You haven’t heard from me for awhile. Taking a break is a giant no-no in the world of book marketing. But I think that’s a mistake. A big mistake.
Marketing is necessary. It’s how new readers find me and old readers go deeper into the concepts I share. But, as much as I love communicating with you through my books, courses, events, newsletters, and social media, I know that silence, stillness, and solitude are necessary in my life. And not just in my life. I believe that silence, stillness, and solitude are necessary in any spiritual life.
And what I want more than anything is a vibrant spiritual life. My own spiritual adventures are the source of all my books and ideas. And so, I have been quiet this July. And, don’t you know, as soon as I got quiet, the source fountain started bubbling over. It all began in Montana.
My annual soul-venture was a Soul Quest at the Blacktail Ranch in Montana. I stepped into this adventure the way I step into all my trips–in a complete state of trust. First, I trust Gayle Lawrence who designs all my trips. She is an expert in this field, having designed hundreds of spiritually stimulating Journeys of Discovery. I trust Spirit to attract the perfect group. And I trust that as the trip unfolds, everyone will experience exactly what they need, when they need it, and in the form they need. That includes me. I’m one of the travelers, too, and I know that I will be fed in ways I could never predict.
That’s exactly what happened at the Blacktail. I have many luscious stories to tell you, but the one that wants to be told today is the story of the cave. What happened there may well be the most important message I’ve ever received.
On the Blacktail Ranch there is an ice-age cave. The family protects it carefully and keeps it in its natural state. There are no railings, ramps or walkways inside. When you step into this glacial cave, you step into the womb of mother earth.
To get in, we backed slowly down a straight twenty-foot ladder, then crouched down and stumbled forward until we reached a large wet rock. The only thing to do was get down on our bums and slide into the cave.
But once we were inside and could stand up and look around, we realized we were walking where ancient brethren walked. They left petroglyphs and a bison and bear altar stone. They slept here, worshipped here, cooked here. We were on holy ground.
We asked our guide to leave us alone in the dark for a bit. He left and turned off the gas generator that powers a few lights. It didn’t matter if my eyes were open or closed, but I still closed them. It felt more reverent. The cave was not silent. There were drifts of cool air and a chorus of mysterious drips all around us. I swear I heard a few stone groans. The rocks emitted a perfume that cannot be described.
In the silence, I asked the massive stone ceiling above me, “Do you have a message for me?” What happened next is difficult, if not impossible, to describe.
I am accustomed to “seeing” divine guidance on the page. I have also trained myself to lie still in that not-awake-but-no-longer-asleep state I now know is theta. In those precious moments, I know what it sounds like to “hear” guidance. And in yoga, I’m learning what it “feels” like to be still.
The cave experience was none of these. In the moment after I asked the question, the stones delivered a message that arrived inside of me. No seeing, hearing, or feeling was involved. It was an automatic transmission or infusion. The voice of the stones was simply inside me and the rock said, “I am old. You are old.”
At first, I thought uh no, rock, it’s you who are old. Ice age, glacial rivers carved you. I, on the other hand, am just 64. But I wasn’t about to argue with the bones of the earth. So I was still and allowed the rocks to repeat inside of me, “I am old. You are old.” After a few minutes, I realized that the pronouns had shifted, and the I had become me and the you had become the rocks.
That’s when the wisdom burst open inside me. I sensed the rocks were smiling as they watched me awaken to a core truth. I am a soul. Souls are old. We know this. We say “immortal” soul. But think for a moment what that means. If a soul is immortal, it is old. Big old. Old old. Older than the rocks old. I was stunned by the depth of this wisdom. It is the first time I knew–and I knew that I knew–that I was a soul and my soul was in touch with all that is, even these elegant, eloquent, ancient stones.
Now, I know that this is a truism and we speak this truism all the time. But saying “I am an immortal soul” is not the same thing as knowing this at the core of your being.
Try it on for size. Imagine yourself in a Redwood forest or an ice age cave or beside an ocean. Picture yourself in your favorite natural setting. Ask for a message. Then, allow the tree or the rock or the ocean to speak to you. Perhaps it will say “I am old. You are old.” If it does, repeat it fifteen or twenty times and notice how you feel. Do you sense your soul singing in recognition? Then, from the soul level, sing back to your sister rock or brother tree, “I am old. You are old.” Or perhaps, your ancient friend has a different message for you.
I’m going to post this newsletter on my newly renamed and renergized blog, “soul sparks.” (That’s a message from the Blacktail, too, but I’ll save it for another newsletter.) After you’ve had your own “old soul” experience, please add a comment about what happened. We’d love to hear.
