Two years later it’s getting closer to becoming a reality! (And I recently discovered it was originally a wheelwright shop – love that it has more history than just a plain ol’ garage!)

wisdom within, ink

New Writing and Wellness Center Opens

By: Joanna Young, Reporter for Wisdom Within, Ink

Rutland, Vermont: In the midst of Rutland City, there is a tiny haven. It stands behind a fence on a residential street and started life as a garage. However, it now heeds a higher calling.

The Writer’s Refuge is a place of healing and creativity. It is a place where you can come to write your novel or write through pain, grief, trauma, joys and transitions. It is a place where, surrounded by flowers in the summer or by a cozy fire in the winter, you can unleash your creativity and ideas, discover your authentic self and reinvent yourself according to your hidden dreams and aspirations. It is a place where self-reflection and self-expression will lead to self-discovery, helping you ultimately gain self-confidence.

Founded by writer and certified journaling instructor, Joanna Young, the Writer’s Refuge is…

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Tolerating Fear

This is a recycled post from a couple of years ago. With summer in full , hot swing, the kids are home most days of the week leaving me very little chance to write (the beach and my laptop aren’t great friends). I am yearning to write but when I do have a moment I find myself wading through the ever-deeper seas of social media promoting upcoming workshops instead. 

I have chosen this post because of some particular events this week. One: I truly wrote through some fear in my journal – and came out not only unscathed on the other side but feeling much better; and Two, Three and Four: Some amazing things have landed in my lap this week that I wasn’t even looking for after I stopped worrying about, well,  EVERYTHING! Fear is a crazy, life-blocking thing and it’s time to stomp it on the head. I have written many posts about Fear and over the next little while I will re-post them (Recycling is Good!).

Oh, and P.S. Two years later my daughter is a fabulous belly-dancer (I can boast about my own child, right?) and the only one in her class who can balance a sword on her head while standing on one foot! Fear conquered!

“First recognize that you’re afraid and slowly build your tolerance for fear…

… You may still feel it, but you become willing to bear it as you write. You keep your hand moving, you stay there, you move closer and closer to the edge of what scares you.” – Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning

I have been working on an article for the past couple of months. It’s a biggie for me – the first one for one of the “Glossys” – and I am petrified. First I had to write the query and that scared the bejeezus outta me. But I wrote it and it was accepted. Toe in water. But now I have to swim, and swim damn well. The fear of writing something mediocre and having it rejected has me swearing never to call myself a writer again. I admit I am afraid that I’m not really a writer.

My daughter starts a belly dancing class tonight but she’s scared. What if they don’t like me? What if they laugh at me? It hurts my belly when I hula-hoop – won’t this hurt too? What if I can’t do it right? I try to convince her that everyone has to start somewhere (and sometimes hurt somewhere, like those en pointe ballet dancers who suffer through bloody toes for the love of their craft). I ask her, do you really want to not try this just in case you will have a bad experience? Why are you scared about something you don’t even know about yet?

Um, Mom? Do you hear the words coming out of your mouth? Maybe you need to be having this pep talk with yourself!

Natalie Goldberg was of course referring to writing in the above quote, but isn’t there a message for us all, for our life?  Get close to fear and experience it, feel it. Splash around in it. Like the ocean, its chill eventually becomes tolerable, even enjoyable. Run into a cold sea enough times and you get to know it will get better. Fear turns to “Frust” (faith + trust). And once you have faith there can be no fear.

Recently I experienced some Serendipity that slapped Fear right out the door and allowed Faith back in.

Anxiety and exhaustion over self-promotion, high-achievement, perfectionism, and self-doubt found me standing at the sink blubbering what-ifs over the dirty dishes. The lack of response from one particular cold contact and my insatiable need to save the world ten workshops at a time had triggered the melt-down. I was overwhelmed by all the possibilities and by my own potential to make a difference. What if I was missing opportunities to help people by not following up on every collaboration suggestion? Was I failing at my work by not contacting all the non-profits in town? It was suddenly all too much.

The networking and marketing was taking too much time and producing far too much stress. My name and work was getting known. So, I decided to let it go. To let people come to me.

And they did.

Four days later two lovely ladies walked in to the coffee shop where I was running an informal writing circle. They were from the very non-profit that had unintentionally instigated my fears. And the most amazing thing is that they weren’t there because they had received my email but just because they had seen my brochure somewhere and thought my work would be a good fit for one of their projects.

