Evolving Spiritual Practices

autumnwalkThis summer I celebrated an unusual anniversary: 20 consecutive years of daily spiritual practice! Yes, really. My practice, as you might imagine, has evolved quite a lot over the last two decades.

Recently, my morning practice involves 30 minutes of silent meditation followed by bullet journaling. The meditation itself includes a chakra clearing as well as other energy work. My daily bullet journal session includes (among other things) making a list of things I’m grateful for from the previous day.

In addition to this practice, I’ve added a couple of other daily (or near-daily) activities this year. One is that BlackLion and I started a “20-minute movement challenge” in February. The idea is to do something to move your body, daily, for at least 20 minutes. We started with dancing, and moved on to flow arts (in my case, hula-hooping).

I don’t actually do my hooping or dancing every day. But in typical Virgo fashion, I keep track of my movement and do the equivalent. In other words, if I miss a day, I make sure I catch up the following day by doing at least 40 minutes – or an hour, if I’ve missed two days. You get the idea. I’ve also noticed that I’ve been adding more movement to my days, even outside the challenge – like walking and swimming.

I’ve noticed the positive changes in my body. Hula-hooping is great for core strength, and while I haven’t yet lost much weight, my body is definitely changing. I’ve also gotten much better at hula-hooping, and learned a few simple tricks from my daughter. I’m keeping this movement challenge, as it’s a positive thing for a writer – my work is mostly sedentary, and so getting moving regularly is good.

Over the past year, I’ve also been working on upgrading my personal prosperity. As a family of self-employed adults, and as part of the legacy of living on one income while we were homeschooling, we’ve been struggling with poverty for what seems like far too long. I’m more than ready for a change.

So along with taking courses with an excellent business coach, I started a daily practice which I’ve been calling “money mindset.” This can involve anything from starting a budget and keeping track of expenses, to reading books on money and prosperity, to journaling on my old beliefs about money (either on my own, or guided by prompts someone else created), to taking online workshops.

As this particular practice has evolved, I’m realizing that it’s not really all about the money, per se, but more about my mindset in general. I find it extremely valuable to pay attention, in some way, to my mindset each day. It ties in with the spiritual studying that I’ve returned to throughout my adult life. I’m learning so much! The tools I’ve added to my tool kit from this new practice are helping me to grow and evolve in all areas of my life.

I like to tell people that your daily spiritual practice will seep out into your daily life in surprising ways. It’s so true! It’s all interconnected.

If you don’t yet have a daily spiritual practice of your own, I most highly encourage you to start one. If you’re looking for resources to help you get started, check out our video and my book on the topic. You can also comment below with your questions or the challenges you face. I look forward to hearing from you!

Starcat’s Favorites: Wake Me Up…

bridgetbeanbootIt’s hard for me to believe that summer is coming to an end. This is an especially poignant time, as my beloved daughter ElvenTiger is moving to Colorado in less than two weeks (on the day before my birthday, as it happens). I’m so thrilled for her, to be launching herself into adulthood in such an adventurous and fun way.

I’m also really sad, because I’ll miss her regular presence in our household.

Yesterday we went out, just the two of us, to walk along the beach, play some Pokemon Go, and enjoy some Pier Fries (delicious french fries found at a very touristy local beach spot). On the way there, since it was the first of September, she played one of our favorite songs on her phone. I admit it – Green Day’s Wake Me Up When September Ends had me crying.

At the same time as this huge personal change, I’m also working on launching a brand new business venture. It’s called “Nikki Starcat Shields: Book Midwife.” (Garrison Keillor fans, think “Guy Noir: Private Eye”). I’ll be helping fellow writers and aspiring authors realize their dreams of birthing their book into the world. It’s very exciting, and I’ll have more to share about it soon.

In the meantime, if you have a book in you, take my simple survey and share feedback about how I could support you in the process. Thanks!  (And yes, I’ll still be doing Feline Dreamers as well. This is an additional business. What can I say? I like to be busy.)

Even in the midst of an insanely busy summer, I’ve gathered up some yummy links for you to enjoy during the waning warmth.

This post, in the wake of the white supremacy protests in Virginia, spoke to me very powerfully.

