When was the last time you read a book or an article and felt like it had been written just for you? In fact, you may have caught yourself wondering if your picture was going to be on the next page as an example of someone who has lived what the author has described. I know this has happened to me more than once in my lifetime.
I have been blessed many times through a book I’ve read. Sure, we often search out reading material that is relevant to our experience or curiosity at the time, so we might come to the experience already expecting ~ or at least hoping ~ we will be enlightened, validated, or soothed on some level. And it is a gift when we find exactly what we are looking for ~ most of the time!
I believe many authors ~ especially in the world of self-help and spirituality ~ seek to serve others through their writing. In fact, I have read comments and heard interviews with well-known writers who have expressed their writing practice has first and foremost been a self-transformative process ~ one that may have begun without any consideration as to whether it would serve others or not.
The Creative Energy of Writing
Writing is a creative endeavor whether we are journaling our private thoughts, developing professional materials, or writing the next best seller in creative fiction. When writing engages us on a holistic level, it becomes a channel through which we can express our deepest musings and lay bare our souls.
As Service Providers, we are often engaged in a variety of writing activities. In the traditional sense, we write case notes and progress reports outlining the details of our engagement with the people we are serving. We may write program reviews and other more business-like materials as an element of our position. Whether providing service traditionally or alternatively, we may have opportunities to write for publication or research dissemination over the course of our careers. There are countless opportunities to express ourselves through the written word.
How we choose to do this with the energy to serve others is important. The words we choose, the dedication to writing clear observations as opposed to personal opinion, the desire to demonstrate respect for privacy and compassion for the individual who will read it are all aspects of how we serve others through our writing.
Journaling can be one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal as Service Providers ~ tools can not only provide a safe space for the venting of emotions and challenges, but also a tool that helps guide you to the deepest parts of who you are and how you show up in service to others.
Through creative writing, we can lose ourselves in a private world of fantasy and make-believe that may have some similarity to our real-life experiences. Through this practice, we can create our own alternative endings ~ the ones that light up our hearts and spark our inspiration.
On this episode of Serving Consciously, I welcomed my guest, Joyce Sweeney.
Joyce Sweeney is the author of fourteen novels for young adults and two chapbooks of poetry. Her first novel, “Center Line”, won the First Annual Delacorte Press Prize for an Outstanding Young Adult Novel. Many of her books appear on the American Library Association’s Best Books List and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Her novel “Shadow” won the Nevada State Reading Award in 1997. Her novel “Players” was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Sports Book and by Working Mother magazine as a Top Ten for Tweens. Her novel, “Headlock” (Holt 2006), won a Silver Medal in the 2006 Florida Book Awards and was chosen by the American Library Association as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.
Her first chapbook of poems, “IMPERMANENCE”, was published in 2008 by Finishing Line Press. Her second chapbook, entitled “WAKE UP”, was released in February.
Joyce has also been a writing teacher and coach for 25 years, beginning with teaching five-week classes for the Florida Center for the Book, moving to ongoing invitation-only workshops and finally to online classes which reach students nationally and internationally. Developing strong bonds with the students, critiquing and instructing is her hallmark. She believes writers need emotional support as well as strong, craft-based teaching if they are to make the long, arduous, but very worthwhile journey to traditional publication. At this writing, 57 of Joyce’s students have successfully made this journey and obtained traditional publishing contracts.
In 2011, Joyce and a coalition of local playwrights, directors, and actors formed The Playgroup LLC, which conducts workshops for playwrights and actors and produces original works by local playwrights. The Playgroup currently presents three productions a year at their home base, The Willow Theatre in Boca Raton.
Joyce lives in Coral Springs with her husband, Jay and caffeine-addicted cat, Nitro. You can learn more about Joyce and her services on her website.
How has the service of writing touched your life?
How Astrology Enhanced My Spiritual Practice
I have always been interested in astrology, mostly for entertainment purposes. Over the years, I would spend time reading my horoscope in the paper or digging through the odd astrological book. I would kind of play it in whatever way suited me at the time. If I liked what was being said, then I bought into it. If I didn’t like it, I tossed it out. It’s just astrology, after all.
Well, that all changed for me about a year ago when I was introduced to a man who has spent his life researching, discovering, and developing an approach based in astrology and integrated with spiritual principles, making a real difference for me.
His name is Christopher Witecki and he discovered the 11 Steps to Sirius Joy. He is the Sensei to Sirius*JoY! Christopher is a psychic-astrologer, web TV series host, and software creator who combines his unique talents to form a cohesive life-coaching program for people seeking to find their joy and happiness. His weekday series “Namaste Today” provides daily spiritual guidance inspired by astrology and focuses on individual daily achievement with practical applications.
