The Progoff Journal Writing Workshop

I have just listened to Michael Hyatt's excellent podcast on the 7 Benefits of Keeping a Journal.
The Progoff Journal Workshop was one of the things that changed my life, and I have done it periodically since my first experience back in 1997.
Kate Scholl is one of the only Progoff teachers working in Australia, so I thought I'd ask her a few questions about reading, journalling and  the benefits of introspection:

1.    How important is journal writing - do you think it is an essential tool when it comes to personal and spiritual development?

It is an individual choice. For myself writing is very much part of who I am. I have always loved writing. However, I have had people attend Journal workshops who were not writers and did not enjoy writing before they came, but loved the Intensive Journal and what it evoked in them. Using writing in the way Progoff suggests allows the wisdom and deep knowing about who we are and what we might do to emerge. So, for me, it is essential, but I would not say that is true for all.
Journaling is not my only spiritual practice, there are many and have been many throughout my life. The Intensive Journal engages with those practices for me, and they become part of a whole process of integration in my life.

2.    What is your favourite tool of Progoff’s – what makes his journal system stand out from anyone else’s?

Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal system stands out because of the active methodologies it is based on and uses. He did not set out to create a system of Journal writing; he set out to enable people to tap into the natural flow of their life and to learn from that. He knew that connecting the inner and the outer was the key to creativity, living authentically and engaging in life truthfully.
The Intensive Journal has simple methods/tools to make these connections. At first it may not seem like much, but after a few hours in the workshop, people start to realise that they are exploring deeply and truly their life, with its pains, joys, losses and successes. Parts that may have been put away, or ‘shelved’ because they were too difficult sometimes emerge. In my own experience, creativity is deeply connected to acknowledging our suffering, our woundedness and letting that have a voice and eventually be transformed.
Kahil Gibran wrote, “That which gives us the greatest joy also gives us the greatest pain.” So there is no exploration of pain that is joyless. If we cut off our feelings to pain, we cut off our feelings to joy as well.

3.    Does journaling help you to reach your goals? If so, how?

The Journal has been especially important for me through crucial life changes. At times when I did not know how to proceed in my life, using the Journal and its methods, helped me to recognise the gifts and strengths I had to carry me forward. I came to the awareness for me that material goals were inconsequential compared to living authentically and truthfully and in deep connection to others.
The Intensive Journal assists with goals in practical ways. In a workshop many years ago, a participant said after doing her dialogue with work that she now had a business plan for her new venture. Other people have reconnected with lost avocations in areas such as music and sport. In working with her dreams and other writing, a participant came to realise she needed to leave the job she was in as it was stifling her spirit.

4.    Who do you think can benefit most from following Progoff’s journaling system?

Although the Intensive Journal is a tool for our whole life, people who seem to benefit or 'take' to the Journal often describe themselves in one or more of the following ways:
•    At a place of exploring new options for their life
•    Feel stagnated or 'blocked' in creative or other projects
•    Coming out of a place of grief, crisis or difficulty and seeking to further their healing.
•    Have an increasing awareness that there is a depth dimension in their life and looking for means to explore that.
•    Express a sense that there is more to life than they are currently experiencing
•    At a crossroads, or aware of shifting perspectives or new awarenesses

5.    Could you tell us some books you loved when you were a child or a young woman? And any books you’d like to recommend now? Have you ever been inspired by a self-help or spiritual book?

