Soulistry is right on target, suggesting that creative playfulness is a very important part of a lively spirituality. The Gospel of Matthew tells of Jesus saying that we need to become as little children in order to see the Kingdom of Heaven. Childlike creativity and playfulness improve our spiritual vision. We are encouraged to forget about expectations, our own and those of others, and to mount up as on eagles’ wings. Rise and fly. And then we will come to know that the Kingdom of Heaven is before us, around us, among us and within us.
In Soulistry, author June Maffin invites us to live in the context of playfulness, to breathe deeply of inspiration, to reach out and hold hands with imagination and creativity. Come on in; the Water’s fine! Get your “feet wet” in a Journal Prompt (a meaningful quotation), and play in the powerful tides and gentle waves of the Soulistry Soul-Questions. Take your time. Seek the thoughts and questions that stir your spirit, and journal a bit. Let your soul hop and skip and leap for joy! We are as little children playing — sometimes alone, sometimes with others, and always in the participating presence of God.
Let us play! May we say that as often and as earnestly as we say, “Let us pray!”
Michael Anne Haywood is a retired teacher of exceptional children. She lives in Winston-Salem, NC.
Feathered Quill reviewer: This beautifully creative, peaceful book will enable the reader to look within and peacefully nurture their soul while developing their spiritual nature.
It is during times of adversity that we begin to ponder the meaning of the universe and our very existence. Many begin to think they have nothing to offer the world and that nothing they ever did was worthwhile. Some dwell on all the wrongs that have been done to them, yet others move beyond the negative and look inward toward their souls and think about what they can give to others. June Mack Maffin was one whose strength and faith brought the Creator into her heart many years ago. Mercury poisoning had atrophied her limbs and had begun to silence her voice. It was a world that held nothing for her. Her inability to read kept her from traveling into a world beyond her suffering, yet one night she was moved to create beauty out of an object where there was none before.
June had pulled a mirror from a closet, not to reflect on her battered body, but to add a “variety of embellishments.” This simple act stimulated her right brain. Was there any hope for her? She began to dialogue with her Creator and he responded positively: “Develop your right brain. Healing will come.” (pg. 127) June unexpectedly became an artist and much later began to connect with her soul. This yearning was the spark that eventually led to the creation of Soulistry—Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture Your Spirituality.” For years she began to collect quotations that would have great meaning to her. June expanded the collection and developed a series of intellectual, philosophical, spiritual, and soul-searching questions … “Soul-Questions.” These questions “will encourage you to connect more intimately with your spirituality.”
June briefly discusses two Greek dimensions of time, kairos and chronos. Chronos are those mundane activities we engage in daily without giving much thought to. Kairos are those with which we are able to “get in touch with our true selves.” Those may embrace things like the smile of a baby, the smell of a beautiful rose, the laughter of a child … the simple things that touch our soul. Each quotation in this book is followed by questions that ask you to reflect on moments in your life. June says that “Journal writings are meant to be personal conversations—with yourself/with yourself and God.” (pg. 1) The quotations are drawn from a variety of sources from all religions and people from all walks of life with questions that ask us to look inward and encourage us to “embrace life in new ways.”
As the reader browses this book they will immediately connect with June as she attempts to guide us to examine our lives and rejoice in our souls. “Soulistry” is the combination of two words, “soul” and “artistry.”
As I read I could easily see where I could pull from the questions and quotations and develop my artistic, creative side as well as nourish my soul. One need not journal to benefit from this work. For example, the “Soulistry Journal Prompt” quotation by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “So many gods, so many creeds, so many paths that wind and wins while just the art of being kind is all the sad world needs,” easily makes us think about those around us. I found it quite easy to connect with kairos and leave the mundane behind for a while as I retreated. In the back of the book are brief biographical sketches of authors and a complete listing of Soulistry journal prompts (quotations).
Quill says: This beautifully creative, peaceful book will enable the reader to look within and peacefully nurture their soul while developing their spiritual nature.
