Starcat’s Favorites: Sun & Water

It’s no secret that I love summer. This one has been especially hot and humid here in Maine.

Most people I know have spent time complaining about it.

Not me.

It’s actually a joy to me to feel super warm. I know, I’m strange.

After a rough winter and spring, though, this summer has been a balm to my soul. We had an awesome two-week visit from ElvenTiger and her soul mate (who now live in Colorado). I’ve been swimming in the ocean, river, and various lakes and ponds. I’ve traveled to one of my favorite spots in the world, Acadia National Park. My Mom and I have been having fun beach adventures. I’ve had lots of fun with family and friends.

I also released some kick-ass new content for the aspiring authors in my book midwife community (if I do say so myself – and I just did). My new nonfiction book is underway, though I have lots of research yet to do for it, and I’m making plans to get back to my fiction after somewhat of an absence.

So, all in all, life is good.

Here are some good reads for your weekend. I hope you’re enjoying time in the hammock, by the water, or just cuddled up in bed.

Here’s a little hint about the topic of the new book I just began writing.

I love this woman. Preach it, sister!

Summer isn’t over yet. Oh, no it’s not.

This thoughtful piece is all “about the way death and life, grief and joy, dance nonstop with each other around the world, day and night.” Where’s your growing edge?

Not one, but two, inspiring pep talks from the amazing author Neil Gaiman. The first is on how to be a successful artist, and the second speaks to authors in the middle of a novel – the point where most everyone feels stuck.

On reading and empathy. And how to make being empathic work for you.

Want to be a better leader? Some words of wisdom.

A delicious meditation from a lovely soul.

Enjoy, and savor the rest of your summer! (Or, you know, winter, if you’re down under).

Wellness Isn’t Linear, Either

Me and my good friend Steve hamming it up on a road trip this summer.

I love the quote about the creative process not being linear. Finding the original quote has proven impossible (I’d love to credit the author, so let me know if you know), but you get the gist. I find that to be true.

In my experience, improving one’s physical wellness also follows a rather meandering path.

Over the past several years, thanks to a combination of sedentary work, peri-menopause, and aging (yes, and most certainly my beliefs and expectations, too), I’ve gained weight. I’m actually quite healthy overall, but I felt the urge to get more fit.

I tend to hang out mostly in my mind and spirit, and I wanted to pay more attention to my physical body and nurture her better.

In February 2017, BlackLion and I started a “movement challenge.” The idea was to do something to move our bodies for at least 20 minutes a day. My favorite go-tos were dancing, hula-hooping, walking, and swimming. On days when we inevitably didn’t get to our 20 minutes, we’d just double the time the following day. We kept it up for a whole year! I didn’t actually lose much weight, but that wasn’t really the point to begin with.

In late February of this year, we purchased monthly memberships at an amazing local yoga studio. After several years of not practicing, it feels SO delightful to be back to doing yoga on a regular basis. We’ve been going to classes three times per week since then. My flexibility has improved, and it feels terrific.

But since then, I’ve dropped focus on those daily movement sessions, and actually gained a few more pounds. Hmm.

I do exercise more than pre-2017, but I still feel like my fitness and energy level could be better. Recently I’ve returned to my “low-dairy” eating habits, as I am lactose intolerant, and had gradually begun to rely more on dairy products for protein (I’m a longtime vegetarian). This feels better.

Though still no weight loss.

In the meantime, I had some weird symptoms that I decided to get checked out. It turned out to be a “veinous hum,” which is harmless. It just means that I hear a whooshing sound in my left ear at times, which can make me feel a bit dizzy when I first stand up.

My blood pressure is fine. My cholesterol is fine. I’m not diabetic. While looking at the results of an imaging test, the specialist even told me, “your arteries are particularly clear. No plaque buildup at all!” Thank you, vegetarian diet.

In late July, I did something to my left shoulder. It feels like a pinched nerve, as the pain travels down my arm. It’s been gradually healing. I had a chiropractic adjustment, which helped a lot. You know what else helps, besides the heating pad? Yoga. Swimming. Taking regular breaks from working on the laptop.

Yes – we’re back to movement.

The lesson? I feel better when I move my body more.

I’m still “overweight,” yes, but so what?

Healing is a meandering journey. I am moving more. I make an effort to do it every day. I try to eat well and minimize dairy and sugar, which has always helped my body.

As I listen to my body and her wisdom, I’m sure I’ll probably even lose those extra pounds. But if not, I’m happy anyway. The healthy journey is what counts.

Ease or Struggle?

Offered the choice between ease and struggle, most of us would be like, “Duh! Of course I want ease!” But is that really what you’re choosing?

