Rituals for Writing and Life

Appeal to the Great Spirit
Appeal to the Great Spirit (Photo credit: jcbwalsh)

Long ago, a dear friend of mine gave me a book called Wrestling with Your Angels by Janet O. Hagberg.  I’m not sure if this book ever was a best-seller when it was published back in 1995, but I liked it.

I might not have looked at this book today, if I wasn’t packing it now for the move to our new house.  So, that’s one of the benefits of moving things around a bit.

Today, I opened this book to a bookmarked page about using rituals to start our writing.  Often, I have found that rituals strengthen my writing, whether personal or business.

This Native American prayer is featured in that book,  is one of my favorite prayers that still inspires me after so many years:

O Great Spirit

whose voice I hear in the wind,

and whose breath gives life to all the earth

hear me.

Open me to your will, your grace and your gifts,

Lead me to the peace of your spirit and

the strength of your soul.

I now allow all that is mine by divine right

to be released into the world.

This also happens to be the perfect prayer of gratitude for today’s events.  After many months of waiting, we finally closed on our new house today.  It’s such a happy day for us!

This prayer reminds me to dedicate our house to something greater than shelter, and to use our hand-made smudge sticks to bless the rooms tomorrow.

The God of Artists

Many of us equate difficulty with virtue — and art with fooling around.  Hard work is good.  A terrible job must be building our moral fiber. Something — a talent for painting, say — that comes to us easily and seems compatible with us must be some sort of cheap trick, not to be taken seriously.  On the one hand, we give lip service to the notion that God wants us to be happy, joyous and free.  On the other hand, we secretly think that God wants us to be broke if we are going to be so decadent as to want to be artists.  Do we have any proof at all for these ideas about God?

Julia Cameron

You may have noticed that this week’s post have a bit of a theme about what it means to take our life and our art seriously.

I read the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron around the time it was published back in 1992.  It’s a book that changed my life by expanding my beliefs about work, art, spirituality and talent.  I return to the exercises in that book every so often, and have been writing in a journal daily since the early 1990’s mostly because of that book.

I didn’t become an acclaimed artist by reading Julia Cameron’s book, but my life started to become a work of art from that point forward.  I took her following words to heart from the Artist’s Way:

“Making art begins with making hay while the sun shines. It begins with getting into the now and enjoying your day. it begins with giving yourself some small treats and breaks.  “This is extravagant but so is God” is a good attitude to take when treating your artist to small bribes and beauties.  Remember you are the cheapskate, not God. As you expect God to be more generous, God will be able to be more generous to you.”

This approach changed my life for the better, so every so often I write about Julia Cameron’s ideas and books in case she they could help you too.  I recommend the Artist’s Way and her follow-on books to any of you who are trying to write your destiny!

Daily Contemplation:

Are you generous with your inner and outer artist?

Do you believe that God or the Universe is extravagant and wants to share some of that extravagance with you?

Does God love and cherish artists?

Beginnings in Writing and Life

The way a book begins matters.  It’s the same for a journey of any sort.

The first lines of a novel give us a sense of the style of the author, the storyline of the plot and often the genre we will be reading.

In the same way that a writer works diligently at creating and revising to create a great beginning of a work or story, we ought to spend some time making the beginnings of our journeys something special.

Daily contemplation:

If you are starting a trip, a project, a family or any other beginning in life, have you put as much attention to the beginning of your journey as you are to the final destination?

This is part of the Enchanted Journey series written back in July and August 2012.  

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The Green Man – Enchanted Symbol of the Earth

English: Photograph depicting a carving by Pau...
English: Photograph depicting a carving by Paul Sivell, titled “Whitefield Green Man.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first symbol of enchantment in my Enchanted Oasis series is the Green Man, a reflection of our longing for connection with nature.

Given the role of all plants in consuming our carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen in the air for us to breathe, perhaps the Green Man symbol is a mirror of something deep within us that knows we are more intimately connected to the green world than we realize.

If you’re unfamiliar with this symbol of enchantment, Wikipedia discusses the idea of the green man in this way:

A Green Man is a sculpture, drawing, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament, Green Men are frequently found on carvings in churches and other buildings (both secular and ecclesiastical). “The Green Man” is also a popular name for English public houses and various interpretations of the name appear on in signs, which sometimes show a full figure rather than just the head.

