Starcat’s Favorites: Summer Begins

It’s late May in Maine, and our weather has leaped ahead to feeling like early July. I’m not complaining at all – I love the heat!

I’m still going for near-daily woods walks, and also spending time in my hammock.

We haven’t been swimming yet, because that water is surely super cold, but soon…

Even though things are still in a state of upheaval in our society, with no festivals or concerts likely this year, the start of summer seems to ease our minds a bit. At least mine…

I decided that I’m not doing any in-person workshops or retreats this year, but that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Between virtual retreats & workshops, the Parallel PlayDates, and the writing group I’m leading, there’s so much opportunity for fun & creativity! BlackLion and I are even doing a fun virtual book launch in July, for our new book (coming soon), Follow the Ebb & Flow: The Law of Attraction and the Tides of Life.

Here are some links for you to peruse in your hammock, on the deck, in your favorite comfy spot, or wherever you’re welcoming summer.

Have I mentioned lately how much I adore Jeannette Maw, the Good Vibe coach? I’m in her Ultimate Abundance Maker course right now and it’s powering up my world even more! Here are two recent favorites, It’s OK to Feel It and The Perks of Procrastination.

I confess to being slightly addicted to reading other peoples’ lists of favorite books, even if I have plenty of options on my to-read shelf. Surely I’m not the only one? Here are one, two, three interesting book lists to check out.

Venus Retrograde will be part of our lives over the next few weeks. I like Chani Nicholas’ take on it. Also, Venus is not the only one…  “Retrograde Galore.”

Some people are actually thriving during these “shelter in place” times. Hello, my fellow introverts! Also, though we don’t know what the future may hold, we do have the power to choose what to focus on next.

That’s all for me – I’m off to buy some seedlings and cheer on the green thumbs in my family as they plant a veggie garden. Oh, and probably hit the hammock, too, if the rain holds off…

Nature Is Healing

Nature is healing. It’s amazing to me how many times in life I forget this, and then remember it again.

I’m blessed to live in a beautiful rural area in Maine. Out behind our home, there are acres and acres of forest. I take it for granted sometimes.

I mean, it’s kind of obvious that I’m a bookish type. Even though my spirituality is Earth-based, I’m more likely to curl up and read than to go outside, most days.

But not recently. One of my immediate family’s personal projects this spring, as we’re “sheltering in place,” has been to reclaim the trails out back, on our extended family’s land (all of these pictures are from this place).

It’s been such fun – and now I go out and walk on the “moon paths” just about every day. Our dog, Aine, is absolutely loving it. She reminds me on the days I forget. We even go out in the rain.

When I’m out in the forest, it’s easy to be absolutely present. To recharge. To embrace inner stillness and quiet my mind. To observe the amazing beauty and power of Mother Nature.

I think about the Buddhist quote about how – I’m paraphrasing – on the days you’re busiest, that’s when you need to take MORE time to meditate. It’s like that with me and walking in the woods, now.

On a day that’s packed full of Zoom calls and business tasks and chores, it’s even more vital to take that half-hour or hour and go visit the trees.

Walking in nature is good for the body. It enhances your emotional well-being. It gives you mental space and clarity. It connects you to the spiritual web of All That Is.

My daily forest jaunts are giving me the bountiful gifts of healing.

What about you? Are you in a place where you can safely get some time outside?

You don’t have to live in a rural setting to get your regular dose of nature.

If you’re in a more urban area, perhaps there’s a park or shoreline where you can take a solo jaunt. In the suburbs, find the walking paths.

Even if the most you can do is to go out and sit on your balcony or steps, give it a try.

Feel the breeze and the sun.

Look for flowers.

Listen for birds.

Let Mother Nature’s healing powers work their magick on your soul. 

Blessed Be.

Personal Projects, No Pressure

Creative people like us often have a bunch of projects underway at any given time. Despite what you might hear or read, this is a good thing.

Our brains work differently from those who move in a linear fashion from one project to another. Creativity is less like a line and more like a wild, spiraling map-style flow chart with lots of scenic overlooks.

