We are delighted to have Rev. Maggie Oman Shannon as our guest this week on Living in Creative Spirit. Rev. Maggie Oman Shannon, M.A., is an ordained Unity minister, spiritual director, workshop and retreat facilitator, and the author of six published books. In 2000, Maggie founded The New Story, a coaching and consulting business focused on helping people create deeper meaning in their lives. The former editor of three national magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, Maggie also served as Director of Marketing for the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Her writing has appeared in publications including The Huffington Post and Beliefnet.com; and her work has been featured in publications ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle to Spirituality and Health magazine. She has taught workshops at venues including California Pacific Medical Center’s Institute for Health and Healing and Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York.
In addition to being a certified life coach, Maggie completed the three-year training program of the Spiritual Directors Institute at Mercy Center in Burlingame, California. A graduate of Smith College, Maggie also holds an M.A. degree in Culture and Spirituality from Holy Names University. She is an ordained interfaith minister who graduated from Manhattan’s One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in 2010. She was ordained as a Unity minister in 2014 and currently has the honor of serving as Senior Minister of Unity Spiritual Center of San Francisco. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and teenage daughter.
Welcome Maggie! Let’s start off with a few fun getting to know you questions.
What is one of your favorite quotes?
I have so many (and have a large collection of wonderful quotations, since I have published two anthologies, Prayers for Healing and Prayers for Hope and Comfort), but one of my favorites is this line from the mystic poet Hafiz: “We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom and light.”
What is one book that has inspired you?
Again, there are so many, including pretty much anything by Eric Butterworth, but one book that continues to inspire me is The Four-Fold Way, written by the late cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien, who I studied with, worked for, and was mentored by.
Do you have a favorite flavor of ice-cream?
I loved the Honey Vanilla that Haagen-Daaz used to offer, but alas they don’t make it anymore. Growing up, when visiting my grandmother in Oklahoma City, we used to get a flavor that was only made there: Chocolate Frozen Malt. It was more icy than creamy, and so delicious…so those are the two ice-cream flavors that live on in my memory!
If you were a super hero what would your name and super power be?
Well, now that I’ve quoted Hafiz, I’ll use that for my inspiration: My super-hero name would be Hafiza, and my super power would be based on something else he wrote: “I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.” So my super power would be gently zapping people with the awareness of the astonishing light of their being!
Maggie, can you share a bit about your creative journey?
In my radio show for Unity.fm, “Creative Spirit,” one of the questions I often ask my guests is “When did you first start seeing yourself as being creative?” Sadly, because it’s often the result of some kind of shaming that occurred in their childhood, so often people answer that it wasn’t until much later in their lives that they began embracing and claiming their own creativity. That was not my experience—I have always seen myself as being creative; and because I have, I know what joy and fulfillment (not to mention spiritual communion) creativity can bring to our lives. When I was 15, I had a high-school teacher praise my writing ability and give me an identity as a writer during that very awkward age…and claiming that truly changed my life. I majored in English, began my early career as an editor and writer, and later became the author of six published books (my seventh, Crafting Gratitude, is coming out this fall; and my eighth, Crafting Love, will be published in the fall of 2018). I have been blessed with the opportunity of being able to research and write about creative spiritual practices (The Way We Pray, which was published in 2001, explored 50 different prayer practices from around the world, many of which were creative; and I also co-wrote a book called A String and a Prayer: Making and Using Personal Prayer Beads. My last book, Crafting Calm, was a first-person account of 40 different creative activities that I have used as a spiritual practice; and the two new books coming out are follow-ups to Crafting Calm.)
That is my deepest passion—encouraging people to know that first, they are inherently creative; and second, they can use creative activities as a form of spiritual practice and prayer. I hope to inspire the Creative Spirit in others through my radio show on Unity.fm, through my books, through the occasional workshops and retreats that I conduct, and through the church I lead—Unity Spiritual Center of San Francisco—which has revolving art exhibits on the Sanctuary walls and a number of different activities and events that offer opportunities for exploring this. I have always loved doing collage, assemblage, art journaling and other creative activities on my own; and I personally keep nourished and inspired by taking a variety of different classes, usually art-related. I am currently contemplating taking a year-long painting course next year that focuses on art’s potential to heal and transform by discovering one’s own personal symbology…it sounds delicious to me!
What are you currently working on?
Right now at my church I am collaborating with a well-known local artist, Shiloh Sophia, who has trained many art teachers around the world (and whose yearlong teacher training is the one I am contemplating taking next year) to offer 12 different creative salons focusing on Unity’s teachings of The Twelve Powers. Each month we focus on that month’s Power, using the color Fillmore associated with each Power, and including guided meditations and creative exercises—a different teacher from Shiloh’s Intentional Creativity Guild facilitates each month, and they add interesting dimensions to our study. For instance, for the month on Power, the teacher led us in a guided meditation to find our Power Animal, and that was the subject of our painting. So it’s been a really fruitful and fascinating experience to see what the teachers come up with for our Twelve Powers salons, and has added a dimension to the teachings that is fresh. If you’d like to read more about it, you can at this link: https://unitysf.org/crafting-a-year-of-intention-power/ .
I also am gearing up for the publication of my latest book this October and how I might expand its subject through a blog or workshop.
What tip would you give readers to help them nurture their Creative Spirit?
First, I would encourage them to know, with every fiber of their being, that they ARE creative, even if they’ve never picked up a paintbrush or written a poem. Creativity is something we just are…and we are employing it all the time, in everything we do—from the meals we cook, to the way we dress, to the holiday rituals we create, and on and on. Second, I would encourage them to explore, to play with different mediums just to see what seems fun and resonant. Start with kids’ fingerpaints, if you want! Just try lots of different things, either on your own or in beginners’ classes, and discover what forms and formats you really love working in. Finally, as much as possible, suspend your inner critic—don’t judge what you do. Immersing ourselves in the sweet territory of our Creative Spirit is all about the process, not the product. Just enjoy, sink into that wonderful state of flow, and use it intentionally as a form of meditation or prayer. In your creating, you are being created…let the Divine work through you.
Where can readers learn more about you and your work?
My church’s website is www.unitysf.org; and my personal website is www.maggieomanshannon.com. You can also find archives of my “Creative Spirit” radio shows at http://www.unity.fm/program/CreativeSpirit ; and I have a Facebook page called “Creating as a Spiritual Practice” (do a search for it in the search bar) that I invite you to become a part of!
Thank you Rev. Maggie for taking the time to share your creative story, and inspiration with us!
Join us next week on “Living In Creative Spirit” for an inspiring look into the creative life of Peter Bolland. Peter is the philosophy professor and department chair at Southwestern College; a columnist for Unity Magazine and the San Deigo Trubador; and an award-winning singer-songwriter.
“Living In Creative Spirit,” is an online interview series featuring creative individuals who blend spirituality and creativity in their lives and work. Summer session interviews are published weekly on Monday at 12:00 CT. This series is presented by Unity Arts Ministry, a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to inspiring personal growth, healing and transformation through spiritual enrichment and creative expression.
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