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.

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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?


Jumpstart 2010 with a “Conditions” Mandala

Heaven communicates with us so many ways. Synchronicity. Animal messengers. Signs and symbols. Dreams. Nudging. Knowing. Intuition. And deep soul writing, of course.

But have you noticed that when you are ready to hear something really important, something that may well be the next step in your soul’s great human adventure, it falls into your hands through a human voice? It might be something someone says, but often it comes through the pages of a book.

That’s what happened to me. As you know, I wrote about how to create a magical new year throughout December. I thought about it every day and shared my experiences with you in this newsletter and in my blog. I thought I had the process pretty well figured out.

Until New Year’s morning.

I spent the morning in deep dialogue with my divine Voice putting 2009 to bed and calling in a magical 2010. It’s a process I’ve followed for a decade and I know it works. But this year, I did something different. Before I said my prayers, before I picked up a pen, before I did anything, I picked up a library book. As I sipped my coffee, I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s slender new book, you are here.

Midway through I had to stop and catch my breath. Because everything in my understanding suddenly shifted 180 degrees.

Let me explain.

A week ago, I decided that the perfect name for 2010 is “My Breakthrough Year.” It’s perfect because it captures where I am. I’m in the fifth year of my writing career: In 2006, I called in my publisher. In 2007, I wrote Writing Down Your Soul. In 2008, I learned what happens after you turn in your manuscript: editing, book layout, cover design… In 2009, I learned what happens when your book comes out: how to speak, teach, travel, communicate through social media, work with a publicist, interview and be interviewed… Whew.

And so, in year five, I’m ready for the big breakthroughs. You know: the income, agent, multi-book contract, well-paid speaking invitations. I’m ready for my ships to come in.

And reading Thich Nhat Hanh, I discovered how to do that. Which is a really good thing, because I had something wrong, and I’m willing to bet you do, too.

Until I read You Are Here, I visualized my year as me breaking through barriers to reach what I want. But listen to what the Buddha has to say about creating: “This is, because that is.”

Not clear? Don’t worry. That’s why God gave us Thich Nhat Hanh, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Vietnamese Buddhist monk. To explain this profound teaching Thich Nhat Hanh writes: “This refers to the manifestation of phenomena on the basis of the law of interdependent origination. When conditions are sufficient, there is manifestation.” (p. 87) To illustrate, he points out that in winter you don’t see sunflowers, but that doesn’t mean sunflowers don’t exist. They are just waiting for the condition of sunshine to call them forth.

My eyes couldn’t leave the sentence, “When conditions are sufficient, there is manifestation.” I wrote it several times in my journal. I wrote it on my white board. I sat staring in space letting it seep into my cells.

“When conditions are sufficient, there is manifestation.”

I am still calling 2010 “My Breakthrough Year,” but I see now that my way to get that to happen is not to focus on me breaking through to what I want; it is to focus on creating the conditions that allow everything I want to break through to me.

Do you hear the difference? It’s huge. And it’s the miracle-maker that will create the year I want — and the year you want.

So how do you create those conditions? Well, my Voice and I had long, rich talks about how I can create the fertile field for my “sunflowers” to break through the soil and grow, grow, grow. Well, actually we talked about lilies. Ever since Michael said, “You are a lily,” in an angel reading with Margo Mastromarchi in 2007, I’ve had lilies on my altar. I love seeing myself as one of Spirit’s cared-for lilies.

Once I was clear on the conditions to allow all I want to manifest, I made a prayer mandala to imprint that image in my sub-conscious. I traced a dinner plate on a large sheet of paper. I drew a lily at the center of the circle. On each of her six petals I wrote something I do to create the perfect conditions for my year. Around the lily, I drew twelve small circles, each with a symbol of something I want to break through to me in 2010.

I finished with an angel reading, using Doreen Virtue’s Archangel Oracle deck and pasted copies of the four cards to the corners. Delighted with the results, I pinned my 2010 mandala to the wall next to my desk where it will bless me for the next 365 days.


That magical new year you want? It’s all yours. Here’s how.