Mothers must guard their own solitude. It’s a radical act.” I feel so strongly about this! Doing my daily spiritual practice, even when the kids were tiny, was one of the best things I’ve done for myself – and for my family. The whole point of spiritual practice is connection, which this article articulates beautifully.

Are you emotionally intelligent?

I love this post about how meditation expands time. I’ve had this experience with my writing, too. Meditation can also help us overcome the human tendency to be dissatisfied.

After 8 months, I’m still loving my bullet journaling process.

How to overcome the negative talk that surrounds us, particularly in the realm of money.

I might have posted this one before (or something quite similar), but I find it to be very useful when working with the Law of Attraction processes and especially the emotional grid.

Enjoy the transition of the seasons, and may your life bring you great joy!

Play Powers Creativity

beachrosesIn the society we live in, it can be tempting to take things oh-so-seriously. I mean, that’s what the news media (and the advertising embedded within it) is all about. It’s jam-packed with fear, things going wrong, and how to plan for the worst case scenario. It’s based on doing The Right Thing and following the herd.

How very boring!

Those of us who are more playful by nature – you know, the artists, rebels, and black sheep – don’t fit into the mainstream notion of what it means to be a responsible adult. You know this. You’ve probably struggled with it to varying degrees throughout your life – wondering why you’re just not satisfied with what’s considered “normal.”

Your wild ideas, crazy daydreams, and deep longings constantly beckon you forth. You lose your keys, forget to put gas in the car – but you just had to stop and get that picture of the clouds that looked like a herd of centaurs! You often stop and smell the roses – literally – whether or not you’re on time for that appointment.

Nope, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re attuned to one of the most powerful forces in the Universe: creativity.

And you know what powers the creative spirit? Play.

Play is how human beings learn, at the very beginning of life when we’re exploring the world. Babies never have formal lessons in crawling, walking, or laughing. They explore and discover, through playing, how they can best navigate the landscape. As we grow, we often forget this.

Adults in our culture don’t play enough. Even our leisure time is taken quite seriously, and scheduled to death. When we do get to play, or “party,” we’re supposed to “need” alcohol or drugs to loosen up enough to dance or get silly. That’s so ridiculous! I mean, I suppose it’s better than no play at all.

But imagine if we freed ourselves enough to incorporate regular play time into our daily lives. It would certainly make us less stressed, and we could enjoy each day instead of living for the weekend.

So rather than chastising yourself for your impulse to be silly and follow where your imagination leads you, embrace it! Allow playfulness to seep into all aspects of your life.

Quester, BlackLion, and I recently went grocery shopping with a friend of a friend, who hates to go and stock up on food and other necessities. As we usually do, we goofed around as we shopped – putting weird items in each others’ carts, making puns, smiling at other shoppers. Our new friend found that she actually had a good time!

You can bring your playfulness with you wherever you go. If serious adults give you a frown or the stink-eye, so what? You know you’re having a lot more fun than they are in that moment. And your playfulness if most likely inspiring a lot more folks than you know!

Play powers your creativity, and makes for a much more fulfilling life experience. In the big picture, taking time to be joyful will make you more productive and centered. Goodness knows we need more of this energy in our go-go-go society. Be a play ambassador!

Starcat’s Favorites: The Soul of Summer

PantherPondIf you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I absolutely LOVE summer. So here I am, in my glory! Picnics, swimming in the lake, fresh strawberries, journaling in the hammock, playing Pokemon Go, hanging out with family, beach time with friends, and attending outdoor concerts.

Ahh, this is the life. Remind me of it, please, when I’m bemoaning living in Maine next winter.

Are you taking some time off to sit on the deck, relax at the beach, or chill in the hammock? Here’s some inspiring reading material for your down time!

Mental health habits of happy women (I especially liked the “anti-drama” one).

I’m all for celebrating the ordinary.

A big YES to these summer wellness hacks. Good stuff!

I learned about The Friendship Force from a participant in a workshop I taught in Pennsylvania last month. Sounds like something our world really needs!

These are terrific tips for easy manifesting mojo, from BlackLion’s awesome life coach.

I’m a huge fan of Leonie Dawson, and love how she tells her story in order to inspire others. Even if you’re not an entrepreneur, check out her article “The Highly Sensitive CEO.”

How do the messages about money you were given as a child still affect you today?

