June Maffin delivers what the subtitle of her book promises, “Creative Ways to Nurture Your Spirituality”.
Starting with the invention of a new word “SOULISTRY,” she guides her readers through the creation of a journal and lets them find their own “answers within”. She brings to the writing of this book an impressive educational background (ordained Anglican priest, PhD in pastoral theology among others) and a wide range of experience. However, the impact of an illness she suffered and the process of her healing became the primary impulse for writing this spiritual autobiography. Her approach combines spirituality and creativity.
The structure of the book offers a step-by-step guide to spiritual journaling. It is complex, yet easy to follow. The main and most important step is to move through the Journal Prompts and their Soul-Questions. This step is the crux and the purpose of the book.
The 86 Journal Prompts are inspirational quotations from extraordinary people from different centuries. Among those represented are priests (Herbert O’Driscoll), writers (Mark Twain), poets (Rainer Maria Rilke), philosophers (Lao Tzu), mystics (Julian of Norwich), monks (Thich Nhat Hanh), artists (Michelangelo), as well as proverbs. Some of the quotations and their authors are well known, others less so. All of them prompt a thought provoking response. Each quotation has a title such as Mystery, Faith, Happiness, Peace Within. The following Chinese proverb prompts the feeling of happiness. “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.”
Each Journal Prompt is accompanied by Soul-Questions. Together they are meant to stimulate the reader’s spiritual response and awareness. The title Happiness, for example, with its Chinese proverb prompt is followed by these Soulistry Soul-Questions:
* Do “being happy” and “being joyful” have the same meaning for you?
* If not, what is the difference?
* What contributes to your happiness?
* In your Soulistry Journal, reflect on a time in your life when you were happy. What was the occasion/circumstance? How did you feel?
* How can helping another bring happiness to the helper?
* What can you do to “help someone else” on a regular basis?
* Are there individuals, or community/environmental/political/religious organizations you might help? Journal who they might be and how you might be able to offer to help them.
In Dr. Maffin’s own words her book will encourage the readers to connect more intimately with their spirituality and offer new ways to nurture their spirit. In the Epilogue she asks the last question: “ Who are you?” Having journaled through the prompts and questions, the answer(s) may surprise the reader.
The remaining parts of the book provide biographies of the quotation authors, listing of the prompts and soul-question titles, the Soulistry story and Soulistry retreats and workshops.
Dr. Maffin’s book is useful even for those who are not able to journal. It can be used at any time, any place, on any page at any prompt and it will immediately lead the reader to a moment of spiritual calm.
SOULISTRY should be kept as a guide for contemplation. And that is where the value of this slender volume lies.
Hana Komorous, Librarian, Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria, BC