Truth is within ourselves, it takes no rise
from outward things; whate’er you may believe
there is an inmost center in us all
where truth abides in fullness; and around,
wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
this perfect, clear perception which is Truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds it and makes all error; and to know
rather consists in opening out a way
whence the imprisoned splendor may escape
than in effecting entry for a light
supposed to be without.
Robert Browning, from “Paracelsus”
I have written in journals since the age of 16, which is the same time I began to consult the I Ching. Up until emails, I typically wrote a letter a week to someone. My first book, published back in 1989, was motivated by my having a brother with schizophrenia and not finding any safe or worthwhile help in the form of groups. Support groups existed, but what they supported was down right dangerous to the integrity of most participants. In my creating and writing the book on an 8 Stage Healing Process for families and friends of the mentally ill, I began to heal myself. (The publisher at the time wanted to have “coping” in my subtitle. I said absolutely not –– people cope in all sorts of dysfunctional ways.) I then trained others to hold 8 Stage groups around the US, Canada and Australia. Since 1999, The Eight Stage Process has been Australia’s primary program for families with mental illness. The integrity of groups became a theme for me. One way I discovered (among many) to maintain the integrity of a circle is to create a safe place for individuals to share their stories in a sacred manner.
“Everybody walks in the street, more or less straight down the middle, and if a car comes while somebody’s having a good conversation or telling a good story, the car has to wait till the story finishes before people will move out of the way. Stories are important here, and cars aren’t.” Ann Cameron, The Most Beautiful Place in the World
While still training others to set up 8 Stage groups, I was asked to write a book for teens who have mental illness in the family and went on to write two more books for this publisher. What I was discovering for myself, through my writing and vocation, is that my spiritual practice was deeply connected to my writing life. In fact, they could not be separated. Every book I wrote had a personal and transformational impact on my inner and outer life. When I moved back to Wisconsin in 1995, I wanted to let go of my work around mental illness. But I continued my research and work on the integrity of groups, which soon included the integrity of group facilitators and leaders. I started to work on my first spiritually-themed young adult book: The Thundering Years: Rituals & Sacred Wisdom for Teens. Here too I invited the young adult reader to explore spirituality for themselves. I offered multicultural perspectives, reflecting the diversity of options we all have in spiritual teachings. I encouraged reliance on nature and community as way to discover and listen to their inner truth, as well as to feel their connection to life out beyond themselves. His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote an introduction for this book, encouraging young adults to “trust their inherent intelligence” as a way to understand themselves and others. During this time I encountered many spiritual teachers, some steeped in integrity, too many who abused their positions in a variety of ways. All my books included what to look out for, or in, a spiritual teacher, counselor, coach or groups.
I began to offer the Initiation Course for adults, a year-long circle that met up every week. The central theme of this course was to discover for yourself your own inner light and spiritual practice. This course became a book, so that others could create safe and dynamic circles for others to discover their own spiritual truths and practices. An entire chapter is devoted to teachers and groups. The Wheel of Initiation. I write about spiritual seduction (share some of my personal story around this) and what to expect in a safe circle and how to identify a “good” teacher.
“Finding what we already possess may seem like a strange goal for a spiritual path. Yet the process of finding may provide us more joy than if the universe delivered all its secrets to us without any effort on our part.” Neil Douglas-Klotz, The Sufi Book of Life
“You cannot own the power and the magic of this world. It is always available, but it does not belong to anyone.” Chögyam Trungpa , Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior
So much of my work and writing is about Trusting our own personal experiences. To trust our personal experiences we must know how to listen to that inner teacher, that inner knowing that is always there–to find what we already possess.
I have been blessed by both false teachers and true teachers. I went on to write about living the Zero Point Agreement, and offer circles now, that invite us to live life from within and from our side. In my earlier explorations on how to hold a safe circle that allows for personal awakening I came across the books and teachings of Parker J Palmer. I continue to rely on his teachings on how to hold Circles of Trust. Presently I am writing a book based on Parker’s core teachings and themes. In my writing of this book I continue to discover more about myself and the world of which I am a part. To further my exploration and the sharing of his teachings, I am offering a monthly spiritual circle: The Red Thread. The theme is: The Red Thread: Explorations & Practices for Claiming the Active Life based on Parker J Palmer’s work. (Begins this May, with room for 4 more.)
“But this I can claim: every time we get in touch with the true source we carry within, there is net moral gain for all concerned. Even if we fail to follow its guidance fully, we are nudged a bit further in that direction. And the next time we are conflicted between inner truth and outer reality, it becomes harder to forget or deny that we have an inner teacher who wants to lay a claim on our lives.” Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness
I write, I explore, I discover, I share more in my writing and in my circles. I write more, I discover more . . .
I trust my experiences and discoveries.
I am deeply blessed. But this wouldn’t be so, I wouldn’t have been able to turn so much dirt into soil, had it not been for my willingness to explore through my writing and to trust what I discovered on the page and then to trust my experiences off the page.
“Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it.
Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.”
“Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
“Writing, above all, is seeing clearly.” Peter Mathiessen, Letters from the Wild
The Courage to Be Yourself: Awakening the Zero Point Circle in Madison. Starts April 26th. An added benefit will be your ability to hold and facilitate transpersonal circles of your own. We explore many ways to hold circles that encourage personal and collective integrity. http://www.julietallardjohnson.com/calendar/49
Transformational Journaling Writing for Health Care Professionals: in this “learn by doing” workshop, you practice the various techniques as well as create journaling prompts in dyads. This workshop gives professionals evidence-based journaling techniques and journaling prompts to help clients transform negative states to more positive ones and to increase success in treatment. The techniques help clients dealing with pain, depression, resistance, self-abuse, anxiety, and panic disorder. http://www.julietallardjohnson.com/calendar/64
Write by the Lake http://www.julietallardjohnson.com/calendar/40 A week with me,your book & about 12 other writers. I will be offering a 5 day class: Turn Your Life Experiences into an Inspiring Book: Mystic, Mistress, Master. This takes place on the beautiful UW-Madison campus through the UW Continuing Studies Fun! Inspiring! And you will be further along with your book idea than you have ever dreamed possible.