And finally, check out our new Feline Dreamers video on creating a daily spiritual practice – why you’d want to, and how to do it even when your life is full-on busy. Enjoy!

Sisterhood Is Essential

womenfriendsI’ve written here before about friendship, and particularly my friendships with women. At this point in my life, I feel like any old wounds I had in this area have fully healed.

I absolutely adore my circle of women friends.

These past couple of years, I feel like I’ve been able to delve even deeper into sisterhood. Through my business coach, who works with women entrepreneurs who own heart-centered businesses, I’ve become part of a tribe of women who lift one another up. We offer each other unconditional support, encouragement, and laughter.

These sisters are amazing. They really get me and my interests! They understand my struggles and celebrate my triumphs. It’s been amazing to find a new place where I really fit in.

Where I feel like I truly belong, despite – or perhaps because of – my unconventional beliefs and lifestyle. It feels so fantastic!

Last month I was a presenter at a festival called Where Womyn Gather, in Pennsylvania. It was much like a witch camp (yes, that’s really a thing – there’s even one in Maine now), with workshops during the day, shared meals in a dining hall, and big community rituals in the evening. It was amazing!

The gathering is made up entirely of women and girls. It was such a powerful space to be in. Not only is the venue lovely, but just the energy of being in a community of women – about 500 of us, only a couple of whom I’d ever met before – was magickal.

You know that I love men. As lovers, friends, and partners. I’ve probably had more close male friends over the course of my life than I have women friends (up until recently, anyway).

Yet at this point in my life I also seek out women-only spaces on a regular basis. I find it refreshing, nourishing, and enlivening. There’s something about the shared experiences, the empathy, the collaboration, that feeds my soul.

Quester described the wild women beach gathering he attended – we open it to partners and families from time to time – as kind of uninteresting to him. He said, “It’s all blah blah blah, splash splash splash.” (He forgot to mention the gales of cackling laughter).

But for me, talking about our experiences, laughing together over our stories, and splashing around in the sea is powerfully healing. Yes, even though I’m mostly an introvert, I get energized in these sacred women’s circles.

I’m so very thankful for all of my dear sisters: the mentors, my female relatives, close wild women friends, heartfelt entrepreneur acquaintances, longtime friends, brand-new evolving friendships, my awesome biz accountability partner, new connections I made at the gathering, and more. Those I see often, those who I see rarely or who live far away and interact with me online, momentary friendships with women I might not ever see again. The maidens, the mothers, and the crones. All of the sisters.

You are so inspiring. I bless and value your presence in my life. Sisterhood is essential to my well-being. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Starcat’s Favorites: That’s More Like It

catgardenspringI’m loving the beautiful month of May. It’s been so nice to be able to be outdoors without freezing! I’ve been biking, walking, and hula-hooping, and also sitting in the sun with my journal. Ooh, maybe it’s time to put up the hammock.

This weekend we’re celebrating a half-century family birthday, I’m facilitating a marriage ceremony for some dear friends, and we’ll be attending the annual Beltane on the Beach gathering. Lots of fun stuff to do! Though I’ve been grateful for the rain we’ve been getting, I hope it holds off a while so our outdoor celebrations will be relatively dry and warm.

Here are some links for you to enjoy this weekend, or whenever you feel the urge:

Doing yoga everyday – or in my case, meditation – can change your life. Looking to add a daily practice or healthy habit yourself? Here are some useful tips.

From one of my favorite websites, Kind Over Matter, what to do when people don’t “get” you. She linked to one of my guest posts, too!

10 ways to stand up for yourself.

Call me a New Age dreamer or sci-fi geek if you want, but this is just so freaking cool! Along these same lines, check out how to reprogram your subconscious mind. A longer article, but well worth the read. Here’s a quote: “while many of these approaches were initially passed off as ‘new age’, science is now revealing rapid, measurable and lasting results.” Yes!!

I like this take on why some of us choose to use the word “witch” despite the negative connotations.

Another worthy gem of truth about being an introvert. I very much resonate with this.

I need a new swimsuit and I am totally getting one of these. Okay, so I guess I am a New Age geek. And I love it.

Live long and prosper!

An Abundance of Love and Support

Who’s ready for some wisdom from the Tarot? As part of our (very) occasional series on Tarot, let’s examine the 10 of cups. Today we’ll look at the topic of love and support from community through the lens of this bountiful card.

