Writer * Social activist * Retreat leader * Interfaith minister * spiritual teacher
Reverend Stephanie Dowrick, Ph.D, D.Min is a former publisher, social justice activist, an Interfaith minister but, above all, a writer. “Love writing? Yes, sometimes,” she says. “But even the hardest times have pushed me to discover what’s most universal, and most personal, when discovering life’s meaning. It’s writing, and all the reading, reflection, persistent enquiry that surround writing, that’s anchored me to my own existence. Even as a very little girl, I depended on reading to protect as well as entertain and educate me. Reading let me know that my world need never be small. Writing has taught me that when the most ‘impossible’ topics land in my mind and won’t let go, I can – somehow – rise to meet them, even if it takes years of courage to do so. Truly, I am profoundly grateful for what writing has given me.”
Stephanie Dowrick was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1947, lived in Europe (mainly the UK, also West Berlin) from 1967-1983, and since then has lived in Sydney.
She was a highly successful London-based publisher, working for New English Library, Triad Paperbacks (owned by Jonathan Cape, Chatto & Windus and the Bodley Head).
In 1978 she co-founded The Women’s Press, London, where she was the first Managing Director and, later from Australia, an active and influential Chairperson.
Writing has been her principal occupation since moving to Australia from the UK in 1983.
In the early 1990s, she worked part-time as Fiction Publisher for Allen & Unwin.
Towards the later 1990s, as a practising psychotherapist with a small Sydney-based patient and supervision practice, Stephanie was the fortnightly “On the Couch” guest with Geraldine Doogue on Radio National’s “Life Matters” for many years. She was also a guest for some years on Tony Delroy’s “Night Life” (ABC Local Radio), and was the “Inner Life” columnist for Good Weekend Magazine from 2001-2010 (Sydney Morning Herald and The Age).
Additionally, she was the wellbeing presenter for ten years for Breast Cancer Network Australia.
Stephanie Dowrick graduated with a PhD from Western Sydney University’s Writing and Society Research Group in 2009, writing her research thesis on the power of poetry and spirituality – that later became her internationally lauded, In the Company of Rilke.
She had been ordained as an interfaith minister by the New Seminary, New York, in 2005; in 2019, she was awarded a D.Min by the New Seminary in recognition of her many years of interfaith ministry, teaching and writing, and with particular reference to Seeking the Sacred and Heaven on Earth as essential references for multi-cultural, culturally and socially diverse communities.
Stephanie Dowrick writes: “While writing has been my central work since the mid-1980s, there are multiple threads to my long career: as a publisher in both London and Sydney, as a psychotherapist in private practice, a writing teacher and mentor, and as an ordained Interfaith Minister leading a large Sydney-based congregation since 2006. I have also led many residential spiritual retreats in Japan, Australia and New Zealand – and post-Covid will do so again. In so many ways, though, this is a single “career” with a rich variety of expression, learning all the way.
“As well as writing books – each of which takes years – I’ve done lots of journalism. I wrote the “Inner Life” column for ten years in Good Weekend Magazine and have always enjoyed the very different pace that journalism’s deadlines and tight word-limits demands. I still contribute to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and The Saturday Paper, as well as to the public policy journal, Pearls & Irritations. I am active on social media, both Twitter and via my Public Facebook page. On this website are many articles, talks, meditations, videos. Please use them freely as a resource.
“All my work has sat alongside becoming a parent, now a grandparent. And as a free-lance writer, speaker, minister, I have been in the ‘gig’ economy long before that was a word.
“It’s probably for my non-fiction books that I am best known and one of the greatest joys of having written a number of books – on big topics that affect us all – is when people tell me, with real feeling, which one is their favourite. Or, better, which one or two or even three got them through their own hard or confusing times. Or sits beside their bed for frequent re-reading. That makes my years of intense commitment so worthwhile.
“My non-fiction books include ground-breaking, international best-sellers, Intimacy and Solitude (re-published in 2021), Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love (my personal favourite of the non-fiction books), Choosing Happiness: Life & Soul Essentials (Nautilus Silver Award, USA, 2009) and the deeply supportive, The Universal Heart.
“Following the completion of my research doctorate – after my children had grown up – I wrote a study of spirituality and the gifts of reading centred on the writing of Rainer Maria Rilke: In the Company of Rilke. (I’m currently doing more work on Rilke in collaboration with the leading translator/interpreter of Rilke, scholar and poet Rev Dr Mark S. Burrows. )
“To support other writers at all stages, and readers in general with their own creativity, I wrote Creative Journal Writing (Coalition of Visionary Resources Award, USA, 2010). My most recent books offer spiritual support. They are the highly acclaimed Seeking the Sacred: Transforming Our View of Ourselves and One Another and Heaven on Earth (Nautilus Gold Award, USA, 2014) – a book of universally-accessible prayers and on prayer (even for those who “never” pray). In 2021, I responded to Covid crisis and published a revised and updated edition of my iconic, timeless, Intimacy & Solitude.