Soulistry—Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture Your Spirituality by June Maffin is a book of journal prompts and questions that are intended to make you think more deeply about the spiritual aspects of your being. She stresses the importance of the Soul-Questions as being that of clarifying what you believe and think about relationships, issues, life, and yourself. The guide is broken up into a number of short chapters, each consisting of a prompt on a specific topic and related questions. Each prompt consists of a relatively short quotation of a few lines that Maffin has taken from the work of a wide range of spiritually informed and wise teachers who have shared their deepest thoughts with their disciples and followers over the ages. These individuals, for whom she provides a short biography at the end of the book, come from across the world, across cultures and across religions. The topics that Maffin covers include all the basic human emotions, including fear, joy, gratitude, and love, as well as a host of other spiritually related aspects of being. The number of questions that she asks per topic is less than ten, and usually four or more. You could either consider them by yourself, or in a small encounter group or workshop. Each question is probing and direct, being meant to stimulate your thinking and to advance your journey towards spiritual awareness and health.
Maffin has found, over the years, that she has experienced spiritual growth as she has asked Soul-Questions of herself, and that is the purpose of this guide to greater spiritual awareness: she wishes to encourage you, the reader, “to connect more intimately with your spirituality.” Maffin’s approach is logical and rational—she provides you with guidance every inch of the way, so that throughout the book she acts as your spiritual mentor and guide.
Maffin recommends that, when reading this book, you should keep a journal in which to record your responses to the Soul-Questions that she asks, after you have reflected on the Soulistry Journal Prompts that she provides. If you have never before done any form of journaling, she provides a brief and simple guide on how you can set about doing so. The Journal can also be used for any other questions that arise from those already asked. Maffin also teaches you how physically to make a Soulistry journal from basic materials.
Maffin concludes Soulistry—Artistry of the Soul by explaining how, when she was suffering from mercury poisoning, she found that developing her artistic potential enabled her to overcome the pain that she was experiencing at the time. Using her own learning curve as an educator, Creative Spirituality Artist, writer, and spiritual director / soul friend, she came to develop a series of Soulistry Workshops and Retreats, which she has held since then all over North America and Europe. Soulistry—Artistry of the Soul encapsulates such work and makes it available to a wider audience than might otherwise have been possible.
All those who are keen to advance their spiritual awareness would be well advised to acquire this helpful and thought-provoking guide.
Lois Henderson, BookPleasures reviewer (www.bookpleasures.com) has a MA General Linguistics, BA (English) Honor, lives in South Africa and “is available for reviewing and indexing books of a spiritual nature at any time. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a review or index done.”
A Conversation With Dr. June (Mack) Maffin Author Of Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture your Spirituality by Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com
Today, Bookpleasures.com is honored to have as our guest Dr. June (Mack) Maffin who has just completed her third book, Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture your Spirituality (to be published April 29, 2011 and now available for pre-orders on Amazon sites) and is now working on her next book.
Dr. Maffin has had a variety of careers: broadcaster, writer, television personality, educator, book & magazine editor, spiritual director, retreat leader, ordained minister, school chaplain, Creative Spirituality Artist, conference speaker, and BookPleasures.com reviewer.
Ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada, June received her Doctorate in pastoral care with an emphasis on Ethics and in addition to the “Soulistry” book, authored “Disturbed by God: A Journey of Spiritual Discovery” which is available in paperback through Amazon, B & N, Book Depository, Chapters/Indigo and local booksellers and as an ebook from Amazon.
Norm: Good day June and thanks for participating in our interview
June: Thank you for the invitation, Norm. I’m delighted to be one of your interviewees.
Norm: How did you get started in writing?
June: Words have always fascinated me. As a young child who stuttered, verbal expression was uncomfortable for many years. So, I often wrote notes. After reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I was captivated by the writing of a girl close to my age and began journaling – only in those days it was called “keeping a diary.” In my teens, I was invited to be the Canadian editor of a well-known American teen magazine and a few years later, had the opportunity to co-write a children’s television program. Then came preaching every week, monthly newspaper columns and creating liturgies and rituals for churches and retreat centres. Writing became my way of expression as a child and has continued to this day.
Norm: What keeps you going?
June: Four things: love of the written word, the gentle encouragement of the Creator, the privilege of making a difference in the lives of readers, and the joy that comes as words become transformed into sentences and paragraphs.
Norm: Who or what has influenced your writing?
June: Along with the ups and downs of life, influences have included two excellent high school English teachers who offered constructive critiques, parents whose encouragement was both challenging and affirming, and photographs I take and use to challenge myself to write accompanying PhotoMeditations for my website and blog.