I’ve been doing a New Moon reading for myself each month for a few years now. This past month, one of the cards that showed up was the 10 of cups. It reminded me that despite my current experience of lack (in the area of finances, specifically), that I am blessed with an abundance of love and support in my life.

Let’s take a closer look at the 10 of cups. Here’s the card from the traditional Rider-Waite deck (click on the image to see a larger version).

10ofcups

Notice the happy exuberance on display in the imagery. The cups spread abundantly across the sky, enmeshed in a rainbow. The couple welcomes this bounty with open arms, while children dance merrily. The landscape is lush and green. There is flowing water, and a building that indicates people live nearby. This cozy picture tells a tale of blessings being received by the community.

Among the traditional meanings of the 10 of cups is the notion of being “at home” with yourself and others. This card is also an affirmation of the joy and wholeness in your life. The 10 of cups indicates the blessing of a happy, loving family and group of friends.

In other words, abundant community.

I have long been blessed with a very supportive and loving family, both in terms of the family I’ve created and in the extended family I came from. What I’d like to talk about in this post, though, is my community of friends, especially my women friends.

Early in my life I was very shy, and thus slow to make friends. I often felt isolated and left out of the groups and cliques I saw at school. In college, I was able to find people who had similar interests and to expand my group of friends. Still, I never really found the circle of women friends that I saw others enjoying.

As an adult, I had a close female friend who was my “best friend” for quite a few years. In retrospect, it wasn’t a very healthy relationship. Most of our activities were things she wanted to do, and I kind of went along for the ride. She kept pushing me to change, but not in ways that grew organically from my evolution as a person; I think she wanted me to live my life her way. I grew to dread seeing this friend’s number pop up on my phone. When I was going through a personal crisis, she chose to lecture me harshly about all the things I was doing wrong, rather than provide the loving support I was seeking.

After that I broke off the friendship, which was a good choice, though it left me feeling lonely.

For a few years I mostly hung out with some of the other homeschooling Moms in my kids’ community. While they were wonderful people, the only thing we truly had in common was that our children were friends. I started feeling left out again, and wondering why none of them shared my passions, or even showed much of an interest in what I was doing, creatively.

At first I tried to figure out once again what was wrong about me, why I wasn’t included in the core group of Moms. This was about the time I was discovering greater self-love. I realized that there was nothing wrong with me, or them. I just hadn’t found my tribe.

I set an intention to develop stronger, more authentic female friendships, probably about 3 years ago. Getting back to the 10 of cups, tens are about completion, results, and rewards. When I pulled this card in my recent reading, it reminded me of the amazing community of women friends I’m now surrounded with. I’m blessed with a true abundance of women who share my passions and interests. My intention has certainly come to pass.

The 10 of cups is a water card, and water is associated with emotions and feelings. The love of my tribe of women flows freely. We’re about fun, support, and personal growth. We’re not interested in judging one another, or playing the comparison game.

Our gatherings do tend to be very watery. The can mean literally gathering on the beach in the summer to skinny-dip and play in the sand, but I also notice it in terms of flow. As a group, we tend to go with what’s needed in each moment. We share our deepest fears, and also our funniest stories. We hold space for each other’s emotional moments. We encourage one another to be wild and free, and to try new things. We also meet each woman where she is, and respect each individual journey.

The 10 of cups also encompasses the notion of gratitude. I’m so thankful for the abundance of love and support I feel from the kick-ass amazing women in my life. I hope that you have a tribe that uplifts and nurtures you, as well.

Leave a comment with your experience with supportive community, your ideas about the 10 of cups, or whatever floats your boat. Blessings!

Starcat’s Favorites: The Wheel Turns

artistdatesHappy April to you! No joke. I’m so glad to be here in a new month, though of course the calendar is pretty arbitrary. Still, I will revel in having moved on from the dreaded March, and that the weather will continue to improve (she wrote, determinedly ignoring the snow outside the window).

What are you looking forward to this Spring? I’m excited to work on revisions for my upcoming novel, Patterns in the Void. I look forward to walks at the beach and in the woods, to celebrating some April birthdays (my brother, his wife, and a close friend of mine were all born this month), and to some fun business-related gatherings. And artist dates in coffee shops, with non-dairy chai latte, coloring books, pens, and journals. Yes!

