Caskets and Comfort Zones

“A comfort zone is just another word for a casket.” – Quester

Quester came up with that quote about seven years ago, when we were going through a lot of big changes in our lives. The biggest change was that I was quitting my full-time job to stay home with the kids and jump-start my writing career, while he entered the workforce again after being a full-time Dad for more than a decade. These were things that we both agreed we wanted, and yet at the same time, creating big change can be uncomfortable and scary.

The point, though, is that if you’re staying stuck in the same-old, same-old, status quo, just for the sake of being comfortable, you’re not really living. And if you don’t create change on your own terms, eventually the Universe will shake things up, perhaps not in the way you’d hoped.

There’s a woman in my community who seems really devoted to her own comfort zone. She has a job she likes well enough, friends and family she spends time with, and a cozy home with familiar routines she enjoys. Though she’s very kind and seems mostly content, I was kind of shocked to learn that she doesn’t really have any personal goals. She’s just not the type of person who deliberately focuses on how she can grow and learn and become more.

Which is fine, of course. We each live our lives in our own way.

The thing is, though, that the Universe keeps shaking things up for my friend. Over the past few years she’s had health issues, challenges at work, several friends in crisis, and even some trouble with the physical structure of her home. I can’t help but thinking that if she stepped outside of her comfort zone on her own, just a bit, just once in a while, she’d discover that change doesn’t always have to be negative or disruptive. I feel like she’d be a happier person.

The changes we welcome into our lives on purpose can be so much more meaningful than those that happen in order to shake us out of our inertia.

These days, Quester is working with a good friend, doing stone-masonry and landscaping, and is enjoying the work he does. I’ve published two books so far, and I’m working on my third. One of our kids is starting college next week (gulp!) and our other one is enjoying her life as an unschooler, pursuing her passions on her own terms (she would be a junior if she were in high school). No, life hasn’t been without challenges, but by surfing the waves of change on a regular basis, we become more flexible and adaptable.

Even though we’re working for ourselves, setting our own schedules and so forth, it’s still possible to get stuck in that comfort zone. BlackLion and I face that in our business, Feline Dreamers. What we’re doing in a particular area might not be working the way we wish, but it’s familiar, and it’s hard to know what to do instead. So we just keep going.

This fall, I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone once again. I’ve signed up for a business coaching program. It’s my first time investing in myself and my business this way. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. But writing great books and creating interesting content isn’t enough. We want to share our insights and wisdom with lots of people, and that means learning how to do more effective marketing – in an ethical way that doesn’t feel icky.

Fall always feels like a fresh, clean slate to me. It’s that “back to school” feeling, but in a good way, because I’m designing my own curriculum. I feel like pushing myself a bit will help me to be more inspired on many different levels.

What about you? How are you pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone? What goals and aspirations are you ready to pursue?

If you’re ready to create powerful positive change in your life, delving deep into your core beliefs can be a good place to start. Check out our Alchemy of Core Beliefs course, starting September 1st.

Starcat’s Favorites: Creative Abundance

augustflowersHave I mentioned how much I love this time of year? The gardens, yards, and farms are all abundant with fruits, veggies, and flowers. My creativity, too, is in abundance mode.

While being busy with presentations and performances at various summer events, I’m also in the midst of working on my third book, preparing to offer next month’s The Alchemy of Core Beliefs online course, and much more. How about you? Is your creativity going wild as we move into late summer?

Here are some good reads and helpful links to inspire your weekend!

Getting outdoors more often has amazing health benefits – and summer is the perfect time to go “forest bathing.”

When was the last time you used a coloring book? It’s a great way to meditate…

Have you powered through your summer reading list already? Here are some great sci-fi books to check out.

I found this article very interesting. Which Buddhist personality type are you? I think I’m greedy…

If you want to ramp up your creative flow with writing prompts, here’s a wonderful collection.

Late last month, the music director of Dark Follies, Stephen Carpenter, was hit by a car and badly injured while he was out running. We’re taking part in a benefit concert and silent auction next week to help him with medical expenses and lost wages. There’s also a GoFundMe page if you’re not able to attend. Please help support this wonderful man as he recovers and returns to drumming and performing!

Looking to expand your personal creativity and have more fun in  your daily life? Download my free e-book, Open Your Creative Portals, and soak in the inspiration!

