A few years ago, Jan Falkowski, a man in his 50s, arrived at my Re-Write Your Life program. He was just starting to come out of a long darkness after the death of his beloved daughter, Jessica.
Jessica was only 19 years old when she died. As a high school graduation gift, Jan’s sister and brother-in-law took Jessica to Australia. After a couple of weeks seeing the sights, Jessica’s aunt and uncle returned to Victoria. Jessica stayed on because her best friend, Erin was flying in to accompany her. They intended to enjoy a summer of adventure before returning to university in the fall.
Erin arrived only to learn that the evening before Jess had been in a serious car accident and was lying in a coma in hospital.
Jess had been at a party. She left with a male friend who, unbeknownst to her, had been drinking excessively. Their car crashed.
Upon hearing the news, Jan caught the next flight to Australia. He arrived at the hospital to find his beloved daughter hooked up to life support machines. He was informed by the doctors that Jess would not likely become conscious again and, even if she did, her brain was damaged beyond repair and it would be a life-less life.
Jan left the hospital and took a long torturous walk. When he returned, he made the unimaginable and unbearable decision to take Jess off life supports and donate her organs to others.
Six years later Jan joined my group . . . six years that he described were filled with rage, hatred, alcoholism and a spirit that had died along with Jess. Guilt pervaded his every day as he had a 13-year-old daughter to take care of.
Sixteen years before this latest tragedy, Jan had lost his wife after a long battle with cancer, leaving him to raise their girls alone.
After attending Re-Write Your Life and applying the principles and receiving the love that is present in a sacred circle from each of the participants, Jan, for the first time in six years, began to feel a sense of hope, of new possibilities.
One day he came to class and read a letter to Nick, the man who was responsible for the death of his daughter. It was a letter of unconditional forgiveness. In this letter he expressed a desire to one day meet, put closure on the pain they were both feeling and move on with their lives.
Within a couple of weeks he put the letter in the post. Nick, still in prison, responded with deep and unabashed gratitude. Since that time there has been a string of letters between them.
How awesome is that?
We can all heal our lives from past wounds. We just need to be willing. And why wouldn’t we be? Our life depends on it.
Tapestry, a CBC Radio program, featured a 20-minute documentary with Theresa O’Leary on Jan’s healing journey back to life.
You can also watch and listen to Jan reading part of this letter on The Daily in an interview with Karen Elgersma.
In last week’s blog post, I wrote about mothers and wanted to give you time to process anything related to your mom that was unresolved before Mother’s Day, which is on Sunday. I hope that you were able to do that.
“Thanks, Junie, I had a healing, loving, virtual chat with my Mom who’s in a care home with advanced Alzheimer’s. I gave her freedom from me to go and be with Dad, her parents, brothers, etc. on the other side. We also shared forgiveness, although I didn’t think of much that I needed to forgive her for.” WG
Another person wrote:
“Thank you Junie. Before last week’s newsletter, I had been thinking – oh, no, another mother’s day is coming up where I have to fake it. I took your writing exercise to heart and I can hardly believe that by the end of it, I was able to see my part in our discord and invited her out to brunch. I feel hopeful that for the first time that there’s a space, an opening and it’s going to be OK. I really want that and I know in her heart, she does too.” LF
In case you missed it, here is the writing prompt I offered:
What words of love would you want to tell your mother today? And if you don’t feel loving toward her, write a pretend dialogue between you and your mom. Tell her everything you have always wanted to say. Imagine her listening to you in a way that she never has before, and that she answers you through the wisdom of her Higher Self, the part of her that loves you unconditionally.
Were you able to do that? What was the outcome? Do you feel more relaxed, healed and at peace around her? Or are you still carrying some hurt and resentment? If so, I highly encourage you to consider re-writing that story so that you are no longer walking around in pain for things that happened in the past. We can’t change what happened, but we can change our attitude toward it.
My sincere wish for you is that you and your mom have a loving, respectful, and honest relationship and that you will celebrate Mother’s Day in a wonderful way!
My story, my truth
My relationship with my mother was as tumultuous as they come. But when it was good, it was the most loving, most engaging, most beautiful love I have ever known. And because I knew how it felt to be loved so deeply, when she withdrew her love, which could happen on a dime, I suffered unbearably. My mom, like me, suffered from bi-polar illness. Unlike me, however, it was never diagnosed, and therefore never treated. So my mom did not have the skills or know-how to make the demons go away. Oh how I wished I could have waved a magic wand and made her demons go away. I wanted that so badly—for her, for me, for my dad, and for Lorraine, Barbara, and Howard, my siblings.
Read on to hear about our mixed up, crazy, profound, and beautiful love. This is an excerpt from my book, Re-Write Your Life. Today, and on this Mother’s Day, I dedicate this story to her, Minnie Swadron.