Here are some interesting links for your weekend, gathered over the course of the winter.

How to get out of a rut. “It’s okay to feel down sometimes. You don’t have to be perfect all the time.” So true! Also, getting comfortable with emptiness.

A good reminder: your worthiness isn’t dependent on what you do. Repeat this to yourself often.

Having a rough time with the state of society right now? Here are some conscious practices that can help. Also, support your sisters!

Is your money having fun? Love this approach.

I love the technique of using mind-mapping when planning out a goal or project. This free pdf shows how to use mind-mapping in connection with EFT (aka tapping). Brilliant!

Have a lovely weekend, and be good to yourself. You deserve it.

Unpacking Those Old Patterns

earlyspringI know I’ve written about this before, but March is my least favorite month. I’m very prone to the March blues. That’s a story I’ve been telling myself for a long, long time. This year has been no exception. It hasn’t been fun.

Knowing what I do about magick and the Law of Attraction, it seems obvious that telling the tale of how this time of year sucks only ensures that it comes true. Yet sometimes these old patterns are so deeply rooted that it feels like you can never dig them up.

Doing some inner work and journaling around it led me back to March of 1985. I was 15 years old, and my favorite grandparent (and the last one I had who was still living), my Mom’s mother, went into the hospital to have surgery on her hip. It was elective surgery. She’d already had the other hip replaced several years earlier, and this surgery promised to help her get around more easily.

Grammy was only 67 years old. There was a medical error that happened, related to a separate condition, and she never came home. She died in the hospital – and with the medical phobia that I had at that time, I never got to see her again.

The day she died so unexpectedly was March 15th, the infamous Ides of March.

No wonder March became such a time of sorrow, loss, and hopelessness for me.

There are other reasons that I struggle at this time of year, too, and I know I’m not alone. But it strikes me that carrying this major loss with me for so many years affects my experience of early Spring to this day.

I’m currently reading a fascinating book called Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Dr. Joe Dispenza. It’s about the brain science behind how we get into these old patterns, stuck in our stories about the way things are.

(A side note: if you haven’t yet tuned into how recent scientific research is validating ancient spiritual wisdom, this book is a great place to start.)

Anyway, the idea is that we have an emotional experience, but then we make it part of our story. Eventually, by repeatedly practicing those emotions, they become part of our personality. It feels like we’re stuck with them, permanently.

But we are the ones who created these patterns, and because we are able to be the observer, to be self-aware, we can also change them. We do so through practices like meditation, using our powers of creativity, and weaning ourselves from our dependence on addictive emotions. If you’ve ever made a big change in your life, one that involved re-creating yourself and your approach to the world, you probably have an inkling what I mean.

I’ve made these big changes in other areas of my life, such as self-love and creativity. But we’re all human, and even when we’re living a conscious life, we’ll be continually refining and learning.

My current work is to heal my relationship with Spring. I’m beginning with a lot of nurturing self-care, and with a practice of forgiveness. I’m letting myself off the hook, and making some new choices.

What changes are you making in your experience? How can you begin to unpack an old pattern that’s holding you back? Can you forgive yourself for circling back around to this story yet again? Are you ready to move forward in new ways?

Magick and the Law of Attraction: How Does It Actually Work?

cairnsforfunThere are so many misunderstandings about magick and the Law of Attraction and how they actually work in everyday life. I wrote about this in my most recent book, The Heart of the Goddess: A Handbook for Living Soulfully. Here’s an excerpt:

Let’s start with a couple of definitions. What do I mean by “magick,” and why is it spelled that way? Magick is the art of changing your consciousness using your will, which then changes your experience, what enters and leaves your life. Many modern-day Pagans and witches have chosen to add a “k” to the end of the word in order to differentiate it from the notion of magic as staged illusion.

Magick (with the “k”) is more than a mere trick, although it can look like one if you’re seeing it from the outside.

How does magick work?

All that you perceive around you is a reflection of your inner world. On one level, you observe what you do because of the way your mind filters things. This is due to your previous experiences, your beliefs, and the habitual way you have trained your brain to process events.

Science has demonstrated this in many experiments and studies. A well-known one is to have a group of people observe an event, then question them separately about it. Questions – and answers – about the color of the clothing worn by the key players, the order in which things happen, and other details show clearly that we aren’t all seeing things objectively.