Why Have a Daily Spiritual Practice?

This past weekend I offered a workshop at a local Pagan festival, which included readings from two of my books. My workshop topic was “Living on Purpose,” and I included a reading from the book I’m currently writing. I don’t have a title for this book yet, but it’s about creating and maintaining a daily spiritual practice, which is something I’m devoted to and passionate about.

The workshop attendees seemed to enjoy the excerpt, and it sparked great questions and discussion, so I thought I’d share it with you here. It’s an excerpt from the book’s introduction. I’d love to hear your feedback; please let me know what you think in the comments section. Thanks!

***

You’ve felt it: the longing for a deeper meaning to your life. The search for spiritual connection. The yearning for more of those moments of lucid clarity, uplifting joy, and freewheeling bliss. You know, deep down, that feeling whole is your birthright. In your own unique way, you are a seeker.

Traditional religions and their rituals no longer speak to as many people as they once did. Instead, many of us choose to look within to find our own personal spirituality. A connection to the Divine, or to nature, or to that which you hold sacred, is an individual relationship. You don’t need a translator or a go-between. You’d rather develop your own intimate relationship with the energy of the universe. Or maybe you’re uncertain just what your beliefs are, and want to explore them at your own pace, free from dogma and doctrine. You long to create your own tradition, drawing from many sources, ancient and modern, to craft an eclectic personal spirituality that speaks directly to your experience.

When you begin to explore your personal spirituality, the first step is often to do a lot of reading. Chances are, when you open a book categorized as self-help or personal development, you’ll soon find a page with exercises to complete or questions to answer. With a groan, you may read that section and then go on to the next chapter, or stop and put a bookmark at that page, thinking you’ll get to it later. The books may accumulate on your shelf, waiting for that “sometime later,” when you have more time to focus on them.

Many people say that they want to include more spirituality in their lives, but they can’t seem to find a way to fit it in. Yet ultimately, reading about spirituality isn’t the same as practicing it.

Why would you want to have a spiritual practice at all? Isn’t just living life itself a spiritual practice?

Of course it is. Yet when you set out on the path to be more consciously aware of your spiritual connection, it can seem overwhelming. You are, in essence, choosing to become enlightened. Despite popular notions, enlightenment isn’t a fixed point that you arrive at one day. It doesn’t mean that you figure this puzzle of life out once and for all, and everything will be bliss and roses from then on out. It’s not a lofty state that only the great mystics can achieve.

Enlightenment, to me, means cultivating the awareness that you can choose to live in harmony and joy, to go with the flow of life. Sure, you won’t be joyful in each moment, but you’ll develop the tools with which to return, again and again, to your center, to connection with the energy of the cosmos. Creating a spiritual practice can provide you with those tools.

When speaking of enlightenment, many cultures have used the analogy of climbing a mountain. You will find your own path, and the climb will be beautiful and enriching, but it won’t always be easy.

In your daily life you will encounter challenging situations, people, or events that can negatively impact you, not only in that moment, but potentially for much longer. A daily spiritual practice allows you to reset your connection with your inner self and see the world in a more hopeful light. In addition, as you practice connecting yourself to your higher purpose, you will not only interact with your life differently, but you’ll be able to change it in ways that feel great to you while living in harmony with others in your life.

The benefits of starting and maintaining a daily spiritual practice are wide-ranging. After you’ve established a practice and nurtured it for a while, you’ll gain a better knowledge of who you are (and who you are becoming), a stronger connection with the world around you and its other beings, and a visceral knowledge of your own divinity. Not only do you develop your personal connection to the universe and the Divine, but you also continue to expand and grow into a more well-rounded and loving person. Being grounded in a spiritual practice will also have a positive impact on your physical health. You’ll experience less stress, and your emotional life will become more joyful and peaceful. As a result, your relationships will improve, including the most important relationship you have: the one with yourself.

You’ve heard it many times: practice makes perfect. If the word “practice” and the associated concepts seem hard to accept, you’re not alone. I was one of those people who never understood the importance of practice until I was an adult. As a bookish child, my natural aptitude for academics made me not trust anything I couldn’t do on the first try. As a result, there were many things I might have enjoyed that I crossed off my list because I “wasn’t good at” them. It wasn’t until after college that I realized the real value of dedicating oneself to a practice.

