Creating from the Spirit
Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography
When I finished my memoir Returning: A Spiritual Journey, I began to think how the whole book originated from a powerful workshop I took at King’s Chapel called “Religious Autobiography,” taught by the minister of the time, Rev. Carl Scovel. I had an impulse to “pass on” some version of that experience to others—not as a “religious” workshop, since I am not a minister nor do I have any training as a “religious” of any kind in that field—but perhaps to offer it to an audience that would not be restricted to people with a connection to any religious institution, but to offer that kind of experience to anyone interested in the “spiritual” or in “spirituality” or in following or finding a “spiritual path” in life. I had been asked to give workshops in fiction or journal writing at The Boston Center for Adult Education, but I didn’t feel any calling to do that, and I asked them if they would be interested in offering a course called “Spiritual Autobiography.” The staff people I spoke with at The BCAE said they had no idea if such a subject would appeal to their audience, but they would put it in their catalog and see if it drew any interest.
I was told that for a course to go forward at The Center at that time, a minimum of twelve people would have to sign up for it. Neither the Center staff not I had any idea how many—if any!—would show up that first night, but when I walked into the classroom where the course was scheduled, there were twelve people sitting around a table.
Several of those people invited me to come and do the course at their church, and then I was asked to do it for a weekend retreat, so I had to reshape the course so that it could be offered in a two-day workshop. The original course was given over eight weeks, and each participant did the writing for the week at home and brought it to the next class and read to the class. I realized that for the shorter, more intensive format, people would have to write while in the class, and read to the class. I made the time of writing shorter, following each exercise that was given to stimulate the ideas for the writing. I found that giving people a shorter time to write led to better writing! When they did the writing at home and had a whole week to work on it, they started thinking about how other people would react to what they wrote, and they edited and rewrote so that the original flow of ideas and feelings became watered down. I was amazed at how powerful the writing became when it had to be done in a limited time—there wasn’t time to re-think, to out-guess yourself, to worry about what anyone else might think of it. The writing just flowed, and was fresh and heartfelt. I loved this way of doing it, and so did the participants.
Since those original beginnings in and around Boston, word spread, and since the first workshops in 1985 I have given them in churches, synagogues, monasteries, retreat centers, health spas, and prisons throughout the U.S., Northern Ireland, and Mexico. A book grew out of the workshops that included the writing of participants, called The Story of Your Life: Writing a Spiritual Autobiography. Originally published by Beacon Press, a new edition of the book has been brought out by Beech River books and is now available.
Some people who had done that workshop began to ask if there wasn’t another one they could do, with a different kind of emphasis and new exercises to stimulate the stories of their experience. Out of those requests I developed a new workshop called “Creating from The Spirit,” and I have now given that workshop as well in similar venues through the country – and like the fist workshop, a new book came out of it, called Creating from the Spirit. This book has also now been re-published by Beech River Books.
“Miracles … seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perception being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.”
Each of us has a rich source of creativity within us, a living well of ideas, stories, pictures, and dreams.
Author Dan Wakefield leads us through fascinating exercises in drawing and writing, and meditations on music and natural objects (trees, flowers, plants) to help us appreciate and use our own creativity.
Breaking the myth of drugs and alcohol as stimulants to creative work, we see how clarity is the key to the natural process of creation.
We learn to develop our creative resources through the use of journaling and other exercises, and discuss how to build a personal environment to maximize creativity.
Ideas are shared in breaking the “creative slump”, respecting the part that discipline plays in creativity, and learning how to use creativity in our daily life and work, whatever it may be.
“An effective way of addressing some of life’s bigger questions: What’s the purpose of your life? What values are most important to you? What have you learned? Have you been true to your ideals?”
“Bottom Line: An atmosphere of joyful self-discovery and community seems to prevail.”
“The results are amazing. Not only do the members in the workshop come to trust one another, and become a sort of .spiritual support group – with “spiritual” defined the way each member chooses – but the writing is terrific.”
—The Boston Globe
“(Wakefield) thinks of himself less as a teacher, than as a stage manager who sets up the framework for people to … bring into conscious awareness things that otherwise would remain submerged.”
—New Age Journal
“A rare chance to fan flames of vitality you think may have gone out. Dan Wakefield is a gifted, engaging, wise man. This was one of the richest experiences of my life.”
—Allan Cox, management consultant,
author of Straight Talk for Monday Morning