Fill in the blank, writing as fast as you can:
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I felt prosperous when _____.
Are you thinking this is some dinky little exercise? I’m telling you it’s not. Go ahead, prove me wrong. Get out a blank sheet of paper or bring up that cool yellow notebook on your iPad and let’s go. Set a timer for five minutes, copy the words above and then write whatever comes to mind.
I’d like to tell you I invented this, but it was conceived by author Julia Cameron (with Emma Lively) in the recently released book, The Prosperous Heart. Like Cameron’s best-selling classic, The Artist’s Way, it is set up as a 12-week course, but its subtitle reveals its intent as more than an exploration of one’s finances – Creating a Life of “Enough.”
In the spirit of full disclosure, I started to read the book in preparation for interviews with Cameron and Lively. I had no intention of “doing” or “engaging” it. Cameron’s work has been pivotal in my own journey over the last decade, but I was really approaching this as more of a professional endeavor.
Silly me. I got sucked in to “doing” this book just a few pages into it. If there’s a better endorsement, I don’t know what it is. Here’s just a bit of what flowed out of my subconscious onto the page when I did the aforementioned exercise:
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“I felt prosperous when I saw [my money] building [in 2007] and I was making my way out of debt. I felt in control of my life in a way I hadn’t in a long time. It was not about how much I had but about what I was doing with it. I was respecting the money. Respecting money felt like respecting myself.”
Wow. When I wrote that I realized how good it felt to make my way back from a financial hardship by virtue of hard work and faith. I entered 2009 debt-free and I have maintained that. Still, I realized sometime in the last few months that I needed a check-in on spending and prioritizing. Doing the work laid out in The Prosperous Heart is helping me further that in a nuanced, gentle, powerful way.
“The prosperous heart feels abundant,” Cameron says in week two. “This is due to our spiritual, not our fiscal, condition.”
This is the same chapter where Cameron tells of living in New York just a few years ago and finding herself using one of her exercises from The Artist’s Way: Number a page from 1-25 and list things you love. As she rattled off her list, she realized there was nothing signifying the “East” but plenty pointing to the “West.” Within three months of making the list, she moved to Santa Fe.
“That’s what I call a ‘God shot,’ if you will,” Cameron tells me in our recent interview. “I realized suddenly and clearly there had to be more than one’s brilliant career and financial status.”
Again, look at the simplicity in the exercise that led her to make a move. Cameron’s work is filled with that kind of gentle prodding. When I ask her about how she manages to do that, she says simply, “It has to do with people’s spiritual unfolding.”
But in my interview with Lively a short time later, she gives me her take.
“My best guess is she has a way of letting people tap into themselves with humility,” Lively says. “I think humility is very close to inspiration.”
Lively has collaborated with Cameron on a number of creative projects and on this one Cameron called her “catalytic.” Lively credits her intimate familiarity with Cameron’s work and therefore her ability to tap into different aspects of it along the way as her main contribution. She has, in fact, brought another dimension to The Artist’s Way by shepherding Cameron through a process of creating an online course and community complete with video and social media.
Meanwhile, there has been the near simultaneous birth of The Prosperous Heart. Lively -- no stranger to her own creative yearnings with a production company (Lively Works) and even a bakery (Bunny’s Bakery) to show for it -- sounds sure of how much this book will help people and she’s delighted by it.
“They’ll really examine their own belief about money,” Lively says of readers. “You become empowered and inspired. You’re going to be OK with money, but also with ideas. You realize there’s always more coming.”
When I tell her how easily I became drawn in to the book and how I was already benefitting from it, Lively seems unabashedly joyful. As for Cameron, I tell her that another exercise has been really illuminating for me. It calls for listing things you would like to do but that you don’t feel you have enough cash to bankroll. My list, as it turns out, is all trips I’d like to take.
“Keep reading,” Cameron says with a hint of amusement. “It will urge you toward adventure.”
Goodness, that sounds appealing.
Ultimately, I must know, what does she want the takeaway to be when the reader puts down The Prosperous Heart?
“A sense of a benevolent Universe,” she says.
I am so down with that.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.