To become proficient at anything, you need to practice regularly. It’s as simple as that. This is just as true for spirituality as it is for playing sports or mastering a musical instrument. Living spiritually, as with any new skill, requires regular practice. Just attending a church, circle, or temple, or reading books about values you want to embody, isn’t enough. You need to engage in active involvement of some kind, not just passive attendance. In order to become what you wish, to live your deepest truths, you must take action. And to be able to act with any skill and grace, you need to practice on a regular basis.

Living your spirituality also takes discipline, another word that can sound scary. To those of us drawn to a life of the spirit, the idea of discipline can be a turn-off. We’re free spirits, wanting to soar, and discipline sounds like a set of chains to hold us down. However, self-discipline can instead serve as a helpful container for your spiritual exploration.

When you choose to commit yourself to a particular practice, for a set amount of time each day, with your full attention, magic happens. Your spiritual practice, done consistently, even if it’s just ten minutes in the morning or before bed at night, will have a ripple effect that spreads outward into your entire life. That seemingly-small container of connection that you create each day will allow you to grow, expand, and flourish. Like the Doctor’s famous Tardis, it’s bigger on the inside.

But wait just a moment, you might be thinking. Daily practice and self-discipline? That sounds like a lot of extra work. You already have a full schedule: a day job, partner, kids, a social life, household duties, and other responsibilities. How can you afford to take the time to create your own meaningful spiritual practice?

The cool thing is, you can easily create a daily spiritual practice that not only fits into your existing schedule, but also brings joy and depth to your life. You can learn to commit to your practice, no matter what else is going on in your inner and outer worlds. You’ll soon find that you can’t imagine what you used to do before your dedication to practice.

I know this from my own experience. I’ve had a daily spiritual practice since 1997. My two kids were born in 1996 and 1999, and I was the primary breadwinner for our family. For several years leading up to when I started my practice, I had read many books on spirituality, with their suggestions of how to implement the tools they were offering. I started several practices that lasted a few days or even a couple of weeks, but went no further.

It wasn’t just that I was busy (which I certainly was), but some old patterns also played into my initial reticence. Spiritual practice is a form of self-care, and many of us, especially women, feel a certain guilt about taking time for ourselves. We are taught to give, and taking time and energy for our personal desires can feel uncomfortable. Often, we are also afraid of our own power and potential, and of taking responsibility for our choices. By actually taking the time to walk my talk, I knew I was embarking on a journey that would require me to be more honest with myself, and true to my deepest desires. That was a scary step to take.

Do any of these fears resonate with you?

It was my desire to learn to do Tarot readings, combined with a life-long love of writing, that helped me to finally create the perfect practice for me, one that has lasted for many years. Before long, I realized how much the other people in my life were benefiting from my daily dedication to spiritual practice. Supported by that daily container of conscious centering, I was able to be a better mother, wife, employee, and friend. I was calmer, and could find the space to respond genuinely and more mindfully to life’s challenges.

My morning practice became part of our family’s routine. Sometimes the kids would sit with me and look at my Tarot cards. My husband made space for my practice, helping by packing my lunch or distracting the kids. When we went on vacation, usually family camping trips, we’d all sit on the grass and meditate together. I learned to listen to the chattering of the kids without distraction, allowing it to be part of the landscape, like the singing of birds and the sigh of the wind. Now my children are nearly grown, I work for myself, and my practice has evolved with me. In fact, my spiritual practices have expanded over time and become part of the fabric of my everyday experiences, informing how I approach my work, household chores, and playtime.

You, too, can find the satisfaction of a practice that fits into your life and becomes an intrinsic part of your daily routine.

Blue Moon Intentions

Last week was the Full Blue Moon. The Blue Moon is the second full moon of a calendar month, and the phenomenon only happens about every 3 years, or 33 moons. Since the calendar we use is a human-made system, you could say that the significance of this is kind of a made up thing. But isn’t that true for much of our magickal lore? Things take on the significance we give them.

Since the Full Blue Moon only comes around every three years or so, some of us like to use its energies to help focus on our intentions, and take action that will help us reach our most cherished goals. It feels like a potent time for receiving deep intuitive guidance.

