Starcat’s Favorites: It’s Official!

springequinox

Flowers in March? I wish. This was in May…

Well, it’s officially Spring! The vernal equinox was yesterday, so in calendar terms at least, we’re entering the warmer part of the year. I’m so glad! Today, I’m even willing to wait a while for the true blessings of spring to show up: flowers, green grass, baby birds, and walking barefoot. With daytime temperatures still generally hovering in the 30’s where I live, it’s gonna be a while…

Here are some links to keep you amused in the meantime, or to enjoy in the hammock if you live in warmer climes.

Check out NPR’s list of the top 100 sci-fi and fantasy books. I was surprised that I’ve only read 43 of them. How about you? Lots of books to add to the wish list!

A new way to look at money, savings, and expenses. Intriguing.

This is a very helpful post about how to stop food cravings. Kris Carr is amazing. Here’s another one from her, on getting your writing mojo going – even if only in the privacy of your own journal.

Here’s an article about the power of solitude. If you’re already well aware of its blessings, you’ll probably identify with many of the things on this list. I know I did!

This cracked me up. There’s a bit of swearing, but it’s well worth a read, especially if you work for yourself.

The Value of Saying No

As spring begins to peek its head above the snowbanks, they begin to arrive. Squelching through the mud. Swarming, seemingly out of nowhere, falling like snowflakes, or maybe apple blossoms. Moving in and making themselves at home. What are they?

Ladybugs? Migrating birds? Nope.

Invitations.

In just the past two weeks, I’ve received invitations via Facebook to belly-dancing classes, a Spring Equinox celebration, a late-night dance party, a spring cleanse workshop, several festivals, performances, and concerts, not to mention birthday parties and fundraisers. Some of them fall on dates when I already have plans, or might be too far away to travel to, but that only accounts for a small portion of these invitations. Yet I’ve said “no thanks” to all of these, even though they sound like fun. I said “maybe” to an intriguing spiritual tea in early April and a housewarming party two hours away in late May.

The only Facebook invitations I’ve answered “yes” to lately are a surprise milestone birthday party, trampoline-jumping with homeschoolers (my daughter’s friends are going), and a couple of recurring events I enjoy attending and helping with each year. Invitations from my family and close community often come by phone or e-mail, and I try to say “yes” to as many of those as possible without eating up all my writing time in any given week.

And those are just the in-person events. It doesn’t count the scads of online courses I see each week, many of which cost little or nothing and look really interesting, fun, and useful. I truly don’t have time for all of them, or even a fraction. But they can help me master social media marketing as an introvert! Build my brand as a soulful hippie chick with wisdom to share! Expand my business while helping people grow spiritually! Sigh…

I’ve written before about how saying no to events can mean saying yes to your priorities. That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

One of the pitfalls of being easygoing and interested in a wide variety of subjects is that, well, everything looks like fun. It’s the “ooh, shiny…” syndrome. The problem is, if I tried to do all the things that catch my eye, not only would I be a stressed-out mess from having no down time, I also wouldn’t get any writing done.

And writing, let me remind you (by that I mean, remind me, too) is my passion. So is reading. Meditation. Yoga. All those things that are for the most part, solitary pursuits. When I’m doing them, they transport me. I am so in love with novel writing lately! I daydream about my characters, and already have ideas for making the story better, even before the first draft is complete. It’s a blast.

When I sit there in the morning with my chai tea, opening my e-mails and looking through Facebook notifications, I need to remember the value of “no.” I love exploring the world, and I do take time to travel and socialize. But I really need to balance it with plenty of creative time. It’s my soul work, after all. Writing, creativity, spirituality, these are a huge YES to me, and I need to protect them from all the shiny distractions.

So if I decline your event, it’s nothing personal. I’m just in love with the writer’s life.

Banishing the March Blues

prespring

The view on my walk: spring sun on piles of snow.

It seems like every year around this time I go through some kind of emotional struggle, or even a physical illness. It’s an old familiar pattern. Even when I start the year off with exciting goals and intentions, March is when things seem to crash. Here in northern New England, while there are some signs of spring, it’s still really cold out. Seasonal transitions can be hard, and this one really kicks my butt.

But I’d rather not live inside an old story. So this month I’m purposefully being mindful. I’m doing some extra self-nurturing, and trying not to have unreasonable expectations of myself. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve talked to quite a few folks who also go through this sort of pre-spring downturn. I put up a query on my Facebook page and received a lot of responses. There was plenty of commiseration, as well as some ideas for helping ourselves get through this tricky stretch of time. I love what Sue L. said: “This time of year kind of reminds me of those last few weeks before childbirth, when you’re just uncomfortable.” That’s it exactly!