I’ve been asking myself this recently, in my journal. I just finished a huge project, a 31-day email course on writing that I poured my heart and soul into. It felt like an epic task.

Actually, the writing part wasn’t a struggle, really, as much as it was a hefty project that I set out to polish until it shines. Word-count-wise, for those who keep track of such things, the content of this course is the size of 1/3 of a whole book!

With BlackLion’s amazing tech wizardry help, I not only wrote and formatted it, but also set it up so that when students sign up for the course, they are automatically sent each day’s email, so they can begin whenever works best for them. The plan was to finish it before my daughter ElvenTiger’s visit home (she lives across the country now), and I did it!

I decided that for the two weeks she’s here, I’ll only work a couple of hours in the morning on weekdays – getting the word out about my offerings, working with clients, and interacting with the students who are taking the new course. I’ll spend the rest of my time, and the weekends, enjoying doing fun summer things with my girl and her boyfriend, and the extended tribe.

The vibe or intention I chose for this two-week time period – and ideally, life as a whole – is EASE.

Yet earlier this week I found myself wondering to my biz coach, “Is this okay? Do I really get to have ease?”

Being the powerful priestess she is, she immediately asked a bunch of questions, which became my fuel for writing about this whole ease vs. struggle thing.

Why is is that I harbor doubt that I “deserve” to have ease in my career? What are the beliefs behind it?

You see, we are surrounded by the cultural belief that we have to work hard, stress ourselves out, and even sacrifice our health or relationships in order to “succeed.” I think that’s an outdated belief. We human beings have a lot of those, and we like to hang onto them tightly.

In actuality, even with all the work facing us in terms of rebuilding our society to be more just, improving our treatment of the natural environment, and letting go of our unhealthy habits – even in the face of all that, there is room for ease. We need it.

In spite of what you might think, when we cultivate ease (and its companions: compassion, creativity, self-care, generosity, connection), we are actually more productive. We do better work. We have more of ourselves to give: to the world, our communities, our families, and ourselves.

When we find ease, we are coming from a place of love and caring, rather than fear and desperation.

That’s the vibe we want, both for our own sake and for the sake of the new, more conscious society we’re building.

And yet… Our monkey-minds default to the stress and pressure and go-go-go mentality, even if the conditions of our lives really don’t call for it. So, I’m deliberately grounding myself in ease.

Ease in my work, ease in my play, ease in my relationships, ease in household tasks and finances. A working staycation with those I love most. Lots of time in the river and the lake. Live music. Corn on the cob. AND success in my business.

This summer, I’m choosing ease, over and over again. I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

I wish you ease, too, and the ability to choose it.

(For curious writer types – I realize I kept the course kind of mysterious in this post. Here you go.) 

Starcat’s Favorites: Summertime, Summertime

As I write this, it’s less than two weeks until my daughter and her boyfriend come home for a visit. I haven’t seen my dear ElvenTiger since January, so I’m very much looking forward to it!

Although I’ve been missing her, summer has been lots of fun so far. I’ve been swimming a lot, spending some time in my hammock, enjoying cookouts with family, and finally reading Gone With the Wind. I’ve also been working, but I’m doing what I love, so that too is lots of fun. Helping people write their heartfelt books, while also working on my own, is totally my thing!

I hope your summer has brought you lots of joy so far. If it hasn’t, choose something you love to do and make it a priority this weekend!

While you’re lounging on the deck or by the water, here’s some uplifting reading for your day:

Why does yoga feel so good? I mean, really, at the end of yoga class I’m often rather blissed out. Science has some ideas about why.

I like this alternate take on leap and the net will appear. It’s about “recognizing your role as the co-creator of your life.”

Taking self-love seriously. Right on.

This summer recipe sounds so delicious! I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s on my list.

In despair about some of the horrible stuff going on in the world? Here’s an excellent description of how you can help create a better society. What if you get paralyzed by overwhelm? This article has some ideas. Also, here are some inspired words from Toni Morrison about the role of artists in challenging times.

Here’s a practical and profound way to help our world: donate to charity:water. If nothing else, watch Mike Dooley’s inspiring video about it.

Last but not least: Ooh! Shiny pretties! (My fae self just couldn’t resist).

Spreading the Love – The Joys of Snail Mail

This past spring, when I was feeling very shaken from all the crazy stuff going on in my personal life, a good friend made a wonderful suggestion.

We were both attending the same biz retreat (we have the best coach!). In a small group, we were asked to talk about things that were holding us back.