As I write my article for the “Glossy” I am thoroughly submerging myself in the Fear of it not being good enough. As I slowly let go and just write for the pure joy of writing and spreading my message, the Fear becomes more tolerable and starts to feel a little more like “Frust.” I have to trust that I do have talent and something important to say, and the faith to know that even if the article is rejected it is not a personal failure – rather a lesson for the next time.

Prompt: What are you afraid of? What are you willing to tolerate in order to move to a place of acceptance and growth?

 


Resume the Stability of Tension

This is a post from a couple of years ago. I am re-posting it because this phrase – Resume the Stability of Tension – keeps popping back into my mind lately. Although I am in a completely different life situation now (I left my job very soon after this post and started grad school a year later), I am paying attention to it. The “naggings” of our unconscious are important to listen to, they hold messages.

~~~

[June 18, 2009] A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar by my journal-writing/therapy mentor, Kathleen Adams. At the time I was at the height of my distress over my job. The idea of a whole day writing and learning more about journal techniques from ‘the master’ had momentarily calmed and uplifted me. Then Kay asked us to finish the following statement, “Right now in my life..”

I wrote frantically for five minutes. It poured out of me. After the writing sprint we were asked to write a sentence or two of feedback to ourselves: “As I read this I notice…” This personal feedback was what we shared with the group (if we chose). I told them that although I was calm before the write I was now a nervous wreck! I had traded a relaxed attitude for hunched shoulders and a stomach of jumping beans. Kay told me I might want to explore this in an exercise we would be doing in the afternoon.

At lunch Kay and I shared a table, and the conversation – which was intended to be about my upcoming journal workshops – became a mini therapy session. I was still shaky and Kay, being the experienced therapist that she is, asked me all the right questions. The word “loyalty” came up.

That afternoon, Kay told the group about Alpha Poems. I was already familiar with them as they were a fun portion of my workshop training. I chose to do a poem based on the word Loyalty. Here’s what came out:

Limits myself, always
Open, always
Yes, never no
Attitude
Limits the way I go
Take the road to
YOU

Wanting to play some more I chose to do a poem using the entire alphabet.

Always
Bending to others
Cutting out the
Day to
Everyone but me
Favoring
Goodness
Hating
Irresponsibility
Judging myself
Knowing how
Loyalty is my
Mantra
No one is happy
Open the door
Pursue the
Quest
Resume the
Stability of
Tension
Undo the
Values
(e)Xplore
Yourself

I didn’t think about what word or phrase would come next, it just happened. I didn’t even know what word I was going to write until I began writing it. It is a magical thing!

Anyway, the phrase that immediately jumped out at me was the strange, “Resume the Stability of Tension.” Now, I am a tense person and in my experience, that is not a good thing. I have even taken drugs for it. Hubby frequently asks me in utter frustration as he runs out of door 15 minutes before he needs to, why it has to be “so tense around here in the mornings?” I couldn’t put my finger on what it meant, exactly, but I loved the sound of that phrase and had a feeling it had something important to tell me. I played with the idea in my journal, even wrote more alpha poems around it. Still not knowing how to decipher its meaning, I decided it would be my new mantra.

Then a couple of days ago, I read this in Christina Baldwin’s Life’s Companion:

… you need to envision a lifeline between [where you are and where you want to go]. It needs to be tense, like a tightrope, something you can walk along. The necessity for tension requires we develop a different attitude about tension: this is creative tension. Creative tension is what creates the path. When we lose tension, we wander without focus (my bolding). We have to decide over and over again to stay close to the tension, to walk the wire.

I was wandering without focus. I was trying to split myself between a job that was sucking the life out of me and the longing to pursue a writing/teacher career that was “dragging me about” (again, I quote Christina Baldwin; she *is* me). I needed to Resume the Tension (Focus) to gain Stability.

I put loyalty to my boss and my job aside and I chose to put my longing back in charge. Together we will walk the high wire of creativity – up where Potential and the Higher Self lives.

The power of voice

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I have long known the power of song. Whether sitting in the audience or on the risers myself, it is a rare time that the tears don’t immediately spring to my eyes at the first note. I am usually blubbering by beat three, tissues whipped out and sniffling muffled. OK, I exaggerate (slightly). What I don’t exaggerate is the effect of the human voice; alone, harmonizing with other voices or unified with the resonance of the instruments.