Thanks, everyone, for your contributions! Here are some suggestions from the community, which I’ve compiled into seven tips. I hope they help you to thrive as the seasons turn toward the much-awaited Spring Equinox.

cabinfevercat

Cabin fever cat goes crazy over sunshine. Watch your feet!

Accept what is. So, it’s not yet spring. Why not just enjoy the last bit of winter? I don’t mean winter sports, unless that’s your thing. Maryanne J. recommends “embracing the darkness and letting it flow.” Remember the spiritual activities of winter? Dreaming, reading, introspection? Hibernating in the creative cave? Enjoy your time doing quiet indoor work before the sun and warm breezes call you outside to play.

Be playful. Amanda W. writes, “I stay positive by infusing my life with joy and play – laughter yoga, hula hooping, dancing, playing games with friends and family.” Find playful activities you enjoy, and immerse yourself in them. I like to dance around the kitchen to my favorite music, or make an art journal page of things I love.

Understand your emotional context. Jenn B. says that her own emotional funk tends to happen in the fall. “For me, it corresponds with loss I’ve experienced over the years. It’s a type of emotional anniversary. I don’t know if this applies for you, but thought I’d share my experience.” It’s true that my much-beloved grandmother died unexpectedly on the Ides of March, when I was a teenager. Could this loss still resonate after so many years? It’s quite possible. If you struggle with a particular season, think about what subconscious feelings might be tugging at you. Let them flow, and feel free to express yourself in your journal or to a close friend.

Add more color to your life. Several folks suggested buying bouquets of flowers, to add some brightness to your day. Outside, the snow is dirty and yards are turning into mudscapes. Brighten up your indoor space. It can help lift your mood a bit. Start some seedlings, and observe the bright green of new growth. Make sure all your winter decorations are put away – even those paper snowflakes on the windows. It’s almost time to decorate eggs.

Nurture your body. “It’s called cabin fever,” writes my cousin Billy. “Very similar to scurvy. Eat an orange and think spring!” Maybe its time to put away the soup recipes and make a spinach salad or a fruit smoothie. Jannine G. writes, “The change is season is when I tend to get sick again, so I am back to loading up on elderberry syrup, and not letting things slip like wearing my hat and gloves.” Getting plenty of sleep is important, too. Take good care of yourself.

Go outside. This week the temperatures were a bit milder, and I got outside for several walks. Even when you still have to bundle up, just being out there in the elements feels good. Exercise is a plus, too, and helps regulate the emotions. Take a walk and look around at all the changes going on right now in nature. As Jen C. reminds us, you can’t really notice the change in sunlight or air from inside your house.

Live in the moment. Maryanne J. says “I felt really springish…until the snow fell again…that was a real moment to embrace! A clear reminder to remain in the moment.” When things don’t go as we wish they would, we can use it as a trigger to be present in the now. Take a few deep breaths. Release expectations. Just be.

I’d love to hear your suggestions for weathering the change from late winter to early spring. I wish you warm days and a peaceful transition. Blessings of approaching Spring!

Starcat’s Favorites: A Slow Transition

March is here! Which is great, because it’s the month that contains the official start of Spring. And not-so-great, because it’s a month where I tend to struggle along. This particular seasonal transition seems to really leave me feeling “meh.” I’ve started a conversation about the March blues over on Facebook, and I’ll be summarizing and sharing some of the community’s wisdom here on the blog this coming week. Leave a comment if you have experiences or ideas to share!

In the meantime, here are some fun and interesting links to read while you’re curled up in your PJs with a cup of chai, dreaming of warmer weather. Or is that just me?

In the previous edition of Starcat’s Favorites, I posted a link on resilience. I’ve since encountered this article and also these tips on the same topic. Apparently resilience is important to pay attention to just now…maybe to help us get through this last bit of winter?

Perhaps some delicious metaphors and the questions they bring can help, too.

I love this little rant on the folly of righteousness.

As Spring does come along and there are more invitations and fun things going on, it’s good to remember not to do too much.

Are you ready to share your piece of the puzzle? (swear word alert). You might also want to examine your intentions and see how they line up with your daily life.

No matter how much it might feel like it, you’re not doing life wrong. Really.

Teens, and in particular unschooled teens, are such creative, vibrant, and fascinating people. I love this TED Talk where one teen shares her passion and where it’s led her.