The most recent Blue Moon marked the culmination, for me, of some deep personal work. On the previous Blue Moon, in August of 2012, at my circle’s celebration, we did a trance to discover an intention that we would work with for the next 35 months.

During my trance, I was told that it was time to bring forth my gifts to share with the world.

bluemoonintentionI was given four words, and a dance associated with them. I was advised to CONNECT, RECEIVE, CREATE, and SHARE, and to repeat the cycle, again and again. Over the course of the past three years, I’ve used this mantra as a guide in my writing career and in my life as a whole. I dedicated a big candle to serve as a reminder, as well as a chunk of raw rhodochrosite (a pink and grey rock) that I traded for with a friend. I also made this art journal page.

How has this Blue Moon intention helped me direct my life and work? I honestly don’t say this to brag, but rather to illustrate the power of working with intentions and lunar energies: I’ve had two non-fiction books on spirituality published, written the drafts of two novels, I’m working on a third non-fiction book, and I just released a free e-book on creativity. Plus many blog posts, for this blog and others, including a monthly slot at my favorite website, Kind Over Matter, this year. Our Feline Dreamers business has been growing, slowly but steadily, as have my book sales. I’ve drummed for many successful live performances. I’ve also delved more into art and dancing. I’d say it’s going quite well!

Even more important than my creations, though, is the fact that I’ve found a deeper joy and spiritual connection in my life. I’ve followed the advice from the trance, captured in my journal the night of that 2012 Blue Moon, to “be passionate about and devoted to this sacred work.”

I’ve made my spiritual journey and creative exploration a priority, even more than before, and it has enhanced my life in a myriad of ways. Sure, the ride has still been bumpy at times, but having that reminder to turn inward is invaluable. I am reminded, especially when things are rough, to connect to my source and to receive, to recharge, to fill my cup with cosmic energy. Then I can use those energies, combined with my own powers of imagination, to create, and give back to the universe by sharing what I’ve made. I’m so thankful for these lessons.

At last week’s 2015 Full Blue Moon, I refined my focus to my primary calling of writing. For the next 33-plus moons, I’ll be working with this intention: I will dedicate at least an hour each day, five days per week, to focused work on a creative writing project. I’ll also be keeping my now-familiar mantra, CONNECT, RECEIVE, CREATE, SHARE.

I’m posting my new intention here to help with accountability, to keep myself on task. It feels like the right time to ramp up my writing career. I can feel the momentum. I’m ready to share my creations with more and more people, to touch their lives and help uplift them. I’m ready for success, Universe. Bring it on!

I can’t wait to see what accomplishments I’m listing off in 2018, when it’s time for the next Full Blue Moon. Blessed Be!

Being Yourself in Community: 5 Handy Tips

CommunityDinnerIt’s the summer party and festival season, and that can bring on some nerves or even anxiety. Do you have trouble being yourself when you’re spending time with other people? Do you find yourself censoring your words, being quiet, and staying in the background even when you wish you could be in the center of the action? Even with people who you generally feel comfortable with? Or maybe especially with them, because their opinions really mean something to you…

You’re not alone.

Most of us were brought up in the social crucible that is public school. We learned to fit in and to conform to the social mores of our peers. Particularly if you were a bit shy or sensitive, you soon learned the most important thing was to not make waves. I spent a good part of the mid 80s wishing I was a Preppie. Yes, it’s true. It was the “in” thing to be. I’m glad I never succeeded; it’s just not who I really am.

Even as you grow older and learn about who you are deep in your inner being, conforming on the surface can become a habit. You tend to keep your quirks, your weirdness, to yourself. It’s a form of self-defense that might sometimes be necessary, but more often than not, it just slows you down. It keeps you from true connection with others and holds you back from reaching for your dreams.

When you hide your essential self, or even pretend to be someone you’re not, you’re not accessing the full power of those who could love and support you.

So, how can you be yourself in community? How can you shine your brightest light without fear? Remember, you were either invited to the event, or you were drawn to attend for some reason. Keep in mind your relationship with the party’s hosts, or why the festival sounded like fun. Find a friend to go with, someone who already appreciates you for who you are. Gently push yourself just a couple of steps past your comfort zone.

Still feeling self-conscious? Here are five tips for revealing the true you to your community.