“My earlier publications include two highly praised, internationally published adult novels, Running Backwards Over Sand and Tasting Salt. And for children, Katherine Rose Says No, and the more recent, The Moon Shines Out of the Dark.
“My principal publishers are Allen & Unwin, Sydney, and PenguinRandomHouse, New York. Audio and e-book editions are widely available. My books have been translated into many languages, including Arabic and Russian, Swedish, German and Portuguese.”
An historical interview with Stephanie Dowrick by Orchard Somerville-Collie. We have chosen to leave this interview as it contains some useful historical information for readers who may be interested.
British writer and women’s retreat leader Gina Lazenby talking with Stephanie about her latest book, Seeking the Sacred, why she is an interfaith minister as well as a writer, big and small transitions and – particularly – identity and the stories we tell ourselves. Externally Located on YouTube - recorded in May 2011
This is a particularly wide-ranging interview with Stephanie Dowrick on contemporary views of the sacred, Stephanie’s journey towards writing about the sacred dimensions of life in Seeking the Sacred, and particularly about the inevitable social impact of our personal philosophies. Radio NZ - ninetonoon - Recorded in late 2010.
“Stephanie Dowrick’s writing and career are characterised by motifs of renewal and re-imagining.. Dowrick’s work is eclectically informed and pioneering…” Felicity Plunkett, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age
“Simultaneously we can cultivate self-love, love for others and love for life itself. Energy and vision arise from this great trinity of experience.”
“Our true life lies at great depth within us.”
Some of the themes and key issues that underpin all of my work are:
the great humane virtues, social as well as personal wellbeing, relationships (personal and social), psychological and spiritual development, spirituality, religion, faith and interfaith inspired by the wisdom traditions, the power of belief and the need to question and examine those beliefs for their effects on ourselves and everyone around us, intimacy, ethics, peace-making, social justice, forgiveness, generosity, happiness, tolerance, kindness and compassion.
Love is not love except when it is generous. Love is learned and developed through the way we live, how we make our choices, how we think about and treat other people. Love is often learned in tough moments, or in the face of suffering. If it is not lived out through behaviour, love is nothing more than a nice idea.
It is empowering to live lovingly right now. No need to wait for the perfect circumstances – or people.
Love is completely “natural”; but the skills of living lovingly – showing concern and respect for other people and for ourselves – often need to be learned.
Love your precious gift of life – then allow yourself to look around and value life in all its forms. Appreciating your life (rather than complaining about it), may be the only change you will ever need to make.
The wellbeing of our communities and societies depends on each of us recognising that what we have in common is greater than what divides us. That also makes our differences far less frightening.
Try for a single week assuming the best always – not looking for faults, not making other people “wrong”, not blaming. This will dramatically improve your connections with others, it will also make you feel easier about yourself.
Speak out loud the praise you might otherwise hold back. Look for what you can appreciate and praise.
It is difficult to feel gloomy and thankful in the same moment. Even in the midst of suffering, there will be moments of illumination, beauty, kindness,good humour. Noticing them, and allowing yourself to receive them, is the finest emotional tonic you could have.
See yourself as a source of happiness for others. Think about what will lift other people’s spirits. Do that. It is unfailingly empowering.
Watch out for those who are excluded and bring them “in”. This might be small social situations, or at work, or in how you think about those on the margins. It takes confidence to be an “includer” and it builds confidence.
“Considering others” is essential to maturity. Listen closely to how you speak to other people; watch how you listen. Liberate yourself from endless self-focus.
The thoughts that most preoccupy you absolutely shape your life. Get to know how you think as well as what you think about. You have choices. Notice what you are choosing to talk about, read, listen to and believe. Is enough of this uplifting, expansive, challenging?
In the face of sorrow, anxiety or panic, look at the situation with a more expansive and compassionate vision. What can I learn here? What is needed? How best should I move on?
Your moods and emotions are driven by your thoughts. And thoughts can be changed. Notice what draws your attention; notice how you can exercise choices. Use your journal to deepen your thinking and to make most use of the great resource that is your own life’s experience.
The greatest freedom you have is to choose your attitudes and responses – whatever the outer circumstances.
You are free to behave well whether or not other people “deserve it”. Waiting to see who deserves your kindness or thoughtfulness, you give away your power.
Behaving well – thoughtfully and with real interest in the wellbeing of others – you develop the only kind of power that really counts. (And no one can take it from you.)
See the goodness that is in the world, despite the suffering. Give yourself every chance to experience your positive connection to the experiences and reality of other people.
Experience how awesome nature is, even when it can also be indifferent.
Do things for the sheer joy: singing, walking, gardening, and eating with friends.
Cultivate freshness. Open to wonder and awe. That involves internal permission and mindfulness in a deep way: “pausing”, looking and receiving (taking something in through your senses) is the place to start.
Tune in to something greater than yourself: meditate, sing, pray, trust, love. Let yourself experience that you are part of a wondrous universe.