Freed From the Spell: Strengthening Your Self-Worth

fd140716faesunset1It’s really no wonder that those of us who identify as empaths learn to look to external sources for validation of our basic worth. Think about it: with the cascade of emotional data that washes over us, at least some of it will be a direct reflection, information about how others see us in any given moment. It’s like we’ve fallen under a spell, convinced like a faery tale character that this mirror is the true source of our worthiness.

Luckily, it’s simply not true.

It’s time to awaken from the spell woven around you by mainstream culture, the crucible of public school peer groups, and your own vulnerable heart. You are innately worthy of love, of respect, of success, of your most cherished dreams. You already know this, deep down inside.

The knowing is there when you become quiet and still in meditation. When you sit by the sea or walk in the forest and enjoy the presence of nature. It’s there when you are in the zone, caught up in doing what you most love to do. In this space beyond doubt, your self-worth arises from within, as naturally as a flower blooms in spring.

So then, how to you bring this piece of wisdom alive in your everyday experience?

“What people in the world think of you is really none of your business.” – Martha Graham

The problem with trying to get validation from others is that it’s an ever-moving target. Different people in your life value different traits and behaviors. Even one person’s needs and perspectives change over time. They are busy growing and evolving on their own path. It’s not fair to your loved ones, any more than it is to you, to tie your self-worth to their opinions.

Seeking external validation, once you realize that it’s unnecessary, is just a habit. By making a choice to change this habit, you’re on the path to breaking the spell entirely. Observation of your own behavior and reactions is key.

When you get ready to go out, before you turn to ask someone, “how do I look?” you can turn inward and ask yourself how you feel. Dressing yourself for an important event can be about choosing your favorite colors, wearing clothes that feel comfortable and sexy, and putting on your best smile. If you feel good, then you’ll project that confidence outward.

When you’ve created something – a piece of art, an essay, a new recipe – be sure to evaluate it yourself first, with an open mind. Jot down some of your thoughts about the piece, and how you feel it can be improved, before sharing it with others. I’m not saying that seeking feedback isn’t helpful. On the contrary, getting feedback about your creative work is often essential in crafting the final result you desire. However, examine your attachment to being “good” or “right.” Your creation is not a reflection of your worth as a person, though it might feel that way sometimes. If you share your creation with another person in order to get their input, remember the intention.

Meditate often. There are many ways to do so – traditional seated meditation, a solitary walk, mindfulness while you perform a routine task. Simply pick your favorites, and do them as part of your daily life. By regularly connecting yourself with your inner world, you’ll find the desire for external validation fading away. The habit of looking to others for your intrinsic worth will cease, and your self-confidence will strengthen.

As an empath, one of your strengths is your sensitivity, which enables you to be compassionate. When you choose to share that compassion with yourself as well as others, you’ll open up a vast inner world of possibilities. You’ll see how you are like all others, and yet also unique in your gifts. By seeing your own worth, you’ll be much more able to share those gifts with the world.

Upgrading Your Filters

As an empath, introvert, HSP, or simply someone who is sensitive to the energies in your immediate environment, social situations can be challenging. You might become overwhelmed by others’ emotions, sometimes to the extent that you’re not sure whether what you’re feeling is yours or not. Sound about right? Then this post is for you.

Over time, taking on others’ negative emotions can wear you down, drain your energy, and even affect your physical health. I’ve found that setting up “filters” around your energy system, or aura, can be helpful in keeping your personal boundaries intact.

I’d like to share with you the meditations I use to create and maintain these energy filters. I wrote these meditations up in response to a request from a friend. I’ve been using them for years, but had never put them down in writing until fairly recently. They are based in part on techniques I learned at Vermont Witch Camp in 2005. The Reclaiming Collective, founded by one of my favorite Pagan authors, Starhawk, runs these amazing camps. I learned so much just in that one week I attended, and I highly recommend them.

Without further ado, here are the filter meditations!

Filter Creation Meditation

Relax and get comfortable. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Close your eyes and imagine a tiny golden ball of energy in your head, behind your third eye. Watch this tiny, spinning golden ball. As it spins, it gathers up your thoughts, helping you let go of distractions. Continue to breathe slowly and watch the tiny golden ball.

Visualize the ball starting to sink slowly down through your body. See it sink down the inside of your body, past your neck, down into your heart area. The ball continues to sink slowly, and as it does, you relax more and more. This golden glowing ball sinks down into your belly, and comes gently to rest there.

Now see the ball starting to gradually expand. As it starts to get a bit bigger, you notice that the ball looks like a tiny net. It looks like it’s made of the same material as a window screen, with tiny little holes. The ball grows until it becomes the size of a golf ball. It’s still golden, with a perfect mesh pattern. It expands until it’s the size of an orange, then a grapefruit. The ball keeps expanding, and now it’s as big as a basketball. The mesh pattern is still small, with tiny holes like the screen on a window. The ball is a lovely golden color, and as it expands and grows, you feel relaxed and protected.

