A Working Religion

beachtime“Our word religion comes from the Latin and means ‘to bind together.’ A working religion, then, might be one that binds together the many rhythms that affect us by creating techniques – rituals – that attempt to synchronize the three dances, the personal, the cultural, and the cosmic. If the technique works, the reward is a new dimension of rhythm and time – the sacred.” – Mickey Hart

Saying Yes to Yourself

There is deep value in saying no to invitations that distract you from the things that are most important to you. The other side of that coin, though, is thinking about when you choose to say yes.

In your life, I’m sure there are things that are automatic yesses for you – taking care of your family, making a living, showering, doing housework. But do these yesses include any kind of regular self-care or time to focus on your creative passions? This is an important question, and one which you might cringe to answer honestly.

I encounter many people, particularly the moms among us (ahem) who maintain that they simply don’t have time to devote to their passions, or even to regular self-care. They might get a massage every couple of months or so, or schedule a date night or workshop once in a blue moon. But they don’t have any time for themselves on a regular basis. This makes very little sense.

I mean, it makes sense in terms of how our culture is set up. But on the other hand, it’s kind of insane. When you refuse to say yes to filling your own cup, how long do you think you’ll be able to be of service to others before you collapse, or get sick, or freak out? How can you give from the heart when you’re full of resentment and exhaustion?

We are taught to be selfless, and give to others as a first priority. Often this behavior comes from a place of love, and it’s a beautiful ideal. But it involves a certain amount of self-sacrifice, which simply isn’t healthy. When you deny your own needs for long enough, existing on less sleep than your body would like, with a constant undercurrent of stress, you’ll begin to forget that you have needs – or desires. You don’t feel that you deserve time to yourself, or at least not until you finally cross off all the items on the ever-present to-do list.

If that time ever arrives, which it probably won’t, or if you get so run-down and sick that you simply have to take time out, you might not even know what to do with yourself. Why not avoid this situation altogether and decide to give yourself the gift of saying yes?

relaxingtime.jpgFirst, let go of all the responsibilities you’ve been holding onto, just for a few moments. It’s time to daydream. What would you most love to do, or to receive? Something that’s just for you. It could be a massage, or a walk on the beach, or a nap. Picture your ideal way of playing hooky from your life.

Next, find a way to make it happen. You’ll have to be brave. You might need to ask for help, like someone to watch the kids for a couple of hours or let the dogs out after work. You may need to say no to an invitation or request, or even to cancel one that you’ve already agreed to. Do it. Really.

You need this. You deserve it. Think of how hard you’ve been working, how much you’ve been doing for everyone you care about. It’s time for you to relax completely, until you look like a kitten on its back enjoying a peaceful snooze. Think about how you can get there, or at least how to get started. Take action to make it happen.

If you’re already doing pretty well with the self-care (go you!) or when you get to that point, start thinking bigger. What adventures are calling you? Are there workshops that would enrich your soul’s journey? Road trips where you could take photos or sketch trees or write poetry to your heart’s content? Do you long to go dancing, ride the ferris wheel, or sit in an outdoor cafe alone, reading a book? Say yes.

Say yes to yourself and your individuality. Embrace your unique desires for self-expression. Say yes to going out and seeing more of our big beautiful world.

The experiences you have will enrich your life and recharge your batteries. You’ll come back to your family or work or community refreshed and much more able to give freely. Taking time away makes you a better mom, partner, daughter, or friend.

Say yes to the longings you feel, even if it seems uncomfortable at first. Say yes to you!

Starcat’s Favorites: All At Once

fd140716rockybeachAcadiaAll at once, it’s summer in Maine. The weather is (for the most part) gorgeous. Schedules have changed, wedding and anniversary season is upon us, and the coaching course I’m in is wrapping up. As I write this, I’m also in the midst of getting ready to facilitate a wedding for some friends this afternoon, a workshop I organized is happening tomorrow, and I’m getting ready for a trip on Wednesday. Busy summer season has begun! And seemingly all at once…

Here are some links for you to enjoy, in the hammock or by the water, or when you finally collapse into bed after a delightful weekend day full of fun. Enjoy!

It’s the New Moon in Gemini today, and if it feels pretty intense, you’re not alone. Wow.

