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.


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.


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!

A Cosmic Dance

cosmicdance“By knowing yourself as the awareness in which phenomenal existence happens, you become free of dependency on phenomena and free of self-seeking in situations, places, and conditions. In other words: what happens or doesn’t happen is not that important anymore. Things lose their heaviness, their seriousness. A playfulness comes into your life. You recognize this world as a cosmic dance, the dance of form – no more and no less.” – Eckhart Tolle

My Heart’s Bucket List

festivalfunOne of the prompts in a Play Nexus online workshop was to write your heart’s bucket list. Since I’m about to head off on a retreat with these amazing folk, I thought I’d share my list with you here.

It was wonderful to write a bucket list that had nothing to do with what I thought “should” be on it, but rather to just let it flow from the heart. Sound inspiring? I challenge you to write your own! Share some of your list items in the comments, if you like.

My Heart’s Bucket List

Feed and play with baby tigers.

Travel to India and Tibet, alone, on a silent walking and writing retreat. Meditate everywhere, do yoga with very old people, eat delicious fresh foods, and communicate through all of it with just my smile and my open heart.

Attend a huge play retreat with the Play Nexus Faeries at a tropical location and play until I drop.

Travel through Europe with my daughter. Ride on trains and do whatever feels fun in the moment.

Help people to feel better by sharing ways to amp up their vibe. Gently meet them where they are, while still being in my centered space, and, when they are willing, lead them by the hand right up the rainbow, where we can dance together in joyful bliss.

Get a polarity session every week.

Hire a personal trainer health guru who will make healthy yummy meals for me and give me fun physical adventures to play my body right up to full vibrant wellness.

Meet a real Goddess and tell her about my dreams and ask her lots of questions and be held by her, tenderly.

Make lots of money doing my writing so that my family can all do what they love too and not have to worry about paying bills. And hire a cleaning service to keep our home clean and sparkly.

See Derek Hough dance. In person.

Have a cozy little fae cottage built out in the woods on our land, just for me, as my private creative space. It will be filled with books and pillows and rugs and have a fireplace and a hammock and a kickass stereo system and a drafting table with lots of art supplies, and a nifty laptop but no wifi (too distracting).

Feel free every day.

What Is Productivity, and Why Should You Care About It?

Do you consider yourself a productive person?

I guess it’s not really fair to ask you this question right off the bat, because it relies on defining what we each mean by “productivity.” The basic definition says: “the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services.” In this case, though, what I’m trying to get at is more about the connotation. What does productivity mean to you, in your life?

We live in a world that values being busy. In order to feel like you’ve had a productive day, you might want to get a lot done, check off items on your list, or have something to show for what you’ve been up to. You might even feel like you’ve been go-go-going all day but you haven’t been truly productive at all. This can take a toll on your self-worth.

We are what we do, after all, right? It can certainly feel that way, but that’s not the whole story.

rp_lists-300x2251.jpgA friend of mine, someone I’ve known for a long time, gets a kick out of teasing me about how in recent years I’ve become more Zen in my attitude.

“How’s it going with being Zen?” he asked on the phone last week. “It must be hard for you as a Virgo, with all those goals and lists.”

We both laughed, and a reply sprang to mind immediately. “Not at all,” I said. “I still have lists of things to do, but I’m not attached to them.”

It’s true. My relationship with “being productive” has changed radically. Sure, I still enjoy the feeling of checking things off my list. But it’s no longer tied in with my basic self-worth. On any given day, being “productive” means, to me, that I’ve worked towards my larger goals, been helpful to my family and others, and had fun. I’m more attuned to my attitude and how I feel. Productivity has become less of a focus.

On the other hand, you don’t necessarily want to get rid of productivity entirely. I recently came across the surprising statistic that only 4 percent of people write have written down their goals, and only 16 percent more even have them. That’s 80 percent of the population who haven’t set goals for themselves. Really?!