I confessed that when crisis hits, I tend to hide. At a time when it would be useful to reach out for support, my tendency is to pull inward. My friend’s idea was that we gather a few close friends and write each other love letters, which we’d then keep on our own altars until we were having a rough time, but reaching out might not occur to us, or might feel scary.

Then we’d have the letters to open – and reading what our friends love most about us would allow us to feel supported, even if we were hiding.

Last week was the full moon, and my wild women sisters and I had planned some time at our favorite beach. As the day approached, though, the forecast was for heavy rain and thunderstorms.

So we instead gathered at our favorite coffee shop. We sipped chai tea, chatted, and wrote love letters to one another. Several people who usually attend couldn’t make it (even my friend who came up with the idea), but we wrote them letters, too.

I loved doing this so much! There’s something about writing what I love about each woman that feels delicious to my soul.

When I got home that evening, I sat down and wrote a few more letters. I wrote them for new friends as well as longtime ones, and even for the women I’m just getting to know, there was plenty for me to love about them, and to share with them. It was fun mailing them off to find their way to the women’s homes.

Each letter had one sentence in common: “You are beautiful, both inside and out.” It’s so true. Each friend is a lovely soul, and it shines forth – body, mind, and spirit.

I put the love letters I received on my altar, unread. They’ll wait there until I need them.

In the meantime, I’m ready to write some more love letters. I’ve missed letter-writing, and it feels good to know that these love missives will brighten someone’s day.

What about you? Do you still send snail mail? Try spreading the love to those you care about. It will nourish your spirit – and you might just get some love letters in your mailbox, too.

Summer Solstice Dreaming

Last week was the Summer Solstice, and this week is the full moon – between the two, my dreams have been super crazy. I mean, even crazier than they normally are! Anyone else?

In one, I was rollerblading in endless circles through this huge mansion with hundreds of rooms with wooden floors, and trooping down staircases with my feet sideways…until I was caught, in a startling way, and woke up.

In another, I offered to help someone by breastfeeding their baby, just casually, you know, no big deal. Not that I’d have an issue with that in general, but I don’t even think I knew them before that moment!

I’ve been participating in wars against demonic-looking aliens, trying to start a love affair with a man I worked with years ago, and tasting plum cocktails.

And those were just from the past few days!

My emotions have been kind of dynamic, up and down like a rollercoaster, in waking life, too.

As I wrote this, I started wondering what was going on in the stars, astrologically speaking, so I took a peek, and sure enough, there’s a lot happening. The same is true on the world stage, where some of the ugly underbelly of humanity is in the spotlight.

As an empath, I guess I’m getting caught up in those tides. Sometimes being a space-holder involves energies that are bigger than usual.

In the dreamtime, as in the waking world, I’m using my spiritual superpowers to the best of my ability. I still firmly believe that the more compassionate world we’re building, the rise of the Feminine Divine, the awakening of human consciousness – all of those things are real, and on more levels than just the Earth plane.

Keep the faith, fellow humans, and follow your dreams. Create change in your own way, with as much joy and grace as you can muster. We’ve got this.

Following Your Path (Even When You Don’t Understand It)

This year certainly hasn’t started off the way I thought it would!

As I wrote back in March, Quester broke his ankle badly this winter and had to have surgery. Then, 8 weeks into his recovery, he got a severe infection, and had to go back into surgery. We’re now three months out from the break, and he’s still recovering. He can’t get back to work until July at the earliest.

In the meantime, his Mom fell (on the same day Quester did), broke her hip, and died several weeks later from complications. Two other members of our extended family also passed away. My brother and one of my closest friends have both been going through painful divorces. My son moved out – which isn’t a bad thing, but certainly a big transition, especially considering his sister moved across the country back in the fall.

Those are just the highlights – or perhaps I should say “lowlights.”

Holy cow! It’s been a LOT.

Even in the midst of all the chaos, there are so many blessings to be thankful for. My community has been super supportive to us. I started taking yoga classes again, and my practice is blossoming. Daily meditation keeps me as centered as I can be. I’m developing a new aspect of my calling, as a book midwife. Helping people to get their heart-centered books out into the world is incredibly satisfying work! My own writing, while it’s been on the back burner for stretches of time, is still simmering along nicely. I got a new-to-me Subaru and love it. I’ve been to the ocean twice in the past week.

I’ve been following my path as best I can. I don’t know what all of these challenges and lessons are leading to, and may not know for a while. But life is full of uncertainty. Even during the hardest times, there is laughter and sunshine and clean water to drink.

My word of the year for 2018 is ALLOW. I guess if things had gone according to plan, there wouldn’t be any need to learn what this word has to teach me.

Sometimes all we can do is to follow the trail of life, even (or especially) when we don’t understand it.