On loving yourself fully – so important!

What’s up with creative people hating their own work? This article asks “What happens when persistence gets curdled by perfectionism?”

A little note for the introverts among us. “You don’t need to be anything but what you are.”

I love this look at the future of work. Let’s also rethink money while we’re at it!

Feeling “meh?” Maybe you just need to take a break.

I may have shared this article before – it’s one of my recent Kind Over Matter posts – but I’m so immersed in this work right now, I just had to send it around again.

Our unschooling friends Lainie and Miro did an awesome TED Talk in Amsterdam!

Enjoy your weekend, and blessings!

Is Music Essential?

Living in a home full of musicians and music-lovers, and being an amateur percussionist myself, it feels like music is an essential part of life. Still, sometimes I forget about it for a while, doing my writing with no soundtrack other than the dishwasher running and the wind blowing outside my window. After doing a shift or two at the radio station, where the background sound is mostly news and talk, I need to cleanse my palette with some silence, or the simple music of the birds welcoming the day, the frogs peeping at night, the sheep bleating from next door, and the other sounds of living out here in the country.

musicfest15Still, music has the power to stir my emotions in a way that’s (gasp!) even more intense than books. It’s especially stirring when it’s live music. Next month I’ll be attending a big music festival with Quester, as we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. I’m so excited!

I’m not someone who only listens to the music I grew up with – far from it. Actually, those “oldies” radio stations often annoy me – haven’t we heard these songs about a zillion times already? What’s new and fresh? While I’m very psyched to see Dead & Company, being a Deadhead since college, I’m also thrilled to be seeing lots of new music while I’m at the festival. We’ve been listening to the playlist on the festival’s website, and it’s all so amazing! Everything from bluegrass and Americana to electronic dance music to alternative rock to stuff I can’t even classify.

I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep while I’m at the festival…

So all that’s got me with music on the brain! What type of music do you find essential? Do you rely on old favorites or relish new music, or a bit of both?

If you’re looking for some uplifting tunes to listen to, you can check out the Positive Playlist that BlackLion and I created a while back – we add to it as we find fun new songs that uplift our spirits. Please comment below if you have some to recommend!

10 Reasons to Love Growing Older

I was talking with a friend recently about the perks of being the age we are now (I’m 46 as of this writing, he’s in his early 50s). Contrary to what our culture preaches, getting older is not inherently depressing or awful. In fact, research is showing that older people are actually happier!

Don’t get me wrong – youth can be fun, too. It’s not a competition over which age group is “best.” I thought it would be valuable, though, to share some of the positives about growing older, which are often ignored in favor of complaints about the wrinkles, aches & pains, and empty nests.

Here are my top ten, in no particular order:

More free time. My kids are now in their late teens, and I love it. They both still live at home currently (Dryst commutes to college), and so I still get to see them a lot, but they are so much more independent. This means I have more time to do the things I love, and to devote to my callings. I can now take off for a few days without needing childcare – and the kids take care of the four-leggers. Win-win!

Deeper relationships. I love how strong my close relationships are at this point. We know each other well, we’re beyond the point of needless drama, and it’s so lovely to spend time with beloveds who really care about me. I’m also relishing my deeper relationship with myself. I’ve learned what I need, and self-care is an intrinsic part of my life now. I know that I’m worthy ofaetimef nurturing, and that when I take care of my needs, I’m much more joyful and able to give to others.

Less people-pleasing. You know all those memes and articles about “women of a certain age having no f*$!s left to give?” True story. I used to be a huge people-pleaser, fretting about my appearance, my words, and how I came across to, well, pretty much everyone I encountered. It was exhausting. Now I’m more comfortable with being myself and not worrying about what others think. Not everyone will like you. So what? By being authentic, you’ll attract the right folks, the ones who love your unique being. The ones who appreciate your cackling wildly in the grocery story, wearing faery face paint, and dancing even when someone might be watching.

Letting go of stress. Who’s got time or energy to stress over every little thing? As you get older, you realize that time is precious and that there’s no need to waste it on the things you can’t control. When those little things go wrong, like running out of heating oil or dropping the casserole on the floor, more often than not I laugh. Or swear creatively, then laugh. Life’s too short to freak out all the time.

