Do you need a soul-cation?

A Still CupDo you need a soul-cation?
OK, that’s a rhetorical question. Of course you need a soul-cation. Everyone needs a soul-cation. Everyone needs a mind-body-spirit rest. We know that. We feel it in our hunched shoulders, tense tummies, and racing minds. We know it in our 3 AM worry fests. We see it in our relentless schedules and hopeless to-do lists. We see it in our piles–papers, projects, laundry–always, it seems, there are more piles.

We know we should stop. But we don’t. I didn’t. I had been feeling the call to stop for weeks but had not allowed myself to hear it. Because if I heard it, I’d have to stop. And I couldn’t afford to do that. I had too many events to plan, programs to edit, speeches to give, calls to return, proposals to write, and bills to cover.

Jennifer Hill Robenalt, my heaven-sent publicist, took matters into her own hands. “Stop!” she yelled, “you need to take five days with nothing. No email, no facebook, no computer, no phone calls. Nothing for five days.” “I know you’re right,” I sighed, “but I can’t.”

That night I asked the Voice for the perfect Hafiz poem for the last night of the Creative Blessing teleclass. I opened The Gift to:

A Still Cup

For God to make love,
for the divine alchemy to work,
The Pitcher needs a still cup.

Why ask Hafiz to say anything more about
your most vital requirement?

As I read Hafiz’s words to the class, each of us, sitting in our homes from California to Florida, shared this vision of Spirit pouring–or rather, trying to pour–an boundless supply of love, light, wisdom, and grace into our little cups. But we, frantic with worry and responsibility, keep chasing something that is somehow just out of reach. All that we want is right there, so close we can smell it, but it falls uncollected to the ground. And so, we keep going, working ever harder to accomplish what we want.

Reading “A Still Cup” I knew what I had to do. I called Jennifer and told her I was going on soul-cation. I went to the library and checked out an armload of books. I sent a few “out of commission” emails so people wouldn’t worry. I told my twitter and facebook buddies I was going on soul-cation. Then, on Saturday, August 1st, I stopped.

That morning, as I walked past my office door, the computer called to me. My hands itched for the keyboard. My eyes begged for one quick glance at the calendar. I sighed, closed the office door, and walked away.

I knew I needed to do something dramatically different to break the visceral urge to work. For me, that’s cleaning. I hate to clean. I’d much, much rather write. So before I could talk myself out of it, I vacuumed the blinds, oiled the furniture, scrubbed the kitchen, and polished the floors. When I finished, I felt great and the house smiled. The next day I pruned the garden. The garden smiled. I ironed. The rows of linen napkins winked up at me. To celebrate my happy home, I invited friends over for an old-fashioned Sunday dinner of roasted peppers, marinated mushrooms, green beans, carrot salad, potato salad, pesto tomatoes, and Greek grilled chicken. Took me all day. I loved every minute.

For seven days I did not enter my office. Instead, I prayed and I slept. I wrote in my journal for hours on end. Sometimes I just sat in my chair. And I read. I read:

Fingerprints of God, Barbara Bradley Haggerty
Healing Words, Larry Dossey
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Wells
Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch

I read Conversations years ago, but I needed to read it again. There were the answers to all the questions plaguing me. I resolved to re-read Conversations once a year. If you read only one book on your soul-cation, make it Conversations with God.

On Tuesday, as I sipped coffee in my reading chair, I glanced up and looked at my favorite Denis Gaston painting, “The Awakened One” on the opposite wall. She’s a powerful woman with orange skin, huge green eyes and wild medusa hair. Thank you, God,” I said out loud, “for Denis Gaston. And thank you for this gorgeous, gorgeous painting.” My eyes drifted down to my lime green sofa. “Thank you, oh thank you, for this sofa. And thank you for the money that made it possible.”

Around the room I went. For three hours. Basking in the beauty of each and every object in my home. I thanked Spirit for the thing, the person who made it, and the person who gave it to me or the place where I found it. By the time I finished, my living room was pulsing with love and my heart was soaring. This was so much fun, I did it again the next day. And the next. That attitude of gratitude thing? It works.

At the end of the seven days I felt better. Stiller. Calmer. Quieter. Happier. And an amazing thing happened. On my first day back I received five new speaking invitations. On day two, travel arrangements that had eluded me fell effortlessly into place. On day three, the outline for The Joy of Writing in Theta tumbled onto the page. On day four, I was invited to speak to two professional writers groups. The truth is I accomplished more in the week I rested than I would have had I worked.

So now, I ask you again, do you need a soul-cation? It costs nothing. Well, you might spend a bit more on food. But that’s it. If you’d like to create a soul-cation for yourself, here are a few ideas to get you started.

I did NOT
• watch TV
• read the news
• turn on the computer (no email, internet, blogging, facebook, twitter…)
• pay bills or look at my bank account
• spend money (except for food)
• go anywhere (except for the produce stand and St Michael’s Shrine)
• talk on the phone (except to invite people over)

• give myself permission to take time off
• stay quiet
• pray
• sleep (some nights 12 hours)
• dream (dreams were loaded with messages)
• lots and lots of deep soul writing
• read (it’s a particularly delicious form of hooky for we workaholics to read in the middle of the day)
• do different things like clean (may not sound like fun for you, but it was an important shift activity for me. You’ll discover your own shift activity)
• eat with joy (I slowed down and really enjoyed cooking and eating. Plus, I set the table with my newly ironed linens and my mother’s crystal goblets)
• garden (with each weed, I felt I was yanking out dead fears)
• have friends over for slow, conversation-filled dinners
• visit a holy site (for me, that’s St Michael’s shrine in Tarpon Springs FL)

And one last essential item. I said my Covenant every day, more slowly and more thoughtfully than ever. I spoke it aloud, really hearing what I was saying. I stood perfectly still as I spoke, knowing that when I am those statements, I become a still cup and The Pitcher can and will find me and fill me up. (details on the Sept 9th Covenant teleclass)

For more ideas on how to create your soul-cation, look at how to create a soul day on pages 230-236 in Writing Down Your Soul.