I’ll tell you more about Christopher late. For now, I want to tell you how these steps have changed my life.
Learning about the different states of being which exist within us has provided me with so much more information in order to understand the process we go through as we experience our lives and create our experience.
I’ve had a couple of key takeaways this past year that have changed the playing field for me entirely, both personally and professionally. Christopher taught me about the need for Self-Compassion and how deeply lacking I had been in this regard.
Previously, I had equated self-compassion with letting myself off the hook when I felt I had screwed up. It was really more like making excuses as opposed to genuine self-compassion.
Before, I thought it had to do with giving myself permission to be “lazy” instead of doing something for my health because after all, I deserved it. It was really a justification for my lack of follow through and commitment to myself and to my own wellbeing.
When I felt sad or afraid or anxious, my past behavior would be to go to something for relief as quickly as possible whether it was destructive or constructive. The goal was to get away from the feeling instead of acknowledging it and honoring its message.
When I most needed someone by my side ~ when I most needed to be by my own side ~ I was nowhere to be found. And I actually believed I was pretty good at demonstrating self-compassion. I mean, I knew I could be really hard on myself and wallow in guilt and shame for longer than I needed to, but still…
Well, I realized after absorbing the material I was learning from Christopher that I had a long way to go in my capacity for self-compassion.
When we are lacking in self-compassion it shows up in so many ways in our lives. We feel it in the times of resentment and remorse. We sense it when we step out of integrity and deny our own truth for any reason. We hear it when we tune into the bully inside our heads which never lets up. We recognize it when we see ourselves accepting scraps and crumbs because we don’t believe we deserve any better. We have settled.
Recently, I had an epiphany. The situation itself was small in the grand scheme of things but the insight and shift was profound.
I was sitting drinking my morning coffee ~ the only one I want and enjoy all day. A few seconds earlier when I had added the cream, I noticed there were a few flakes floating around and I got to scooping them out with a spoon. I took a little sniff followed by a little sip and thought to myself, “It’s okay…I can drink this.”
A few sips later, I was fully aware the cream was sour but I kept trying to convince myself it would be okay and I could just “suck it up,” so to speak. Suddenly, I realized at that moment, I didn’t even think enough of myself to pour it down the drain and make a fresh cup. I sat there trying to make my way through a cup of coffee I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Wow!
I declared right then and there this habit of settling for something or pretending something is good enough when it clearly isn’t was over in my life. Done. Finite. And I didn’t take another sip.
Later that morning, I heard Christopher say quite often we only think of self-compassion when we do the “big” things like leaving a toxic job situation or relationship, perhaps after suffering for many years. But, the truth is, acting with self-compassion is most powerful in response to the “little” things; the way we treat ourselves each day.
Another profound piece of Witecki Wisdom which has altered my life in the past year is this notion that my primary task on a day-to-day basis is to feel good. Wow! Really? Could it be that simple?
Well, when you think about it, it is. If I’m engaging in authentic self-compassion with a focus on my ability to feel good, I’m likely to be a much more powerful force for love in the world. I’ll bet you any Service I wish to extend to others will be more genuine, of higher quality, and ultimately fulfilling to me as well. If I’m feeling the love, there is a greater chance others will feel it, too.
I have come to realize honoring my heart’s desires is a very profound way to demonstrate self-compassion. I don’t have to make myself jump through hoops to prove I am worthy of what I want and need to make life safe, secure, comfortable, easy, and fun. And neither do you.
Witecki has pioneered a new arm of astrological study he calls “step astrology.” His method combines the knowledge of numerology, astrology, and sacred geometry into a definitive, step-by-step method to self-awareness. His approach known as “the 11º steps to Sirius*JoY” walks a person through a process of self-enlightenment, opening the doors for personal joy and manifesting abundance.
Born to a psychic beautician and a self-proclaimed Jedi knight, Christopher grew up in a spiritually eclectic household of Catholicism, Buddhism, Tarot, Star Wars, and the occult. He discovered his passion for studying astrology at age 19 while pursuing filmmaking at Columbia College, in Chicago Illinois.
In 2006, at age 33, Christopher launched his first YouTube web series, “Soul Horoscopes” where he hosted a video horoscope for all 12 signs, five days a week. (60 videos a week) He continued at this pace for five years, producing over 16,000 videos before moving on to host and produce a variety of free spiritual videos on topics ranging from Feng Shui to Archangels.