She was all of the above. Each a different personality. Still, she was my mother. Minnie Swadron. Born in 1919 in the miniscule town of Shaunavan, Saskatchewan; first born child of Romanian immigrants, Joseph and Lily Lazarus.
I remember being at the hospital and holding mom’s hand. She didn’t know I was holding it. Or perhaps she did. Who’s to say what a person in coma knows or feels or perceives? Sometimes I would hold her hand a few inches above the sheets and then let go of it – let it fall. It was an eerie feeling but I did it hoping the sudden drop would wake her up. I wanted so much for her to wake up and smile up at me with her beautiful green eyes.
And yes, there was that day––the day that you did open them mom and you recognized me right away. And you held your hands out to me and I bent down and you kissed my face. You kissed my cheeks, my forehead, my chin, my eyes. There was a desperation to it––an aching, a pleading, a hanging on. A memorizing of every feature: the shape of my eyes, the smell of my hair, the feel of my breath upon your face as you drew me into you. Soul to soul. And I loved you more than ever knowing how much you loved me. No holding back. In those kisses, you gave it all. You kissed me with an aching need to hold on which caused my heart to split open but I understood. I needed to hold on then too. It was a moment of truth. Just us and the love––no-one else in the room. No-one to criticize your love for me. Like T. who was embarrassed by your displays of affection.
I used to be embarrassed too. I hated it when I was in my teens or twenties and even thirties and we would go to the Lawrence Plaza or for walks anywhere and you insisted on holding my hand. I guess it reminded me too much of being a child sitting next to you on the couch watching TV and you would want me to scratch your legs. It used to repulse me. But the queasy feeling left once I moved west and went back for visits. Of course I was middle-aged by then. And last October when I stayed with you after your surgery and you seemed so little and vulnerable, I would have done anything to make you feel better. So I actually heard myself offering to massage your back. I did and as much as you cooed expressions of delight, it was me, I know, who benefited the most.
And now you’re gone and I remember those Toronto days traveling the T.T.C. There was snow piled high on the ground when I took the bus from your apartment on Chaplin Crescent to the Scarborough General Hospital. Sometimes there were blizzards as I walked and waited for the bus. I hate being cold but I loved the snow. It held me. It supported me. It reminded me of so many other Toronto winters.
And the times you and I spoke with glee on the phone from our respective homes after the first snowfall, loving the beauty, the stillness, the freshness in the winter sky. We loved so many things like that. Standing on your balcony or mine mid-summer when the thunder storms crashed through the sky and the rain came down in torrents and splashed heavily onto the pavement below. We loved the drama. We even loved the humidity. And I remember when I was a little girl living on Neptune Drive when you took me outside during the rain showers to wash our hair or catch the drops in our mouths. And we’d giggle and dance in the puddles. Those were on the good days. And those are the ones I care to remember for now.
Last night in my writing group I wrote:
I’m here with you again mom. Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten you because my days get full and I don’t remember to miss you and I’ve gotten used to not calling you every day. Used to it? I don’t know. Buried it is more like it. Sometimes lately when I’ve spoken about you, I talk about how crazy you were when I was a child. I don’t talk about the summer sun shower dances or my teenage years when I’d walk in the door after school and Dick Clarke’s American Bandstand would be blaring from the television set. I’d breathe in the comforting smells of dinner cooking on the stove and then be greeted by a happy you in your hot-pink summer short-shorts and freshly ironed white cotton blouse. I’d toss my books on the table and in two seconds we’d be jiving to Elvis Presley or twisting to Chubby Checkers. And I wouldn’t talk about the numerous times my teen-age friends gathered in our living room to be with you even when I wasn’t home. They came because you offered wisdom or encouragement or simply because you were fun to be with.
No I haven’t been mentioning those times at all. And then it struck me the other day why not. It became as plain as day. Simply put, I don’t have to miss you. I don’t have to yearn for you. For your gentle words. For the unconditional love you have had for me whenever my illness struck. Without fail you’d rally round no matter if we were face to face or oceans apart. Your tenderness caressed me through the phone lines, comforting me with loving words, reminding me how courageous I am, how I’ve beat this time and time again, and how I will this time too. And you’d remind me how many other obstacles I’ve faced and how I fought and won. And you’d talk about the beautiful life I made for myself and my successful therapy practice––how I helped others when I couldn’t see that I was or when none of it had any meaning for me. And you’d remind me of the constant flow of friends I’ve always had who love me to pieces. And you’d talk to me and talk to me and even when I couldn’t imagine there could be any more words left you’d find more to convince me not to give up. You were my champion mom and possibly the reason I’m still on the planet. But the irony was you also passed this hideous illness down to me. Even though you were never formally diagnosed, it was blatantly obvious. But you fought too, mom. You fought too. Differently than me. You locked your doors. You judged and blamed and eventually scared everyone away.