As a child I read the Happy Hollisters, who were a detective family making the world a better place. I remember reading Helen Keller and Dr Tom Dooley’s autobiographies. I was attracted to their development and coming to know what meaning their life had.
In my early teens, the Vietnam war was raging and I became a peace activist in my own early adolescent way living in a small Midwest town in the USA. I read Joan Baez’s, Daybreak, again and again, and was so taken with the ending where she addressed the reader: “You, dear reader, You are Amazing Grace.  You are a Precious Jewel. You --special, miraculous, unrepeatable, fragile, fearful, tender, lost, sparkling ruby emerald jewel, rainbow splendor person. It's up to you.” Wow, that blew me away! I think I took those words to heart and still do.
In my twenties, I discovered May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude, and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, who both inspired me to write from my soul and not fear depth of feeling, exploration or solitude. They reinforced the non conformist ways I had developed as a teenager! Then I came to read Parker Palmer....Let Your Life Speak, being one of my favourites. More recently I have been drawn to David Whyte and his very poetic way of describing the urgent call to explore our soul. There are many many others of course.
Of the many novels I have loved, Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is one of my favourites as is Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. They both tell stories of heroines who found their way through difficulties, following what they knew to be true for them and the people they loved.
And I do have to say I really enjoyed Eat Pray Love.... I found Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey quite real and I loved how she described discovering community in Italy, the interior life in India and the importance of heart in Indonesia.
This quote from Eat Pray Love says what the Intensive Journal means for me as well as expressing the process it leads us to, an interior journey. “We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy's fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure--your perfection--is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.”
And the interior journey leads us outward again, to be activists, politicians, writers, parents, carers, philosophers, teachers, artists, dancers, poets, managers, spiritual guides,executives, entrepreneurs, etc..... Once we have discovered the wealth that lies within we can never be the same. As the Skin Horse said to the Velveteen Rabbit, ‘Once you are real, you can never become unreal again. It lasts for always." 

The Progoff system is a very particular and structured method of journal keeping devised by Ira Progoff in the 1960s. Progoff was deeply inspired by the work and thinking of Jung, and felt that deep meditation, careful journalling and paying attention to dreams were all ways in which we could access our psyche and possibly improve our lives.
The method is taught in a series of workshops, where the student is given a set of old-school cardboard dividers which help contain all of the different journal experiences Progoff details in his book At A Journal Workshop.

Though I only pick up my Progoff journal a couple of times a year, I find that doing the workshop is immensely valuable, and time and time again it has lead to breakthroughs in creativity, spirituality and personal understanding.

My Progoff Journal

This also taps in to an excellent book I have been working with, and which I reviewed over at the Universal Heart Book Club: Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner.

This book also sets out a deeply meditative journalling system that covers 30 days, and which I have found to be incredibly motivating and beneficial.

New Books for March 2013 - Biography

I will confess to feeling utterly overwhelmed. I knw there is nothing duller than someone complaining about all the things they have to do, but honestly, if I allow myself to stop and actually consider my schedule over the coming months I do get very nervous. Best thing to do is avoid it totally and immerse myself in some thoroughly diversionary reading. Here are some new biographies I have picked up that should help me with that:

Facing the Torturer by Francois Bizot - I read Bizot's completely brilliant memoir of his experiences under the Khmer Rouge, The Gate, many years ago, and it still remains one of my favourite books. This is his new book, an exploration of his relationship with Comrade Duch, the man responsible for murdering and torturing thousands of people in Cambodia.

Jean Cocteau and the French Scene by Various Authors - A collection of essays and articles looking at the enormous influence of auteur Jean Cocteau on French and international culture. It's no secret I adore Cocteau, and I look forward to learning more about him in this fascinating-looking book.

Not Quite Nirvana by Rachel Neumann - Thich Nhat Hanh's publisher becomes a Buddhist after reading him for years. This sounds like great fun, and what an intriguing premise for a book. Will also get me into the mood for going to see Thich Nhat Hanh in Hong Kong in May.

Max Factor by Fred E. Basten - I have always been intrigued by the great beauty moguls: Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, Max Factor etc. They are household names and yet so little was ever said about them. 

Andy Warhol by Tony Scherman and David Dalton - I must have read half a dozen Warhol biographies, but I am always keen to read another one. I want to be him, so I am looking for tips.

A Newer You - Personal Change Workshop in Sydney

I suppose there are a lot of personal change workshops in Sydney - I am just not that aware of them. I certainly don't normally endorse them or write about them on my blog.
But this one is different. It is being run by my dear friend and teacher, Julian Duckworth, developed from content he delivered at a brilliant talk I attended last year.

Julian Duckworth

I can guarantee that Julian's gentle, inclusive and loving wisdom and respectful attitude will suit anyone who wanted to do a bit of personal development.
Another thing - and  this is important - the whole half-day workshop is only $5! You don't get spiritual sustenance for that kind of money any more.
So do check your calendars and, if you possibly can, get along to this fascinating workshop.
Full details:

Pathways towards personal change

A half-day workshop on
transformative living

Presented by Julian Duckworth.