1. Avoid extremes. Sometimes those of us who felt repressed earlier in life go to wild extremes later on. We go for the most radical clothes or piercings, or make sure everyone around us knows exactly what diet or religious path we follow and why they should, too. Going to extremes just for shock value, or to make the point that you’re different, is nearly the same as conforming. Expecting others to eat or party or be sober the way you do involves dictating things to them that might not be their truth at all. Make your choices based on what truly calls to you. Be yourself without needing to try and convert others to your chosen way.

2. Show your quirky side. The things about you that are unusual and creative are what make you unique. This is what will draw your tribe to you. If you authentically love turtle tattoos, purple hair, and Willie Nelson, let your freak flag fly!

3. Lend a hand. No matter how different or shy you might feel in group settings, you’re human, just like those around you. Being free with a smile and a helping hand will often begin a conversation. Ask if you can help with dishes or carry platters at the party. Lend your sunscreen to someone who looks like they’re getting pink. Offer an arm to an elderly person, or open the door for them. Let your kindness be seen and experienced.

4. Polish your filters. Sure, there are always critics. Someone out there hates turtle tattoos and just doesn’t get Willie’s music. When someone judges you harshly, though, it’s more about their own unhappiness or insecurity than it is about you. Make sure you have your filters up, and rude comments will roll right off your back.

5. Focus on what you like. Instead of obsessing about the rude comment you overheard or the way you put your foot in your mouth that one time, think about what you like about your experience in community. The way that drummer smiled at you while you danced around the fire, the laughter you shared with those cool folks, that moment when your friend came running up for a hug, shrieking with joy that you’d arrived. See how loved and appreciated you are, and let yourself relax.

Most likely no one will remember the party guest who dressed like everyone else and blended into the background. They’re going to joyfully recall the one who played that funny ukulele tune, shared blueberry mead, laughed with wild abandon, and helped clean up after the BBQ mess.

Being yourself in community expands your tribe. It feels great to relax into being you. You’ll feel valued for who you truly are, not for some image you’re projecting. And next time you’re out and about, you’ll be recognized and invited along for even more fun!

Starcat’s Favorites: In the Moment

WP_20150718_033Summer gets busy around here. It’s especially so when you live in a northern clime and want to savor every moment of the warmth, sunshine, and blooming. During the summer months, we always try to fit in extra time outdoors for swimming, hiking, and exploring – alongside the usual work, family time, household chores, and spiritual practice.

Part of my practice this summer is enjoying each and every moment, even during these very full days and weeks. I stay as organized as I can so the busy days flow smoothly, and then I’m free to let go and focus on enjoying what I’m doing in this very now.

It works for me.

I hope you’re enjoying a leisurely weekend of whatever summer fun means for you. Looking for some fascinating reading while you’re taking time out? Here you go!

You know by now that I enjoy reading about introversion. Here’s an article about the types of introverts – and there’s a quiz! Bonus!

Do you have an adventure bag? I do!

Some tips on being more productive – ones that help you be kinder to yourself at the same time.

The difference between performing and experiencing.

The power (and joys) of self-discipline.

I love this rebuttal to the folks recently trash-talking positive thinking (yes, there are four-letter words involved).

The meaning of life according to Joss Whedon.

Some crazy interesting stuff from out there on the fringes of exploring consciousness.

Photos of giant dogs. Just because they made me and my family crack up laughing.

Have a beautiful week!

Thoughts on the End of the World

I think the whole “end of the world” mythos that our culture is focused on right now is kind of pointless and boring. Whether it’s a collapse due to peak oil, the ever-popular zombie apocalypse, or natural disasters caused by climate change, the doom-and-gloom about the survival of humanity and/or the planet serves to upset more people than it motivates.

I’m not denying that there are serious problems, I’m saying that there must be a better way to create positive change.

In my four decades here on the planet, I’ve seen several predicted “end dates” for this world come and go, and here we still are. I’m inclined to agree with Rob Brezsny:

“The original meaning of the word ‘apocalypse’ was ‘revelation,’ and in the esoteric spiritual traditions of the West, the apocalypse is regarded as a Great Awakening — a marvelous resurrection. I propose that the apocalypse we’re living through applies in both the degraded modern sense of the word — the end of the world — and in the original sense. In other words, collapse and renewal are happening side by side; calamity and blooming; rot and splendor; grievous losses and unpredictable surges of miraculous novelty. Yes, the end of the old world is proceeding apace; but it is overlapped by the birth pangs of a fresh, hot civilization that will be beautiful beyond all imagining.” – Rob Brezsny

Furthermore, I think this has always been the case. It would be just as easy for people living through the Dark Ages, colonization and slavery, various Ice Ages, and other periods in history to feel like their world was ending. Things are still going, and despite the injustices we still see in modern times, much progress has been made in terms of living conditions, personal rights, and longevity.