As if to prove the point, that last sentence makes me want to draw just such a thing in my art journal. Heh heh.

In my experience, I find that having some of my creative projects be personal ones, just for my own use, helps keep my main creative work – writing books – fresh. There’s no pressure to finish a personal project or to craft a particular outcome. There are no deadlines.

When I focus on a personal project, I’m doing what might look like work, but it’s just for fun.

Here are a few examples of what I mean by personal projects. I have two of them that I’ve been working on recently.

One is my Dream Chronicles. I started keeping dream journals in the early 1990s. I don’t write in my dream journal every day, or capture each dream. Instead, I write down the ones that seem particularly significant.

After reading some of the Robert Moss books on dreaming – highly recommended if you’re interested in working with your dreams – I started giving each dream a title. I came up with the idea of typing them up, adding keywords as I go, to see which symbols and topics show up most often.

The plan is to print the dreams and create a binder of them. I even created a collage-style cover (see photo).

This project has no timeline. I’m probably not going to share it with anyone. It’s just for me, for the fun of it.

My other personal project was inspired by a super cool birthday gift I received last fall. My son-in-law gifted me with a create-it-yourself oracle card deck. It was such fun to pick out the theme and the artwork together!

My theme is magickal creatures. He had it printed up for me, with a cool case and everything. My project is that I’m making a guidebook for the deck.

I’m doing research on the creatures I chose, and plan to also write a haiku for each card. Again, this is just for my own use, and just for the sheer joy of it.

I’m currently reading D.J. Conway’s book Magickal Mystical Creatures as part of my research for the oracle deck.

My favorite personal projects obviously involve study and writing, which I love. Others will have completely different ideas of fun personal projects.

A dear friend of mine who is a visual artist and a writer is making a warrior’s kit. He’s repurposed an old guitar case, hand-sewing pockets and sheaths into it for his collection of knives, shuriken, and other weaponry.

Mind you, I’ve known him for 30 years and haven’t seen him get into a fight yet. But this is something that lights him up, while researching magickal beasts might be tedious for him.

A personal project is one that you do just for you, with no desire to share, sell, or distribute the potential results.

What kind of personal projects do you have going? Do you have any you haven’t played with in quite some time? This might be the perfect moment to dig one out.

If you don’t have a personal project in mind, do some brainstorming. Make a blue-sky list of creations that sound truly delightful and completely whimsical. Do you want to stop what you’re doing right now and dive in? You’re on the right track.

I’d love to hear about your personal creative projects, if you’re in the mood for sharing!

Key Life Lessons I Learned From My Mom

My Mom is a really amazing woman. No, I’m not just saying that because I was lucky enough to be born to her half a century ago.

A whole lot of people whose lives she’s touched think she’s awesome, too.

Here are 11 key life lessons I’ve learned from her.

No guilt. This is one of Mom’s favorite sayings, and it’s so true. Life is short enough. You’re going to mess up sometimes, so make amends, apologize, and move on. Why waste time on past regrets?

Enjoy life’s little pleasures. The smell of fresh baked bread. Flowering trees. A cat purring. A sunny day. Notice the little blessings that are all around you, and revel in them.

It doesn’t cost anything to be kind. This is another favorite saying of Mom’s, and she lives it. She’s kind not only to her family and friends, but to all the people she encounters.

Document the joys. People in our family sometimes roll their eyes when they see her coming with the camera again. But they also appreciate the photo calendars she makes every December, and being reminded of the fun times we’ve had throughout the year.

Family is a treasure. Mom has made us, her family (which also includes a bunch of people we’ve informally adopted), a priority throughout our lives together. She loves our positive qualities, and overlooks our flaws. This attitude of caring has rippled outward, and we all have each others’ backs. It’s a lovely way to live.

Reading is wonderful. Mom is as much of a bookworm as I am, if not more! She gifted me with the love of stories. I am ever grateful.

Women are people too. Mom taught me that there are still injustices in the world, and that we can work to change them. One of her favorite ways to do so is to lift up, encourage, and celebrate women. We’re part of a lineage of women – and others – changing society for the better.