The golden ball grows until it is a big sphere, long and wide enough to encase your entire body. You feel calm and safe inside the ball, which is a golden filter. You see that the netting is there to filter out any negative energies from outside yourself. All the things that you want inside your filter, like love and joy and fun, will come through. All negative energies from other people, like anger or fear or judgement, are now being filtered out for you.

This golden filter is the perfect size for you, and will stay with you as long as you like. The netting will keep out any energies that are not yours that you don’t want to feel. It will be working for you even if you don’t remember it’s there. And anytime you’re feeling especially overwhelmed, you can focus on your filter and remember how it helps protect you from unwanted energies.

Relax now and let go of seeing your golden filter. Know that it is still there even when you’re not focused on it. Take a few deep breaths and come back slowly to the room you’re in. When you’re ready, open your eyes.

Filter Maintenance Meditation

Every couple weeks or so, or when you’ve been in a particularly emotional or overwhelming situation, it’s a good idea to clean and maintain your golden filter.

As before, relax and get comfortable. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Close your eyes and visualize your golden filter surrounding you. Notice if there are any places where the screen seems clogged or dirty. Focus your attention there, and imagine tiny cleansing bubbles scrubbing your filter clean. Continue the process until the filter is all sparkling and golden, just like new.

Now examine your filter and see if there are any rips or tears in the screening. In your imagination, picture a little robot with tiny tools to repair your filter. The repairs are made quickly and easily, and the places that were harmed are now perfectly repaired. Your filter is all-new, golden and glowing, ready to protect you from unwanted energies that come to you from others.

Let the image of your filters fade, and take a few deep breaths. Trust that your filter is still there, shiny and strong, ready to protect you from unwanted energies.

Starcat’s Favorites: Slowly, Slowly

snowyscene.jpgThis winter has been especially snowy here in northern New England, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now. I don’t know if that’s contributing to my own desire for extended hibernation or not, but I’m not complaining. When the latest winter storm cancels my plans, I’m happy to stay at home. I’ve been moving slowly, relishing some inner changes that are rippling outward through my world. Dreaming, and drawing, and playfully planning some exciting things for this year.

You’ve heard of the slow food movement? I feel like I’m part of some kind of slow creativity version. In a good way.

It’s nice to just be, to play and explore my inner worlds and let it all unfold slowly, slowly, and with positive intentions.

How’s your winter going?

I usually post my favorites on the weekend, so you have some time to dive in and enjoy the links. Just another sign of moving more slowly, I guess. If you’re too busy today to explore the links, save ‘em for your time off, when you can relax with a hot beverage and explore some uplifting reads. Enjoy!

For my fellow recovering perfectionists.

Be your own buddy. It’s much more fun.

Stay close to the pace of your own delight. I guess my delight is strolling slowly through the falling snow!

Yes to playful creativity! Here’s something that looks super fun to try.

Encouraging your resilience and forming a habit of savoring life.

Oooh, a new book list! I’ve read 7 of these, and heard of a few more, but it definitely added to my (huge) to-read list.

Your Spiritual Superpowers

We all have various talents and skills, ones that are innate to us and others that we may have nurtured and refined over time. In modern culture, valued skills are ones that are obvious to everyone. You might be a great cook, able to repair just about any piece of machinery, a whiz at computers, or a talented musician.

But there are invisible talents, too, and I call these spiritual superpowers.

Years ago, a friend who was a working mother complained to me about her stay-at-home partner. While he was terrific with the kids, she was feeling put out because she had to come home from working a full day and do the housework as well. After thinking it over, I asked her to expand her view of her partner’s role in the family. His energy was calm and centering, and he was largely responsible for keeping the family grounded. Sure, he wasn’t great at tidying up the living room or getting the laundry done, but he kept house in a different way. My friend was able to recognize his contributions, and how he was a touchstone of sorts. It was one of his superpowers.

I recently became more aware of one of my own spiritual superpowers. In the middle of an intense conversation, a friend told me that I’m a “space-holder.” She said it casually, as if it was completely obvious, but it took me a moment to understand what she meant. My old self-deprecating pattern first translated it as “just a placeholder,” but my feisty friend soon set me straight.

This particular superpower is about accepting people and situations for who and what they are. I’m a sensitive type, an empath, and I feel emotions intensely. Not just my own, but those of others, too. Over my lifetime I’ve learned not to take them on, not to take them personally, but instead to sit with them and BE and accept and listen and, well, hold the space for whatever comes next.

