Your soul wants five things

A lot has happened in the last two weeks. Heck, a lot has happened so far this year. Might have something to do with creating my Intention Mandala on January 1st and naming 2011 “My Big Pot Year.” I had no idea what that meant at the time, but after just 31 days, I’m beginning to see.

The “big” in Big Pot exploded open last Saturday. I intended to get a lot of writing done, but instead I listened to a teleconference. I don’t particularly like the teacher or her emphasis on how to make a million bucks, so why did I give her an hour of my precious time? I have no answer to that question. Something told me to listen, so I did. And OH am I grateful.

The teleconference was about how to create a million dollar coaching program. I do not want to create a coaching program — not even a million dollar one. I’m very clear that I am not your therapist or life coach. When people ask me what they should do about a problem, I say: “I don’t know. But you do. Take your problem to the page. Ask your wise loving Voice.” So what was I doing on a teleconference on how to be a big time coach? Why didn’t I hang up? I don’t know. I felt this urgency to keep listening. So I did. Well, about 3/4 of the way through, an idea jumped through whatever the woman was saying and landed with a giant plop in my heart.

OH! All the courses I teach are part of one integrated whole. Writing Down Your Soul, Plug In, Soul Vows, and The Lotus and The Lily are four aspects of one thing — the one thing everyone wants to know: What does my soul want?

I hung up and grabbed my soul journal. The words tumbled out faster than I could write. I knew instantly that your soul wants four things:

  1. to connect with Source
  2. to commit to values
  3. to express itself
  4. to create a life

And what do my courses teach?

Writing Down Your Soul — how to connect with Source
Soul Vows — how to commit to a values covenant with Spirit
Plug In — how to give your soul full expression
The Lotus and The Lily — how to create a life

At last I understood why I had been given such clear directions last November to teach Soul Vows. Four soul desires, four courses. I went to bed very happy.

But Sunday morning, in that rich theta-drenched, not awake-not asleep state, I heard “serve a purpose.” I knew exactly what that meant. It meant there was a fifth thing our souls want. But I don’t have a separate program for that and I sure didn’t want to take on creating a new course, so I ignored it. (As if heaven would give up and let me win. You can tell how this is going to end, can’t you.) All day Sunday, I fooled around with the four things your souls wants: to connect, to commit, to express, and to create. I played with offering my four courses in that order. I went to bed excited.

Monday morning, I was awakened again with “serve a purpose.” Just in case I missed it, I heard it three times: “Serve a purpose, serve a purpose, serve a purpose.” I sat up. OK! OK! OK! The soul wants FIVE things:

  1. to connect with Source
  2. to commit to values
  3. to serve a purpose
  4. to express itself
  5. to create a life

I sighed. Guess I have one more program to design. “I’ll do it,” I said. “If you want it, I’ll do it.”

On Tuesday morning, the next piece arrived. (I have trained myself to be still in the morning and allow guidance and ideas to come to me. And they do. They always do. If you’ve taken a Writing Down Your Soul course, you know that divine access comes when you’re in the theta brain wave state. One of the spiritual practices I share in Plug In is how to expand that state throughout the day, especially first thing in the morning.)

In my not-yet-awake state, I “saw” a hand. I opened my eyes and looked at my own hand. OH! Your soul wants five things:

to connect–thumb

to commit–first finger

to serve–second finger

to express –ring finger

to create–little finger

I called Cherry Lea, the owner of Dancing Moon in Raleigh, where I’ll be presenting the first ever weekend workshop on The Lotus and The Lily in March. I told her the story about how listening to that teleconference led me to see that my courses are a connected whole. She sighed, “Of course they are.” I told her the big question is “What does my soul want?” She sighed a sigh of recognition. I told her the five things the soul wants. She sighed an ever deeper sigh of agreement. I told her about the hand. I had her wiggle each digit as I repeated the five things her soul wants. She sighed a huge sigh of joy.

Then, Cherry gave me a sweet gift. She said, “Of course, the symbol of what your soul wants would be your hand. It has to be a hand for you.” I said, “Oh really, why is that?” She couldn’t believe I didn’t see it. “Janet,” she said, “look at how you sign every email.”

OH! I cried. Of course. I’ve had this symbol of the hand for three years without understanding its full meaning. I sign every note including these newsletters: the connection is in your hand.