The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages. Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or “renaissance”, representing the cycle of growth each spring. Some speculate that the mythology of the Green Man developed independently in the traditions of separate ancient cultures and evolved into the wide variety of examples found throughout history.

We are indebted to the artists and sculptors among us who create these beautiful symbols of man intertwined with nature. For my own part, the Green Man symbol shows up in the novel series that I’m revising this summer, in a slightly different manifestation.

The artistic use of enchanted symbols can also be a reminder for many of us to take practical action.  The Green Man reminds us that it is in our best interest to remember our close connection with the trees of the earth.

Typical boreal forest.
Typical boreal forest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many ways to work on the sustainability of our world, but in my opinion,  few are more important than maintaining and rebuilding forests around the world.  The challenge is that climate change is going to make this more difficult. Across the U.S.  global climate change is creating fires that destroy forests like those in California this year, and without frosts to kill insects that attack trees, many species of trees are suffering.  So, we’re going to have a battle on our hands.

Does the Green Man or other symbols of enchantment intertwined with nature speak to you?

If maintaining a green earth is an important issue for you, how might the use of an enchanted nature symbol in your art or life add to your commitment and actions?

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Remembering our Fathers

Last formal picture of my Dad

As most of you know, today is Father’s Day in America.  Not sure how many other countries, if any, celebrate this day.  It is a day that can be easy or difficult depending on your relationship with your father.

My relationship with my Dad was complicated.  I found him too difficult to understand and distant when I was growing up.  I sometimes wondered whether he approved of me.  We often argued, though we both kinda liked to argue too.

Often we would be in the middle of an argument and would both smile because we enjoyed the challenge of and respected someone who could stand up to our sometimes ridiculous stubbornness.

Still, I used to envy other people who had easy relationships with their father — ones that were always affectionate and kind and simple.  Ours wasn’t like that.

Many of my best memories of my Dad were on family vacations

Yet at his funeral I couldn’t even finish reading a simple passage in front of other people.  My body just froze and my brother had to come up and help me to my seat.  I was a basket case because I was losing the steady rock that was my father.

Even after years of Alzheimer’s disease, when he depended upon others to take care of him, there was always a dignity tha never left him.   A few days ago, I saw a beautiful post by Eva  at where’smyT-backandotherstories on the effects of Alzheimer’s shown through an artist’s first hand experience of it.  Check it out if you have time.

I believe that after people pass from this realm into the next their soul and spirit are restored no matter how they lived.  Occasionally, my Dad comes to me in dreams.  Sometimes I feel my presence when I need him.

My Dad was a wonderful grandfather.  Here he is with my niece Camille. I never remember him reading books to me, but that’s how it is.  It’s tough being a parent, I now understand this.

No matter what your relationship to your father, even if you never knew him, today is a day to honor the person who with your mother gave you life.  A big part of the gift of who you are comes from that person, and for that reason, he is a blessing to your life, because you are a blessing to the world.

So whatever good you can find in yourself, remember your father today and be grateful for the possibilities that still remain in your life because of the gift he gave you.

Thank you Dad for all you gave me, and happy Father’s Day wherever you are now.

These are some photos that show the loving and kind side of my father who loved his family so much in the best way he could.  I honor him today.

My Dad could be goofy! Here he is in Jamaica with my Mom in the 1980’s.
My Dad often resisted travel beforehand but always went on trips with my Mom. Here they are on their way to Alaska in the 1990’s.
I had trouble scanning this well, so it’s a bit fuzzy, but I’ve always loved this picture of my Dad with me and my ex-husband at Disney World after walking in the rain sometime around 2000.
This final picture is one of my Dad smiling for my Mom. I believe it was taken in Alexandria, Virginia when she was working there at the Pentagon. Above all, my father loved and respected my Mom and that showed in so many choices that he made. This is how I like to remember him. Happy.

Reaching the End of What You Know – Finding Your Intuition

Dead end road
Dead end road (Photo credit: van Ort)

Today, when I was reading my favorite blogs, I read an explanation from psychic Amy Keast on Trusting your guides and how she finds her intuition, which fed perfectly into what I had planned to write today.