This past Saturday I sang in a concert that spoke to the larger power of voice and song. It was the third Concert for Peace held at the Unitarian Univeralist Church in Burlington, VT. Six choirs from around the state filled (every last seat) of the balcony: An all-woman’s barbershop group whose voices blended like coffee and cream, a self-conducted choir who sang a funky but fantastic work song from the country of Georgia, a chorus whose director asks for no audition just a love of singing (and you could tell they did), a heavenly-voiced children’s choir, a six-person group (members of Counterpoint, Vermont only professional choir conducted by the incomparable Robert DeCormier) who did not sing as much as ring. Each choir sang their individual pieces (and can I just say that my choir ROCKED THE HOUSE!?) but the time I felt the true power was when every singer and audience member stood and in perfect unison sang John Lennon’s Imagine.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Earlier we had been introduced to the founder of The Good Earth Singers, who is “healing the planet, one voice at a time” and we also heard the story of how the troops of World War I stopped fighting one Christmas Day and sang together a top their foxholes.

The power of voice, the power of song, the power of people coming together. If all the world could sing together there could be no war. When we sing together we hear how every voice is as important and special as the next. And together each of us have the power to affect another person’s heart. I know because I cried. The audience cried. The conductor cried. God(dess) is crying too because when we sing it all seems so clear and easy. Singing together gives a glimpse of the way the world should and could be.

Yes, I can imagine – and it looks and sounds like a choir forming their individual voices into one enveloping blanket of beautiful sound.

P.S. I just heard that the Public Radio International show “To the Best of Our Knowledge” is broadcasting a show on this exact topic… I love synchronicity! Here’s the link: http://www.wpr.org/book/101003a.cfm

Prompt: You may say I’m a dreamer but….

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.

Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

Writing over my own fears

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I recently wrote an article about writing through fear. I’m good at telling others how to use writing for their own healing and self-discovery but as the saying goes, “Physician, heal thyself.” I realized there are issues I have resisted for years. I’ve tried to write from a deeper place to find healing but always given into the discomfort and never pushed through it. I wouldn’t allow myself to write because I was afraid of the truth I might write down. Then I would have to come to terms with it. Much easier to be unhappy than faced with an ugly truth.

So last night I confronted my own fears head on. And it wasn’t much fun.

At first I didn’t want to get started. I wrote, “I DO NOT want to be doing this. I’d rather be watching TV.” I wrote words to that effect until I was past the initial block. “I am afraid… of what? I am afraid of…. yes, what?” And so I went on having a conversation with myself. My one side stuttered and faltered over how to express what was going on while the other side kept asking questions to encourage me to keep writing. I allowed words to pop into my head even if they didn’t appear to make sense and I wrote them down. Eventually I wrote my own truth – for six pages. I didn’t like it much.

Then I got this urge – that’s the only way I can describe it – this idea popped into my head and it became a need to pick up a different colored pen and write over what I had just written. At first I thought, well, that’s just silly and wouldn’t be denying what I just wrote? But then I did it. I even flipped my journal upside down and wrote a new truth over the old one. I literally turned my past on its head and wrote my future over it.

It was powerful to see my positive, forward looking words (in bright pink ink) obliterating the fears written beneath (in dull brown). I said, “This very moment is my future and the past is no more. I have the power to re-write my own story. I choose my future and I choose happiness.

It might seem silly that just turning my journal upside down and essentially making a big unreadable mess on the page would have any effect on my thinking but it was symbolic and it seemed to work. I felt lighter and empowered. I really felt like I could re-write my own story and leave the past behind right where it belongs.

Prompt: Write, “I’m afraid…” until you are so sick of your own whining that you have to stop. Then flip the book upside down and write over your fears, “The truth is…

(A more instructional version of this post can be found here.)

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.

Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

Follow your bliss, if you can find it.

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If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. — Joseph Campbell

This quote sums up the way I have been thinking about my life for a while now. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way was the first one to introduce me to the idea almost 15 years ago but back then it didn’t make much sense. I mean, how could it? I was 22 and getting paid too little to smile angelically at uptight tight-wads and impatient, patronizing SOBs. Yeah, I looooved that job!

My dream of being a writer was huddled in the corner of my tiny apartment, barely breathing amongst the cobwebs.

But Julia being Julia still somehow made an impression. I began to write. And write. I took a writing class. I formed a tiny writing group with two friends (I was usually the only one who showed though), and I wrote some more. My favorite time of day was when I would leave for work early enough to stop at the coffee shop to write for half an hour before my “real” day began. I wasn’t sure for what or whom I was writing, I just knew I had to. My dream began to dust itself off and step into the light.

So I’m one of the lucky ones. When it became clear to me that I must follow my heart (oh, only 10 years later) I knew what my heart wanted. Why? Because I had been screaming it at myself in my journal for a long time – it just took certain life events and my heart to be ready to see it.