Your soul-cation won’t look exactly like mine. There are no rules. The key is to stop. Simply stop and give The Pitcher a chance to fill your still, open, receptive cup. And then you know what will happen? Your cup will runneth over!

(This article was originally published in my Writing Down Your Soul Newsletter. Subscribe to the newsletter using the tab at the top of this page.)

25 slightly ridiculous but possibly insightful things about me

Janet ConnerI wasn’t going to do this 25 things thing, until I saw Denis Gaston’s and then I thought, if Denis can do it and do it so well, well, I can, too. So here goes.

1. I adore opera. It snuck into my life in Atlanta in the ’80s and I’ve been smitten since the first note. Life without opera is a dry barren thing. Just remember that it has to be live or loud. (Renee Fleming, if you’re asking.)

2. I completely and totally forgave my ex-husband and I have proof that the moment of forgiveness changed us both. I may not be able to explain it but forgiveness is THE miracle–and I know it.

3. I had the greatest mother-in-law who ever lived. In her eighties, she got on the plane for the first time in her life to see her fifth and last grandchild. She would pick up his toys after I begged her not to. But you couldn’t stop her. Emily Koch embodied unconditional love. We should all have such a perfect grandmother.

4. I can’t balance my checking account. Yet I adore numerology. I notice numbers. I love numbers. Just not in columns that have to be balanced. God really needs to send me a bookkeeper.

5. I have to take a hot bubble bath every night. Non negotiable. Can’t go to sleep.

6. I do a crossword puzzle every day. Slightly crazy, but what can I say, it makes me feel better. Don’t even ask me about Sudoko. I came up with a system and it became too easy.

7. My favorite person on the planet is my son and I tell him, even in front of his college roommates. He cringes, but he smiles. (Hey, it would be a perfect world if we were all someone’s favorite person on the planet, right?)

8. I don’t care how cheap it is, I won’t walk in a Wal Mart. It’s against my religion.

9. I know I am divinely guided. I guess that means you are, too!

10. I have real art on my walls (yes, two by Denis)–no posters, no copies. Somehow this really matters to me and I’m appalled when I walk in people’s homes and there’s no art. Huh?

11. There are twelve or more books on my nightstand. Does anyone ever catch up with their reading list? I think I never will. And if more people keep writing like Paul Auster, I NEVER will.

12. I start my day with a poem from the Writer’s Almanac and end it with a poem from Hafiz, the mystical Sufi poet. Life without poetry….dry, dead, lonely.

13. I love prayer. The idea of prayer. The concept of prayer. The reality of prayer. I walked into Inkwood, a bookstore in Tampa in 1995, and said, “show me your books on prayer,” and walked out with a grocery bag full. Still have them all.

14. I love my book. The cover, the color, the content. I love everything about it. I love it like it was a person. I am blessed to be the messenger for this sweet sweet book. When I’m sad or frightened, I look at my book and feel instantly better.

15. Michael showed up at my first booksigning at Wings Bookstore. Oh yes, he did.

16. A pair of cardinals live in my bushes and speak to me every twilight. I answer them.

17. When I teach writing down your soul, I get “high” and can’t fall asleep till 1 or 2 am. People who know me don’t even think about calling before ten am.

18. I love food. Cooking, shopping, setting the table, serving, pouring the wine…everything about food. Food is proof that we are alive.

19. White or beige walls should be against the law. (My living room is orange and yellow, my kitchen chartreuse, my bedroom parrot green, my office copper, my bathroom periwinkle)

20. Ospreys love me. They live in my tree, call to me all day, fly overhead…they are my companions and protectors.

21. I did not set out to have this life. It meandered. I meandered. I continue to meander. My daily prayer has been and continues to be “You shine the light and I will follow.” Do not write that down. It’s a dangerous prayer.

22. A red convertible came within ten feet of hitting me in downtown Tampa in 1992. I was “lifted” out of its path and onto the curb. No one seemed the least bit surprised that I had just flown through the air. This should have been a clue that my life was not going to continue to be the nice dull boring successful life of a headhunter. Perhaps I should have paid more attention. All I did was go back to my office and eat the lunch I was carrying.

23. I can’t date a republican. Shit, I’m not sure I can even talk to one. Except my brother, Jay. He’s forgiven.

24. One of my favorite possessions is a Harley Davidson Willie G jacket with four-inch fringe. After we broke up, I didn’t miss my husband, but lord, I missed the Harley. (Softail Classic and Road King, if you have to know)

25. I am a lily. You have to figure that one out for yourself.

Well, now do you think you know me a bit better? I didn’t fit in Bobby Darin or David Whyte. Rats. And I forgot to say that after 29 years, I still smile when I see the CNN logo. Or the necessity of french press coffee, but I think you get the gist.