Personally, I believe that consciousness and energy are eternal. I’m pretty sure the whole thing never really ends, its just goes on somewhere else. Or perhaps back here, in a different time or probable reality, like in Dr. Who. No, I can’t know that for sure, but I’m willing to take the chance that consciousness continues on in some form. If it doesn’t, when I die, I won’t know the difference.

So if the “world,” aka “consciousness,” never really ends but goes on eternally, then what’s the point of being so discouraged, disgusted, or depressed about things changing, even radically? It’s natural to feel sad about species disappearing and natural landscapes being destroyed. It’s in our nature to protect our people, our tribes, I get that, too. Feel those feelings, then let them move through you. It doesn’t help to get too bogged down.

If something intense is happening to you and yours right now, go and deal with it as best you can.

If not, the best thing you can do is probably to act as if your reality will continue on, and that when your death comes, your consciousness will transition to a new place. When you act from this premise, you are freed up from paralyzing fear about the end times. You’re better able to focus on how you can help create the changes that you see as essential.

How you provide your help to our struggling-and-thriving-all-at-once world depends on your point of view and your personal strengths and preferences. It makes sense to follow the path that is laid out before you, and not try and be someone else. You might be drawn to political action and protesting in the streets, or you might change the world by teaching children to be compassionate and kind. There will probably be many ways you contribute, throughout your lifetime.

When you focus on grounding yourself in the things you can do, and stop worrying so much about what others are up to, you’re living a life of meaning and purpose.

In an eternal cosmos whose creative powers are awesome beyond our individual knowing, I think being the best you possible is more valuable by far than wallowing in old over-played scenarios of death and despair. Unless that’s your thing. In which case, I have some friends who will really enjoy your forthcoming zombie movie.

Following the Spark: A Way of Life

lakegeorgesparklesOne of the major life lessons I’ve been integrating this year is to follow the trail of my joy as I live my life. This has evolved into something I call “following the spark.” Lest this all sound a bit too fluffy-bunny even coming from me, allow me to elaborate.

While my practice arises in part from the famous, or perhaps infamous, Law of Attraction (LOA), it doesn’t have anything to do with pasting on a fake smile and pretending things are fine when they’re not. The LOA has been misunderstood to the point where some literal-minded people now associate it with class privilege and blaming the victim. Sigh.

Having studied (and practiced, to varying degrees) the Seth material since the early 1990s, I can assure you that the notion of creating your own reality is much more nuanced than that. In fact, much of it aligns in fascinating ways with the ongoing discoveries in quantum physics.

Quester wants a bumper sticker that says “Now that science has proven magick works, I’d like an apology.” Heh heh.

Anyway, what I’ve been doing, upon reflection, combines elements of the LOA with Pagan notions of magick (which is, in essence, creating change using your will in harmony with natural forces) and Eastern mindfulness practices. It involves keeping in mind your desired outcome, letting go of attachment to how it will come about, and residing fully in the present moment. There’s also an element of trust that you will be taken care of, no matter what (yes, even if you die).

Okay, hold on, let me use an example to illustrate what I mean. Recently Quester and I took a road trip to Saratoga Springs, NY, to see two Dave Matthews Band shows. We had our tickets, but no other itinerary. We decided to camp in his pickup truck, outfitted with a cap and a futon mattress.

We got there a day early, and started to explore the area. We had looked up a campground that catered to concert-goers, but it was a holiday weekend, and the prices seemed unreasonably high. So while we were walking around the downtown area, we decided to see if we could come up with a cheap or free place to park the truck for the night.

We asked around in a couple of cool shops, tapping into the hippie network, as we thought of it. We met a few other DMB fans, and found out about some live music playing that night. No one really had any wisdom for us at first, and I had the intuition that we should check at the local health food store, that someone there would know something. So we strolled there, and went inside. We walked around a bit, but Quester said, no, he wasn’t feeling it.

