Starcat’s Favorites: Water and Sky

SeaAndSkyI know I’ve mentioned about a hundred gazillion times that I love summer. Not really a popular opinion this week here in Maine, when the temperatures are in the mid 90s. Most people I run into are complaining about being too dang hot. But I love it.

My favorites this summer are swimming and watching the sky. Yesterday I saw gorgeous clouds, dozens of dragonflies converging on our yard at dusk, a deep-yellow half-moon, and two shooting stars. And that’s just one day! I’ve been swimming in the ocean, the river, and a couple different lakes. I’m satisfying my mermaid longings, and storing up the delicious sensations for when it’s too cold to swim outdoors. It’s feeding my soul. I’m so thankful.

Here are some links to enjoy, perhaps beachside or in the hammock. Enjoy being outdoors as much as you can. If it’s too hot for you during the day, a nighttime walk will get you out under those amazing stars. Have fun!

Retrain your mind to shift from negative thinking to a more positive outlook. It’s not as hard as you might fear!

Why we bother to do regular spiritual practice. Want more on how to do this? Click here.

This intense and powerful article is for those who are unsure how to deal with their feelings about all the violence and hate crimes we’ve been hearing about. It’s something many of us have been struggling with lately.

Christine Kane has been offering some really great articles lately, with topics ranging from emotions and success to how to host a retreat. Terrific stuff!

I hadn’t heard of a commonplace book before, or not by that name anyway, but this sounds really intriguing. It reminds me of reading Experience Curating by Joel Zaslofsky, which I loved.

Enjoy these gorgeous summer days!

Finding Your Place

mybeachspot1I remember reading the Carlos Castenada books back in the early 1990s. One of the things that stuck with me was when the teacher asked his apprentice to find “his spot in the room.” The student didn’t understand the assignment at first, and picked a place at random, but Don Juan wasn’t buying it. Over time, the student learned to find his “power spot,” the place where he was at his best, and his energy system was operating at full capacity.

We all have these places.

Usually, your home is one of your power spots, or at least a certain space in your home. It’s where you feel most at ease and comfortable, where your energy flows smoothly. It might be your bedroom, your favorite chair by the window, or a particular spot in your garden. You know where yours is.

There are also power spots in the world, places where we feel at home and profoundly relaxed, perhaps even energized. I was born in Maine and grew up here, and my favorite spot in the state is Acadia National Park. The energy there is profoundly healing for me. Still, I live in the southern part of the state, and this special spot is over 3 hours away, so I don’t get there as frequently as I’d like.

A good friend of mine has a favorite beach, right here in southern Maine, about a half-hour from my home. She grew up in the neighborhood, and knows the area like the back of her hand. As a child, I’d visited another beach just across the peninsula from this one, but I hadn’t been in the area for years. In the last year or two, I’d been to my friend’s favorite beach for a couple of beach parties she’d hosted, and had fun, but hadn’t thought much about the place itself.

mybeachspot2This year I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this beach, and now I consider it one of my power spots. The energy there feels so sacred and renewing. The second time I visited this beach this summer, it was to celebrate the Full Moon with a small group of women friends. We swam in the sea while the moon rose, impossibly huge, over the horizon. It felt like the most magickal spot I could imagine.

We’ve watched for shooting stars, drummed around the fire, body-surfed in the cold waves, and meditated, on this special beach. We bring snacks and kids and we laugh and sing. I walk the beach searching for treasures, and sit still to admire the sunset. I can’t wait to go back again.

I feel so blessed to have discovered a new sacred spot, and that my sweet friend shared it with me. We already have plans to be there next week, to celebrate the Full Moon once again.

What are some of your favorite power spots? Have you found any new ones lately? If you did, what would it look like? Feel like? How would it sound and smell?

Research and Poetry

This new book I’m working on, The Heart of the Goddess, has me doing research. Well, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I’m gathering research that I’ve been doing for years, and filling in the gaps as needed. I have stacks of notebooks on a shelf by my bed, filled with notes from my years of reading and studying.

I was looking through one of them this morning for some information on HeartMath, and found this poem that I’d written in 2009 and since forgotten all about. As it happens, I do have a section on Kali planned for the book, too. I love fun synchronicities like that!

In the Garden I Am Kali

I tread through life with gentle steps
Wanting to help others touch their joy.
Genuinely I yearn to nurture life –
Having no effect is better than harshness.
Yet in the garden I am Kali,
Tearing up weeds with calm abandon,
Scattering colonies of earthworms
With rarely any apology or regret,
Simply tucking them back into their beds
And proceeding forth with my destruction.
Order is born from chaos.

gardenfaeLongtime readers will know that I’m not much of a gardener – I pretty much have a “brown thumb.” But this was during a time when I was helping BlackLion in the garden pretty frequently.

