People who know me hear me talk of Turkey a lot and observe me searching out Turkish shops, cafes and the like. It sounds as if I travelled to Turkey earlier this year. I have talked about going back to Turkey, specifically Istanbul, but I was actually first there in the spring of 1998. That’s a long time ago! The goddess pilgrimage I took to ancient sites in Turkey had a profound effect. That pilgrimage and the one taken a few years before it to Crete, led me to begin offering women’s writing circles back home in Toronto where I lived at the time.
Learning about peaceful, ancient communities where women were honoured and men were supportive allies, gave me hope that we could do it again. Telling our stories to one another, in a circle, was a practice I wanted to continue at home.
I’m pleased to say that I have a new writing resource called Writing to Map Your Spiritual Journey. It’s available as a PDF workbook of eight chapters with lots of writing practice suggestions on the International Association for Journal Writing (IAJW) website. I’m a member of the IAJW Journal Council and thanks to Lynda Monk, Director of the IAJW, the materials I have used in writing circles for many years have become a new workbook beautifully designed by Mark Hand.
You can find out lots more about it and order it here.
Photo/collage: The Mother Goddess of Catal Hoyuk, Anatolia
from Chapter 7: “Honouring Your Ancestors”
Athough I say “new,” this workbook has been twenty years in the making. Some women who are still on my mailing list and may be reading this, attended a “Remembering the Goddess: Mapping Your Spiritual Journey” women’s writing circle in Toronto or a weekend retreat in Durham, Ontario just before I moved to Guelph.
Once in Guelph (about 40 miles east of Toronto for those who don’t know Ontario), women attended a writing circle in the Mermaid Mansion. Although I don’t call the writing circles “Flying Mermaids” as I first did, I still have a mermaid called Moira Oenia who says: “Embrace Your Creative Self.” You’ll see her in the website header above.
And I’m recalling a one-day women’s event at Nakoda Lodge in Alberta where I facilitated a writing portion of the day. I thought each table of women could follow a prompt and share with one another in small circles within the larger one of 125 women. But I decided the women would find value in sharing their stories at the microphone at the front of the room and as it turns out, they did. Speaking one’s truth out loud on the page or at a microphone, is a powerful act.
There was a time since moving to Nanaimo, B.C. that I sent out monthly instalments of “ Remembering the Goddess: Mapping Your Spiritual Journey”. My partner, Sarah Clark, designed those pages and it’s always a thrill to see my words take on a new life when pleasingly presented on the page.
Renewal and Connection
I used the theme of “remembering the goddess” in a Writing Life circle as well as in an eight-week women’s circle I called “Remembering Our Earth Mother: Remembering Ourselves.” That was at Bethlehem Centre in Nanaimo by Westwood Lake where there is a labyrinth we could walk. We also did some circle dancing thanks to Larissa Coser who led us. I have fond memories of that restorative circle of renewal and connection.
Drawing of my grandfather’s garden
from Chapter 6: “Memory Walk”
I’m very fond of the “mapping” theme and have used it in other writing circles. I suppose as I am fond of pilgrimage to sacred sites and I consider writing a pilgrimage, creating our own map as we go, applies to both types of pilgrimage.
I’m especially honoured to be leading women’s writing circles, continuing to do so since 1997. Although I had experience in other sorts of women’s circles (consciousness raising, self-help), I realized in 1995 when I travelled on a goddess pilgrimage to Crete with Carol Christ, that writing was my wellness art. And leading women’s writing circles naturally followed as it meant having companions along the way to honour our voices together.
As I can’t be in circles with everyone in various locations in the world, I hope we’ll connect in the larger circle we’re all part of through the guidebook: Writing to Map Your Spiritual Journey.
Moving Beyond “Who Cares?”
For many, the past several months during the Covid-19 pandemic has meant a time of low energy with more valleys than peaks. My energy was just returning after having surgery in 2016. It look a long time to get out of my “ho hum” state, and now, during this time of all times, I’m having a look at various projects to either let them go or move them into the world to share with others.
There are highs and lows during the writing of a book and often a feeling of who cares? That is part of any creative process.
And there can be lots of lows when trying to market one’s manuscript to a publisher. I had the good fortune of contacting Lynda Monk, Director of the IAJW, who welcomed the workbook with enthusiasm.
Now that the workbook is designed and ready to go, there is the marketing aspect. People need to know it’s available. I wrote the “sales pages” for the IAJW website and had my partner Sarah help me with the wording. It’s difficult to describe your own material and having fresh eyes really helped.
Sometimes we learn all we need to learn by writing for ourselves. When we want to share our stories and insights with others, we may send them to a friend or consider having a blog like this one. Some material needs to continue to have a life beyond the writing circles, beyond the blog, and so I’m standing up for it and sending it further afield.
Journal with salal, shells and Islamic prayer beads
from Chapter 1: “Getting Started on a Regular, Self-Nourishing Spiritual Practice
In a time when people may be wondering “what’s it all about?,” I think a grounding and centring practice like journaling is a supportive wellness practice. Getting to know ourselves and what matters to us is so important as we make decisions and anticipate what’s next. And I find that we need to listen to ourselves first before we can listen to others.
As I thought about promoting Writing to Map Your Spiritual Journey, I realized I needed to really step into the work to acknowledge it, own it, really embody it as being important, relevant, necessary. One of my friends, Andrea Mathieson, said that I “have been very faithful to this deep and powerfully restorative work” and she is right. It’s time for me to honour that.
We wise crones, need to stand up for who we are and what our truth is.
Andrea mentioned “the importance of honouring the “following through” on whatever calls us, at the deepest level of our being,” Here’s Andrea’s website so you can learn more about her: www.andreamathieson.com.
The prose narrative that seeks us out
I’m thinking a lot about a quote of Betsy Warland’s. She said: “Our confidence must be in the poem or prose narrative that has sought us out. Chosen us to write it. Then doubt falls away.” www.betsywarland.com
I’m thinking as well as confidence, trust. I remember Richard Van Camp once saying: “Writing is a dance of trust.” And I’m thinking about the poem or prose narrative that has sought us out. Betsy’s quote has me realizing my accountability to the work, to honour it, stand up for it, and not shy away from its importance.
So, as it turns out the physical journeys to Crete and Turkey were pilgrimages and the writing circles with companions were writing pilgrimages and putting my words into the world is a pilgrimage too. The sharing with others is also a spiritual journey, putting what I’ve learned into the world, not really knowing where it will end up.
Guest Author Bio: Mary Ann Moore is a writing teacher, poet and author. She is also an IAJW Journal Council Expert. You can learn more about her work on her website at http://maryannmoore.ca