Granted, it doesn’t always work; sometimes it’s all just too painful, and I run away or otherwise act without grace. But when it flows, it’s a valuable talent. 

What are your spiritual superpowers?

Do you inspire new ideas in the people you interact with? Can you ground someone’s anxious flightiness with a simple hug? Do you perceive the heart of an issue and deftly mediate between two people who can’t see eye to eye? Are you warned of possible troubling events in dreams? When you begin a new project, do you draw the right people to you effortlessly through magnetic leadership? Do you tend lovingly to a piece of land where animals and nature spirits take refuge?

In modern culture, as in the best superhero stories, these gifts are often unacknowledged and unseen. It’s important to recognize them in yourself and give yourself credit. Do what you can to help, and then make sure you fill your cup so that you can stay healthy and continue to be of service in the future.

Recently I held space in a tension-filled meeting. Everyone was being as civil as they could, but emotions and anxieties were high. When I was younger, I would have wanted to be anywhere but there. Now that I do this work more consciously, I sat and did some Reiki on myself, and watched the threads of energy cross the room. I checked in silently on those who seemed especially anxious, and tried to ease things where I could.

After the meeting, and a couple of errands I needed to run, I went home and took a nap. It was time to recharge. Most people wouldn’t see where I’d expended any effort – I just sat there in a room, after all. So what?

Spiritual superpowers are intangible, and their value often isn’t validated externally, unless the situation is extreme.

As I write this, I’m realizing that it was my power as a space holder that my friend Jenn wanted when she asked me to spend her final days in hospice by her side. On the surface, I didn’t really do much. I mean, I held her hand and gave her Reiki, but for much of the time she was beyond any conscious awareness of that. But by holding that space, letting things be, perhaps I helped ease her passing. Some of her family members thanked me, after her death, just for being there.

Remember those times when you’ve been there for someone, or helped in a troubling situation. What spiritual superpowers did you call upon? Think about how you can nourish them, and use them to help others, even when there’s no likelihood of recognition.

These powers are yours for a reason. You are needed and cherished, even when the recipients might not be able to articulate why. All of us are superheroes in our own way.

Barefoot In the Snow!

Guess what? I did it! I took the dare and went outside in the storm to feel the snow under my bare feet.

It felt unexpectedly good. Very invigorating! I felt tingly from the soles of my feet all the way up through the top of my head. It could have been the full moon. I’ll have to try this again.

BarefootSnowDare

If there is snow where you are, I double cat dare you – go outside barefoot! You’ll love it.

Starcat’s Favorites: Barefoot In Winter

snowday2No, I’m not gonna step outside and put my bare toes in the acres of snow that surround our house. Though maybe I should. It could be quite invigorating. I get the chills just thinking of it…brrrrrr!

What I’m referring to is an amazing new opportunity for women (if you’re a guy, please read on below for this week’s links, and perhaps share this with the beloved women in your world!) who’d love to add some peace and purpose to your daily life. My sweet soul sister Nova Om created the Barefoot Being program in order to help you do just that. By working with daily intentions, supported in a sisterhood of spiritually-minded women, she guides you to a deeper and more powerful way of living.

Nova reached out and asked me to join the program last month. At first I was on the fence about taking on another online course, because I’m so focused on my own creative goals this year. But I know the magic that Nova can inspire, so I said yes. I’m amazed at how powerful and nurturing Barefoot Being has been for me thus far. It’s uplifting me in so many ways! In fact, I love the program so much that I signed up to be part of the “behind the scenes” team for the February session. It starts tomorrow. I’d love it if you’d join us! You deserve it!

In the meantime, brew a cup of your favorite hot beverage and put your feet up. Here are some links to help inspire you this weekend. And tell you what, if I do decide to try the barefoot snow thing, I’ll post a picture here later.

I’ve been spending some extra time in the kitchen during the recent snowstorms. I made these yummy peanut butter cookies (and added chocolate chips to some of them). I haven’t tried these vegan recipes for stuffed mushrooms and raw peanut butter pie yet, but they are both on my list.

How to release the feeling that you need to Do It All. Love it!

Some delightfully irreverent, hilarious, and useful advice for writers, and for life in general. Language warning – and be prepared to laugh!

Warning signs to stop and listen to your intuition. Trust your gut reaction!

Just as you suspected, it’s all about you. And the perfect corollary, how to stop taking things so personally. Don’t you just love paradox?

A lovely little article about kundalini and the chakras. And this one on listening to your soul. Simple and sweet.

Enjoy your weekend!