Don’t follow the herd. Trying to be like everyone else is boring. Mom revels in her unique interests, and is super creative. She is one of a kind!

Make your own fun. I often say about my family that we’re the ones laughing together even in the Emergency Room. Literal truth. We choose to see the bizarre humor in even the toughest situations. She has led the way. She brings the fun wherever she goes. I strive to do that, too.

Be a good listener. Mom has been blessed with lots of friends. People know her as a good listener, one who will compassionately hear you out. This is a good quality to have in life.

You are tougher than you think. My Mom has survived more health challenges than 4 or 5 people put together. She is strong, even when she’s fragile. Granite rock strong. She’s shown me that even when I’m feeling weakest, I can endure, and even thrive.

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

Starcat’s Favorites: The Forest

One of the things I’ve been enjoying most during this time of sheltering in place is walking in the woods behind our home.

I’m blessed to live on family land that was my grandmother’s. She died when I was just 15, but even before that, I remember her saying how she wanted the land to be a family legacy. And now it is.

Walking on the trails we’re reclaiming gives me feelings of calm, joy, and peace. Nature is such a healer.

I’ve also (of course) been enjoying reading. Here are some inspiring reads for your weekend.

While there is without doubt a lot of suffering and fear right now, there are also some silver linings and plenty of opportunities for growth, both individually and collectively. I enjoyed this article on the “Corona cocoon” and this one about not going back to exactly the way things were.

So many of my favorite wise women are writing about the bigger lessons we’re gaining, and how to navigate our way through: Danielle LaPorte, Regena Garrepy, and Rebecca Campbell among them.

I’m feeling an expansion and deepening of my creativity now. Here are some tips to guide you to your own creative wellspring.

It’s also a time of great surrender, and maybe you’re not getting anything done. That’s perfectly fine, too. (Looking for some good books to read?)

This article on keeping up your yoga practice while traveling is something I came across before all of this – but it’s still fun to read, and to imagine a time when you’ll travel again.

Much love and good health to you and yours!

9 Self-Care Practices You Can Do at Home

Self-care is particularly crucial in a time of crisis. Sometimes you can’t get out into the world for a massage or an artist date, whether it’s due to the global pandemic we’re experiencing now or for personal reasons from health to finances.

Here are 9 things you can do to fill your own cup, from the comfort of your home.

Play with art. You don’t have to be “good at” art to experience the benefits. You don’t need to have fancy supplies. If you have paper and black ink, try some Zentangling. Use old magazines, glue, and scissors to make a collage. If you do have art supplies on hand, start an art journal, sketch the birds you see out your window, or make paper dolls. There are endless free YouTube videos on various art techniques – let yourself play, and enjoy the process without worrying about the final product. The point is to revel in the joy of creativity.

Take a shower or bath. Water has a powerful healing, relaxing effect. Start by cleaning your bathtub, an act of self-care in itself. Light some candles and play some music. Cleanse yourself mindfully. After you’re done, nourish your skin with some good-smelling lotion.

Read an inspiring book. Or listen to it as an audiobook, if that’s more your thing. Choose something that will uplift and encourage you. Here are some ideas.

Listen to your intuition. It’s rare that we take time to be still and listen to the quiet voice of wisdom within. Set aside a few minutes for meditation. Find a guided meditation or some instrumental music that can take you deep. Ask a question of your higher self, in your mind or perhaps in your journal. Allow yourself to listen for answers and guidance.

Refresh with nature. If you’re able to do so safely, go out for a walk or sit in your yard. Even if you’re in a big city, open the window or step out the door and take a few deep breaths. Soak up the sunshine or let the rain tickle your face. Being outside is an instant mood-booster. Let Mother Nature refresh your energies.

Learn something new. You know that self-led course you bought and never got to? Now’s a great time to dive in. Can’t afford to buy a course? Use YouTube tutorials, or check out e-books from your library’s website. Pick something you’re curious about, something that feels fun to you – no matter how obscure or geeky it might seem to someone else. This is your time.