The above Joseph Campbell quote was posted on Facebook recently by a fellow “writing to healer.” I “got” it because I am living it, but I know some others don’t quite understand as well as I do, through no fault of their own. Responses to the quote included, “I so want to believe Joseph Campbell…” and “…and then there’s the matter of having a clue what your ‘bliss’ is…” And when I read the quote to Hubby he said basically the same thing.  Another friend: “But what is my dream?”

OK. So here’s the problem. It’s all well and good that Deepak, Wayne Dyer and Oprah are all telling us to follow our dreams but, in general, we were never taught how to recognize what that may be. Most of us were educated in a way that discounted original, creative thinking and we were told that our dream is 2.5 kids and a golden retriever.

My mother always comments that she is so happy that I discovered my path so young (ha!) and it is true that it is more likely for people to reinvent themselves at a later age. They suddenly wake up and sell all their possessions and sail around the world on a yacht (although that sounds like my personal hell.) Many of the women in the Women Business Owners Network to which I belong are older, having raised their children and followed a career, and who are now ready to follow a dream – their dream. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people could find and follow their dream the first time around? To be so in tune with their inner wants, talents, gifts that they had the passion to do it “right” from the start. Wouldn’t this be a happier society in which to live?!

So, what’s the secret? You’re waiting for me to get on with it and tell you how to open the magic Dream Box so you can just pick yours out, don’t you? Well, I’m sorry to have brought you this far to tell you I don’t actually have the key to that box. BUT I can offer some good tools to help you pry it open. It might take some time but be patient and believe it will open.

1. PEN AND PAPER

Or any other writing implement and some time – alone and quiet.

2. TRUST

Trust yourself to write the truth: your real thoughts, your emotions, ideas. Don’t censor them. You already know the answer.

3. TWENTY YEARS

Ask yourself what you have been doing well and without effort for twenty years as a hobby, natural ability or learned skill. If you have been doing something for 20 years you must be a) really good at it b) have a proclivity towards it c) be pretty passionate about it. (Take my journaling – I just did that out of a need and never thought in a million years it would one day become a career.)

4. FLOW

What you do as a child – or do now – that makes time stand still? What do you enjoy doing so much that you lose time?

5. EXPERIENCE

List your life experiences that make you unique (that would be everything!) and have bought you to where you are today.

6. PROMINENT MEMORIES

Think of the times that stand out as poignant moments – maybe the satisfaction of helping a struggling customer balance her checkbook (that was one of mine) or when you helped a friend plan a vacation. These are all clues to your authentic self.

These are some tools to get you started. When you look at what you wrote as a whole picture you may begin to see a theme or get an idea. The real magic begins when you get out of your own way, just let the pen go and your natural creativity (yes, we all have some!) and ideas start flowing.

As Julia Cameron said, “Writing gives us a place to say what we need to say, but also to hear what we need to hear.” And then… hang on!

I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow.” — Julia Cameron

**Read my article about Castleton Crackers, an example of following your bliss.

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization, and almost everything in between.

New Writing and Wellness Center Opens

New Writing and Wellness Center Opens

By: Joanna Young, Reporter for Wisdom Within, Ink

Rutland, Vermont: In the midst of Rutland City, there is a tiny haven. It stands behind a fence on a residential street and started life as a garage. However, it now heeds a higher calling.

The Writer’s Refuge is a place of healing and creativity. It is a place where you can come to write your novel or write through pain, grief, trauma, joys and transitions. It is a place where, surrounded by flowers in the summer or by a cozy fire in the winter, you can unleash your creativity and ideas, discover your authentic self and reinvent yourself according to your hidden dreams and aspirations. It is a place where self-reflection and self-expression will lead to self-discovery, helping you ultimately gain self-confidence.

Founded by writer and certified journaling instructor, Joanna Young, the Writer’s Refuge is itself a dream manifested, first in writing, then in reality. As a husband-wife team, Joanna and Brad, an adult psychotherapist, provide workshops, classes and counseling for those ready to manifest their potential and who are searching for a fulfilled life.

——

The above article is about a place that has not yet been created. The building exists and, most importantly, so does the vision. While I teach self-discovery workshops now, the Writer’s Refuge (which in various forms has been a dream of mine for almost 20 years) itself is still a work in progress. The building is so close to functional but there are still vital things that need to be done (new flooring, a heat source and a new bathroom, for example). At this moment the only obstacle is financial, but with less than $2,000 and some TLC this vision will become a reality.

Look for it soon! The Writer’s Refuge will be open for business in the near future!

Prompt: Write about a dream you want to see realized as if it has already happened.


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P.S. Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization, and almost everything in between.