That evening, I stopped at my neighborhood grocery store. I’ve shopped at this grocery store for 11 years. Nothing mystical has ever happened there. But that evening, as I was pushing my cart across the back of the store, I heard a loud clink. Something had fallen and was rolling all the way across the aisle in front of my cart. I watched as it hit the bottom of the meat counter, rolled back a foot and stopped. I stared at it for a second trying to figure out what it was. I’m used to pennies falling out of the sky, but this was silver. I walked over and picked it up. It was a shiny Canadian nickel. FIVE cents! I laughed out loud and put it in my pocket. My precious five cent piece now graces my creative altar.

So here’s my gift for you: Look at your hand. Now, ask yourself: What does my soul want?

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You haven’t heard from me because…

I wrote this feature article for my Writing Down Your Soul newsletter on Dec 28. If you’d like to subscribe, click above.

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?


All the True Vows, David Whyte

I am writing the LearnBook for the Plug In! course. (I’ve decided not to use the term workbook anymore because learning isn’t work, it’s joy. So from here on all my support materials are going to be called LearnBooks. Don’t you think that sounds much more fun than the heavy workbook?)

Plug In! is about how to step into The Intersection to access the kind of creativity, guidance and support that will take your writing or other creative endeavor to a whole new level.

One of the steps in The Intersection is to write your creative blessing and then speak it aloud every day. To support that idea, I am reading David Whyte’s “True Vows” to the class. Re-reading it today, I fell in love again with the profound ideas, and the elegant way David expresses them. Like a tumble of water, the words flow into your mind and heart and you cannot help but feel them in your bones. Speak this poem aloud slowly and ideally standing. Let these words flow through you. You will be changed.

All the True Vows

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 you 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.

David Whyte
The House of Belonging


Brownies, St Michael, and the scholarship

On Saturday I announced through my newsletter that I was giving one scholarship for my telecourse, Plug In! The Intersection for Writers. Today, I made the selection. As usual with me, giving away a scholarship was a more profound experience than I expected. Here is the email I sent to the three dozen applicants. I am sharing it on my blog because it’s such a sweet story and because it illustrates the power of working in The Intersection.
Friends,
I cannot tell you what the last three days have meant to me. When I sent the email offering a scholarship for Plug In, I don’t know what I expected, but I was not prepared for what I got: email and after email after email with your soul-stirring, life-affirming, and often eye-popping stories.

I met many of you in person this past year, but other names were new to me. I heard from people who live ten minutes away to people who live across the country and even across the pond. I heard from every kind of writer from published authors, to writers with a manuscript, to writers with no words on the page but who feel their book pushing to be born. I heard from people who write poetry, children’s literature, memoirs, self help, spiritual discovery, and novels. I heard from visual artists too. The visual artists spoke eloquently about their personal relationship with both the brush and the word.

I thought you’d like to know my process because it’s a fun illustration of how things work in The Intersection. I read every email. I wrote each name on a slip of paper. I blessed each name. I emptied out my blessing bowl (which holds an ongoing collection of evidence of Spirit in my life) and filled it with your names. Then, I drove to St Michael’s with water, my journal, and the bowl of names.

It always smells delicious at St Michael’s. I don’t know why, but it always does. But today was something else altogether. Today the air was infused with chocolate. I took huge sniffs. Brownies, I thought. Brownies freshly out of the oven. Was someone baking in the neighborhood? Maybe, but when I left an hour later, the scent of brownies was as strong as when I arrived.

I was alone in St Michael’s the entire time. Not even the caretaker was there. I sat down and picked up my journal. As always, I wrote the date first. 1-25-2010. Go ahead, add it up. It’s an 11. If you’ve followed me at all, or read my book, you know today was destined to be an 11! Next, I had chats with Michael on the page about this whole scholarship thing being his idea. I was reminded that last year in an angel reading, he said in answer to all my questions: “You don’t understand how important this book is.” You’re so right, I wrote today, I had no idea what an impact this book would have on people’s lives. Thank you for letting me read all these glorious emails reminding me that my work changes people’s lives. Michael’s recent quote showed up, too. Three weeks ago in a post-Christmas angel reading, when I asked about what will happen to Writing Down Your Soul when I put all my energy into writing new books, Michael said, “It’s in my hands now.” Well, Michael, I wrote, the winner of the scholarship is in your hands, too.

