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.

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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.

Forget Will, it’s about Mind Power!

If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right. — Mary Kay Ash

Why we fail

Innocent until proven guilty, right? We all know that it is human nature is to operate under the opposite tenet. And we also tend to prefer Believe Once Proven.

We all have things in our life that we want to change, or at least think we do. A bad habit, those extra pounds, time spent playing video games, smoking, or even a certain way of thinking. And why we do fail time after time? Because we won’t believe we can kick the habit or change our behavior until we have proven that we can. Believe Once Proven.

Well, obviously that system doesn’t work so well. As Dr. Phil says, How’s that working for ya? If we don’t believe we can do something until we see that we can, we never will.  You have to believe first.

Know why you will eat that donut even after you have said, I will not eat that donut, over and over again? Because you are focused on the donut. You brain doesn’t hear the “not” and says, OK, Eat Donut! Turn it around and say, I WILL eat the yummy almonds I packed for myself today. I WILL go for a walk instead of turning on the computer. I WILL have a cup of cozy tea instead of a glass of wine.

But first..

First you have to recognize there is something wrong or missing. Then you must truly want to change. Only then can you take the next step. This is where writing comes in. If you are writing from a place of truth (meaning you are being honest with yourself in your journal) you will know when something is wrong. You will also know when you are ready to make the change. If you have acknowledged a problem but don’t seem ready to face it yet, use your journal to explore this. Ask, why am I not ready to make this change?

But when you are ready, keep writing to help you through the next steps of committing to change and to hold yourself accountable.

Focus on the positive always. What you CAN do, not what you can’t or what you won’t do.

This doesn’t just apply to breaking habits or changing behaviors, it is just as effective in how you change your future for yourself. Yes, change your future for yourself.

Write out your positive statements. Write about why you want this change. Write yourself a love letter telling yourself that even with this issue (whatever it is) you are still a beautiful person and why you deserve the best life you can possibly have. Believe you have the ability to reach your potential.

Dear [your name], I love you. Even though I _____ more/less than I would like at this moment, I love and accept myself. I haven’t reached my potential yet, but I have the ability, the drive, and the self-love to do this for myself…

Yes, I will…!

Yes, I can…!

Use the incredible power of your mind to make your life whatever you want it to look like. Believe in yourself and prove you are capable of unbelievable things. Plug into your own incredible power.

Here’s a new tenet to live by: Proven Once Believed.


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Booger-fingers will not break my spirit

Yesterday I attended the Women Business Owners Network (WBON) Winter Conference in Manchester, Vermont. Everyone of the speakers was fantastic and one woman noted she felt “drunk on the energy.” I can’t begin to share all the things discussed but I will tell you, it was powerful!

I believe in serendipity, in the power of positive thinking and envisioning your future. In this blog I have attempted to pass along my own experiences to serve as inspiration to anyone who is ready to receive it. I knew there were a few out there who also followed these principals and either saw them enacted in their own lives or were searching for it. I have also recently become aware that there is a move in the community conscious towards these things. The Secret and What the [Bleep] Do We Know are two examples of Quantum Physics and science of positive thinking being brought to, and beginning to be accepted, in the mainstream population. I don’t pretend to understand the science behind how thoughts effect our energy but I have personal evidence and a strange feeling like this is something I have always known but didn’t know I knew. That’s all I need.

But in general, in my little corner of the globe, I felt I was alone with my new “wierd” (hippie/new age) thoughts. Then over the last month some crazy things have happened:

1. Hubby left his job as an employee to become a private practitioner at a Holistic Wellness Center. He is not by training a holistic healer, he is just open to many options and has always been spiritual in nature. Daily he is surrounded by spiritually-minded people and he is happier than he has ever been.

2. Hubby starts coming home telling me things about positive thinking and I’m like: Hey! Preaching to the choir, bud! I’ve been telling you you can achieve this kind of understanding through journaling for, oh, I don’t know, ever!

3. Through this new job he is recruited to become a founder of a new venture: The Center for Spiritual Unfolding (much more to come on this – it’s gonna be good!). I am asked to join the board.