On Saturday morning, April 13th from 9.30 a.m. until 1.30 p.m.
Venue: Swedenborg Centre, 1 Avon Road, North Ryde NSW 2113
Cost: only for the morning tea, $5

This is a great opportunity to be with others and explore the possibilities of making and experiencing meaningful changes in yourself and your life. The aim of this workshop is to provide ways and means to confidently identify and develop these changes.

The workshop will be fairly interactive and it will also have some presentations in which the scope for personal change will be looked at.
Here are some of the areas we will explore –
You are already a great person!   
 Some realities in wanting to change
Things we might not wish to change about ourselves
Feelings and emotions in it all
Selecting our methods and getting on with it
We look forward to you joining us and we hope you find it useful.
Bookings are not essential, but it helps us if you can let us know a few days in advance that you intend to be there.
Telephone: (02) 9888 1066

Joy Hopwood on inspiration, acting and positive friendships

Actor and author Joy Hopwood

Joy Hopwood is best known to Australians as one of our most beloved Play School presenters. She was, in fact, the first Asian presenter on that legendary show, and one of the pioneers in champtioning diversity in popular Australian culture.
This month, Joy is presenting a brand new play, The Wong Side of Life, as a fundraising effort for the Cancer Council. It is a totally original production that features actors and puppets dealing with sensitive issues like race, bullying, death and illness. You can book tickets for this show (presented at The Concourse in Chatswood, Sydney) here.

I thought I'd ask her a few questions about life, luck and dreams:

Where do you see yourself in 5 year’s time?

I would have another book published and a television series.

Tell us about an inspiring book you’ve read lately.

The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do. It’s an inspiring book by a great Australian comedian –Anh Do. He and his family came to Australia by boat and survived the journey. They started off with nothing and worked hard to survive. They never wanted any pity; they just worked hard in life, especially his mum. Anh was persistent and determined to follow his dream to become a comedian. They showed great resilience and gratitude to the opportunities this lucky country gave them. I love how people just get along with life and never feel sorry for themselves. His mother’s character reminds me of my mother’s attitude to life.

What inspired you to become an actor?

When I was on my final (drama teaching) prac in Western Australia, two children- an aboriginal boy and a Chinese girl - told me that they wanted to get into acting when they finish school, but they never saw anyone who looked like themselves on TV. They said, “Why should we even try?” I told them not to give up their dream and if I can be the first regular Asian presenter on Play School, then they can achieve their dream too. I just hope they saw me.

Joy Hopwood in Play School days

What are some tips you would give to someone wanting to build a career in a creative industry, be it acting, dance, art or writing?

To have patience and never give up their dream and to be prepared to work hard for their goals. I’ve had many knock backs; it took me 14 years to get my first piece published in Growing Up Asian in Australia, (edited by Alice Pung- Black Inc Books) and Chinese Australian Women’s Stories. Plus I had to audition twice for Play School.

Have you ever experienced a miracle?

I would say the miracles of life are the unexpected ‘random acts of kindness’ I experience day to day, which I record in my grateful journal.

The Cast of The Wong Side of Life

What are you most grateful for in life right now?

I’m grateful for the friends I have and the people I work with who have a sense of ‘community’ and ‘gratefulness’ within and who never complain or are negative….I tend to have positive friends and I like to work with positive people who don’t have egos.

Partnering for Success

Listening to the Copyright Clearance Center's Beyond the Book podcast, I heard an exellent interview with Kate Gale, co-founder of Red Hen Press. Red Hen Press is a very small publishing house that has found some success through partnering with various venues in Manhattan to do a series of readings that promoted their books and their authors. This was an incredibly inspiring and insightful podcast which I recommend you listen to closely. They found their success as a small publisher through establishing some strategic partnerships, principally with cafes, bars and poetry groups.
It occurred to me that this kind of approach might work just as well for the individual author, or the promoter of any kind. Too often we think we have to do it all, when some of the energy we expend can be more productively diverted into working out how you can increase your chances of success through symbiotically ensuring the success of others.
In this piece I am thinking principally of authors, but if you are working in another field you can get your thinking cap on and imagine just what kinds of partnership might work best for you.
It’s important, too, to remember that partnering has to always be a win-win situation. You have to be willing to do as much – or more – work than your partner, especially if it’s your idea. So below see a few ideas that this podcast has inspired, and a couple of examples from my own experience, of how promotional partnering could work in the best interests of you and your potential partner:

