Amazon’s algorithm recently served up a book up to me by Janet Connor called Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within. In it, Connor advocates for a particular type of journaling that she stumbled upon by accident while struggling to get through a nasty divorce. As she poured her heart out on the page day after day and asked questions of “the Universe”, the Universe began answering her back, and provided solutions to her problems in remarkable, timely ways. Connor realized the mystical dimensions of her particular practice well before turning it in to a full-blown business, with the publication of her book, the establishment of deep soul-writing workshops, speaking engagements, a podcast–you get the idea. On her website she describes herself as a Prayer Artist.
It’s easy to dismiss self-help books like Connor’s–and there are many–as so much mystical New Age fluff. Nonetheless, I’m intrigued by and sympathetic to her thesis of divine dialogue. While I balked when she began giving specific instructions for how to elicit responses from the divine, and I likely won’t be taking a deep soul writing workshop anytime soon, it did motivate me to pick up journaling again, which then led to my decision to start this blog.
The truth is all serious writing is a mystical practice. Just ask any poet. It’s a way for us to connect with each other as individuals, but also, potentially, to connect with something greater. Consciousness, individual and collective, in all its slipperiness is among the subjects I’ll explore here with some frequency.
For those in religious traditions, communion with the divine, or prayer, is an essential component of their faith. For those of us with spiritual yearnings living outside religious traditions–the spiritual, but not religious–the concept of divine communion can be somewhat more problematic. In addition to the question of how we commune is the question of who or what we are communing with. What, exactly, should we call it? I wanted to avoid the many names provided by the faith traditions so as to avoid association with one tradition to the exclusion of all others. Connor calls the divine “the Source”; I ultimately settled on Emerson’s “Over-Soul” as my metaphor of choice. I’ve always admired Emerson’s intellectual independence, idealism and concept of the personal nature of the divine. And it has a nice ring to it.
With so much time spent earning a living and raising a family, I’ve been an undisciplined writer throughout my life. Having deferred my ambition for so long, I have no choice now but to be modest in my expectations for what I can do. At this point I’ll take anything that will help me achieve some measure of commitment and consistency, even, maybe especially, a self-help book written by a desperate divorcee. I mean no offense to Janet Connor when I say that. To the contrary, I admire and appreciate her vulnerability and courage. I also don’t fault her for leveraging her technique to prosper, even if she’s just put a New Age spin on an ancient practice. I mean, who knows–maybe with enough practice my own appeals to the Over-Soul will get a response?