From this old soul to your old soul, I wish you a space of silence, stillness, solitude this summer so your soul can step forward and sing to you. Perhaps it will sing a song of creativity. If so, my two courses on creativity are about to begin.
Plug In for Writers if your soul longs to sing in words.
Plug In for Expressive Souls if you want to see with the eyes of your soul, hear with the ears of your soul, feel with the skin of your soul, and know–and know that you know–with the mysterious essence of your soul.
Come play with me. I can’t predict the outcome, but I can guarantee a glorious adventure into the wisdom of your beautiful old soul.
I haven’t posted a blog for five months. In the writer world this is a giant no no. But I’ve had my head down writing and editing the manuscript for The Lotus and The Lily. I turned in my edits last Friday and will see what Conari calls “First Pages” in three weeks. First pages are your first opportunity to see your words after the professional book designers got their hands on them. It’s thrilling, second only to holding the book in your hands for the first time.
If you’ve seen my website, you know it’s had a makeover. Thank you, Sandy Cromp for the glorious logo and thank you Lianne March for your web magic. And now, Lianne has worked her magic on this blog too. It was once called Writing Down Your Soul, but as my third book is on the way, that name was no longer a big enough umbrella. So my website is now www.janetconner.com and this blog has a fun new name–soul talk. Because the soul is what I talk about ALL the time!
Enjoy my new digs here at soul talk.
And tell me, what would YOU like to talk about? What are your top five soul subjects? You can leave your comments here or jump over to my Fan Page and tell me what’s on your mind. Please LIKE the fan page while you’re there.
Until we speak again, here’s the soul subject that’s on my mind right now: What’s your soul’s name? How do you speak with her? (the soul is always a feminine noun). How does she let you know her name? I’m wondering about this. Love to hear your thoughts.
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.
Tonight at 9PM on 9-9-09 I was in the midst of a teleclass teaching people how to write their personal Covenant with Spirit. I knew it was a precious moment and wanted to honor it in some way. So ten minutes before class, I opened The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the great Sufi Master, and asked, “Show me the perfect poem for 9-9-09.” I read Hafiz every day, but tonight I opened to a poem I’d never read before:
Where does the real poetry
From the amorous sighs
In this moist dark when making love
With form or
Where does poetry live?
In the eye that says, “Wow wee,”
In the overpowering felt splendor
Every sane mind knows
When it relizes–our life dance
Is only for a few magical
From the heart saying,
“I am so damn
There could not have been a more perfect prayer for a perfect moment when 29 unique souls reached around the globe to affirm that indeed each one of us has a divine purpose that will be expressed perfectly and fully in our Covenant with our Selves and with Spirit–our Covenant that says, “Here I am, this is me, I am alive!”
And so we shouted from California to Australia in one exquisite chorus: “I am so damn alive!”
And we will always remember that at 9PM on Sept 9th, 2009 we were so damn alive!
Hope you had a memorable moment tonight. What was it?
Bridgitt, a young mother in a Writing Down Your Soul teleclass, sent me this amazing photo of Wesley, her four-year old, throwing himself into writing down his soul.
And this story:
Shortly after beginning my daily soul-writing practice, my four-year old son Wesley asked if he could draw in my journal. I told him, “This journal is just for Mommy, but how would you like to have your very own journal?” This was very intriguing to him, so we went right out and got journals for Wes and his little brother Owen. They chose black imitation-leather notebooks (because my notebook is black) and blue pens (because blue is their favorite color.) This past week, Wes asked me three times for his “journal” all on his own!
The boys’ souls have much to say; I really don’t have to even guide them. Owen mostly scribbles in his journal and attempts to draw the letter O. It seems no matter how much time I give him, I have to pry the journal from his little hands as he wails at the end of each session. I am guessing because he is nearly two-years old, his soul has a lot to work out on paper!
Wesley, on the other hand, is very orderly with his journal and has a variety of ideas to express – sometimes scribbling, other times little drawings, often dictating dreams or memories for me to document, and occasionally asking me to draw a picture so he can color it. Yesterday, he “wrote” about his toys – his Lego’s, his slinky, and “all my other toys.” After about 10-15 minutes, he tucked his blue pen in the pocket at the back and declared, “OK, I’m done now. I writed all I needed to, for now.” What intuition!
I love this picture. This is us, all of us, throwing our souls on to the page. People often ask me how you know when to stop writing for the day. I always tell them you’ll know when to end. You’ll have a feeling, a knowing, that this enough for today. Or as Wesley puts it, “I writed all I needed to, for now.”