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Lately I have been thinking about some true life stories of women who have tackled the tough task of leaving it all behind and embarking on incredible journeys of self-discovery. I stumbled upon a book I once loved and it got me thinking that I’ve always loved these stories and soaked them up like great fiction. But in these cases, the stories are documented and real, and here are just a few I highly recommend.

on-the-way-to-satori1On the Way to Satori was written by Gerta Ital, a German-born actress who entered a Japanese Zen Buddhist monastery late in life. She recorded her experiences in two books, The Master, the Monks and I: A Western Woman’s Experience of Zen, and the one I read: On the Way to Satori: A Woman’s Experience of Enlightenment. Both books were published in German in the mid-1960s, but were not translated into English until much later. She recounted the physically and emotionally harsh conditions of being the first Western woman admitted to a Zen monastery.

sorcerers-crossingThen there is The Sorcerer’s Crossing: A Woman’s Journey written by Taisha Abelar with a forward by Carlos Castaneda. Abelar, an anthropologist, recalls the mysterious and mystical journey which took her on many leaps of faith into the world of sorcery. In the late 60s, she was sketching in the mountains around Tucson, Arizona when she met a Mexican woman named Clara Grau. With intensity, gravity and fortitude, Grau convinced Abelar to visit her house in Sonora, Mexico– right then, and right there. Facing her own feelings of being directionless and confused about her future, she went. What followed was a powerful entry into a family of sorcerers which produced powerful healers and wisepeople like Castaneda.

eatprayloveAnd more recently, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert hit a major nerve with women seeking purpose, meaning and real clarity in their lives. Though she didn’t shave her head or become inducted into a secret world of magic, Gilbert did have life-changing moment after moment in a global trek which spanned Italy, India and Bali.

The bottom line with all these fine reads is that the real experiences of these brave women have produced books that are as mesmerizing, surprising, enchanting and deeply inspiring as any novel you could crawl into. Check them out.

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Wow! Finally the first official movie trailer for the live action version of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, directed by Spike Jonze!! Looks incredible and I can not wait. Coming out Oct. 16.

Janet Conner, Author of Writing Down Your Soul (Jan. 09, Conari Press)

Janet Conner, Author of Writing Down Your Soul (Jan. 09, Conari Press)

A funny thing happened on the way to this particular installment of Well-being Q&A. I was doing a simple writing exercise where I was describing a very beautiful memory in extreme detail. As I was writing, I heard a loud inner voice which startled me. The voice said “divine writing.” I thought, “huh– what is divine writing?” My mind started really going in a lot of different directions and when I internally asked “What is divine writing?” another voice responded. It said “writing down the soul.”

The next day I kept thinking of this phrase “writing down the soul” and so I finally “googled” it and that’s when I stumbled upon Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner (Jan. 2009, Conari Press). I didn’t get the “your” part, but close enough. I quickly realized that the message I was receiving in my clear and positive writing state was simply giving me a cosmic book recommendation!

I was delighted to learn that the processes in Writing Down Your Soul were exactly the psychic prescription I needed to move forward in some creative endeavors that I had been considering for months.

writingdownyoursoulpc150The book details a process of deep soul writing that helps your brain move into a theta brain wave state which is a perfect environment for receiving messages and guidance from what she calls “The Voice.” Of course one can identify the source of this guidance as anything from God to Universal Intelligence to a thousand different names in a multitude of different spiritual traditions.

I recently asked Janet about the inspiration for the book and how it can help people (even writers) receive answers to the stream of questions that flow through our lives.

CL: What was the initial inspiration for Writing Down Your Soul?

JC: In the nineties, my professional life kept getting better and better but my marriage kept getting worse and worse. Finally, after 21 years together, I told my husband I wanted a divorce on Nov 1, 1996. All the pain welled up inside of him exploded. And suddenly I was wearing an emergency police call necklace. One morning as I was sitting in my living room sobbing, my puppy dragged my untouched copy of The Artist’s Way to me. What can I say, the universe will use any means necessary to get your attention! I started writing that very moment. I wrote “Dear God,” at the top of a page and poured my heart out. I felt better so I did it again the next day and every day after until my heart was healed, I’d forgiven my ex-husband, and I’d rebuilt my life into something far richer and sweeter than the one I lost.

