This is a book about questions; the little ponderings and the big life-changers. It’s also about breaking the questions down into manageable bits that can lead to illumination through “prompts”, explains author June Mack Maffin in “Soulistry – Artistry of the Soul”.
Many people go through life wondering, even worrying, about those BIG questions. “How do I deepen awareness? What is my purpose? Why am I here?” For most, these thoughts pass quickly, perhaps uncomfortably, as we get back to our day-to-day rote living. It’s too hard, inconvenient, or scary to change.
In many religious circles, you’re downright discouraged to question the mores set by the institution. Just follow the scriptures and their rules, give complete faith, and everything will be fine. Anything else may be seen as outright disrespect.
Maffin discounts all of that, saying it’s healthy to wonder, to challenge. Instead, use those as guides but find your own path too. A deeper, fuller belief of your morals and ethics, needs and desires will result.
Each chapter focuses on a theme such as mystery, faith or play, and begins with a quote from a historical or contemporary thinker e.g. “Questions That Speak” begins with an old Chinese proverb: “Those who ask questions may be a fool for five minutes, but those who do not are fools for life.” Maffin follows with her own queries for readers to ponder. “It’s been said that questions have more importance than answers. What questions have been more important to you than the answers?” Then go one level deeper: “Why?”
From there, the reader’s “work” begins: the answering. Maffin stresses to take this at your own pace as you sift through the mental and emotional layers. Going too fast keeps you on the surface. As St. Francis said: “May you be blessed with discomfort at easy answers … so that you may live deep in your heart …”
The vehicle to record the results of the searches, and begin the artistry side of the book’s title, begins with the journal itself. You can use a computer or scrap paper, but there is something about the act of writing in a specially chosen book that adds to the expereience.
Maffin offers different options for what to use as a journal, even including instructions to make your own. The over all design may show beauty, whimsey, or cogitation, or just a plain, anonymous look. Then there are practical considerations: its size and length, paper quality (lined? unlined?), and binding options. (ring-bound, soft or hard cover, stapled or stitched). Lastly, choose a pen or pencil that writes easily, comfortably; that brings your creativity alive.
It was actually through a chance encounter with a mirror that a creative spark was lit for Maffin and set her on the journey to write this book. She has a wide and varied professional background, receiving her Master of Divinity in 1985 when she was ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada then her Doctorate in Pastoral Care with an emphasis on Ethics in 1992. She has extensive experience in education, communications, media relations, and business and is a Certified Group Facilitator and Conference Speaker (in the areas of spirituality, circular leadership, total ministry and women’s leadership). Maffin’s focus in all these is to encourage people in their spirituality regardless of formalized religious involvement.
In 2004, Maffin became ill, in a lot of pain, and her work load was drastically limited. Sorting through some belongings one day, she came across a small, hand mirror and the idea to paint something bright on it hit her. As she did, she found her discomfort diminishing from the distraction and a surprise energy that urged her on. Her pain receded as her desire to make art increased. Friends started asking for instruction which led her to holding workshops, locally at first and now across North America.
It made sense for Maffin to combine her two passions in this project — spirituality and creativity. At 141 pages, this is a short book but jam-packed with insight. It is interactive yet personal. Revelationary. Even life-changing for some.
My only criticism is that more visual hands-on art and craft projects weren’t included that help begin or go deeper into the process. (A sequel?) Some jumping points for the reader to explore this on their own are hinted at, like adding images — your own or others’ inspirational works — on your journal pages.
In the end Maffin hopes the process and resulting journal brings readers some awareness, comfort and peace of mind into the often chaotic, confusing world we inhabit.
Who could ask for more?