That's why I grabbed up Janet Conner's Writing Down Your Soul with such enthusiasm as soon as I heard about it. It's an honest, revealing and totally engrossing account of the posssibilities of keeping a journal specifically for the purpose of communing with your inner-self, that great mysterious and multi-named connecting power that Janet Conner calls the Voice (note that upper-case "V").
Throughout Writing Down Your Soul Janet Conner provides a practical program for establishing a contemplative journaling practice that stretches out over a 30-day period. But the book describes so much more than that. It is an account of Conner's own journey and her discovery that writing a journal that specifically addresses the spirit is a potentially transformative process. Sharing with the reader her own traumatic experiences of domestic abuse and marriage breakdown, Conner tells us that it's all right to have negative emotions and to be honest about experiencing them. What the Writing Down Your Soul process allows you to do is to express those fears, furies and negative wishes on paper and thereby deal more honestly with emotional states - and attempt to find a way out of destructive patterns. Journal writing is probably the safest form of venting there is and, as Conner writes, so many of those troublesome thoughts and worries are better out than in. "Do you want to have the conversation with the Voice now, before things are truly dreadful, or do you want to wait?" she asks.
And conversation is the right name for the process Conner describes. It is about writing down internal conversations, with your self and others, and also, most importantly, with the mysterious and profound force that permeates our lives. In the book she offers a very thorough section of challenging and stimulating questions to ask yourself during the journaling process and these alone could keep you busy for the best part of a year.
That's what makes Writing Down Your Soul such a satisfying, and such an important book. It is not about an instant program of self-renewal. It is much more profound and affecting than that, and it is a book I can see myself working with for many years. And if, like me, you have found yourself drifting away from journal writing as a part of your spiritual life, it will provide you with the perfect excuse to pick up your pen once more and get going.
Conner's affable charm and compassionate nature are obvious throughout the book, and there is a constant and helpful practical emphasis in her writing. She discusses, for example, the benefits of handwriting over word processing when it comes to recording personal journals.
In many ways this is not a "feelgood" book. It is, instead, about facing with complete honesty some of the most difficult and confronting questions of your life and staying with them until you begin to yield change and results. It is about changing your life once and for all, and stopping the avoidance tactics that can mark the difficult sections of any journey. It is a rigorous process, but one from which I am already beginning to experience positive results. When you sit down with your pen and your journal, Conner writes, you should:
Look for what intimidates you, what frightens you, what stops you in your tracks. Listen for what keeps happening over and over again.I am certain that so many of you are ready to read this book. Make a gift of it to yourself, and put aside the time and commitment to follow its method You will not regret it.
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