But I don’t want to go there now. Because in my heart, I know you were hurting. And perhaps that was the bond between us from the early days on––well that and the laughter too. All of it. Perhaps in some strange way it’s what kept our hearts intact – beyond the madness when you got too crazy to be around. Or I did. Funny, how we held each other on a pedestal which of course, never lasted. Before long, we were side by side on the floor scraping to help each other up again. And we always did. We did it with laughter, we did it with tears. In the end, we always did it with love.
I still carry you in my heart wherever I go and on some days I miss you fiercely. Whenever I see something beautiful or funny, touching or strange, I imagine you beside me, laughing your infectious laugh or smiling your beautiful smile or making a witty comment or a judgmental one. No doubt if it’s judgmental I’ll give you my ridiculous self-righteous lecture. Inevitably, you’d take a deep drag on your cigarette, look me directly in the eyes and say, ‘Junie, don’t use that therapy voice on me’ and we’d both burst out laughing.
I still have messages from you on my answering machine, mom. In one you say: ‘I miss you, Junie. I miss you honey. That’s what I do, I miss you.’ And I feel your lonely, aching heart. And now it’s my turn. Such irony. But as I type this now, a peace has washed over me. Perhaps it’s because you’re here with me. Yes, I feel you here and yet ironically I sense you telling me that it’s time to let go. Like the vivid dream I had only weeks after you died where you came to me and said, ‘It’s time to let go of me now.’ And I fought with you. I said it was too soon. And I didn’t know if you meant it for my sake or yours or for both of us.
And I am ready to do that. It’s been almost a year since Lorraine called me with the news. It was 8:30 in the morning. I was awake waiting for the call. I knew you had died. Still, I got off the phone and started wailing. Wailing! And when I stopped, all I could remember were the parting words we used in our daily telephone conversations.
‘Bye, mom. I love you.’ And you would always answer. ‘I love you more.’
So good bye, mom. I love you. And you know what? It’s my turn to say it now:
I love you even more.
Think of your mom as a woman, apart from her role as your mother. What do you think are or were her hopes and dreams? Do you think she fulfilled some of them? Are there are others she never did? What do you think are some of the most significant things she has taught you? Open yourself to the love in your heart for your mom, the woman who gave you life and begin to write the story of your relationship. Consider giving it to her on Mother’s Day as a beautiful gift or reading it to her even if she has passed away. She will hear you still.
“THANK YOU” does not come close to expressing the gratitude I feel for everyone who has shown me so much kindness and generosity in the past week since I wrote about my vision problem, the cost of the treatment, and my GoFundMe campaign. Your financial contributions and/or notes of love have uplifted me in ways I can’t even express. Bless You!
And now it’s YOUR TURN to receive. And it comes from your very own creativity. Your gifts to the world.
Creative expression is what makes our spirits soar. It is innately who we are; we are creative beings. We are born with the gift of imagination.
Doing one’s art often transforms suffering into beauty. It prevents a person from dying with their song still inside them. When we lose our impulse to create, whether it is painting, writing musical scores, designing landscaped gardens, writing our book, photography, whatever our talent is, something inside of us slowly begins to die.
When we get it back, we soar! Life has new meaning and purpose. We are in the flow of Life and Love. And all is as it was meant to be.
“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” —Helen Keller
Getting in the flow is as easy as ABC
So how do we get back into the flow of life, and honour our heart’s promise, when we may not know where to begin?
It’s a simple A, B, C formula (simpler than we think):
A. Sit quietly and with deep sincerity, ask the angels, God, Universal Intelligence, Spirit—whatever you wish to call that which grows the flowers and births all life—“Please show me the way. What do I need to know in order to take my next steps?”
Hold the intention to receive clarity about your next steps and expect to get it.
B. Stay awake for signs that will point the way.
Open to receive unexpected messages from books, people, events, signposts. There are no limits to where guidance will come from.
C. Follow the guidance you are given.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” —Goethe
Each step, no matter how small, could lead you to magical opportunities. Serendipity isn’t a miracle. It is within the natural order of Life.
“God Winks”, as I like to call them, are universal gifts to us that are available everywhere and at all times. Say YES to yourself and watch the God Winks show up in places you would never have thought to look!
What if it’s a book?
Do you have a creative impulse to write a book? Is it serendipitous that you’re reading this now? Only you will know the truth of this.
Has anyone ever said to you…
“I think you should write a book.”
And you said, “Me? I don’t think so.”
Yet it sparks something in you that resonates deeply but you brush it aside. Or perhaps it has been a secret desire you have had for years but you don’t know how or where to begin. Maybe you are already in the midst of writing a book, blog, play or short story, but can’t seem to stay focused, so you stop.
Check out these two scenarios:
You want to write a book
You don’t know how or where to begin
You don’t think you are good enough
There are things you know about and care about
You are hesitant to say them out loud
You are afraid of what people might think or say
There are other reasons too
You begin to shrink
Your dream ENDS here.