How many times have you heard people tell you to follow your intuition?

In my case, I don’t know of any time in my own life where I made a huge leap without following my intuition.  For me, it often appears in a written form, but not always.

The problem is that most of don’t have much idea about how to find our intuition when we are in the midst of turmoil or trouble in our life.

I’ve noticed that to have access to my intuition,  I must follow the Tao Te Ching advice of yesterday’s blog and learn to trust and in a certain sense give up ambition.  Then, I can listen to my intuition.

What are the ways in which you tap into your intuition when you need it most?

And what might your intuition be telling you to do now to create a quantum leap in your life?

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Awakening Your Natural Goodness

Hopetoun Falls, Otway National Park, Victoria,...On Sunday, I suggested an exercise for anyone who wanted to release the brakes on their energy.

Today, I wanted to go a little further with that idea through a writing exercise that helps you to get in touch with your own natural goodness and allow it to flow through your life.

There are many ways to feel the goodness of your natural energy such as meditation, yoga, and exercise. These are important physical ways of feeling your energy without the interference of our mind.

Sometimes, however, it’s good to engage our mind so that we can strengthen our intellectual and intuitive powers of our energy.  So, today, I’m sharing a process and worksheet to help you open up to your natural goodness with the power of your mind and intuition.

It would help if you did Sunday’s exercise, but it’s not necessary to use this process.

The main benefit of this process is to discover and prioritize the most important longer term soul projects that are doing.  It’s quite possible that you are already doing soul “work”, but this exercise also helps reinforce that understanding or broaden it.

Like Sunday’s exercise, this can be done as quickly or carefully as you want to do it.  Here is a worksheet you can download and print out to make this easier:

Natural Goodness Worksheet

Here’s the steps:

  1. Using information from your worksheet from Sunday or your own personal knowledge, write down the top 3-7 qualities of your higher self or your natural energy in column one of the worksheet.
  2. In column two, write a list of between 10 and 20 skills and strengths you have or would like to have.
  3. Column three is where some brainstorming work comes through combining the words in column one with column two. For instance, if a quality of your natural energy is compassion, and one of your strengths or talents is writing — that combines to writing with compassion or compassionate writing.

The point of this exercise is to see how you could or are already applying your best personal energies to your actions in the world.  Creating as many options as possible can make this easier.  I usually like to do this with a group of people because it tends to free people up with their ideas, but you doing this by yourself gives you more time to ponder the possibilities.

At the bottom of the natural goodness worksheet is an opportunity to look at your longer term projects or create new ones from column 3.

Hope you enjoy this exercise!

Focus on Your Strengths

Every so often, it feels appropriate to talk about my experience as a consultant and how that might apply to living restoratively.

Today, I’d like to share an idea that I first heard, when I was working for a non-profit that was part of the National Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).  I was taking a class on executive coaching from a woman who had successfully coached hundreds of CEOs to become more innovative and profitable.

She surprised me by teaching us that manufacturing was suffering in America because its leaders focused too much on eliminating weaknesses and not enough on expanding strengths.  Focusing on weaknesses was leading manufacturers to become commodity creators and driving down costs.  A business that focused on expanding its unique strengths stood a much better chance at being innovative and more successful.  Think Apple and Steve Jobs!  Ever since that time, I’ve wondered about coaches who focus so much on weaknesses.

This same idea applies to any of us who wants to improve.

It can help if you ask other people about your strengths. A while ago, I asked a friend to share his concept of my strengths.:

Since they were young, I’ve taught my boys to enjoy trees too!

You also have the ability to see the bigger picture.  Some would call it “vision”.  Not all people have that gift.  I have some of that but I’m very task oriented.  I get the crap done, but you see what needs to be done – in a grand style.  This is also your downfall. You see the forest in spite of the trees because you climb atop of the trees to see the forest.  Every now and then you fall from the top of a tree.

How that assessment of my strengths (and weaknesses) to be fairly accurate.

So, how does this apply to you?

This next week or so, find some people to tell you what is great about you and the way you live your life.  Then, for the rest of your life focus on getting better at those things.

The weaknesses you’ll always have, and you’ll find a way around them.

To paraphrase ancient Greek wisdom, “Know Thy Strengths!”