Talk with a trusted friend. Sometimes the best self-care is to ask for support from someone who loves you. Reach out to a friend and set up a virtual coffee or tea date. Take turns deeply listening to one another. Share your joys and sorrows. Connecting one-on-one is a gift, even when you can’t share an in-person hug.

Cook your favorite meal. Nourish yourself through delicious, healthy food. Make something that you enjoy, or try something new. Pretend you’re on a cooking show, and ham it up, just for fun. Sit down to savor your meal slowly, with no screens and perhaps candles and a cloth napkin. Give thanks for the food.

Take a nap. Right in the middle of the day, if you feel like it. Catnap, power nap, or doze as long as you wish. Extra rest during a crisis is smart. Ignore any voices in your mind that say you’re being lazy or you don’t deserve it. Get cozy and enjoy your nap!

Starcat’s Favorites: Home Base

Home base? No, it’s not a baseball metaphor. I am feeling blessed, at this time when we’re all being advised to stay home except for essential supply runs, to absolutely LOVE where I live and the people I live with.

The exciting news here is that my daughter ElvenTiger and her new husband are staying! They came home to get married, planning to go back to Denver for a few months and then move home for good. Because of the pandemic, it’s safer for them to just stay put, here with us. Yay!

We’re all healthy and safe, and I hope you and yours are, too. We’ve been cooking together, playing games (I even tried a video game! It’s called TemTem), and tromping around in the back woods. I already mostly worked from home, so I’m still doing the work I love. I’m keeping in touch with friends and family through phone and Zoom.

I’ve been holding space for those who are ill and suffering, and for those who are okay but are overwhelmed by fear and anxiety. Personally, I’m mostly centered, and thankful for my longtime meditation & spiritual practice for that. I’m sending out lots of prayers, love, and compassion. I’m thankful for those who are out there keeping things running.

Over the years I’ve become an optimist, something I’ve cultivated purposefully. So I’m seeing the silver linings and opportunities in this crisis. I love this quote:

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

We’re digging up our jewels right now, dear ones. I hope you adore your home base as much as I do mine.

Here are some resources from around the web that I’ve enjoyed. I hope they help you.

Jeannette Maw has certainly created some gems for us. Here are two of her blogs, on feeling your feelings and navigating this time as a conscious co-creator.

Kripalu is another source of good stuff. Here are their posts on reducing stress and transforming fear through meditation.

This past week was the official start of Spring! Here’s a lovely article on Spring Equinox 2020. It has SO many good ideas for celebrating the new season, even while staying home.

This is a re-posted article on “how to keep working on your business while it feels like the world is on fire.”

Working with your inner child might sound sort of cliche or hokey, but it’s a powerful practice. I like Danielle LaPorte’s take on this.

“All living beings are worthy of respect.” I love these principles of unity from the Reclaiming tradition.

You might recall my recent post that emerged from a women’s gathering about Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party art installation. Check out this article and especially this video about a recent tribute to this amazing work. Wow!

Stay safe and be well.

Exquisite Self-Care in a Time of Crisis

This is a bit hard to write, because I don’t want to appear to minimize anyone else’s experience. But it feels important to share my perspective. Please know that I’m offering this with the utmost love and compassion for you, unconditionally.

Here it is: I’m not afraid. I’m not stressed. Even in this time of crisis, I’m able to be grounded, hold space for others, and have fun. I’m not freaking out.

Why? It’s not because I’m dumb, or misinformed, or burying my head in the sand. I’m not wealthy or otherwise advantaged in a way that means I’m above it all. I know that awful things are happening. They happen every day. They’ve happened to me and my family in the past.

There are consequences from this pandemic for all of us. I have elders and others in my close community who are vulnerable to disease. My family’s income is already being affected. We might not be able to get the essentials we rely upon. Events – both business and personal – that I’ve looked forward to are being canceled.

This isn’t a fluffy bunny (fluffy kitty?) kind of thing.

What is it, then? I’ve been doing daily spiritual practice for 23 years as of this coming June. I do it when everything is going well, and I do it during times of crisis. I’ve added in more of these practices, and greater self-care, over that time.