You want to write a book
You don’t know how or where to begin
There are things you know and care about
You are hesitant to say them out loud
You are afraid of what people might think or say
There are other reasons too
Still, you say to yourself, “I am willing to feel the discomfort,
put my fears aside and GO FOR IT.”
Your dream BEGINS here.
It is here that you will step into the magic of Universal Mind and Flow. You will no longer be burdened by whatever kept you stuck. Instead you will be doing what you have dreamed of, and as you move toward your life’s purpose, you move toward your divinity. And this is the gift you give yourself, by answering the call of your creative impulse, your heart’s promise.
“As we move toward our creativity, we move toward our Divinity.”
—Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
I have successfully coached many individuals to move from writer to author. In the process, they have also found their authentic voices which, in many cases, had been silenced for years.
“I had the opportunity to attend Junie Swadron’s Author Support Group earlier this year. My manuscript, Julia’s Secret, had been stuck in a drawer for a couple of years at that time. I received amazing support and guidance from Junie and from the group. Junie is a wonderful facilitator—honest and heartfelt. The sessions were full of fun and extremely encouraging. Julia’s Secret is now finished and just waiting for the illustrations! My blog is out there too. The Author Support Group was a brilliant kick starter. I recommend it 100%—with all my heart.” —Anne Sture
Please contact me for a free consultation to discuss your writing dreams, and after our call I’ll send you my preliminary Author’s Questionnaire to really get you excited about moving forward with your project!
Last Sunday I posted a story called “Belonging” where I spoke about my family visit to Toronto and what I was learning from it. I was amazed by the amount of feedback that I received as a result.
Many people thanked me for what I wrote, and told me that the story moved them. As well, I received responses from people who were thoroughly upset. The discussion of belonging brought up pain and feelings of rejection for them. One person wrote that as soon as she realized she would never belong to a family that cared, she stopped trying. Another said “Belonging, belong, or belonged is treacherous, dangerous, fearful, dark, suicidal and pessimistic.” Then she went into great detail as to why this was so for her.
The best thing about all of this for me is it got people writing, and I told them so. Some loved what I wrote, some hated it, but it provoked them to write back—to share their passionate truth of how it was for them. Those who were clearly distraught didn’t become passive and they didn’t stuff it somewhere. They didn’t say to themselves, “Junie’s got this great family she’s part of and I don’t” and leave it there. No, they got their feelings out on paper and that’s what these newsletters, blogposts, and Junie’s Writing Sanctuary are all about.
You do not have to agree with me. Just be honest. That’s the best thing you can do for yourself and this is the forum where you can do it. In my writing series, Write Where You Are, I always tell my students that if they don’t like a subject or a writing prompt that I give them, don’t let it stop them from writing. Instead, use the energy they are feeling inside and write with all their senses fully awake and alive.
Simply tell the truth. Go for the gusto! Say, “This topic sucks. I hate it. It’s stupid, it reminds me of ….” and off you go to what it reminds you of.
Three years ago, in my Write Yourself Home retreat, I gave a prompt about waiting. Everyone was writing away except for this one woman. Afterwards, when we went around the circle and people were sharing what they wrote, she stated in a growly voice. “I didn’t write. I don’t do waiting anymore, OK?!”
For me, that was a great teaching moment. If she had taken her anger and expressed it on the page, she would not have been stewing and staying stuck. Imagine if she had written, with fury, “I don’t do waiting! I refuse to wait ever again! I wasted 12 long years of my life waiting for him to ….” Do you see where I’m going with this?
Are you angry with someone at the moment? Here is a safe, effective solution that will allow you to have your voice and move the anger out of your body. Write that person an angry, blaming, uncensored letter on paper —THAT YOU NEVER SEND — (Do NOT write it on the computer and especially not in an e-mail where you might be tempted to send it). Writing with pen and paper allows what you are thinking and feeling to be a visceral experience. Your whole body becomes involved. State everything that you want to say to this person. No holding back. If, as you write, you start remembering other people or times in your life that remind you of him or her or the situation, keep your hand moving. You are probably getting closer to a deeper truth. Writing authentically will shift the energy and you will feel better.
You may not feel better the moment you put down your pen. You may feel spent afterwards. I suggest you go out for a walk. Get some fresh air or put on some music and move your body. But I promise you, you WILL feel better. Also, the next time you speak with this person, you will be able to do it from much more steady, grounded place. You will have new awareness and deeper insights. You will probably be received much better than had you spoken to this person before you wrote the letter. Or, don’t be surprised if you don’t have to say anything at all. Writing it out was all you needed.
I would like to share with you a life-changing example of what happened when Jan, one of my students, wrote a letter to the man who caused the car accident where his daughter was killed. The transformation came as a result of expressing honest rage onto the page where it wouldn’t hurt anyone and how that truth set him free for life! This is a fine example of what I mean when I say, “Your voice on the page will become your voice in the world”. Watch this video where Jan tells his story.