Appreciation of the little things. Along the same lines, it comes more naturally to me as I get older to really appreciate all the wonderful blessings in my life. Purring cats, good books, hot chai tea with non-dairy milk, sunshine, smiles, being loved. These are the things that show up in my gratitude lists, over and over. Life is full of delightful small pleasures that add up to an extra dose of happiness each day.

More practice. Are you familiar with Malcom Gladwell’s idea that it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to achieve mastery? Think about how much practice you’ve now had at being yourself! And if you have particular passions that you practice regularly, as you get older you’ll be getting better and better at those things. When you have a spiritual practice, achieving mastery in it also means that its effects on your life will be more powerful – like the way a regular practice of meditation helps you be more centered and aware in other areas of your life.

Better connection to your true purpose. Even if you ignore your intuition for many years, eventually your purpose will find a way to make itself known. As we get older, we often realize that we need to make changes that will support us in following our passions. I thought I was maybe getting a late start by becoming a published author when I was 43, but I’ve since heard about many well-known authors who were on a similar timeline.

Lifelong learning. It seems like once we’re out of the education system, we feel more free to learn about things we really feel passionate about. When you’re not obligated to memorize facts and take tests on things you don’t really care about, learning new things is such fun! I found out recently that community college is free for senior citizens in my state. I’ll so be taking advantage of that in a couple of decades!

A wider perspective. As you get older, it’s easier to see the arc of life’s changes. A friend was lamenting how a young woman in her life was so timid and shy that she was letting herself be a bit of a doormat. My perspective? “She’ll get over it. I was like that at her age, and I grew and changed. She will, too. She’s still learning.” That perspective extends to oneself and one’s own journey, as well. If you’re still here on the Earth plane, you’re still learning.

A strong community. The friendships and relationships you build and nurture over time become stronger with shared experience. Sure, some friends will come and go, but who knows? They might come back again. Others will come into your life as you learn new things and follow your passions. Your community will grow stronger as you get older, especially if you’re open to friendships with people of all ages.

Please don’t assume that getting older is a bad thing. When you focus on joy, gratitude, and purpose, your happiness will expand. Ignore the stereotypes, and continue to grow and learn as you age. You’ll love it!

Starcat’s Favorites: Sisterhood & Shout-outs

coffeeshophippieSince last fall, I’ve been taking an intensive business coaching program. It sounds kind of dull and boring when I put it like that, but it’s not. In fact, it’s been exciting, fun, thrilling, scary, and so very powerful. It’s not just about the outer steps to take to spread awareness about my business and writings, but also the deep inner work that supports stepping fully into my calling. It’s certainly been life-changing, and continues to be so.

As part of working with my biz coach, I get to be part of an amazing tribe of heart-centered women entrepreneurs, both online and in person. It’s such a powerful thing, to be involved in a tribe of sisters who are there to lift one another up. Even if you’re not involved in running a business, surrounding yourself with a supportive group of friends who cheer you on is so incredibly valuable. I’m blessed to have friends and family like that, too, and yes, the groups overlap in some cases.

So, for today’s links, I’d love to share some of what my biz sisters are offering. Don’t worry, it’s not all for biz owners. Check out some of the awesome work that’s going on in the realm of uplifting your consciousness and living an amazing life!

I met Nicole through the biz course I’m in, and we first connected at an in-person retreat back in November. She has an inspiring story, does amazing work, and just re-launched her website, Soul Archaeology.

Another tribe sister who is doing very cool work, in this case locally to me (in Maine), is Andrea at The Rejuvenation Grange. She has an upcoming event called “Breaking Free: Exploring Nature to Help Design Your Life-Work Balance.” Something most of us could definitely use! Check it out here.

Have you checked out this empath quiz yet? Jen’s information on empathy is insightful and enlightening.

This free 30-day challenge, offered by Liz at Soulpreneurs Academy, begins tomorrow! I’ve signed up for it and can’t wait to get started.

The latest offering by my beloved coach, Britt, is called Biz Blocks. If you do happen to own your own business, or want to start one, go see what she’s offering. Her programs are fantastic!