Norm: How has your education informed your writing?
June: I’m a voracious reader and lifelong learner and while early formal education clearly gave me tools of history, grammatical structure, excellent and not-so-excellent poetic and prose writing examples, the doctoral program offered me license to think-outside-the-box. Life’s difficult moments (two separate medical diagnoses decades apart that I was dying, divorce, life below the poverty level as the single mother of a seriously-ill child, hospitalizations, car accidents, arson of my home, and diagnosis of mercury poisoning) became informal-educational-moments and taught me the importance of written self-reflection and writing regardless of whether or not there is an audience
Norm: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
June: I’ve never set out to ‘write a book’ and though I’ve just completed my third published work, what surprises me the most is how gently each book has evolved from an initial concept to the final edit. Writing is never ‘work’ though it does take a lot of time. Writing for me is a gift, oftentimes healing and always a privilege.
Norm: Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre owe something to readers? If not, why not? If so, why and what would that be?
June: Integrity. I believe that writers need to approach their work with the integrity of offering everything they possibly can in terms of the technical aspects of writing: grammar, syntax, punctuation, tight editing etc. along with their personal sense of integrity as they write from a perspective of authenticity.
Norm: Can you explain to our audience what is Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul?
June: SOULISTRY is a coined word combining SOUL and artISTRY. It’s an umbrella word for various activities (workshops, retreats, publications) that connect spirituality with creativity. It’s about helping people uncover the invisible presence of the holy, both in the visible world and invisible world, within.
A bit of background: Several years ago, I was diagnosed with mercury poisoning. It was a life-changing moment. Within 48 hours, the mercury moved into my body. My muscles (leg, arm, voice) began to atrophy leaving me unable to walk more than a few steps or speak above a whisper. The reading function of my brain ground to a halt. Sleepless nights, long days of exhaustion, pain, medical complications and doctor’s appointments became my way of life. I was aware that depression often occurs with those dealing with chronic illness and didn’t want to go that route.
Unable to sleep one night, I found myself looking at the top shelf of my office closet and before I knew it, I had taken a plain, wooden framed mirror and started adding embellishments. As I played and created, the pain seemed to lessen and eventually I was able to sleep. In the morning when I saw the mirror, I was struck by its beauty and simplicity and sensed that some new thing was happening. I could feel my spirit soaring! A part of my brain was working – my right brain. I wondered whether I could activate left-brain activity through right brain functions. And slowly, the creation of soul-artistry: Soulistry began.
Over time, left brain function and atrophying muscles started to function once again. People saw the mirrors and art cards that I’d begun to exhibit in craft fairs, and asked if I’d teach them how to make their own. Part of an intentional effort to move the mercury out of my body, a plan began to emerge – offer workshops and retreats. As an educator, it was a lovely and welcome challenge.
Designing and facilitating the workshops and retreats became a significant part of the healing process. Eventually, Soulistry moved from creating art cards and MirrorMeditations, to facilitating workshops and retreats, speaking at conferences about the connection between art and soul, and now to the writing of the Soulistry book. For me, Soulistry is a story of grace. Unexpected and gentle, its evolution has been filled-with-wonder … wonderful … and grace-filled!
Norm: What served as the primary inspiration for Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul?
June: Quotations. I’ve been collecting them for decades. They’ve found their way into my journaling, blogs and Facebook Wall posts; on yellow Sticky notes; as bookmarks; on my office bulletin board; into classrooms and sermons. Because of the mercury poisoning, I couldn’t read for almost a year but, as the reading function slowly returned, I began by reading short quotations, so it’s not surprising that they became an integral part of the Soulistry book.
There are almost 80 inspirational quotations from ordinary and extraordinary human beings – artists, philosophers, historians, poets, theologians, writers, calligraphers, lyricists (such as Joan Chittister, Martin Buber, Margaret Guenther, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Aristotle, John Wesley, Paul Tournier, the Dalai Lama, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Meister Eckhart, Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus of Nazareth, Joy Harjo, Mattie Stepanek, Kahlil Gibran, Wangari Maathai and many more around the world living in different centuries) and accompanying Soul-Questions which draw the reader’s attention to the connection between the sacred and secular, creativity and spirituality, art and soul … challenging, nurturing and encouraging the reader’s spiritual journey in a unique way.