Use pen and paper: “I am so angry about …”
Please let me know how the process is for you. You can reply to this e-mail, or, if you care to share your process with the rest of us, go on over to Junie’s Writing Sanctuary and, after giving it a day or two, tell us what you experienced by writing your angry letter.
Today’s story and writing prompt are centred on a personal situation. I hope you will enjoy them and write from wherever my story takes you.
Currently I am in Toronto, the place of my birth, which I left in June 1998 to follow my life-long dream of moving to the west coast, where I still reside. I have come back to Toronto many times over the years and I have always loved it—except after my sister Barbara died, and then my mom, nine months later, about eight years ago.
In 2013, I went back for two months and I could not describe my visit in any other terms than a full-on love-fest! First, I had eight luxurious weeks to reunite with loved ones instead of trying to fit everyone into a week or two and go home tired and frazzled. Within that time, family and friends that spanned a lifetime seemed to be coming out of the woodwork to spend quality time with me. I returned to Victoria feeling nourished, nurtured, and full.
This time it is not that kind of visit. I am here because two family members are very ill. One is my sister’s husband of over 50 years, and the other is my niece’s young 18-year-old daughter Hannah who was diagnosed with cancer just over one month ago. She was in Jerusalem at the time, starting her first year at university. I anticipated a depressing time before I got here, but it is not the case. Sad—oh my, yes. Unbearably so sometimes. But what I want to say is that I am learning so much about resiliency, strength, and love.
My sister is a very loving, caring woman, and yet our relationship hardly ever consists of long conversations and the sharing of memories. I am pretty much an open book, whereas Lorraine is very quiet and private. She was my best friend when I was growing up. She is 9 ½ years older than me; I was her baby sister and she couldn’t have loved me more had she given birth to me herself. The deep bond we share has never wavered, in spite of our differences. With her, I have learned about the kind of comfort that is present in silence when true love is present. Although this is one of the hardest times in her life, simply being in her presence, spending quiet time together, is rich and intimate for both of us.
I am staying with my niece and her family. Rachel and her husband David have four children. It is shocking that their 18-year-old has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. Yet, in spite of the gravity of the situation, this is not a depressing household. Instead, it is light and love, laughter and tears that make up the day-to-day life under this roof. I can’t say it is life as usual, because of course there is an underlying fear of the unknown. People’s nerves are frayed and it can also be messy at times.
But let me tell you what else exists here: The house is filled with kids and their friends coming to visit or staying for dinner or a sleep-over. There are relatives and rabbis, neighbours and friends dropping by to share their love and support. I have been delighting in 10-year-old Shawndra’s natural theatrical storytelling talents, and admiring 15-year-old Jacob for his humility, even though he is knowledgeable and wise beyond his years. I love my neighbourhood walks with Sprout, their gentle collie-terrier. Sometimes after a long day, we’ve all cuddled on the couch to watch a movie and laughed a lot at the funny parts. Ariel, the oldest, has been coming home from Queen’s University on weekends and what a joy it is to see how all the kids gather around her, smothering her with hugs and kisses. That’s my favourite part—witnessing the demonstrative expressions of love and affection that are simply natural to this family.
On Shabbat we sang songs, discussed Talmud and philosophy, literature, and music. We’ve sipped lattes together at the Second Cup around the corner. I am probably coming home carrying ten extra pounds (no joke) thanks to Rachel’s incredible culinary skills!
And occasionally, when time has permitted, when Rachel hasn’t been driving her kids to and from extracurricular activities, dentist appointments, and Hebrew studies, we’ve been able to sit down and have meaningful talks about what’s going on.
And Hannah—well, even with an uncertain future, even though her magnificent waist-long, thick black hair has been shaved off, she continues to be a shining light and inspiration for everyone who meets her. Her faith has not wavered; her thirst for knowledge and passion for life are as fierce as ever.
So what am I learning here? I am learning what it looks like to be part of such a family. To be able to give my love in whatever ways are needed which is all I want to do. I am learning how to be in a situation like this and be part of a home that is spirited, resilient, loving and real! Perhaps what I am learning the most is how much family means to me. And I am finally beginning to take in how much I mean to them. What a privilege it is to be here at such a time! I love and I am loved.
In two days I will be back in Victoria. Back to work. Back to my single, independent life. I wonder where my journal entries will take me next. What insights and wisdom will show themselves on the page? And now… I would like to see yours.