This one is a bonus – not someone who’s in my tribe, but a cool TED Talk that’s all about being an original thinker.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, BlackLion and I are offering a fun new creativity workshop next weekend – click here if you’d like more details! Thanks and blessings!

14 Tips for Adding More Play to Your Day

I’ve already written about the power of play and why we need more of it in our lives. Yes, even – and especially – adults. If you’re not sure what in the world I’m talking about, pause here and go read this quote and this post.

Okay, now you’re all caught up to how essential it is to play. But how do you incorporate it into your daily life? How do you find new ways to play, so you can get out of your leisure-time rut? Here are some tips for adding more play to your day.

  1. Dance in the kitchen. Turn up the tunes and dance like no one’s watching. Or if you don’t care if they watch, and participate, invite friends or family members to join you. Get your groove on. Try some goofy moves. Mock the lyrics. Just let yourself go and follow your body’s lead.
  2. Play cosmic chess. This is a fun game I used to play with my friend Luke, years ago. Everything in your environment is a possible chess piece. There are no rules, other than taking turns. You make up the moves as you go along. As part of a match, we once created an amazing impromptu sculpture of salt & pepper shakers, a napkin holder, and other stuff on the dining room table. The winner was unanimously declared when the pile fell over. You might even want to create a fancy cosmic chess set, like this, but it’s not strictly necessary.cosmicchess
  3. Color and doodle. Sure, adult coloring books are all the rage. Don’t dismiss the idea just because it’s trendy. It simply means that amazing artwork will be more readily available. If you’re super artsy, create your own coloring pages. Play with markers and colored pencils and even crayons. Put colors together that don’t ever collide in nature. Color outside the lines if you feel like it.
  4. Have a boffer battle. Boffers are fake padded swords, used by those who re-enact medieval battles. They’re easy to make with PVC pipe, foam, and duct tape. JFGI (just freaking google it). Make a set and have a crazy battle with a friend.bofferbattle
  5. Play with rocks. I love to play with little polished rocks and crystals. I carry them in my pockets like tiny pets. Other people enjoy playing with bigger rocks, making cairns or stone walls. You can collect them from the beach or wherever you go – I find there is always a rock looking to hitch a ride to a new locale. Rocks move very slowly on their own, so they’re often happy for our quick feet and wheeled vehicles. cairnsforfun
  6. Laugh at yourself and life’s odd moments. You know the ones – the GPS gets you totally lost, you forgot to bring that essential item with you, you trip over your own feet (often right in front of that special guy or gal). Find the humor in these little “fail” moments.
  7. Have a scavenger hunt. Find a playful friend or a team and create a scavenger hunt, or find one online that sounds fun. Play your way around the neighborhood or town. If you don’t want to physically collect items, use your phone’s camera and collect photographic proof.
  8. Dress up for no reason. Take yourself out for morning coffee in an evening gown or tux. Wear all your favorite colors and patterns and tie dyes at once. Don a fancy cap. Act natural and pretend you don’t know why people are looking at you oddly. Take silly selfies.
  9. Make refrigerator poems. You know those magnet words you can put on your fridge door? Get some and make ridiculous poetry. Start a story and see who continues it. Anonymously put some on the staff fridge at work and see if others play along.
  10. Play with pets. Dogs love to play chase the ball or stick. If you don’t have a dog, borrow one for a couple of hours. Cats, in the right mood, will play so kittenishly that they will have you laughing until you’re in tears. Catnip is a good motivator. My cats like to play with me and my rocks and crystals, especially if I’m setting up an altar or doing a Tarot reading.
  11. Flirt with someone. Sure, be safe and respectful and all that – I know you have good manners. But in the right setting, a few moments of mutual flirtation will lift your mood. Playful verbal banter is encouraged.
  12. Ask a question. When you’re grappling with a big issue or some uncertainty, ask a question to the Universe at large. Then practice playfully reading the answers in your environment. Each Facebook meme could be a clue. The pattern of ducks swimming in the pond or the shape of clouds are potential omens. Open a book at random and read a line in response to your question. Consider all of these replies equally, and with a light heart.
  13. Get side-tracked. Sometimes we’re out and about and we have an impulse to go a different way, stop into a new shop, or call a friend out of the blue. Follow those impulses! They will often lead to delightfully playful encounters. You can even set up a playdate on purpose – invite a friend to have tea or a picnic, and bring food you’ve never tried before or a silly new game to play.
  14. Invent a silly game. Need a silly game to bring to a playdate? Invent one! Kids are genius at this. Be sure that the game requires liberal use of your imagination. If you come up with a fun game, I’d love to hear about it; post a description in the comments.

