful, living, vibrant, awake life?

It’s an exciting vision, isn’t it?


What one poem will they read at your memorial?

The House of Belonging by David WhyteI 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
you can
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.

Remember,
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
and spoke
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?