Please WRITE WHERE YOU ARE. That’s the prompt—today’s only writing prompt. After reading this story, where does it take you? What thoughts or feelings arise as you read it? If you need a lead in, perhaps you can use: “After reading about Junie’s visit to Toronto, I…”
Today’s Writing Tip
Don’t think! When you think, you’re judging, editing, and planning what to say next. Creative writing asks you to step aside and allow your pen to reveal what your heart and mind wish to say. Writing is about listening. You learn to become a conduit, taking dictation from an inspired place within you. Marion Woodman, in an interview in Common Boundary said, “After much thought, I realized the trouble I had writing that bleak Friday afternoon was due to my approach. I was trying to analyze, trying to explain rationally. I was failing miserably because I was approaching the task through my head. I had to drop into my belly.”
To share your writing, please leave a comment below or head over to Junie’s Writing Sanctuary, our private Facebook group. It is not a place for criticism. Instead it is a safe sanctuary where what you write is held in the highest regard. It does not need to be polished. It’s a place where we can express our creativity as well as lay our hearts on the page with our words. See you there!
Do you think your negative beliefs and attitudes toward writing
can’t change in a few hours? Yes, they can!
Do you think life affirming transformation can’t happen in a day?
Yes, it can!
Come, let me show you how to come home to your heart through the joy
Writing has the power to stop time, cut through the extraneous and take us
home to our heart. This absolutely fun experience will engage the writer within
and may surprise you by eliciting prose, poetry, song lyrics or simply stream of
consciousness writing in “no apparent form”. You will learn the fundamentals of
moving past the head and into the heart of writing.
You will be led gently into story and into the soul’s inner landscape where
clarity, creativity, passion, originality and truth are revealed. With
encouragement, safety and the freedom to jump in, you will open to the joy of
where writing can take you.
The sweet whisperings of your soul meet you on the page and something shifts.
You strengthen. You begin to stand taller and one day you notice that your voice
on the page has become your voice in the world.
For those who have never experienced my 8-week writing workshops called, Sacred Writing Circles, also known as “Write Where You Are” or Re-Write Your Life, this will give you an excellent opportunity to be introduced to the experience.
“When I arrived here I was completely stuck. I felt self-conscious,
worried, couldn’t even think about reading out loud to the group. By the time I
left at the end of the day, words were pouring onto the paper like years of
uncried tears. I read out loud to the group and felt proud of the things I had
written after it was received so warmly by the group. What a personal
transformation in 1 day!”
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Time: 9:30am – 5pm
Church of Truth
Community of Conscious Living
111 Superior Street
Victoria, British Columbia V8V 1T3
In my last newsletter, the tip I offered was to buy yourself a special journal.
Today, being the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I’m going to share some personal entries that I wrote in my journal on September 11th, 2001.
I had set that day aside to write an article for Vancouver’s Common Ground magazine. The theme for October was WRITING and the deadline was approaching fast.
I believe what you will read below will demonstrate the reliable and undeniable value of putting pen to paper when your heart is flooded with emotion.
“If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy or both – you must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” –Ray Bradbury
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
I woke up with good intentions today to write an article about how writing can be used as a profound therapeutic tool—how it can help us move from pain to catharsis. It’s something I know well. I’ve been using writing to help me work things out since I was given my first diary at age 8. Over four decades ago, journaling wasn’t in vogue like it is today, so I learned of its value through usage. Also, I have been eyewitness to the many transformations borne out of this medium through facilitating creative/cathartic writing groups for over 10 years. I also frequently use it as a relevant tool with my psychotherapy clients. It’s a subject I know well and feel confident to write about. Not today.
Instead I have spent this day like thousands of others—in shock. I woke early this morning—day eleven on my newly acquired piece of paradise—in a cottage set in the spacious woods of Bowen Island and overlooking the gulf islands, mountains and ocean.
In these several days I have watched eagles flying gracefully over my home, herons resting on my dock; earlier today, a hummingbird came to visit my hanging geranium and a bluebird began singing to me from the fir tree next to my bedroom window.
And from this peace and paradise, still I woke with a heavy heart. I wasn’t sure of its origin but knew I needed to connect with someone—someone very close to me. I called my friend Dale who instantly and sensitively revealed to me what was going. I let the tears flow as she described the gruesome details. The very next thing I did was e-mail my partner, who just a week ago, flew to Korea, to take a contract there. I needed to tell him of my horror and how grateful I am that he has landed safely and is not on a plane en route. I spent the rest of the day in silent prayer, grief, fury and questioning God. Why? But I haven’t heard any answers. And so I didn’t come to the computer to write that article, which has a close deadline, and I’m not writing it now—at least not the way I thought I would. Instead I do what I do when I need to release. I write what is there in front of me—I simply tell the truth…
I was on my dock a little while ago. I took a candle and the meditation prayer that was e-mailed to me earlier in the day by the people who put on the Prophet’s Conference. They asked that we join them in a unified prayer—to pray for those who passed on, for their families and friends and for us all upon earth; to pray for those who orchestrated this event, so that they are filled with peace instead of fear and anger and to pray for the politicians—that they act from divine wisdom and not revenge. This is a time to move away from blame and seek to understand cause. Caesar, my black cat and the most affectionate and wise creature I have ever known, followed me down to the dock to bring his energy into the fold. Together we meditated for world peace.