CL: You talk about the Voice. How do you experience the Voice and how is that different from the creative mind?

JC: The Voice is a paradox, a mystery. It is indefinable, unknowable, and yet your perfect guide and truest friend. To help readers answer that question for themselves, I wrote a chapter called “Who or what is listening?” I walk readers through a fun review of a few hundred names humanity has attached to the divine over the centuries. Then, I leap into what science has to say about that unlimited field of knowing. The chapter ends with Rumi’s sweet poem about asking Spirit for a personal and private name and a writing prompt to help you do just that. Everyone in a Writing Down Your Soul workshop gets a name, and invariably it’s quite a surprise.

From then on, you address the Voice by that special name whenever you write. Quickly, you will discover that you are having an intimate conversation. People experience the Voice many different ways. The handwriting may change, the language may change, the tone of the words almost always changes into something deeply loving, gentle, and wise. Some people feel a shift in their hand or body when the Voice takes over. When I am deeply deeply connected, my pen moves quickly across the page without me pushing it. Many people have had the same experience. It’s as if the pen is doing the writing.

Can I separate my experience of the Voice from “creative mind”? During my scientific research into what happens when you write this way, I learned that deep soul writers are in the theta brain wave state. Well, that’s also where you have to be to access new information, real creativity, breakthrough solutions. I view the Voice as my source for ALL wisdom, all creativity, all grace. Writing down your soul is simply an easy way for everyone to access that limitless source.

CL: Is writing down your soul similar to channel writing or automatic writing? If so, how?

JC: I don’t think so. I’ve seen demonstrations of automatic writing and it’s tough to decipher. You have to guess what’s there or what it means. Writing down your soul is a daily conversation in plain English (or whatever language you choose to write in). You ask; you receive. And if you don’t understand, you ask for clarification. Once you become comfortable with deep soul writing, you have no doubt that you are connected and that you are receiving clear guidance and direction. My guess is that automatic writing is an attempt to break into that theta brain wave state but it isn’t as effective or clear as writing down your soul because it isn’t a fully developed system and habit.

CL: Are the practices in Writing Down Your Soul designed for people interested in developing better ways to receive answers to life’s important questions, toward writers interested in honing their craft, or both?

JC: My intent is to share this incredibly simple, reliable wisdom habit to anyyone who wants guidance and direction. And right now that seems to be everyone! People who pick up the book or come to a workshop do not have to have journaled before or have any kind of writing experience. This practice is not actually about writing, and it certainly isn’t about writing correctly or well. In fact, trying to write “well” just gets in the way.

Having said that, professional writers do love this practice because it gets you so quickly out of conscious mind and into the theta brain wave state where all art and artists dwell. When I got the contract for Writing Down Your Soul, I started every morning writing by hand and received all the direction I needed for the book.

I invite anyone interested in knowing more about writing in the theta brain wave state (whether professionally or personally) to subscribe to the newsletter at www.writingdownyoursoul.com because you’ll receive a free e-book on writing in theta.

CL: You’re very specific about trying this process for thirty days in a very ritualized way. Why is it important to be ritualistic about Writing Down Your Soul? Can journaling encourage connection to the Voice as well?

JC: Thirty days is important because the science clearly shows it takes thirty days to build new neural pathways and it’s those new pathways—new thoughts, beliefs, emotions, words, and actions—that produce the new and improved life you want. So if you want to see change in your life, you need to build new neural pathways.

I recommend creating a personal writing ritual that includes building a special writing space and saying a blessing that sets your intention to connect with the Voice because the more you surround yourself with a system that supports and sustains your new habit, the more likely you are to experience the full benefits of the practice. People who come to this or any practice sporadically don’t receive the full benefits. Consider changing your eating habits, for example. If you only eat healthy food once in a while, your body can’t really improve. The same applies to deep soul writing. If you only pick up a pen occasionally, you’re missing the opportunity to build a relationship with the Voice that you can count on for wisdom and guidance.

