Dear Readers and Writers:
June Maffin, author of Soulistry, has given me an interview. I think you'll find her ideas stimulating! cheers, Laura Hoopes
LH. You’ve written Soulistry - Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture Your Spirituality recently. Can you tell us what Soulistry means and something about the book?
JM: *Soulistry* is a neologism and shorthand for artistry-of-the-soul (SOUL and artISTRY). The Soulistry book contains over eighty inspiring quotations from ordinary and extraordinary human beings of all ages around the world , living in different cultures, along with accompanying Soul-Questions. Its intent is to encourage readers to recognize and celebrate their inner wisdom, embrace life in new ways, connect/re-connect with the intangible soul-essence of life and deepen their awareness of the presence of the holy around them, regardless of any connection they may/may not have with any form of religion.
LH: What features of your life led you to write this book?
JM: Words have always fascinated me. As a young child who stuttered, verbal expression was uncomfortable and difficult, so writing became my way of expression. I had two books published before Soulistry and was working on two more (a children’s book; a book about euthanasia) when a life-changing diagnosis of mercury poisoning was determined. Within 48 hours of that diagnosis, my muscles (legs, arms, 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 and while I could recognize letters of the alphabet, I couldn’t put the letters together to read words for almost a year.
A lifelong love of quotations helped focus my attention on putting sounds with letters. With a lot of work, I taught myself to read once again using quotations from a variety of sources. As I read the quotations, questions (Soul-Questions) emerged. I spent time reflecting on my responses 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 for the quotations began. With each step, I experienced my brain regenerating its cells. Nothing scientific … just an abiding awareness that it was happening.
It seemed that the more Soul-Questions I wrote for the quotations, the more frequently I incorporated ‘play’ in my life (embellishing wooden framed mirrors, creating marbled art cards, etc.), the more my left-brain activity was increasing. My soul was being nourished in new ways as the connection between creativity and spirituality was nurtured.
LH You live in such a beautiful place, Vancouver Island. Have you always lived there? Has it influenced your spiritual development?
JM: I’ve lived on the west coast for over forty years and on Vancouver Island for the last twelve years. Here, I experience an abiding sense of peace that deepens as I pass farmlands, look towards the snow-covered mountains, gently walk along wooded paths surrounded by trees that reach to the sky, and feel the pebbles under my bare feet at the water’s edge. Here, I connect with nature in its simplicity, beauty and grace. Here, I am aware of myself as human ‘being’ rather than human ‘doing.‘ Here, a life of simplicity, (focusing on ‘kairos’ rather than ‘chronos’) emerges. And here, a growing holy connectedness to the world, Holy Other, others, myself, is nourished.
LH: What or who influenced you to develop your ideas of how spirituality can grow from dealing with our wounds, both physical and emotional?
JM: Life’s experiences and a deep belief that each day presents choices (as to how I respond or react to those choices) continue to be my teachers. Life’s wounds have been deep, but over time, spiritual growth has come as I learn and re-learn what it is to be human, to make mistakes, to forgive, to heal.
LH: When one nurtures spirituality, what changes should be expected in one’s life?
JM: When my spirituality is nurtured and nourished, the more I am in tune with others, myself, and the world and the more I become aware of beauty, gratitude and joy within myself.
The more I focus on my breathing (inhaling peace, wholeness, healing; exhaling tension, anger, hurt, negative feelings), the more I become peace-filled and forgiving. The more I experience time as ‘kairos’ rather than ‘chronos,’ the less “time-pressure” I feel. The more I play, the more playful I become. The more I look for beauty, the more beauty I see around and within me. The more joy I express, the more joy I experience. The more ways I seek to be creative, the more creative I become. The more I anticipate a day to be filled with blessing, the more blessings unfold for me. The more I give, the more I receive.
LH: Do you lead workshops or give talks about the subject of your book?
JM: SOULISTRY has been a blessing in so many ways in my life. It’s become an umbrella for a variety of workshops, retreats, and conference speeches on a variety of topics (e.g. Creative Spirituality Writing; Spirituality of Play; Awakening the Creative Spirit; The Soulistry Story). I am humbled by the invitations to lead retreats, facilitate workshops and speak at conferences on a variety of subjects. So, in response to this question, yes, I do. And I love doing them. :-)
LH: Can you share something about what you mean by “spirituality of play”?
JM: 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, I allow my spirit to breathe and re-create - spiritual growth results.
Believing that laughter and play are holy and healing has been a blessing in many difficult times in my life and a spirituality of play has helped me live with absurdity, pain, paradox, sleepless nights, mystery, frustration. And because a spirituality of play has opened doors (of intuition, vulnerability, child-like joy, healing, spontaneity, flexibility and hope) in my life, it’s not surprising that a spirituality of play finds a home in SOULISTRY - and a home in me. :-)
LH: Is it particularly hard or easy to write about spirituality?
JM: Pierre Teillard de Chardin helped me understand that I am not a physical person having a spiritual experience, but rather I am a spiritual person having a physical experience. To that end, I believe that every thought I think, every thing I experience, every person I meet, and every act I do is a connection with my spirituality. Writing about spirituality seems to be an extension of who I am and while it can take a lot of time (chronos), it has always been experienced as a time of blessing (kairos) for me. So ... all things considered, setting aside the time factor, the writing part has been easy.
LH: What writing habits or helps have you found in your writing practice?
JM: If I’m writing for publication, I tend to get an idea about where I want to go and then let the thoughts/words/sentences flow freely without editing. I leave the writing for a few days and then return to hone it. I’m not a disciplined writer (e.g. I don’t have specific times or location) when I write. Rather, I’m a writer who writes responsively and spontaneously to a situation, conversation, thought, image. I don’t find writing to be ‘work.’ Writing for me is gift, oftentimes healing and always a humbling privilege - not only to write, but to have people who appreciate the words that come forth let me know that the writing "speaks" to them. Joy comes to me as words become transformed into sentences and paragraphs and in discovering that those words/sentences/paragraphs have made a difference in the lives of *Soulistry* readers, retreatants and workshop participants.
LH: Can you refer us to your blogs or websites for more information?
JM: The primary resource about SOULISTRY would be its website (www.soulistry.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/soulistry). My personal FB page is www.facebook.com/junemaffin I’m a book reviewer (www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/authors/394/June-Maffin) and while I’m on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter, I haven’t become familiar enough with them to use them very much - yet - but I’m working on it. :-) And of course, there’s always a Google search. :-)
LH: Any other thoughts you’d like to share with the readers of West Coast Writers?
JM: Thank you for this invitation to share with your readers, Laura. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to share something of my love of the written word, my passion for SOULISTRY and the delight I experience in the privilege of encouraging people who are intrigued by the connection between creativity and spirituality.
Life is full, and I feel blessed in many ways, and connecting with you and other West Coast Writers has been yet one more blessing in my life. So, thank you for this opportunity.
I wish you much continued success with this wonderful blog, and I look forward to reading about other West Coast writers here and someday, meeting you in person.
SOULISTRY ... the book, retreats & workshops... connecting spirituality and creativity in new ways