I don’t think I wanted to blame. I wanted to help—to make a contribution to the lives of those who are suffering. Here I am in this incredible God given sanctuary while at the very same time, thousands of people have just died, perhaps are still dying—being buried under rubble—and thousands of families and friends of these people are in grief and disbelief.
I remembered years ago during the Gulf War how isolated I felt—how alone while watching television from my living room and watching bombs flying through the air ready to land on who knows what target. A decade earlier I had spent the year in Israel, arriving there during the Yom Kippur War. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to do something now, today. I called people to hold a vigil at my house at sundown. They will arrive shortly. Perhaps our unified prayers will help. They will help me, I know.
Tuesday, September 18, 2001
A week has passed since I originally came to my computer to write about writing. I have been unable to until now. I have been involved with my world—walking around numb, anxious, strong, vulnerable, and above all, once again grateful to feel – to be alive. I have been e-mailing back and forth to many friends. I have been the recipient of dozens of e-mails sent by spiritual leaders. Each message holds the same Divine Truth—we must elevate our energy to our highest self at this time—and not be seduced into fear.
And these writings and my own journal have once again, served as my best friend. My partner and I are 15 hours apart and thousands of miles away and we can’t speak in real time very often. My journal is there right now, when I need it—a constant and reliable companion. It plays witness to my tears, remorse, anguish, uncertainly, and to my gratitude. It has seen it all. It judges nothing. How does it work? It works because I tell the truth. It works because I release what needs expression.
Sometimes I think it’s too simple. But then I realize that’s exactly why it’s so powerful. Writing from where we are right now puts us in the state of being authentic, which frees the energy to move. It is liberating to express ourselves. It is a letting go process that allows us to breathe ourselves back home.
As we spill onto the pages what is pertinent in the moment, neither embellishing, nor denying, simply stating it the way it is, we free ourselves from confusion and false voices. We may be flooded with emotion as we impart our truth onto the page—sadness, grief, rage, excitement, love, joy. Allow it all to unfold, to gently come forth. Don’t force it—it’s there. You needn’t strive—it’s there. Just allow the words to come. Don’t judge. Don’t go into your head and say this sounds too awful, this doesn’t make sense, what if someone sees it; just write. Edit later if you must. But for now, just be kind to yourself and do not stop the flow. Do it that way and you’ll be astounded by the results. It’s the energy of now that carries the might. Even when you’re writing about something that happened twenty years ago—it’s your relationship to it at this very moment that matters. And your writing will show you what matters even when you yourself are not sure because the truth will always emerge as you ask your ego to step out of the way.
I believe each of us needs a private place where we can express ourselves without censorship, without judgment, without someone telling us it’s wrong, impolite, unforgiving or anything else. Each of us needs somewhere to state our truth at any given moment and know it’s completely safe to do so. And to express the written word without fear of doing it wrong—a place to put all the old grammar books away.
Still the most common element I have seen over the years in my writing classes is the lack of confidence people have in themselves. Their fear of doing it wrong and saying it wrong surfaces again and again. They qualify their writing.—“Well, I was tired, so I don’t really think it’s very good.” “I was confused and…” or “I had a terrible day today and…” Then they are encouraged to read it anyway, and are often astounded by what they wrote. So if you find yourself criticizing yourself, don’t get discouraged. It’s normal. Just keep your pen moving across the page. Eventually you won’t care if it’s good or bad, right or wrong, you will just write. You will stop being attached to the outcome. You simply write. And that’s when it becomes a meditation. That’s when it becomes a way of life. That’s when it becomes as natural as getting up and brushing your teeth. And when writing is that for you, you will notice a shift in your life. You will notice that things are working out better. You will observe that the voice on the page becomes your voice in the world. Even if you change your mind about what you say a few days later and a new truth emerges, that’s okay. In fact, that’s what happens when we write from our authenticity. The truth sets us free. We move the energy around instead of staying stuck in it. We find a healthier, newer way to relate to the situation. Clarity emerges. Life energy emerges. Strength, confidence and self-love emerge and as you continue to write, you will begin to achieve things that you never thought possible. Your journals can and will be the starting-off point to poems, plays, song lyrics whatever. But mostly you will have your voice. And that… is worth every word.”
And ten years later, my journal is still my best friend. I never know what will emerge on the page. But what I do know is when I allow myself to go naked, my soul feels reborn.
Please do not miss the opportunity of joining me and like-minded others on Saturday September 17th, for a fabulous one-day writing retreat! BY DONATION.
Once again it’s almost fall and time for brand new beginnings.