In July 2014, Christopher began his most recent web series, “Namaste Today.” Airing on weekdays, Christopher provides the “Zodiac Weather” of the day and dives into a fascinating spiritual topic with “Tea Time.” The series compliments his daily Sensei Service. To watch Christopher or book a personal reading with him, please visit www.siriusjoy.tv.
Believe me, I could go on and on but I would rather you learn more about the Steps to Sirius Joy from the Creator himself ~ Christopher Witecki. Chris joined me as my guest on the Spiritual Astrology episode of Serving Consciously.
Christopher’s work is mind-blowing and heart expanding. Where do you stand on the relationship between astrology and spirituality? Tune in to other live shows and become a part of the conversation.
Serving Consciously and The Art of Language
How often do you really pay attention to your choice of words as you express yourself?
Do you believe in the power of language to create an experience?
Constructive Use of Language
I have long believed in the power of language and the energy we create when we choose our words carefully and what happens when we don’t.
In health care and human services, for example, we are bombarded with labels, diagnoses, syndromes, and a plethora of academic and organizational language. Within the system we currently live in where funding for services is of great focus, this kind of terminology works in our favor when we are seeking access to services and supports.
We use this language to prove that the service is needed.
Destructive Use of Language
On the other hand, much of this language serves to perpetuate stigma, prejudice, discrimination, marginalization, and ultimately separation. We tend to become reliant on certain words and jargon in order to get our point across quickly. But is this really what it’s all about?
When I began my academic preparation for human services work, I was accepted into a program that was called Mental Retardation Counselor. Shortly, after the first semester began, the program was renamed and became Developmental Services Worker. We were encouraged right from the start to always think in terms of “person first.” So, instead of saying the “autistic child,” it was preferable to say the “child with autism.”
Feels like a step in the right direction, however, if we look closely, there is still an emphasis on “autism.” And while it is so important to be aware of and honor the unique characteristics and needs of each person we are serving, it is equally crucial that we do not use these terms and diagnoses to create a limited identity for people.
For example, if you are familiar at all with the word, “autism,” there are likely a whole slew of images, ideas, and interpretations you make almost automatically about the person I am describing. And whether you would describe these images as positive or negative, affirming or destructive, the jump to the conclusion is the real problem here. At that moment, intentional or not, we have put this person inside a particular “box.” We also do this when we refer to mental health, substance abuse, survivors of childhood trauma, and on and on.
Conscious Use of Language
The challenge is to continue to open our minds so that we learn from each individual we serve and those we are blessed with in our personal lives what it means to be them. How does this person live their identity? What ELSE makes them who they are?
How can I use language to demonstrate my openness and willingness to learn about the people who come into my life? How can I speak in ways that show my deep respect for humanity and my commitment to acceptance?
This is an ongoing challenge for those of us involved in Vocations of Service. It is a continual process of integration of new knowledge, self-reflective practice, and engagement with others.
It is about being conscious as we choose the words which will best express our clearest and deepest intentions and beliefs. And if we get tongue-tied, we can always come back with something new to say.
What do you wish to see in your Service to others? How can you communicate with others so they know what you are all about?
What do you intend to create and contribute to this world? How would you explain this to a child?
If you could imagine the best possible scenario in your communities, what language would best describe it?
This is just a glimpse of a much larger discussion.
I dove more deeply into this material in this episode of Serving Consciously with my guest, Valerie Marks.
Valarie Marks is a retired public school teacher who left her career at the age of 32 to start an educational services organization grounded in the principles of Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs;” an organization providing parents and educational institutions with resources to best nurture, protect, and educate the generations here to Re-create our world.
During her time in the classroom, Valarie also developed an English Language Arts curriculum which uses rhythmic thought patterns to teach academics, not only to build analytical skills within Common Core, but also to open up the student’s psyche for creativity and receptivity.
Valarie is also a mother to three children of her own, ages 10, 8, and 6. Because one of her sons was identified as autistic just months after her leap of faith into retirement, Valarie’s life mission in creating the “Maslow Educational Services Organization” took a sharp turn, pulling her out of the classroom entirely and deep into the world of Autism. With a population each so uniquely divine, this new chapter deepened her understanding of the needs and challenges facing the youth of today.
Valarie is currently stepping back into the classroom through her new company, “Marks Education,” where the mission is to teach children how to look at the whole English language for its individual parts, so they can craft their own words to accurately express their ideas, thoughts, and feelings, as well as to keenly understand the words and intentions of others.