Your Magical New Year starts Right Now

Thank you for joining me in this delightful adventure to call in a divine new year. I share your excitement for what we are creating. Thanks for your emails and comments.

But please don’t worry if you haven’t started.

In the past, I did the whole thing in a couple hours the morning of January 1st. And I’m living proof that such compressed intention-setting works. So whether you’ve been preparing to call in your new year all month, or thought about it off and on, or are just now deciding that you do indeed want to call in a joyous new year filled with blessings and grace, I’ve got a plan. A Soul Plan. Take it. It’s my gift to you.

In Writing Down Your Soul, there’s a full description of a “Soul Day.” Here’s a shorter, specific January 1st Soul Day process to call in a divinely-guided and supported year.

If January 1st is not an option in your house, it’s OK. Just pick a time in the next few days when you will have a couple hours to yourself. The date doesn’t matter. Giving yourself the gift of a moment of time to stand in your power, acknowledge your heart’s desires, and call to you in concert with heaven does.

Here’s the New Year Soul Day that always works for me:

Set your intention.

  • The universe is run on intention. Use that power to kickstart your year. Place a notepad next to your bed. As you fall asleep on Dec 31, ask for guidance on your Soul Day.You can ask for general guidance or specific questions like what is the name of my year.
  • When you awake, lie still for a few minutes and allow insights from the night to come to you while you still have access to the theta brain wave state. When you’re ready to get up, jot down any insights, blessings, images.

Begin with prayer

  • As you step into the space where you are going to call in your year, say the prayers that mean the most to you. If you don’t have a prayer process, start now.
  • Stand and speak your prayers. Request Spirit, the angels, and your divinely-appointed guides to be with you as you begin the next twelve months in your soul’s adventure here on earth.

Have a nice long conversation with the Voice about 2009

  • Ask for help identifying all the gifts buried in the experiences of the last twelve months. List them. Name them. Bless them. Say thank you for both the beautiful gifts you received and the more difficult learnings. Learnings are gifts, too.
  • Review everything you accomplished this year. Let your heart be filled with pride for all that you accomplished.
  • Forgive yourself for everything you didn’t get done. And anything you did that you wish you hadn’t.
  • Release your prisoners. If you are holding someone prisoner in your internal dungeon for the harm they’ve done to you, let them out. (see blog posts on week 3 below)

Have a nice long conversation with the Voice about 2010

  • Start talking with the Voice about what you want in 2010. Review the list of the blessings you created in your December Plan or make your list now in partnership with your divine Voice. Discuss what you want until you have a focused list of five to eight desires.
  • For each of your desires, create a prayer statement describing it in the present tense as it looks fulfilled. For example, if you want a new job, write something like “I am doing my perfect work joyous as a result of my efforts.” You’ll type these statements up and say them every day for the next 365 days.
  • Ask for a name for your magical new year.
  • If you have card sets that you love, do a card reading or two asking for guidance on your year. I love to do a Medicine Card reading and an Angel Guidance reading.
    Create a visual prayer for 2010

Create a prayer mandala for 2010.

  • Use a dinner plate to make a good-sized circle on a piece of firm paper. Write a phrase or word for each of your prayer requests inside the rim of the circle (like numbers on a clock).
  • Write the name of your year across the top. 2010 is “My Break Through Year.”
  • Decorate the mandala. I like to write my core prayers in a border around the circle. Words like: I know. I trust. I love. I’m not sure what words I’ll add this year. Have to wait to see what the Voice suggests on January 1.
  • At the center of the mandala, draw an image that captures your year. My “Break Through Year” is symbolized by a chair. (see Dec 28 post) I’ll draw a chair at the center and put a small wooden doll house chair on my altar.