Going with the flow is one of my mottoes, but still, I can’t imagine not having life goals that I’m working towards. It might just be me, but I’m imagining that without dreams to pursue, life could feel aimless and eventually, full of regrets. Being productive can help get us a bit further along the path each day. Big goals can motivate us, but it’s those small steps we take toward them, the ones that add up over time, that allow us to achieve success on our own terms.

That’s why it’s important to define productivity for yourself. You could be productive by picking up acorns in the park, but what’s the greater purpose? If one of your goals is to learn to make acorn flour pancakes, then your acorn-gathering has a meaning.

What would be a healthy way to be productive, in your life? Think about how your daily actions serve your biggest goals. Do the things you do bring joy to you and others, enhance your creativity, increase your knowledge, make the world a better place, or in some other way help you live the life of your dreams? If not, how can you start making changes so that your personal productivity lines up with your intentions?

I’d love to hear your feedback on what productivity means to you, and how you use it. Leave a comment below. Thanks!

You Already Know the Answer (Decisions Redux)

A while back I wrote about how hard it can be to make decisions. After some further musing on decision making, I’ve come to the realization that most of the time when you’re faced with a choice, you already know the answer. By “the answer,” of course, I mean that you know the choice that will work best for you in this situation. There are often several choices that will be perfectly fine.

At the moment when you’re faced with picking from two or more options, though, you already have the answer within you. You might just need to uncover it.

When a member of a group I’m part of was seeking advice about a fairly major business decision, she detailed her thoughts and feelings about the choice she faced. After some discussion, one of the women spoke up. In her experience, she shared, she found that in making decisions you should always follow your first intuitive impulse, because that’s the one that you’d eventually come back to anyway.

It’s an intriguing idea. See if you can come up with a couple of examples from your own life. Are there times when you sort of knew what you wanted to do, but you went through a whole long logical process before finally settling on what you knew all along? What about when you had an initial longing, but you made a different decision? Did you regret it, or even reverse the decision later?

With some reflection, you can see how your deepest self knew what was best, whether or not you followed its advice.

But how do you know what your first intuitive impulse is, especially if you’re not accustomed to listening to those quiet inner voices?

Here’s a little experiment you can try. When you have a yes or no decision, or you’re considering either of two options, get a coin. Assign one option to “heads” and the other to “tails.” Now flip the coin, and in that moment while it’s twirling through the air, think about which option you’re hoping for. When the coin lands and you uncover the results, pay attention to how you feel. Are you elated? Disappointed? Ready to flip again, two-out-of-three? This will give you an inkling of which decision you really prefer.

Here’s another technique to help you follow your intuition when you’re making choices. This works best when you’re deciding what to do with your time. Say you’re invited to an event, asked to volunteer for a cause, or deciding which project to tackle next. Think about the option in front of you, and feel your way into it.

Do you want to go to the party?

You might get an immediate and enthusiastic “yes!” that you can feel in your body. This could be followed by mental rationalizations, like all the other things you have to do, how you don’t have anything to wear, and so forth. But your intuition has already given you a clue, that “yes!” feeling. It works the other way, too – your first response might be “no, I don’t want to.” This could be followed by guilt or obligation, thinking of reasons why you should go, how it could be a great chance to meet new people, or whatever.

But you don’t really want to go, and that’s okay. Don’t overthink things.

Even the old standby of making a list of pros and cons can illustrate your intuitive first choice. Start to make your list, but pay attention to how you feel about each item you add, and which column you’re drawn to most. The “cons” might make logical sense, but if the “pros” feel amazing, it looks like you have a green light in that direction. Your emotions are your soul’s guidance system, leading the way to choices that are best for you.

Going with what feels best isn’t the advice we usually receive in this culture, but it works. Following your authentic longings won’t lead you astray. When you choose what your inner self already knows is right for you, your life will be much more fun, creative, and fulfilling.

And you won’t have to spend so much time backtracking.