1)    Establishing a place in your local community – It might seem hokey, but by having a stake in the community you can be seen as “the local writer.” This is actually a really helpful position, especially when a new book comes out. You establish a really loyal core of fans, and nobody is more supportive than local media. At the very least you should establish close relationships with the local newspapers and be sending them stories – not just about you, but about other people and events that you know they would be interested in. Your nearest local library is also a tremendous source of support and, when the time comes, publicity. I have also had really good results from attaching myself to the efforts of my local plae of worship, and from blogging about interesting local businesses. Invite famous friends to local events and organise some media. Work up a story about your favourite local restaurant, or the cafe where you do your writing, and send out a press release. Do some helpful stuff for your local writing group and make a big fuss of it. These are all sources of mutually beneficial media coverage and events.

2)    You want the publishing world to know who you are and to know that you are doing things – I am the kind of person who will turn up to the opening of an envelope. I don’t really think that any public event is below me, not at this stage in my career. Sure, sometimes it can seem a chore, but I see my attendance at related events and my appearance at quite low-key talks and events as part of the cost of my promotion. And, no matter what, it always looks impressive on paper. So when a publisher reads on your blog that you gave a stunningly successful seminar to the Southern Suburbs Dog Grooming Guild, they don’t know that three people turned up and two of them were family members. It just looks like you are a busy and self-promoting author who is getting out there into the public eye. And guess what – you are. Besides, I have had several money-making or high-prestige engagements booked because of my appearance at something that someone else might have deemed a hopeless waste of time. You never know who will be there.

3)    Associating with a non-profit – If you have a hobby or a passionate interest, then get active and get involved and join any relevant associations. Get on the board, and get contributing to their newsletters, reports and blogs. Organise events and fundraisers for them, and lend your name and skills to promoting their work.

4)    Writing in schools
– schools can be very keen to involve writers in their English and writing programs. Make enquiries and offer your services gratis.

5)    Having a mission
– For Red Hen it is promoting literacy. It can be exceedingly grand, or quite humble, but it pays to have a mission and to contribute some of your time and work to it.

6)    An active program for marketing and publicising your books – Never rest. Never. Keep reading blogs and books for new ideas, listen to podcasts (so much amazing free information available on them). Try new things, make calls, and send emails. Don’t worry about rejection, and never take it personally. But it does pay to sit down and write a campaign for strategically promoting yourself and your book for the next three months. It’s amazing how high-profile opportunities will make themselves available once you get working on doing some low-profile ones. Think of yourself as a solo entrepreneur, and always remember just how much small businesses of all kinds have to spend on advertising and promotion. You are no different. How much are you investing in yourself and your career? Again, this can work in tandem with other creatives. I have found that amazing things have come my way when I spent some time promoting the work of others and helping them be successful. Establish promotional partnerships with friends and undertake to promote one another.

Linda Funnell on Publishing, Profile and Writing

I asked legendary Australian publisher Linda Funnell a couple of questions about how twenty-first century writers should be conducting themselves, and she shared some fascinating answers:

Linda Funnell - publisher and Chair of NSW Writers' Centre

1.    With so many changes going on in the world of publishing, do you think the balance of power is slowly shifting in favour of authors?

The power in publishing has always resided with those authors who appeal to a wide audience.  The more your books sell, the more publishers will try to please you.

However, what is happening now is that authors have more options than ever before to publish their work.  Some are publishing their own work – this is true of established authors as well as first-timers; some are beginning their careers as self-publishers and then moving to traditional publishing companies; and some are splitting rights and having a traditional publisher for their print editions and doing the ebook editions themselves. 

In the main, traditional publishers have been slow to react to the changes going on in the industry.  Big publishers still find it hard to be flexible and tend to insist on controlling all rights, print and electronic. 