His gardens are doing well this summer, without any interference from me! I did give him this faery statue for the herb spiral garden, and she seems to be helping the plants to thrive.

I hope your creations are thriving and that you’re having a fun summer!

Starcat’s Favorites: Highs and Lows

strawberriesThis month has been really weird for me thus far. Not just nationally and internationally, although the news we’ve been getting lately is certainly horrific. But also on a more personal level. On July 4th weekend, we had planned a visit from some close friends, and a cookout with them and my extended clan. We picked some strawberries, stocked up on grillable foods, and cleaned the house. Then we ended up visiting both my friend and my Mom in two separate hospitals on Sunday, and with BlackLion grieving the sudden death of a friend who lived in Hawaii. Um, yeah. Not exactly a fun holiday weekend.

Even in the middle of the crises, though, I’ve been working on my book and a related project, and feeling really creative and inspired. It is, as Quester says often, “high and low all at once.” Here in my 40s, I’m no longer willing to allow the difficult things in life to pull me under. I’m committed to doing the work I love, even as I help my tribe and cope with my own feelings about all that’s going on around us. I’m surfing the waves, moment by moment.

It’s not easy, but I believe that keeping a hopeful and positive attitude is key. Yes, feel those overwhelming feelings of fear, sorrow, and frustration – and then let them go. Crying is a good release, and self-care is essential. Then, keep on following your passions. Don’t, as they say, let the turkeys get you down. Or not for long, anyway (mixed metaphors anyone?).

Several of the links I’m sharing this time reflect this theme of attitude making a difference. You can receive the ongoing stream of life events and resist or fight against them, or you can accept what is and do your best with it. No, none of us is perfect at surfing the waves of our emotions, but with practice, we can keep getting back up on the surfboard.

Elizabeth Gilbert on perception: “The point is: If you feel like you’re constantly being robbed, then you live in a world that’s all about constantly being robbed. And if you feel like you’re constantly being blessed, then you live in a world that’s all about constantly being blessed.” This is brilliant.

What kind of world are you dreaming up?

How our beliefs affect our genes, and thus our physical health.

This article has some useful ideas, and the title made me giggle. I want to be “ridiculously successful” – by my own definition, of course.

What does it mean to “do your Work?” This article is one person’s attempt at defining it.

Here are some sacred sites to visit in the United States. Who’s up for a road trip? I’m ready for a metaphysical tour – and I won’t have to go far to visit the Maine site!

I can never resist a good summer reading list. If you’re more into crafts, this summer bucket list craft looks like a lot of fun.

Enjoy your hammock or beach time!

On Magick and Patience

circlemagickThanks to a dear friend of mine who literally made me sit down in his living room and watch a random episode, I’ve just watched the first season of TV series “The Magicians.” Not that I didn’t believe it would be awesome, it’s just that I’m slow-moving when it comes to shows. I don’t watch that many, because if I did they’d cut into my reading time.

He was right, though, and I was hooked. It’s sort of like Hogwarts for adults, and has all kinds of interesting complications. Predictably enough, I want to get the books it was based on.

But I digress. Anyway, one thing I noticed in the show was that the characters would do some kind of group spell or ritual, and nothing would happen immediately. They’d shrug and walk away, assuming it just didn’t work – and that’s when the weird and interesting stuff would start to happen.

Although magick works a bit differently here on this Earth plane, I think we do this a lot. We do our magick – whether that means prayer, affirmations, setting intentions, Law of Attraction processes, or actual spellwork – and if we don’t get instant results, we give up. We turn our attention elsewhere and figure our magick has failed us.

Of course, keeping your expectant attention on the spell, and stirring the pot obsessively, can be just as much of a problem. In order for magick to work, there’s a certain amount of detachment that needs to be cultivated.

What I would recommend instead is tapping into your patience, and taking inspired action. What does this mean? When you do some sort of magickal or spiritual working, however you define it for yourself, allow it the time and space to come to fruition. Work with the cycles of the moon, if you choose, perhaps giving your work a whole lunar month to ripen.

The inspired action piece is important, too. If sitting on the couch and visualizing was enough to create abundance and success, more people would do it. Do your visualization, yes, but also follow through. Go out there and do something towards your goals. As Mike Dooley says, it doesn’t matter what you do as much as that you get the wheels in motion.

What the young Magicians in the show eventually figure out is that the results won’t be instantaneous, and might not even look like what you asked for – but your magick will work. Just give it time, and support your non-physical work with inspired actions right here on the physical plane. Pay attention, and let yourself be guided to further actions that take you in the right direction, and feel good along the way.

Magick might be more subtle here than at Hogwarts or Brakebills, but it will help you get where you really want to go.

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!