4. Hubby brings home The Secret on his iPod and I begin to listen to it (I had not read it). I’m listening to what I have discovered by myself but increased in power and possibility to almost the point of “it’s too good to be true!”

5. I have a meeting with a minister to arrange for the possibility of my journal workshop being held at the church. He asks about my religious background. No judgment. He understands. Our conversation is great and a relief. While assimilating our talk I begin to – for the very first time with clarity – see how the tattered strands of my religious beliefs could tie to my new belief system (eg. prayer is just positive thoughts being sent out into the Universe).

6. I attend the WBON conference: Making your Vision a Reality. Business women? Yes. Passionate? Yes. Spiritual? Yes! Every speaker spoke of the incredible power of envisioning and positive thinking. Vision boards, meditation, gratitude journals, affirmations, self love, self care, yes, even quantum physics and the power of positive energy in our personal and business lives. These women were talking MY language!! I drove home on a high!

My worlds have come together. First Hubby and I get on the same page, even working out of the same building, reading the same books, and journaling to make sense of it all. Then the realization that there are others just like me – passionate, creative people who are took a leap of faith to start their own businesses and who believe with every cell of their bodies that some higher power gave them wings with which to make the impossible possible.

So why the tears this morning? I think the immensity of my dreams and new-found knowledge suddenly felt squashed by the reality of my everyday life. My mind is spinning with possibility while my son is threatening his sister with a booger-finger and she in turn is squealing with a pitch that could shatter her plastic cup.  The calm and commaradie I experienced for eight wonderful hours yesterday was instantly washed away in a tsunami of missing boots and splattered oatmeal.

It’s a fragile animal, this soul-body we live in. I have a fabulous, inspiring, enlightening experience, I come home excited and so ready to get on with my life and then whap! I’m crying, angry, anxious, and ready to crawl under my bed covers for the rest of this roller-coaster ride called Life. But I recognize this feeling, I’ve had it before and thankfully I now know the nausea and the tears are just the big-toe in a cold sea. It hurts at first then it starts to feel good and soon you are floating, face to the sun, content – and fulfilled. (Shortly after I wrote that miserable post I quit my job and launched Wisdom, Within, Ink.)

I am choosing to believe the tears and anxiety was just fear having a final say before exiting my body…

Ready. Set. Goals!

I love the New Year. I love starting over and the feeling of getting back on schedule (especially after the nutty holiday season).

But above all I love starting a new journal! For the past few years I have just continued using the current journal until a) I ran out of pages or b) I got bored of it and excitedly bought myself a new one just ‘cuz. With a 1/6 of my journal still empty I had planned to keep write on going in that one, but then I realized this January 1 is special: Not only the start of a new year, but also a new decade, and for Hubby and I, a new life.

I went out and purchased an unusual journal (for me). It is full-sized (8×11) and the brown and pink polka-dotted 1977-esque front cover is more “fun” than I usually go for. But for some reason I was drawn to it (I believe we are pulled towards what we need). The large pages reflect the size of my hopes for this year and decade and the whimsical cover is for the fun I plan to have pursuing them.

On New Year’s Eve I spent a few hours in blissful solitude christening my new journal. I wrote four titles:

Mental

Emotional/Social

Physical

Spiritual

For each topic I wrote sub-titles: Current Status and Goals. Within that structure I let my pen go wild. I assessed where I was and how I was feeling about each area of my life. I wrote and wrote. I then used those thoughts to determine goals for the coming year.

I know the large pages of my new journal helped me think big(ger). I felt free – unrestricted.

From there I started a new page for just Work. I wrote down every project, workshop and collaboration that is either a done deal, in the works, or a possibility. The golden potential of this list inspired and exhilarated me! From here I moved onto Work Goals for January. The list was long but do-able. I was anxious to get started right away.

When we give ourselves a PURPOSE (or MISSION) and look forward with INTENT, the path in our mind’s eye and in reality becomes clearer. Written goals are a way to clarify these things.

So, now onto to 20-10! Forget those resolutions. Set goals. Do-able goals. Goals that look towards your dreams.