And it has helped me become exponentially happier and more centered – even when the sh*t hits the fan. This allows me to be of better service to those who need my help.

I’m not saying all of this to brag. Believe me, no one who is still alive here on Earth has “mastered” meditation or reached enlightenment.

We all, me included, have our very human moments of freaking out. But you don’t have to live there 24-7. I want to demonstrate that it’s possible to surrender, to let go of some of the stress and fear.

I used to think that faith and surrender were a cop-out. But they’re not. The only thing we are fully in control of is our own RESPONSE. That is the heart of our power-from-within.

Stress and fear of the unknown are about hanging on to an illusion of control. Our ego brain, when it feels threatened with change or loss, wants to cling to the familiar. If that’s not possible, we go into “fight or flight” mode. This primal urge was set up to get us out of immediate danger. Sustaining it over long periods of time is not good for your health (body, mind, or spirit).

Practicing exquisite self-care in the form of spiritual practice – of connection to something bigger than your ego-mind – is a powerful antidote.

Meditation, yoga, creativity, dance, getting out in nature, mindfulness; all of these things and more can connect you to your intuitive sense that you’re going to be just fine. Yes, even if you suffer or die (we are all mortal – you do know that, right?).

Much like planting a tree, the best time to start a spiritual practice was 10 years ago, but the next best time is right now. 

There are plenty of excuses for not doing it. But perhaps this crisis is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. Start with 15 minutes at the beginning of your day. New to meditation? There are hundreds of free guided meditations out there. Try one.

Averse to meditation? Then just pick something that feels good to you and that will distract your monkey mind from its worries for a time. Take a walk outside. Listen to uplifting music as you sip coffee or tea. Read a sacred text or a self-help book that calls to you. Draw or color. Build something in your garage. Cook a healthy meal, with intention. Take a bath with candles and crystals.

Shut off the freaking news and social media, even if only for an hour or two.

We’re being asked to stay home right now, as much as possible. That’s a perfect opportunity for some exquisite self-care. Go within. You are connected to the wisdom of the Universe. Your part in accessing it is to stop spinning with worry and turn your face toward that wisdom, even if only for a few precious minutes.

If this idea appeals to you and you want some help with getting started, reach out to me and we’ll talk (virtually, online, and germ-free). I’m here, and I’m not in panic mode. I’d love to assist you with finding your center. 

A Love Affair With the Sea

One of my favorite places to be is by the ocean. I suppose that’s why I was born here in Maine.

There are many reasons why we’re drawn to stand at the edge of the sea. The natural beauty. The negative ions from flowing water that help us feel less stressed and more joyful.

The power and magick of edges, the places where two disparate elements meet.

The sound of the waves. The grounding sensation of bare feet in wet sand. All this and more.

For me, the shoreline is a place of creative inspiration. A day at the beach refreshes, restores, and empowers my body, mind, and spirit.

Sometimes this means bringing my journal along and writing in this place of power. Other times, a visit to the sacred waters lets new ideas seep in, to marinate in the salty seawater of my blood. After this marinating process, the words eventually flow forth, like the waters of the ocean crashing onto my favorite beach.

When I first received the calling to lead transformational writing retreats, the vision was of a group writing near the ocean. This was soon followed by the notion of giving back – the plan is to donate part of the proceeds of each retreat to organizations cleaning up the oceans. This feels aligned with my devotion to the Goddess Yemaya.

Yemaya is the Yoruban Mother Goddess of all living things, and of the Earth’s waters. She began as the ruler of rivers, and is now worshipped as the Goddess of the sea, particularly in the Afro-Caribbean traditions. Yemaya is nurturing and also fierce. She loves to dance, and Her graceful motions are reflected in the rhythm of the waves, and of the storms on the oceans.

Water is the realm of this powerful and gorgeous Goddess, and water is often associated with emotions and with our subconscious mind. She cleanses us of sorrow and helps us to connect with our more sensual side, and She is also a patron of healing.  Yemaya is often depicted as a mermaid.