Get playing, and enjoy!

Starcat’s Favorites: Nature Walks

riverpathtreesThe weather has finally gotten warm enough around here to go out and enjoy. I’ve been loving all the walks this week. I’ve walked by a marsh, by the river, at the beach, and down the road, with friends and on my own. Such a delight!

It’s time to start thinking about putting up the hammock. And plan some hikes, and camping trips. I’m so excited about the warm weather season! It’s short enough here in northern New England that it really deserves to be savored.

Even with all the extra nature time, I’ve managed to capture plenty of links for you to enjoy. There’s so much good stuff out there!

Earth Day was this week. This is my favorite post in celebration of our lovely Mother.

Cats and books are two of my favorite things – here’s the official word on why cats love bookstores.

Have you gotten in on the adult coloring book movement yet? It’s a lot of fun!

A lovely little glimpse into daily practice as boundaries.

oceanmagickAs the warm weather returns, my mermaid side is emerging once again, and I’m drawn to the ocean and her magick.

Are you being pursued by consciousness?

Discover more about how empathic you are.

The top 100 best memoirs. I wouldn’t have listed “memoir” as one of my favorite genres, but I’ve read several of these, have quite a few others on my to-read list, and want to read more of them now that I’ve seen the list.

Since last fall, I’ve been upgrading the entrepreneurial side of my callings, with the help of my amazing biz coach, Britt Bolnick. Here are a couple of inspiring posts on building your business gradually and working for yourself. I’ve also recently been invited to join a monthly networking dinner based on this article. So much looking forward to the gathering!

I hope you get outside and enjoy the lovely energies of the natural world. Blessings!

I’m Not Rich, Thin, or Young, and I Have a Fantastic Life

goddessselfieBut how is that possible? Our culture is dedicated to the pursuit of happiness. That happiness, as we see reflected in the media, means that you are young (or young-looking), with a slim, attractive body, and enough money to do as you like. We might add criteria for further happiness, like fame, a good education, a loving partner, obedient children, and a beautiful home.

We ignore the signs that our cherished celebrities, those who supposedly have it all, aren’t quite as happy as they might be. Dramatic breakups, drug abuse, and flamboyant spending are the realm of those who are obviously spoiled, or ungrateful, or Doing It Wrong. If we had those resources, we vow, we would live life to the fullest.

Why wait? Why devote yourself to the endless pursuit of happiness? Why not just welcome it into your life, right now, as you are? You don’t need to wait until you are thin, rich, and young to be truly happy.

I know this from experience. I have a fantastic life that I truly enjoy. I am a happy person, which has come from learning to let myself be joyful no matter the circumstances. You can, too.

You long to be rich? Most of us already live like the queens and kings of past eras. Stop and look around you. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you own an electronic device that puts the vast knowledge of hundreds of libraries full of books right here at your fingertips, along with music and art and calculators and maps. You probably have plenty to eat, clean water to drink, electricity, and a warm home to live in. You are clothed, you have transportation, and you likely even have access to health care when you need it. Chances are good that you have friends and family members who love you and care deeply about your well-being.

When you shift your attention from what is missing in your life to the blessings all around you, you are better able to feel happy and thankful. You can see how wealthy you truly are, right now, in this moment.

You want to be thin and beautiful? Our narrow view of what constitutes healthy and beautiful have been heavily conditioned by mass media. Think about those in your life who you love deeply. Picture them smiling and doing something they enjoy. Are they beautiful to you? Of course they are. Do they fit the stereotype of western beauty at this time in our history? Maybe so, maybe not.

Beauty truly does come from within. It’s often easier to see that in others than it is in ourselves.