So, letting go of that notion, we moved on.

But in the parking lot, we ran into a young guy and started chatting. It turned out that he worked there and was leaving for the day. He told us that there were a couple of free 48-hour parking lots right in downtown that might work well, and directed us to them.

I told him about my intuition to go to that particular store, and he asked me if I’d spoken with anyone inside.

“No,” I said. “You were the first spark we got.” He nodded and smiled, understanding just what I meant.

We made our way back to the first street we’d explored, which was near one of the parking lots. A woman came out of a shop, recognizing us from earlier; a co-worker had told her what we were looking for, and she offered us her spot in the same 48-hour lot. It turned out we didn’t need it, as there were already spots open, so we moved the truck there.

We found a back-corner spot on the open-roofed second level, and backed in. We were near the live music – lots of it, actually – and had a wonderful evening enjoying the night life. Then we climbed in the truck and crashed, right in the middle of downtown.

Sleeping there felt like being contained in the cauldron of the city’s energy, but safe and undisturbed. No one bothered us at all. We used the public restrooms, and even toasted our bagels on the camp stove in the morning. We only stayed there the one night, but it was perfect for our needs.

Later in the weekend there was rain, and we found out that the original campground we’d considered, which was very close to a lake, had been flooded, and at least one fan’s vehicle ended up mired in the mud. The Universe didn’t steer us wrong.

Of course, even if we had ended up stuck in the mud and taking a kayak to get to the show, like the woman Quester spoke with, we would have been fine. We followed the spark for the rest of our trip, and had a fabulous time – even when things didn’t seem to go according to plan, it all worked out well.

Following the spark has elements of The Celestine Prophecy – remember that book by James Redfield? The aspect of it that I’m talking of says that those we encounter have messages for us, or we for them, and the ideal way of communicating is to let those communications unfold naturally, with respect. It works not just with other people, but messages from your environment. If a place feels “off,” it’s probably not where you need to be.

For me, following the spark weaves together many of the things I’ve studied and practiced over the years. It contains elements of Paganism and esoteric magick, Buddhist philosophy, mindfulness meditation, works by Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie, polarity therapy (keeping your energy system clear so you can receive the messages without distortion), the emotional guidance system that Abraham-Hicks teaches, my experiences with helping my friend Jenn cross the veil, and the “relaxed determination” of Danielle LaPorte, who I’ve recently begun reading.

It also works well with my Word of the Year, which is GRACE. I feel like following the spark is a graceful way of living my life. It helps me tend to my joy, in the most powerful sense. It also helps me to add some spontaneity to my often highly-scheduled life.

Of course, it seems easier to do while traveling, when there is often an open agenda and no to-do lists. But I’m working on integrating this practice into my everyday life, following the spark as I go about my work and play.

On one hand, my recent experiences with following the spark remind me of when Quester and I traveled to Grateful Dead concerts during college, and the hippie way we traveled then (like nomads, we said, rather than tourists).

But thanks to the learning I’ve done in the intervening years, it also feels much, much deeper.

I’ll have to wait and see what unfolds next, but this feels like a really solid practice that is helping me live the life I’ve been seeking.

The Dogs’ Most Excellent Adventure

Much of the month of June, and most of the first week of July, I spent on a fun set of various road trips. The first one was a 3-day trip, with Quester and our two teens, to his extended family’s camp on the ocean in Hancock County, Maine. We love to go there every summer, though for the past few summers, my son Dryst hasn’t been able to go due to his intense pre-season soccer schedule. He has graduated now, and so he headed north with us. Dog-lover that he is, Dryst insisted that we bring along our canine friends. Here’s a look at the trip through the eyes of our two dogs, Star and Áine.

dogblog1

Hi! I’m Áine, and I’m 2 years old. I loved my first trip to camp! My favorite part was chasing red squirrels all around the yard. Can you believe they go inside the cabin!? I tried to keep them out. My least favorite part was the long car ride, which was very boring.

dogblog2The first day we were there, Mom and my Girl took Star and me for a walk. Dad and my Boy were busy building a shed. They like to play with sticks, just like me.

dogblog3I met a new type of dog, that I’d never seen up close before.

dogblog4Can you believe how huge this guy is?! Star didn’t seem to even notice him.