Celebrate

  • Conclude your Soul Day with prayers of gratitude and joy. You have been heard, supported, and guided to stand in your power and declare the life you want. Be thankful.
  • Bless your prayer mandala and post it where you’ll see it every day.
  • Type or print your prayer statements and put them where you’ll say them at least twice a day.
  • Eat in joy. Have a delightful meal and toast the blessings of the magical new year that are coming to you

Bring your year to life

  • At least once a day for the next 365 days, stand in front of your mandala, say your prayer statements and SEE all the good you have declared coming to you. Visualize it. Feel the joy you’ll feel when it happens. Smile. Say thank you in advance.
  • Keep your thoughts and your eyes focused on what you want to attract in 2010. When you stray into fear and doubt, put yourself back in front of your mandala and remind yourself that you are divinely guided and all is well.
  • Recognize good things when they come to you. Save evidence of your desires being fulfilled on your Evidence Shelf. (p. 228 in Writing Down Your Soul.)
  • Keep communication between you and your Divine Voice wide open. Write down your soul every day. Pray every day. Ask for guidance and you will receive it.

See how easy it is to call in a magical new year? January 1st is my favorite morning of the year. When I pin my 2010 prayer mandala to the wall, I always feel lifted. I feel my angels beside me clapping and laughing. I know that I am blessed.

And you are, too.

I’ll be thinking of you on January 1st. And throughout the year as together we call in our magical years. 2010 is in for a big surprise! We alchemists are changing not just our own individual lives, but the life of the whole planet.

Please let me know how your New Year’s Day unfolds..


December Plan Day 27: Name your year

Friends: This magical week in our December Plan culminates today and tomorrow with two delightful activities. Today, you give 2010 a name. Names have resonance. Names have power. In this post originally written for UPI on Jan 1, 2008, you’ll learn why naming your year has such magical power. Then, tomorrow, we wrap up the week with a delightful final touch. The bow on top so to speak.)

On Jan. 1, while others are nursing hangovers, cooking beans, watching the parade, or preparing for a football fest, I sit for a few hours in complete silence in my writing chair and create my year. New Year’s Day is my Soul Day. (Soul Days are described at length in Writing Down Your Soul on p 230-237) Soul Days are always profound experiences, but this Jan. 1 was special.

I woke early, threw on a comfy robe, and headed downstairs to turn on the Christmas tree lights. I made a pot of strong French press coffee with hot cream and frothed milk and cut two thin slices of Lindsey Hart’s to-die-for pound cake (available only at Christmas and only for her devoted clients) and settled into my chair. There, I did what I do every New Year’s Soul Day: I reviewed the year before, acknowledged the wealth of blessings received, felt deep gratitude for every gift, and discussed the possibilities for 2008 with the Voice of Spirit.

Then I did a few devotional readings and queried my favorite card sets, prayerfully asking Spirit to show me what I need to know about the coming 12 months. I studied every piece of guidance and distilled them into my “prayer sandwich” for 2008 — a six-line prayer I will repeat every morning and every evening for 365 days. (p. 188-199 in Writing Down Your Soul) Each line is carefully constructed to define, declare and attract my six sacred intentions for the year. I’ve done a Soul Day process like this for years, and the experience always fills me with hope — and confidence that that hope is heard and embraced by a divine chorus who believe in and support my soul’s evolution.

But this year I did something more. I named my year. First. Before I said one prayer or read one card, I named my year. As far as I know, no one does this. No one names the next 12 months. No one writes the title of their year as though it were the title of a movie or book or painting. But naming your year is, I think, the missing link, the extra ingredient, the key that unlocks the future you want.

I got the idea from Jan Johnson, my publisher at Conari Press. Mind you, she doesn’t know I got the idea from her, and if you asked her about “naming your year,” she’d probably look at you oddly, but it came from her nonetheless.

Back in the fall of 2006, Conari Press asked me for a proposal on how to journal to access divine wisdom. I’ve taught people how to access the voice of the divine within for years. I called my classes “Dear God,” because when I write in my journal, I begin my conversations that way. But I tell my students to use any salutation they like. The power isn’t in the name, I always tell them, it’s in your intention. So use the name for the divine that speaks to you.