Writing down your soul is not journaling. It’s much much deeper than that. There are many differences between writing down your soul and journaling. At the back of the book, there’s a chart of 18 significant differences. I recorded a video on http://www.writingdownyoursoul.com that explains what writing down your soul is and how it differs from journaling.

CL: What sorts of life changes or successes have been reported by those who have gone through the Writing Down Your Soul process?

JC: There are so many beautiful stories. Sharing them is one of the great joys in Writing Down Your Soul classes and teleclasses. You can read a few at “Testimonials” on the website.

Deep soul writers have received miracles, profound insights into why things happened as they did, final and complete healing of past traumas and relationships, new career directions, and guidance to make changes in their lives.

Sometimes the stories are small and sweet like the woman who asked for a sign that she could trust the Voice. Her yellow tea kettle had burned and she wrote, “Show me a yellow tea kettle.” She went to Target and on the shelf were ten white tea kettles, five red tea kettles, and one bright yellow tea kettle.” Standing in the aisle, she started to cry. A small sign, perhaps, but for her it was huge. It was the breakthrough she needed to really plunge into a relationship with the Voice.

Another woman needed to find a home to rent. She talked it over with the Voice and came up with the specifications: four bedrooms, large fenced yard for the dog, neighborhood, price, etc. Later that afternoon she saw an unusual picture of a tiger with half a white face and half a black face on the front of a real estate magazine. She took it home thinking she’d like to paint that tiger. That evening, her husband turned down a street they’d never been on and there at the end of the block was a lovely house with a “for rent” sign in front. They walked around, discovered that the back door was open, walked in, and there in a back bedroom was the painting of the black and white tiger. When she told that story in class, everyone gasped.

A young woman in graduate school started writing and realized within days that she was in the wrong program for the wrong reason. A fifty-five year old teacher worked out a totally new career on the page. When I saw her a few months later, she said for the first time in her life, she’s truly happy knowing she’s doing the work she’s here to do.

One of the most stunning stories is of a minister who received guidance on the page that it was time to retire and move back home. He argued with the Voice on moving. After all the real estate market is a disaster. But the Voice was clear and his home sold in two weeks at full asking price. Everyone in class considered the sale of that home nothing short of a miracle. But here’s the real miracle. Within days of getting back home, he was diagnosed with stage 5 cancer. He said, “Now I know what the Voice meant by ‘home.’”

Everyone receives guidance and direction when they write down their soul. The guidance is rarely as big as change your career or move to Michigan. Often, it’s how to shift your thinking—and THAT guidance can be the richest of all.

CL: Do you have a few tips for writers experiencing difficulty in starting or completing a project (novel, memoir, screenplay, etc.)?

JC: I’d start with learning how to write down your soul so you can slip into theta on a regular basis. Writing in the theta brain wave state is effortless. And amazing. When I read what I wrote in theta, I always wonder, “Who wrote this; it’s so good!”

I know writing in theta works because I had to complete my book in less than 3 months—which I have since been told is technically impossible. But I used the theta brain wave state day and night and finished it easily. And my editor said I’d done something that had never been done before: “a self-help book that’s a page-turner!” (Trust me, I don’t take credit for that!)

CL: What are five of your all-time favorite books that you enjoy recommending to people?

JC: Well, if I could have only one book, it would be The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master by Daniel Ladinsky. I keep it next to my bed. Number two would be Love Poems from God, also by Daniel Ladinsky. I’m a huge fan of mystical poetry. If you’ve seen the book, you know I scattered snippets of mystical poetry throughout Writing Down Your Soul. I also love David Whyte’s poetry in The House of Belonging. If, like me, you’d like to know what Jesus really said, I highly recommend Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus by Neil Douglas-Klotz and Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg. Those two books will alter your understanding of that great teacher forever.

But please don’t think I only read spiritual stuff. Paul Auster is at the top of my literature list. The New York Trilogy, especially The City of Glass is beyond superb. Writing like that isn’t human.

And I read The Return of the Osprey by David Gessner once a year when the ospreys return to the nests near me. I’m a little obsessed with ospreys. When you read Writing Down Your Soul you’ll see why.

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