I remember when I was a young teen in Toronto, the summer holidays seemed long and the hot, humid days felt almost interminable. My friends and I hung out in the park under the shade of the chestnut trees listening to our transistor radios. Later we’d check out the latest LPs or 45s—am I’m dating myself or what!—at Tommy Common’s Record Store and then we were off to Puppy Palace on Bathurst Street for cherry cokes and root beer. Oh how innocent we were!
Eventually summer came to an end and the day after Labour Day was the first day of school.
My most exciting memory of returning to school was when I had graduated from Public School to Junior High School. Instead of one classroom and one teacher all day long, we changed classes every 40 minutes and had different teachers for every subject. We were even given our very own lockers. Now that was cool!
I did very well that year. The best subject for me was English composition. I loved writing creative stories and I was lucky enough to have a teacher, Miss Gola, who encouraged me. She was one of the first teachers ever who complimented me on my writing and made me feel as though I could write. She gave me the confidence to keep exploring this medium which set me on a writing path that I could never have known back then.
Many people have not been so lucky. They had teachers who criticized their creative efforts, destroying their belief that they could ever write. Did you know that Mark Twain said, “If we taught our children to speak the way we teach them to write, everyone would stutter”. How painfully true that is. I hope today teachers help inspire and nurture the creative process in their students.
For 20 years now I have had the privilege of being a “Miss Gola” to countless people. Some were disheartened early in life and had let their creative dreams die in those darkened classrooms. I live in gratitude for having the privilege of watching people’s lives transform while they re-discover their voice on the page and their voice on the page soon becomes their voice in the world.
May this fall and all your new beginnings be blessed with the innocence, wonder and joyous spirit of a young child. Dare to explore wherever your heart leads you.
Have you ever considered writing your life stories but then have stopped yourself because there are things you’d just rather not remember let alone write about?
What if there was a way of returning to those same stories that when you thought of them, you felt empowered rather than disturbed? A way that would transform how you felt about yourself as well as certain people and events from your past?
For many years I have been a student and teacher of Julia Cameron’s life-changing book, The Artist’s Way. If you are not already familiar with The Artist’s Way please read on because you are in for a major treat. If you already know of it and even if you have worked through the 12 chapters, you might not know that Julia is now offering something new and very special. Continue Reading
A few years ago, Jan Falkowski, a man in his 50’s, arrived at my Re-Write Your Life workshop https://junieswadron.com/workshops/re-write-your-life/ He was just starting to come out of a long darkness after the death of his beloved daughter, Jessica. Continue Reading
Wednesday’s Write Where You Are workshop session was absolutely awesome. The homework assignment to the group was to find a favourite piece of music, listen to it, choose a lyric, phrase, chorus or simply breathe in the essence of the song, and write what comes up. In other words, write where you are! I asked the group to also bring the full lyrics and a CD which contained their chosen music, to the next class.
What a beautiful, heartfelt afternoon it was! It seems all of them are, but what other than music could bring us into an instantaneous opening of our hearts?
All participants but one did the homework. The others, after much deliberation, were able to choose a “favourite song” or at least one they resonated with the most at that time.
After our usual settling in meditation, followed by a go-around to give each person a moment to check in about their week, we addressed the musical homework. One at a time, each person played the CD containing the song they chose. As we all listened carefully, some of us had gentle tears, evoked by the lyrics, or the poignant music, that accompanied each song.
When the song ended, the person who brought it in, followed our sacred ritual of making eye contact in silence, with each person in our sacred circle to feel their support and love. Then she or he read what they had written. Wow! That in turn evoked more visceral responses from the rest of us. Then we shared our thoughts and feelings with the writer, always with respect, love and encouragement.
During our initial go-around, one of the members of the group told us he didn’t find time to do the homework. Immediately inspired I told him, “No matter. I have something in mind”.
After everyone had their turn, I said to the gentleman who had not chosen a song to write about, “So, Russ (not his real name), if you were to choose a song right now, what would it be”?
Without a moment’s hesitation, he wistfully answered, “Dave Brubeck, Take Five”.
While moving toward the computer I inquired, “Can you tell us about it”?
He said, “Oh, there are no lyrics”.
A moment later, by way of the invaluable YouTube, we were watching and listening to a 1972 live performance of Dave Brubeck’s Quartet playing Take Five in Greenwich Village, New York City.
I looked over at Russ. His eyes were closed and he looked like he was in bliss. When the song ended, with eyes still closed, he took us into the story of when he was a 14-year-old boy, leaving his home in Prince Rupert to spend the summer with his sister and brother-in-law in Manhattan. He said he never would have known a place with the urbanity of New York City existed. He became immersed in the extremes of the commerce culture of Wall Street and to the Beat Generation of Greenwich Village. He then shared his most outstanding memory. The time, his sister and brother-in-law took him to a smoky blues and jazz club in the heart of Greenwich Village where Dave Brubeck was actually playing, Take Five.
I’ve been considering taking out stocks in Kleenex.