And if you wander off the path on the way towards your goals, don’t give up! Just get back on where and when you can or find a different path that leads in the same direction (or a slightly different one – you have the prerogative to change your mind).

And always make sure you have your MAP (Marker And Paper) or GPS (Good Pen [and] Stationary) (goodness, those were lame!) aka: your journal to help you find your way.

(Also read my Examiner.com article on making goals)

What’s your mission?

Today I wrote the mission statement for this journey I am calling Wisdom Within, Ink:

It is the mission of Wisdom Within, Ink to (re)introduce the healing, creative and empowering art of journal writing to those wishing to discover their authentic self.

Why do companies write mission statements? To determine their intentions, their purpose, their raison d’etre. To lay down a path, to map out a route, to provide an itinerary. If you don’t have a clear idea of why and where you are going you could get completely lost. Yes, you can wander a little but as long as you keep your sense of direction you will have a more successful journey.

Of course, you don’t have to be a company to have a Mission. It is a very good idea to give your personal life direction by putting in writing your personal statement also. Here’s mine:

To pursue those activities that bring me joy and fulfillment while caring for myself, my family and my community. I will honor my body, mind and spirit knowing that when I am personally whole I will be a better wife, mother and business woman.

What’s your Mission Statement? Spend some time thinking through what you want out of your life and the direction you intend to go. Your statement can be long or short or in any format you wish: A sentence, paragraph, bullet points, a picture even. Your family can have a statement also. Gather around the table and as a committee co-write your family’s purpose and intent for a better life.

For more information on writing mission statements, read my Examiner article.

Jour du Journal: Perspective of your future

Guess what? I’m a prophet! An en-visionary, a manifester, a future-maker!

Yesterday while I was teaching a workshop I shared a Perspective I had written on 10.23.08 but had dated 10.23.09. I discovered much of it had come true.

A Perspective is a journal entry written from different angle, in this case, from a future date. (There are other forms of Perspectives but I’ll leave those for later post.) You write the entry as if it is that date, making note of how your life is in this “unknown” future. This is where you can imagine where you might be, what you might be doing, and how you got there.

While reading my journal entry, I discovered something important: Only the things that were truly meaningful to me had occurred (or were well on their way to happening). For example, the very first sentence of my entry stated I had been published. In October 2008 I was not published, however, by October 23, 2009 I had three articles in print. I also wrote that I was no longer working outside the home, and instead working as a writer and workshop leader, even though at time I was barely a month into a new job.

Further into my writing I stated I was successfully and efficiently keeping the housework under control. Oh, don’t I wish! Well, actually I do kinda wish, but this is where my authenticity can’t be disguised – I am not a good housewife and I don’t really care (that much). If keeping my house in order was a true ambition I would have somehow made it happen.

Purpose and intent: This is what makes the difference.

So, while channeling your authentic purpose, date your page one year from today and write…

(Be sure to save it and revisit it one year from now to see what a prophet you are!)

Jour du Journal: Looking down the road

Yesterday I read a post about a couple making the most of early empty-nest syndrome while their children were at camp. For me, their week alone without children to hamper their spontaneity was a glimpse into my own future – a future I look forward to. For those of you who have no offspring to chip away at your sanity the post won’t have much significance. However, the anticipation of a happy future is something we all need.

(And for those of you who are planning to have children in future, PLEASE DO NOT take for granted the freedom you have now. Make the most of your alone time, the quiet, the ability to go out on a whim, and the fact that your things stay put and unbroken.)

“Perspectives” is a way of envisioning your future, the way you would like it to look. In this post I prompted you to envision a path for yourself. How I want you to get more specific.

In your journal date a page 1 year, 5 years, or even 10 years from today (ex. August 6, 2014). Now just starting writing. What’s the weather like, where are you living, what did you say to your partner/friend/self…? Just have fun with it. Imagine what your life will be like – and imagine BIG because it’s hard to aim at a far-off target if it’s too small.

(For an example of how Perspectives have worked in my own life, go here.)

Please feel free to leave a comment on how these journal prompts are working for you. And if you feel moved to, please share your writings!