dogblog5That night we went for another walk. I got my own bowl of ice cream! It was awesome! Though I think Star got more ice cream than me.

dogblog6Hello. My name is Star, short for Astarte. I’m 11 years old. I’ve been up to camp before, so I knew what to expect. I had ice cream on our walk, too. I’m sure we both had the same amount, it’s just that Áine eats really fast. I’m more ladylike.

dogblog7We went through a park that was really nice. It had benches to rest on. Mom said it was in Bar Harbor.

dogblog8The ocean was pretty, but I hate wearing a leash. I mean, I stick close by no matter what, so why do I have to have this rope? I guess it was the rule where we were walking, though.

dogblog9We got to explore and sniff around all kinds of stuff there. When we got back to camp, it was time for a rest, while the humans in our Pack played cards.

dogblog10Hey there, this is Áine again – I was ready for a nap, too. I like to be right in the center of the Pack.

dogblog11The next morning, Mom and our Girl, along with a couple of other humans, took us for a hike up Schoodic Mountain. Wow, was that fun! I got to run all around and explore all the smells and trails for a long time.

dogblog12I think Star was really tired, though. Here she is, resting on the top of the mountain with our Girl.

dogblog13I wasn’t tired at all, just hungry. I wanted to know what the Girl had to eat in that bag!

This is Star again. The hike was really long and hot, and when I got back, I was tired and kind of sore. We all went in the car to have dinner with some friends in Southwest Harbor. They have a dog named Charlie. He and Áine ran around a lot, but I just rested. I got to have steak for dinner! Don’t tell Áine, though – she and Charlie just had kibble. Sometimes being the senior dog really pays off.

dogblog14Here’s a picture of our Boy on the way to the dinner. I guess Charlie didn’t want his picture taken.

dogblog15

The next day I mostly wanted to rest at camp, so I did.

Áine was still running around trying to catch squirrels. She didn’t even come close.

dogblog16I did, too! (It’s Áine again). One time a red squirrel fell off the cabin and landed right at my feet. I was so surprised that he got away, though. I kept trying!

dogblog17I thought of another thing that I didn’t like on the trip. Canoeing. The boat is so tipsy-turvy! I was too nervous, so I stayed home with my Boy. Star liked it, though. She’d been in canoes before.

dogblog18Let me take over again – this is Star. I think Áine’s silly. Canoes are a lot of fun, especially with Mom and the Girl.

dogblog19We saw a critter that was sort of like a dog, but it lives right in the water! Mom said it was a seal.

dogblog20I don’t like to swim, even though I have webbed feet, but I did have a nice time wading in the water. And that was our trip to camp! It was fun, but I was glad to come home.

 

dogblog22Oh yeah, and Áine said to tell you that the car ride home wasn’t quite so boring. Probably because she got to sleep on the Girl’s lap. Lucky dog.

Starcat’s Favorites: Freedom and Fun

hammocktimeIt’s Independence Day today in the U.S., where I live. Independence and freedom are words that get bandied about a lot, and getting into a political discussion really isn’t my thing. But I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been enjoying my personal freedom, and so I’m celebrating that.

My kids are teens. My son, Dryst, has just graduated from our wholeschool (we didn’t just stay home…even though it’s popularly known as homeschooling). My daughter ElvenTiger is 16 and has her first real boyfriend. They are amazing people, and becoming more self-sufficient by the day. Their independence is giving me more freedom to do what I love to do, like go away on retreats and dive into learning new things. I’m glad that they do still choose to hang out with me regularly, as well. My family is just the best!

This weekend I’m using my freedom to enjoy some vacation days with Quester. We’ll be hiking, swimming, and dancing to live music! Woo hoo!

I hope your weekend is a delight and your summer goes swimmingly. Here are some links to enjoy by the lake or in the hammock.

We’re a bit past the Summer Solstice now, but oh! how I love this post on the abundance of this time of year (and beyond).

Going to a festival, retreat, or intensive? Heed these words of wisdom from an amazing soul.

It feels so good to appreciate the simple things in life.

A deeply thoughtful essay on the body as a mirror and metaphor. Wow.

Here’s my latest post on Kind Over Matter, this one on your younger self and why you should play more.

Blessings of fireflies and cool waters!