I occasionally peruse my bookshelves and look for “new” old books that I haven’t thought about in a while. “Soul Vows,” by Jannet Conner is a gem of a book that I did a lot of work with about six or seven years ago, and it’s struck me recently that this is a great book to read if you’re doing shadow work even though it’s technically not about shadow work at all.
Subtitled “Gathering the Presence of the Divine In You, Through You, and As You,” it comes across as a thoroughly spiritual book, not one with a psychological bent. The back of the book says “If you long to know your soul’s purpose, Soul Vows is an ideal place to begin. Your soul vows describe how you choose to walk this earth, in every moment of every day. They are how you receive and spread grace. As you live your soul vows, you become a fertile container in which your purpose can take root and prosper.”
The way that this relates to shadow work is that one of the first steps is to “recognize the false unconscious vows that have kept you fragmented.” We all have stories in our shadows that we don’t even know we live by, and the goal is to understand these and transmute them into gold.
I loved this book so much, and I still have the card I made with my own soul vows taped up behind my desk so I can look at it every day. While the book talks about the divine, I didn’t find it troublesome or restrictive in case you’re not the religious type (I still enjoyed it as a pagany type, or more precisely a postmodern shamanic hermeticist).
Have you been intending to journal, but haven’t managed to do it? Do you wonder why something that seems so easy can be so hard? Here’s five tips for creating a journaling practice that will help you be successful.
1. Keep a separate journal for each focus, and keep it where you’re going to use it. If you’re wanting to do morning pages, keep a diary, and write in a gratitude journal, you’re going to spend more time looking for your journal than writing in it if you try to use one for all these things! Make it easy for yourself, and keep your journal for morning pages by the breakfast table, your diary in your purse, and your gratitude journal by your bedside. The added bonus of this is when you pick up your journal your brain will know what to expect and it will be easier to get down to business.
2. Use an approachable journal. Fancy, gorgeous notebooks sometimes can be too intimidating to write in, and result in either you not using it or not being authentic in your writing because you want something that looks like it’s worthy of your journal. If it’s easier to write in a cheap wire-bound cat notebook from the drug store, then do it!
3. Set some standards and stick to them. Whether you decide you’re going to write for three minutes, or three pages, set some goal that means you won’t just sit there staring at a blank page. If your goal is to hit a time or page count, then you’re not going to be worrying about quality or whether your penmanship looks good.
4. Get thee some journal prompts, and write them in your journal! It’s really hard to start by staring at a blank page, and often we very much don’t feel like writing about what’s on our mind even if we have the strongest intention to do so. You can make it easier on yourself by getting hold of some journal prompts and writing them on the top of some spaced-apart pages in your journal. That way, you can pick one and just get going, trusting that what you need to write that day will come out onto the page somehow.
5. Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good. It’s ok if all you’ve written one day is “Mondays Suck” for one full page, or if you think that what you wrote isn’t any good. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you show up and write something on a regular basis.
Living in Flow, by Sky Nelson-Isaacs, is one of those books that’s a real page-turner; both because its message is so powerful and interesting and also because you’ll find yourself checking back to what you’ve already read because you’re not sure whether you still understand it or not. Subtitled “The Science of Synchronicity and How Your Choices Shape Your World,” it’s a mix of quantum physics, psychology, and metaphysics. It combines information you’ve probably already read about on “flow” with the idea that the universe is responsive to our actions.
“In a responsive cosmos, when we enter flow different circumstances occur than would have occurred otherwise. The choices we make are reflected in the external situations that appear. Flow is not only a matter of our interpretation of life (i.e. a positive outlook) but a state of being that can influence events outside of ourselves.”
While I still don’t quite get what that means or how that works (and it’s one of those books where you think you get it but then it eludes you), the takeaway from the book is how powerful our desire and choices are in affecting the probability of getting what we want. By keeping in mind what we desire and how it will feel, we navigate along a probability tree toward our goal, effectively pruning the tree of branches that do not lead in the right direction. Where my brain breaks is trying to understand whether he’s saying that the synchronicities that happen do so, then, just because those are the ones that happen on the branch of the tree we’ve taken or because the universe actually responds to our choice of action by providing those synchronicities instead of others. I think it has something to do with the field of possibility and the speed of light, but I’d need to reread the book with more coffee to fully understand that. And I’m not sure it matters.
Anyways, it’s a highly readable book although difficult in places. It doesn’t shy away from some serious science and probability theory, but doesn’t go too far in terms of it being too dense. It’s a good read, just hard to get your head around sometimes.
As you undertake the hard work of unearthing what’s in your depths, it’s easy to feel scared and insecure. Stuff that you’ve been repressing and ignoring for years is going to your life, somehow, and that’s a pretty frightening thought. It doesn’t help that most of our mythologies view the darkness as bad, and protagonists such as Persephone passive and naive at best.
But we’re made of stardust, and what lies in our own personal underworlds is no less beautiful. The terrain of our deepest heart space can be a magical, wonderful place, full of juicy secrets and possibilities. How you think of things affects how you will act, and what you will get out of what you’re doing. Instead of being fearful, learn to dance in the depths. Open your eyes, be a curious traveler, and be prepared to surface with items of immeasurable value.
Sometimes the hardest work we cam do is learning to love ourselves, even the worst stuff that likes in the stinking pit of our soul. But you can do it!
Do you keep planning to write in a journal, but end up with good intentions and empty journals? This, of course, NEVER happens to me, but I’ve found that I’m much more likely to keep a daily writing practice if I bling it up with other stuff, like an oracle deck and a favorite crystal. The oracle deck gives me something to start writing about instead of facing a blank page, and both the imagery and the keywords on the card offer an entryway into new thoughts and ideas. The crystal is kind of like a companion, and it anchors me in the practice.
Pictured are the Work Your Light oracle cards by Rebecca Campbell, and a wonderful amethyst fetish from PradoLeather on Etsy. All that’s missing is a fantastic pen, but that’s a whole other article!