Times are tough for traditional publishers now – it’s not just the competition from ebooks with cheaper price points eroding their profit margins, but there is also the effect of the high Australian dollar.  Many publishers are shedding staff and bookshops are finding it tough, too.  In this environment publishers cut costs and become more cautious about taking risks, and they publish less. This means fewer opportunities for new writers, lower advances than may have been offered even two or three years ago, and writers may find that they are expected to do an increasing amount of the promotional work themselves. 

The good news is the upsurge in self-publishing, which has become much more affordable with the advent of ebooks and print-on-demand technology. Successful self-publishing will always require a significant amount of work on the part of the author, who has to take on all the roles of a publisher, from engaging an editor to commissioning a cover design to dealing with retailers (whether bricks-and-mortar or online) and doing the marketing and promotion.  All of these bases need to be covered to self-publish well. But for those who put in the time and effort, there can be the rewards of finding an audience – particularly an audience that can grow with their future books – and of making a better financial return than that offered by a standard publisher’s royalty arrangement.

2.    If you were advising an author starting out, what kind of platform would you recommend they build – blogging, teaching, speaking? How important do you think this kind of presence is?

Generally speaking anything an author can do to increase their profile is going to be helpful in increasing awareness of their books.  The marketplace is crowded, so whatever you can do to stand out is going to help.

What platform an individual author builds has to reflect who they are and the audience they are trying to reach.  If you hate public speaking, then the speakers’ circuit probably isn’t going to be for you.  But you might find that writing regular blog entries on a subject related to your book is.  Or you  might like the immediacy and newsiness of Twitter or Facebook. Or sharing your reading on GoodReads.
The thing to remember is that you don’t have to do everything; choose avenues that suit you and do them well; if you start a Facebook page, update it regularly.  The same if you have a website or blog.  There’s nothing sadder than a website or blog that hasn’t been updated for months. 

And if you go into social media (and I think it’s a great way to connect with readers) remember that social media is about being part of a community and engaging with that community, not just putting up a billboard for your books.

3.    What are the rewards of working with new and amateur authors?

I think I’ve been lucky to work in a creative field with creative people. It’s tremendously exciting to see ideas develop, and to see how far a writer can stretch themselves.  That’s something that doesn’t just apply to new writers – I think the most interesting writers, irrespective of genre, are always stretching themselves and developing their work.

There’s always the excitement of seeing what direction a new writer will take and how far they will go.  Is this the manuscript that will find an audience for them, or is this the manuscript they need to write in order to learn how to write the one that will?  What do they want to say? What is driving them? Who is their audience? Is this book going to be loved just by their friends and family or by the world? The answers are different for every writer and every book and are endlessly interesting.

4.    Do you belong to a library? What role do you see libraries playing in the future of books?

Yes, I belong to a couple of libraries, and I love the being in libraries – anywhere dedicated to books and reading has to be a good space.  Though in recent years I’ve increasingly been accessing libraries online, and it’s terrific to see the resources that libraries are putting online now.  Recently I’ve come across clippings from Australian newspapers from decades ago online, for free, because a library has taken the trouble to digitise their holdings.  How fantastic is that?

I think libraries have a vital role to play and will continue to play it in the future. They are the repositories of human knowledge. That may sound rather grand, but I think they are.

5.    What’s the most “bookish” place you have ever visited? Do you think there is a point of pilgrimage for writers  that would inspire everyone?

I think any place that puts writing at the heart of things is inspiring.  That’s one of the reasons I love being involved with the Writers Centre at Rozelle; it’s a place dedicated to writing and you feel it immediately you enter the place.

But I also love bookshops and I find being surrounded by books constantly inspiring. Whenever I’m travelling I always look for a bookshop (there almost always is one) and spend time there. I love discovering new things, and I also love finding familiar books in unexpected places – I found a copy of Belinda Alexandra’s Wild Lavender in a shop in Hoi An in Vietnam, and an early novel by Hilary Mantel in a tiny bookstore in Lombok.

Linda Funnell is Chair of the NSW Writers' Centre and one of the editors of The Newtown Review of Books. She has over 30 years experience in the book publishing industry, including roles as a publisher, editor and literary agent.
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