Even when that happens, you’re not alone. Having a solid spiritual practice means you can fall back on that connection when you’re walking along in the dark. Reaching out to friends and loved ones for support is crucial. Finding the simple blessings in each day will help keep you sane.

I’m curious to see how the rest of this year unfolds. I’m thinking it’s time for some relaxing fun in the sun. But…who knows?

Starcat’s Favorites: A Taste of Spring

This is how we roll in springtime in Maine. Snow and new growth, co-existing until one day the melting accelerates. As I write this, the rain is helping with the melting process.

It’s also the eve of the Full Blue Moon, and nearly the end of March (can I get a resounding “huzzah!”?). It’s been a strange month in my neck of the woods, mostly because my dear hubby Quester fell and broke his ankle, badly, in late February. He had surgery and has been at home recovering since.

It’s made life interesting. As an empath, witnessing my partner in pain on a regular basis is just not so fun. Plus I’ve been caring for him, as he is on “non-weight bearing” status for several weeks – and then there’s all the stuff that he usually does to ensure the household runs smoothly. It’s been quite a ride.

As I write this, Quester is away for a couple of days at his other partner’s place. One of the many benefits of being in a polyamorous relationship is having more beloveds around to help when something like this happens. As BlackLion is also away, visiting a friend, I’m having a bit of a break. This introvert is delighted. Reading, yoga class, some Full Moon celebrating, cuddling with cats – and blogging, too…all are on the agenda for this weekend. And eating sandwiches so I get a break from cooking!

Here are some links for you to enjoy. I hope you’re getting some down time for yourself this weekend, too!

Want to plan some time to yourself? Getting away for a personal retreat is a powerful way to reset.

I knew it – time spent at the ocean is good for the soul.

Why feeling good now is a key to success.

This article about 7 Goddess Archetypes is long, but well worth the read.

Walking your talk.

Thanks for reading. Happy Spring!

How to Make Love to a Priestess

I wrote a poem last night. It’s been a while since my inspiration has gone in such a poetic direction. It started writing itself in my head while I was in the shower, and when I got dried off and grabbed my notebook, this is what emerged.

How to Make Love to a Priestess of the Goddess
by Nikki Starcat Shields

rockpicIt’s a busy time for the priestesses,
What with the rise of the Feminine Divine,
And all that resistance
And backlash
And such.
Your priestess is probably tired,
Though invigorated.
She’s working hard
To heal old wounds,
Uplift the community,
Run her household,
(Like a queen)
And tend to her gardens,
Whether literal or metaphorical,
Or both.
To make love to this priestess,
Approach her in reverence.
Worship her golden being.
Maybe offer to bathe her feet,
Or rub her aching calves.
Be gentle.
Stroke her as if she were a
Wary cat.
Remember all the things she does for you
Every day, without being asked;
The things you might not even notice
Unless they were absent.
Make love to her with an attitude of
Generous service.
Bringing her pleasure,
The way she desires,
Will delight you, as well.
Sometimes she forgets,
In her whirlwind of energy,
That she has a body,
One that can relax and release,
Receive as well as give,
And join in sacred connection
With her beloved consort.
Remind her.

Starcat’s Favorites: Extra Self-Care

It’s that time of year – the winter blahs have set in. Yes, the days are longer and there is the promise of spring. At the same time, at least here in northern New England, it is still quite cold and damp.

The perfect time for extra self-care! I’ve been practicing compassion for myself and taking extra down time when I need it. So far (knock on wood) I haven’t been sick – I think because I’m being mindful of treating my body well.hotcocoa

Sometimes this looks like drinking extra water and doing my hula-hooping. Other times I cozy up with a book and some hot cocoa or tea.

When looking back over the links I’d saved for you this month, it seems like there is a bit of a self-nurturing theme.

So let’s go for it! Grab some inspiration and settle in. You deserve to relax when you need to, and dance around when you feel like it.

In search of some inspiration? Watch Oprah Winfrey’s speech (again, if you’ve seen it already). “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool that we all have.” Yes!

As of this writing, we just went through the powerful energies of the Full Blue Blood Supermoon with eclipse. Phew! It’s a perfect time to upgrade your beliefs. (Need some help with that? Feline Dreamers has you covered). It’s also Imbolc, when we take time to celebrate the first stirrings of spring and honor the Goddess.

Self-care and bullet journaling? Yes, please! Here is some wisdom and a challenge. Ready to go deeper? These shadow work journal prompts are a useful tool.

Here’s a simple explanation of some of the most basic types of meditation.

Why holding space for one another is some of the most sacred work you can do. Here is a beautiful story about how to do just that.