You discovered Writing Down Your Soul during a traumatic divorce and The Lotus and The Lily when you faced bankruptcy. Is there a story behind Soul Vows?
Oh yes! Early in my divorce, I stumbled upon a Divine Voice waiting for me every day on the page. I trusted that Voice and felt safe expressing the rage and fear roiling in my heart. One of my earliest diatribes was about vows. Marriage vows clearly didn't mean a thing, so I demanded to know if any vows counted. Within days David Whyte's The House of Belonging fell into my hands. The moment I read "All the True Vows," I picked up a pen and announced: I know what I want! I want true vows—vows to me, my self, my soul, and my God!
But "Dear God" steered me first to call up the false vows running the show from my unconscious. It was quite a surprise to discover how many false vows I had created and how powerful they were. After getting to know them and thanking them for trying to help me, I released them to the Divine in a sacred ceremony. Once I was free, I was ready to receive my soul vows. I've renewed these seven statements every day for over fourteen years. They are the most important prayer of my life.
After so many years, you must know these seven qualities pretty well. At some point are you finished with them and ready for new ones?
No, they are lifelong companions whose grace I can never exhaust. At first, I thought they were a two-way covenant: I commit to live a certain way and Spirit sends help to support me. At the beginning, I would speak both parts. For example, after I said "I live in partnership" I'd say "and You send me the partners." And indeed, that is how my life unfolded. Partners fell out of the sky without my asking: my agent, publisher, the Unity radio network—every day a new partnership.
But my vows are much more than a two-part covenant. They waited patiently until I was ready to embrace their deeper nature.
For example, for years, I thought "I come from love" meant I do my work with love. But one day as I was saying that vow, something shifted and I realized that isn't what that vow means at all. "Come from love" means I come from the divine nursery of love. I don't generate the love, I was generated by love. Do you hear the difference? Think of it, I was conceived in Love, born of Love, and continue to live in a womb of Love. I can barely say that vow without tearing up.
In Soul Vows you talk about the "new I." What's the "new I?"
The "new I" is the biggest mystery of soul vows—a secret they held for over a decade. I started teaching a Soul Vows telecourse in 2011 with a 125 page workbook with deep soul writing exercises to help people release their false vows and call in their soul vows. I anticipated writing Soul Vows based on that course material. But my soul vows had other plans.
On a spring morning in 2013, I curled up on a chaise lounge in my backyard with a new book. I noticed the pronoun "I" in quotation marks. I stopped reading. In a haze I wrote "Soul Vows brings the new I" in the margin. In that moment I knew with every cell of my being that when I speak my soul vows, I am not the only one speaking.
I rushed inside and stood in front of my soul vows, seeing them for the first time. I began to speak my first vow, "I unite to create good," as I always do but then I added, "I, the Divine, unite to create good in Janet, through Janet, and as Janet." By the time I said all seven with the "new I"—the Divine I—my soul vows had transformed themselves utterly from a beautiful spiritual practice to a mystical prayer of divine union.
My soul vows had still another surprise for me that I share in the fifth chakra in Soul Vows. And I'm sure my soul vows aren't finished with me yet.
The subtitle is provocative: gathering the Presence of the Divine in you through you and as you. Is that what you mean when you say soul vows are a mystical prayer?
Yes, exactly. Once I experienced the "new I"—the Divine I—in my soul vows, I couldn't miss the mystical truth: As I embody a particular divine quality I literally, not figuratively, bring the Presence of the Divine into earth in that tangible visible way.
Meister Eckhart said it like this: "God must simply become me and I must become God—so completely that this 'he' and this 'I' share one 'is' and in this 'isness' do one work eternally." It's astonishing enough to read this in Matthew Fox's Breakthrough, but now take it into your heart as true for you, not just for a great mystic.
Each one of us is called to share one "is" with the Divine. And soul vows makes it possible for each one of us in our own individual lives to embody and express some of that living Presence, that divine "isness." It does take the breath away.