I wrote my proposal and submitted it under the title “Dear God.” Despite my editor’s admonition that I might not hear for 90 days, I got an email the very next week: We love it! Yes, we’ll publish it. Except for one little detail: Jan Johnson, our president, doesn’t like the title. She thinks the word “God” is too limiting or off-putting for a lot of people. Think about a different, more inclusive name for the book.

Huh? A different title? My classes are called “Dear God.” My company is Dear God & Company! I’ve had the domain name deargod.com for a decade, and I’ll finally be able to use it. What do you mean, “find another name”? I fussed alone in my office for a day, but then I stopped. After all, Conari is a really good publisher, and they sell lots and lots of spiritual books. If they think “Dear God” is not the right title, then maybe it’s not. But I was so in love with my title, and so accustomed to using it, that I couldn’t think of anything else. So I asked for help. I sent an email to everyone who had taken a Dear God class in the past year. “What do you call God when you write?” I asked.

Well, I was taken aback by the response. Jan Johnson was right! Almost no one used the term “God” when addressing the divine. Two people explained why: They’d had dreadful experiences as children at fundamental churches where the minister heavily preached about God. My fellow writers suggested 27 other names for the divine. So much for calling my book “Dear God”!

I went back to the drawing board. I came up with several new titles and sent them off. They didn’t like any of them. I tried again. I read up on creativity and tried a process developed by Win Wenger, who has studied all the great creative geniuses. New ideas came through, but they were all rejected by Conari. “What do you want?” I begged. The answer was completely frustrating, “We don’t know, but we’ll recognize it when we see it.”

I went to my local bookstore and studied the titles of books near where mine would be shelved. Power seemed to be big. How about “The Power of Writing” or “The Untapped Spiritual Power of Writing”? Nope. How about “In Your Hand”? I thought that was kinda clever. Their answer didn’t surprise me: No.

I was getting frustrated. While they were dithering over the title, I could have had the manuscript half written! “Why can’t I just write the book,” I asked my editor, “and the title will evolve through the process?” “Because Jan Johnson believes you have to have the title first.”

Finally, in desperation, I asked Stephanie Gunning, a fellow writer and editorial consultant. She came up with a title in 10 minutes: “Writing Down Your Soul.” Hmmm. That sounded good. And Conari loved it. THANK YOU, GOD! So, could I start writing? Nope. I needed a subtitle. Aaaahhhhh!

I pulled out every spiritual book I have (you don’t want to know how many) and wrote down every bloomin’ subtitle. Staring at the list, an idea simply popped into my head: “How to activate and listen to the extraordinary voice within.” I sent it to Conari, and 48 hours later I had the green light for my book.

At the time I thought, “Well, now, that’s over and I can begin to write.” But the book wouldn’t follow my planned table of contents or detailed outline. Why? Because:

  • The word “soul” in the title kept steering the book toward talking about the evolution of your soul.
  • The word “activate” in the subtitle became a lengthy treatise on the power of questions to open the unconscious mind, including questions that work and questions that don’t.
  • The word “listen” magically attracted experts on compassionate listening that were nowhere to be found in my original proposal.
  • And the word “voice” simply took over the entire project. The Voice became the focus and fulcrum of every page

When I finished the manuscript and looked back at my original proposal, I hoped Conari wouldn’t mind that I had not written the book I proposed. I’d written something much bigger and mightier. I’d written a book I adored.

So what does the title of my book have to do with naming my year? Everything. I have experienced the magnetic power of a name. I saw firsthand how the name brought forth ideas, research, questions and even people. (How did it do that?) If the name worked so powerfully for my book, why wouldn’t it work equally well for my year?

After my card readings, I went back to my office and made a vision board. On it I drew myself on a horse leaping through air effortlessly, gathering all the accolades, publicity and success I want for Writing Down Your Soul. I pasted on book reviews, and sales standings, and magazines, and radio and TV shows. I described my perfect readers, agent and next contracts. I stood back and looked at it and smiled. Then I added the crowning touch. At the bottom, I glued on my name for 2008: My Abundant, Unstoppable, Leap of Faith Year.

I’m with Jan Johnson: Get the name first. When you name it, it will come.