I have been drawn to water since I was a small child, even though my Mom couldn’t swim at the time and was afraid of being immersed in the water. As I’ve grown, I’ve discovered that my love of swimming and of water in general connects me to a spiritual lineage of mermaids. My daughter and I claim ourselves as quarter mermaid, and thus we are daughters of Yemaya, even though we are of Celtic descent.

Personally, I also associate Yemaya with a connection to the non-physical realms. During the warmer time of year, my wild witchy sisters and I love to visit the ocean at the new and full moons.

Swimming in the sea as the full moon rises is a profound experience of connection to All That Is. Swimming under the stars with no moon at all is also deeply magickal. Immersing myself in the ocean’s waters helps me to center myself in the cosmos, floating freely, unattached to the solid ground of the Earth. I feel Yemaya’s loving and protective presence as I revel in my mermaid roots, delighting in the flow of the living waters all around me.

To me, immersing myself in the living waters that are Yemaya’s realm allows me more inner space to connect with the other realms. This means channeling, crafting relationships with my angels and guides, and expanding the space for hearing my intuition, my heart’s wisdom.

The ocean is a magickal place, where the energies provide a gap for my consciousness to slip into, through into the other realms, with ease and grace. I swim through these realms as I do through the waters of this physical realm.

I am profoundly grateful to Yemaya for Her willingness to hold me gently in Her watery embrace.

Travel and the Creative Soul

What comes to mind when you hear the word “adventure?” For me, it’s a no-brainer.

Adventure means TRAVEL.

Travel feeds my creative soul like nothing else.

I first caught the travel bug when I was a shy teenage Girl Scout. The longer I stayed in Girl Scouts, the fewer peers and the smaller the troop size. However, there were some really cool things that were offered to the older girls – like “Wider Opportunities.”

As soon as I heard about the concept of themed two-week camps, scattered across the country, I was hooked. I applied for a few – I remember that one was a theater camp – and waited to see what happened. I was accepted to a camp with a history theme, located in rural Pennsylvania. For two weeks, we’d be living on a historic farm property, learning to do things the way our ancestors did.

I was both terrified and thrilled. This was the furthest I’d been from home without my family. I was a shy, introverted kid who often felt insecure and awkward.

Yet as soon as I stepped on the plane, I was captivated by this notion of exploring places I’d never seen before. It made my (already quite active) imagination jump into overdrive.

Fast-forward to my 30s, when I was Mom to two young kids as well as being the family breadwinner. Thanks to my job, I had the chance to travel to an industry conference each autumn. By myself!

If you’ve had little kids, you probably know how luxurious that feels. A two-hour layover in a bustling airport? No worries – I can read without interruption, eat what and when I want, and even daydream.

A hotel room in a downtown conference center? Wow, I get the whole bed to myself! Room service. Fluffy towels that someone else will wash. A nice pool for a morning swim before conference sessions.

Most of these conference trips were to cities I’d never visited before, and I often had a free day at the end of my trip to explore the area. Such joy!

To this day, I absolutely adore traveling. Over the past two years, I’ve been to Colorado, New York City (twice), the Bahamas, and New Mexico. I’ve visited art museums, beaches, national parks, and a variety of restaurants. I’ve written in cafes and airports, on a train, and in bars.

I’ve got pages of ideas in my notebooks, inspired by the adventures I’ve embarked upon. I love to take photos of the places I visit. My creative wellspring overflows with new ideas inspired by the sights, sounds, and experiences of my travels.

Even though I’m a Virgo with planning superpowers, I like to leave plenty of room for spontaneity as I travel. I research a new place a little bit, but not too much. It’s much more fun to see what experiences come up as I move through the world.

The best part of travel adventures is the unknown. Happily, I’ve found travel companions who also love to “travel by yes.” Solo travel is a blast, but adventures can be even more fun with like-minded company.

I have more travel adventures in the works for 2020 and beyond. My vision boards are filled with pictures of places I haven’t seen yet. My Big List O’Goals has plenty of travel destinations outlined for the years to come. I look forward to hosting retreats in exotic locales.

Do you adore traveling as much as I do? Where have you been? Where do you yearn to go next?