Try shifting your view to that of health. Think about the ways you are already healthy. Our tendency is to focus on our own perceived flaws and lacks. Instead, make a list of the beautiful health you now embody. Admire the way your legs carry you uncomplainingly on walks through the woods or along the beach. Smile in the mirror, and appreciate your sparkling eyes. Enjoy the way your hands can adeptly caress your lover, cook a delicious meal, and comfort a crying child. Begin to explore and encourage self-love, which is an essential part of a healthy psyche.

Pining for your youth? Is this a real impulse, or another culturally-conditioned response? We are taught that being young is ideal, and that nostalgia for those “glory days” is normal. But was it really a better time, or are you conveniently forgetting the struggles and worries that went along with the triumphs? Make a conscious choice to change your view, and to decide that the best time in your life is right here, right now.

Delight in the wisdom you’ve gained over your lifetime so far, in knowing that there is still so much more to learn and experience, and in the exploration of who you truly are.

You don’t need to be rich, thin, young, or fulfill any other arbitrary criteria, in order to be happy. Dive deeply into the life that you are living right now. Be grateful for your blessings, cherish your friends and family, do the things you love to do, and share your gifts and talents with the world. Living purposefully from right where you are will allow your innate happiness to expand and flourish. Shut off the mainstream media and be uniquely yourself.

You’ll be amazed at how you shine.

Aging Backwards

playfulstarcatI was driving home with my daughter last night after her archery class, singing along to the radio (like we do). I noticed that what we were singing was yet another pop song idolizing being young. It seems like it’s a fairly universal human experience to long for a past time when you were young and free, life was simple, and you were unconditionally happy.

But I just can’t relate to that.

I mean, I had a pretty good childhood. My family is very loving, and I wasn’t abused or bullied or put through any major trauma. All my needs and many of my desires were met. Still, life didn’t feel easy and free. Navigating my daily experience wasn’t simple. It was painfully hard, and I felt awkward, insecure, and anxious a lot of the time. I was shy and fearful. Probably because of the inner stress I experienced, I was sick a lot of the time with colds, ear infections, and sinusitis.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a sensitive type. An introvert, a HSP, an empath, in a world that rewards extroverts and the self-confident. It took me many years to learn the tools and techniques that enable me to thrive, to find others like me, and a few more years to discover that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with the way I am, and to learn to love and accept myself.

As a creative person, public school really wasn’t the best fit for me, although no one would have thought to suggest it. I earned straight As most of the time, and graduated in the top ten of my class in terms of grades. Even so, a lot of the time I hated going to school, primarily because of the cliques and social interactions that left me feeling excluded. But also, as I learned upon entering college, because my spirit was longing for more freedom.

When I arrived at the University my freshman year, I was amazed by the freedom! I could choose my own classes and my schedule. I could study when I wanted, put in the amount of effort that felt right, stay up late and sleep in, and even better, no one was judging me for it. I could choose my own friends, set my own hours, participate in whatever activities I thought I might enjoy – and quit when I was done. I dove deep into literature and philosophy and explored peace studies and spirituality.

Despite my discoveries in college, I felt a lot of insecurity and angst well into my adulthood. I worried what other people thought, a lot. I had trouble making choices and speaking up about my desires. I had to work through a lot of old beliefs and self-doubt to get to the point I’m at now, where I consider myself a happy person. I was just reading an old journal from my mid-20s, and feeling compassion for how often I felt depressed, uncertain, and frustrated. I had a huge desire to write and create, but I seemed to block myself at every turn.

It’s no one’s fault. It just took me a long time to learn to be comfortable with who I am, and to allow my creativity and spirituality free expression.

So, for many reasons, I don’t wish to return to my youth. Not at all. I’m now in my 40s, and this is the best decade yet. Things keep getting better and better.

Many years ago I had a snippet of a dream that stuck in my head in the form of a sentence from a story. I’ve saved it to perhaps use in a novel at some point, but it feels appropriate for this post. “She had stumbled upon a community of people who were aging backwards.”

I feel like a member of that community, now. I am aging backwards, becoming more free, confident, and vital year by year. How about you? Do you feel that your life is getting better and better? I’d love to hear from others for whom the “oh how I wish I could be young again” song lyrics inspire a shudder and a firm “I don’t freaking think so!”