On a deeper level, your thoughts and beliefs affect what you draw into your field of experience. Everything is made of energy, including you. Energy moves – it vibrates and emanates in waves. When you are on the same vibration as something, you can draw it to you much more easily than if your energy doesn’t match up.

When you learn to change your thoughts and the feelings that underlie them, you can shift your vibration, and as if by magic (which is really magick), you achieve the results you desire. This is a simplified description of how you work magick.

Now is a good time to define the Law of Attraction (LOA) and address some common misconceptions about it.

This natural law is explained and popularized by the film The Secret, by the work of Abraham-Hicks, and in many books and teachings. There are a lot of misunderstandings about what it does. Many people have developed a negative view of the LOA, seeing it as wishful thinking, a justification of class privilege, or a blame-the-victim philosophy. These misunderstandings are not surprising, given that a quick explanation leaves out some essential points.

The LOA is basically the method behind the magick described above – you attract people, things, and experiences into your life based on your energy vibration, or in other words, your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

The idea of using the LOA to attract what you desire is that you “don’t have to work” to get what you want. That’s where many people get confused. “What? You mean that I don’t have to work three jobs and scrimp and save to build my dream house?” “No,” the answer might be, “you simply have to align your vibration with the dream home you’re looking for, and it will soon be yours.”

The problems with this reply lie in our understandings about two of the words – “simply” and “soon.”

Yes, at its root, the concept of the LOA is simple. However, for most of us human beings, the journey to learning to align our energies with our desires is not easy. It is actually a whole lot of hard work to learn to attract ideal experiences into your life – but not the common notion of “work.” Let go of trying to control your physical experience through force and physical exertion, like working hard at a job you resent and saving up, penny by precious penny, while trying to resist the mainstream advertising that urges you to spend, spend, spend.

Instead, your work is to train yourself to value your vibrational alignment over all other experience, to practice strengthening your connection to the Divine Source within you, and to uproot and transform old beliefs.

You’ll do all this while living in a culture that considers such inner work a waste of time, misguided, strange, or even harmful and wrong.

As for “soon,” as Abraham often says, you could indeed manifest your desires immediately if you could tap into the purest vibration of your longing. But most of us have a lot of blockages and old habits to dismantle before we get to that point.

Back to the idea of finding your unique magick. In order to attune your vibration to the point where you can draw to you the experiences that are perfect for your joy and growth, there’s plenty of inner work to do. You’ll be unlearning old beliefs and habits, while at the same time building a new toolkit to help you stay in the flow of connection, and return to it quickly when you stray from your path.

The tools and techniques that you use will be drawn from your innate preferences and talents. Remember, magick is an art. Like visual artists, who have a wide variety of materials to choose from – watercolors, oil paints, charcoal, fancy markers, crayons, colored pencils – you get to decide what you’ll use to create your own magick. You’ll build – and actually, you’ve already been assembling – a tool chest that holds your favorite magickal tools, the ones that are most fun and effective for you.

You’ll then employ these favored tools, and new ones that you’ll experiment with and adopt along the way, to focus your will and to create change. What do I mean by “will” in this usage of the word? I’m not talking about the surface desires of the conscious mind, although they are fun to play with sometimes.

When I speak of will, I mean the deeper yearnings of your soul.

You’ll become most clearly aware of what these are when you learn to listen to your intuition and align your mind and heart, which is part of the essential work of a priestess or conscious co-creator.

But even if you feel unclear about your callings right now, you probably have plenty of clues in your experience, ones that bubble up through the layers of your conscious mind and form a thread of meaning in your life.

Learning to work with your will means using your consciousness tools to bring you into a state where you align with the vibration of your desires.

This requires practice and focus. Happily, this kind of inner work isn’t boring or tedious.

If done with an attitude of curiosity and an open heart, it is intensely fun and rewarding. Not that there won’t be tears and struggles, especially as you discover and root out old patterns. But the discovery of and alignment with your personal brand of magick is like unearthing a cache of priceless treasure at your very core – one that you weren’t aware of for much of your life, yet it belongs to you, to enjoy and share as you desire.

The riches that you have deep inside you, waiting to be found, are beyond those of your wildest dreams!