And with that, I chose a name.

Lori Schaffert

Lori is a visual artist in Clearwater, FL. She heard me for the first time years ago when I spoke at Unity Church of Clearwater about Spiritual Geography. I think it was 2001. That evening she gave me a pencil drawing of myself and I tucked it in my bible where it has stayed for years. A few months ago, Lori came to a writing down your soul workshop at Unity Church of Palm Harbor. When she introduced herself I blurted out, I remember you, you drew my picture!

I’d like you to meet Lori through her own words in her scholarship application:

“I am an artist and it is my greatest desire to bring God’s creative energy into manifestation through my hands and heart. The difficulty lies in staying out of the way and un-learning the self-imposed limitations and crippling doubts that have become my deeply ingrained pattern of thought. I have named 2010 ‘The Year I Find My Voice’ and know this course would direct me on that path.”

Please join me in congratulating Lori on her scholarship to Plug In. And on her year. How divine. The year she finds her voice. What a perfect name for all our years. We are all plugging into the divine to find our voices and speak with those voices in clear joyful tones. And when we all do that, when we all do the work we are here to do, the world truly is a better place.

Thank you for taking the time to let me know what Writing Down Your Soul has done, and continues to do, for you. I am so blessed in you.

Janet

Do you want to subscribe to the Writing Down Your Soul newsletter? Click on the tab at the top of this blog. You can also review the course outline for Plug In! The Intersection for Writers. Early registration with a hundred dollar discount continues through Tuesday Jan 26.


What Teach for America can teach writers

Following my usual Sunday ritual, I spent a couple hours this morning curled up in my favorite reading chair devouring french press coffee and the Sunday paper. I always find something that makes me think. Really think. The stimulus today was an article titled “What makes a great teacher” in the St Pete Times.

I felt drawn to read it for several reasons.

A. I was a teacher. Maybe not always a great one, but I did strive to make a difference. The year my profoundly gifted and profoundly deaf 9 year olds tested out reading at the high school level…,well, that was a proud moment indeed.

B. I’ve been frustrated to the n’th degree by the range of quality of teaching my son experienced in his education from pre-school to college from superb to god-awful.

C. I have a gut feeling my son will be a teacher of some kind some day.

And D. I still teach. I just teach deep soul writing and working in The Intersection instead of third grade.

So I read the article. As I read, I stumbled upon a paragraph that popped off the page. It spoke directly to me and to all writers, that is, all writers who are commited to being great. The paragraph distills Teach for America’s findings on what made teachers great. See what you think:

“…great teachers tended to set big goals…. They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve…. Great teachers constantly re-evalaute what they are doing.

Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: They avidely recruited students and their families into the process, they maintained focus…, they planned exhaustively and purposefully–for the next day or the year ahead–by working backward from the desired outcome; and they refused to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, beaurocracy and budgetary shortfalls.”

What does that have to do with writers trying to write well and get published? Everything. When we work in The Intersection we are accessing the creative power of the universe, but that doesn’t mean that it flows to us without some effort and action on our part. The upcoming telecourse Plug In! The Intersection for Writers is about what actions to take to ensure endless access to that glorious creative flow.

In the last few blogs I talked about my real job for 2010. My job is to create the conditions that allow that flow to happen. And creating those conditions does take focus–relentless repeated focus. Every day we writers rise and renew our commitment to write and write well.

We do the same things Teach America, we
set big goals (getting published in todays world is a HUGE goal)
perpetually look for ways to improve
constantly reevaluate what we’re doing
recruit our friends and families into supporting our writing life
maintain focus (this shuold be number one)
plan how to get to what we want by working backward from it (to get a contract, I need an agent, to get an agent, I need a proposal, to write a proposal, I need….)
refuse to surrender to all the menaces around us

Are you a writer? Is this the year you create your writing life? Find your voice? Get published?

If you’d like to know more about working in The Intersection, visit Writing Down Your Soul and view the course outline for Plug In! We begin on February 2nd.

Whether you join Plug In! or not, take whatever wisdom you can from the Teach for America research. Are there any parts of it that resonate for you?