She also speaks her Truth to a more intellectual audience through blogs on her Facebook page ~ Valarie Marks, through writing and short videos on topics about self-acceptance, intimacy, and unconditional love.
Valarie is here to talk about how she is serving consciously through her life mission: teaching adults how to nurture, protect, and educate a generation here to deconstruct our current world not just to restore it, but creatively recreate life as we know it into a beautiful future.
Valarie’s work is so important for those of us who wish to be actively involved in recreating the world.
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Does language have energy and power in your books? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Conscious Service and Expressive Healing Arts
How do we honor history and heritage in ways that help us powerfully integrate our past experiences with our present lives?
What helps us heal when we struggle with a sense of loss or grief?
How do we create our identity if we feel a sense of disconnection?
Tribute and ritual are common methods for finding peace within the turmoil.
Tribute is defined as an expression of gratitude and praise. It is meant to honor and acknowledge someone or something.
We can pay tribute to past experiences as a way of appreciating the opportunity for growth provided to us. We can express gratitude for the most challenging situations if we are able to see deeply into the tiny, yet profound gifts of wisdom buried beneath the muck.
Healing Through Art
What comes to mind when I say “Art Therapy?”
Traditionally, we have reserved this for those situations involving children who are not yet able to put language to their experience. Or, we may think of it as a medium for any individual who is unable to express verbally perhaps, as a result of disability or injury. Very often, we associate it with healing from trauma.
And this is all very true.
However, healing through Expressive Arts is a modality that can benefit anyone. Further, it does not necessarily need to be considered trauma in the most dramatic sense of the word. We can consider even the tiniest traumas that sometimes have a profound impact on our souls.
Expressive Healing Arts can include anything from painting and drawing to poetry and creative writing. You might be more inclined toward music or dance as an expression of your emotional state. Maybe your feelings speak through sculpture or jewelry design. And it doesn’t matter if you are not an expert artist. It’s all about giving voice to what you feel without the specific language.
Expressive Healing Arts with Mele Kramer
Expressive Healing Arts is the focus of this episode of Serving Consciously. I welcome my guest and an expert in this area, Mele Kramer.
Currently, Mele is pursuing her Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology/Consulting Psychology. She completed her undergraduate studies at New York University where she studied Psychology, Education, and Art and Expressive Therapies. She has been an Executive Leader in Healthcare and Education for over 15 years working in public and private sectors including hospitals, institutions, and corporations as an Educator and Leader, Public Speaker, and Change Consultant.
Her recent work has been within the cardiovascular specialty area, focusing on Leadership Training and Development with Clinicians in Hospitals with an emphasis on Transition of Care to expand awareness, education, and connection within services including alternative options for preventative and post follow up care with the goal of optimizing costs to optimize healthcare services and wellness.
Mele’s current focus is on integrative healthcare with a spotlight on harmonizing traditional and alternative health care approaches through awareness and education. She has been a guest speaker in hospitals, conferences and educational and healthcare institutions facilitating interactive creative expressive therapy and healing workshops.
In addition, Mele advocates for International Adoptees and organizations supporting the healing of children and adults of domestic violence and abuse. Her workshops include 100,000 Kranes for my Mother (healing tribute for Korean Adoptees), Dol Jabbi, (A Rebirthday Process) and Journey to Joy, (Phoenix Process), and Reclaiming YOU (following abusive experiences).
Benefits of Expressive Healing Arts
There is a transformative energy to expressing ourselves through creative or artistic activities. Engaging in these alternative practices allows us to get out of our own way, so to speak.
You might notice when you try to process your emotions by talking about them it’s easy to get stuck in the thoughts surrounding the feelings. In this way, we get lost in the mental pursuit of trying to understand. Now, there are benefits to exploring our interpretations of the experiences we have; it’s part of integrating the meaning it holds for us. However, it is also true some of our experiences are never going to make sense to us no matter how long we think or talk about them.
When we express ourselves in other ways, we open the door to hearing and giving voice to what emerges from our Soul. We tap into this divine wisdom allowing us to heal and to emerge stronger as a result of the circumstance. It’s in this space that acceptance is possible. We don’t think our way into integration and transformation; we feel it.
Expressive Healing Arts taps into the other side of our brain where we can access creativity and intuition. We turn off the thoughts taking us away from the truth of our hearts. This enables us to be present and engaged with our own internal process and sometimes that is all it takes.
Paying attention to our emotional state acknowledges and honors our experience and provides the opportunity for us to learn whatever is available to us through it.
How have you used artistic practices to help you heal?
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