Norm: Where did you get your information and ideas for Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture your Spirituality?
June: As I read the quotations, questions (Soul-Questions) emerged. I spent time reflecting on the answers and found myself experiencing a gentle spiritual growth. In a “be still” moment of quiet reflection one morning, the idea for a book began. Slowly, quotations were selected, Soul-Questions were written and the process of seeking copyright permission began. With each step, I experienced my brain regenerating its cells. Nothing scientific … just an abiding awareness that it was happening. The idea for a Soulistry book deepened and work on the quotations/Soul-Questions continued. When the publisher of a new imprint of a well-respected publishing house enquired about whehter I might consider publishing with them, I realize the gift of such an offer and the wisdom of exploring such a possibility. I agreed and began to select quotations of ordinary and extraordinary people with a variety of ages, beliefs, living in different cultures and times; completed writing accompanying Soul-Questions; wrote mini-biographies of each of the quotation authors; and finished getting copyright permission to use the quotations.
Norm: What would you say is the best reason to recommend someone to read the Soulistry book?
June: My hope is that the Soulistry book will deepen the awareness of the presence of the holy in its readers in “all of the acts” of their day and help readers experience spiritual growth regardless of connection with any form of religion.
Because more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of balance in their lives (physically, intellectually and spiritually), there is a growing indefinable awareness that being spiritual is a vital component of being human, not only for those with a religious belief/practice, but those for whom there is no discernible connection with organized religion, no acknowledgment of the existence of God/Holy Other/Creator/Higher Power/G_d, no awareness or understanding of themselves as having a purpose in life. The Soulistry book seeks to encourage a re-connection with that intangible soul-essence of life.
Norm: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
June: Thank you, Norm. I offer my deep gratitude to each reader be they blog, website, Facebook pages, newspaper/magazine articles or reader of one of my books. I love writing and it is a humbling privilege not only to write, but to have people who appreciate the words that come forth.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
June: About the books: There’s a Soulistry page on Facebook, the Soulistry website has pages for each published book and a separate page for Soulistry book reviews and I’ve recently learned that there is a page on the Amazon sites for pre-orders of both the e-book and regular book format.
About me: Personal pages on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook will find me – and there’s always a Google search. 🙂
Norm: As this interview draws to a close, what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
June: How about … “How does the ministry of Soulistry connect with your ministry as an ordained woman?”
Carl Jung wrote somewhere that the role of a priest is to reawaken the spiritual and the imaginative dimension of life in people. I like that and find that just as the warp and weft of fabric are woven together into a piece of cloth, the ministry of Soulistry and ministry as ordained woman are integrated in my life even though I’m not aware of where one ends and the other begins.
My sense is that they meet in a spirituality of play – though in today’s intense world of terrorism, disasters, broken relationships, global economic crises and other stressors, a spirituality of play may seem to be a curious matter.
I love it that Hindus speak of the creation of the universe as the ‘play of God.’ I believe that when I play; when I enjoy the fullness of life with its curiosities, frivolities and insensibilities; when I don’t take myself too seriously; when I laugh and delight in life in playful ways, I allow my spirit to breathe and re-create.
It’s nothing that was taught in seminary, but believing that laughter and play are holy and healing has kept me close to God through some difficult times. I have found that a spirituality of play helped me live with absurdity, pain, paradox, sleepless nights, mystery and more, and that such a spirituality of play opened doors of intuition, vulnerability, child-like joy, healing, spontaneity, flexibility and hope in my life. So it’s not surprising to me that a spirituality of play finds a home in Soulistry – and me.
Thanks again June and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Thanks, Norm. I’ve appreciated this opportunity to share something of my love of (and passion for) the written word with your readers.
I wish you much continued success with BookPleasures. May it continue to rise to the challenge of providing excellent reviews by reviewers from all walks of life and all corners of the world for many more years.
In “Soulistry”, spiritual teacher June Maffin has gathered from her own deep experience a heap of treasures: words of wisdom from across the ages, to which she has attached some very pertinent and moving questions for self-reflection and self-examination.
It’s a book which I would give to any seeker. I love it.
Donald Grayston, co-director, Pacific Jubilee Program in Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Direction; theologian; soulfriend; pilgrim www.donaldgrayston.ca