|Those familiar with the Artist’s Way or with popular modern therapies, know well the importance of journaling. Morning pages, the stream of consciousness daily deposit advocated by Julia Cameron, reveals to those who write them the mysteries of their moods and an eventual break to inner chatter. Many authors, inspired by Cameron’s effective system for breaking creative blocks, take Cameron’s wisdom and embellish it with their own methods, giving Artist’s Way travelers and their ilk next steps after the prescribed twelve weeks of creative focus pass.
June Mack Maffin’s own spin on creative recovery poses questions to the reader; Socrates himself might crib notes. The book consists of a series of questions to prompt creative journaling and intense introspection. An explorer of the inner planes face puzzles such as “Loving Your Enemy” and “Peace Within” followed by questions that rifle memories for the birthplace of attitudes and open doors to ideas unconsidered.
Soulistry takes the work of Cameron and pushes the borders: many of the questions reveal details about the soul a journaling person might feel unprepared to receive. A person needing inner work can get much out of this book; Maffin’s questions lead to deeper personal questions that delve into hidden aspects of self.
~review by Diana Rajchel
Author: June Mack Maffin
I have written daily in a spiritual journal for more than thirty years. It began in response to an invitation – not unlike the one June Maffin extends here – only it was a different time and place for me. Still, her welcome encouragement speaks to me after all these years.
Looking for a tonic? Try an elixir for the spirit
By: Diana Swift
Soulistry. In case you’re wondering, “soulistry” is a neologism coined by the Rev. Dr. June Mack Maffin as shorthand for artistry of the soul. Her new book of the same name, published April 29 and subtitled “Creative Ways to Nurture Your Spirituality,” is a spring tonic that speaks to the very essence of us. It’s trip into the élan vital.
The book guides readers through soul journeying and soul journalling, prompting them to have profound written conversations with themselves and with the mystery that lies at the heart of existence. Keeping a spiritual diary as a tool of self-discovery, soul travellers work their way through a series of Journal Prompts—inspiring quotations that lead to Soul-Questions. Their responses to those questions are designed to help them know themselves more intimately, to clarify what they really believe about life, relationships and important issues, and to help them grow fully into their humanity.
The almost 80 catalyst quotations harvest the wisdom of sage minds from different walks, faiths and ages—pebbles for the spiritual pocket that can be taken out and appreciated at any time, in any order. Slake your spiritual thirst on topics ranging from faith and hope to goodness, mystery and wisdom with citations from ancient Chinese proverbs, Buddha, Christ, Navajo chants, Khalil Gibran, and Dag Hammarskjöld. Each quotation is followed by thought-provoking questions. Here are two of many that got my attention.
The whole secret of the spiritual life is just this painful struggle to come awake, to become fully conscious.—Gerald Heard
“What does ‘to come awake, to become fully conscious’ mean for you? Have your life, your spiritual journey as ‘struggle’ as ‘painful’? If so, how?”
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. — Chief Seattle
“Reflect on the ‘web of life’ metaphor. How do you see yourself as ‘but one thread within’ the web of life?”
Maffin, an ebullient Anglican priest and spiritual workshop director based in Duncan, B.C., on Vancouver Island, began working on this soul-soothing book a few years ago when her body was racked with pain from mercury poisoning, her muscles atrophying and her mind foggy, unclear and incapable of concentration. “For a year, even reading was a challenge,” she says.
The Montreal-born Maffin’s career path has been more varied than most. Sent to elocution class to cure a stutter, the young Maffin was discovered by a producer and became a teenage TV personality, which parlayed itself into her appointment as Canadian editor of a U.S. teen magazine. She studied sociology at Concordia University, taught high school in Montreal and was considering law but digressed into seminary and the priesthood. She holds a PhD in pastoral theology and is the author of an earlier book Disturbed by God. Nowadays, Maffin focuses principally on her ministry of Soulistry, acting as a workshop and retreat leader to help people make the connection between creativity and spirituality, thereby nurturing their souls.
Asked how spirituality differs from emotionality and intellectuality, Maffin replies, “Spirituality gets at the very essence of who and what you really are and what you believe about the important things in life.”
Soulistry Circle Books, 2011, $13.95. Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository and local bookstores.
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
Dr. June Maffin has marked the trail for all of us seeking a deeper, creative and more meaningful life. Amazon has released, artid member June Maffin’s guide to the within. Entitled Soulistry, Artistry of the Soul. June has thoughtfully structured the book in such a way that the outcome of each person’s journey will be different depending on one’s answers. The questions are both road map and compass to an often overlooked destination — the elusive “within.”
“Making changes in your life is difficult and requires work, so much so that many people are not willing to make the effort.”
Like so many explorers who kept a diary of their adventures, this guide to journal- keeping gently asks the questions that only the traveler can answer. A thoughtful read and a gentle gift for someone you love who is struggling with life’s questions.
Mary Lawler Artist, Marketing Director for ArtId (www.artid.com)
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?