Many of us yearn for spiritual connection or, once connected, spiritual growth, but don’t know how to begin on that path. Some of us don’t know how to look at our lives, without automatically seeing only the negative — the imperfections and what hasn’t been accomplished. Others of us have done some spiritual work and then stopped — uncertain how to continue.
Many of us strive for greater understanding of how the spirit operates in our lives and how to nurture that spirit. Or, we feel stuck and yearn to become unstuck and to develop a practice to follow. For seekers such as these, The Rev. Dr. June Maffin’s Soulistry — Artistry of the Soul, will be a great gift.
The practice Maffin outlines begins with buying or creating a Soulistry Journal (instructions provided), and writing in it.
Journal entries are personal, not necessarily to be shared. The practice includes considering quotations from individuals whose wisdom Maffin has found useful (called Journal Prompts) and Soul-Questions which, together with the Prompts, can spark a thought, a memory, a question, together challenging the seeker to connect more intimately with one’s spirituality. The act of responding to the Prompts and Soul-Questions is itself a spiritual task, for Maffin states that order is not important. Find a Soul-Question that “speaks” to you, she says. Journaling these responses may be a new experience or something you’ve done before, perhaps under other circumstances or with other intentions. “Soulistry” is a coined word combining two words — soul and artistry — and was created by Maffin together with her son, hence the references to Soulistry Journal, Soul Space, and Soul-Questions. Some will find these words helpful, others, incidental. What all will find nurtures the spirit is the prompting of the quotations, and — especially for those who were feeling stuck, the list of Prompts/Questions already prepared for consideration.
The care with which Maffin has developed the series of activities is made evident by the instructions for making a Soulistry Journal: she describes what’s required, what’s optional, where to cut, fold or sew, and how to complete the Journal. Even those who consider ourselves inept will discover how easily we can accomplish this task. Since journal writing is meant to be a personal conversation with oneself and God, writing responses to the Journal Prompts and Soul-Questions help clarify what you believe. Even here, Maffin offers options to consider. It’s not obligatory that journal writing be solely personal; some might find it helpful to seek guidance from a counselor or spiritual director, she writes. The sources of the quotations — what Maffin refers to as Journal Prompts — are wide-ranging, some from the Christian tradition, others not; some names known to all, others, less familiar. These include spiritual leaders such as Thich Nhat Hanh, philosophers Martin Buber and Gerald Heard, Chief Seattle, poets Anne Sexton, Robert Frost and Langston Hughes, thinker/educator Confucius, Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, Gandhi, Gordon Light, Thomas Merton and Herbert O’Driscoll. And Jesus. And many others.
My efforts with the practice Maffin has outlined taught me that the Prompts do indeed prompt reflection. And the Soul-Questions do cause one to dig deeper.
A final gift to the reader is Maffin’s description of how this book came to be. Illness, healing, ‘stepping out in faith’: lived experience.
Published in TOPIC, Diocese of New Westminster newspaper www.vancouver.anglican.ca (click on left side of screen for PDF link to the Summer 2011 issue of TOPIC where the above book review can be found.Book Review by Brenda BerckSt. Mary’s Kerrisdale