Starcat’s Ten Best Books of 2021

Hello fellow bookworms! This is my annual share about my ten favorite books that I read this past year. As always, please note that these aren’t necessarily books that came out in 2021, just ones that I encountered and very much enjoyed.

I read 52 books in 2021, and it was hard to narrow the favorites list down to just ten. But for one reason or another, these are the books that stood out the most. Also, I was apparently more captivated by nonfiction than fiction during the past year. I discovered several of these through Carolyn Elliott’s course, which was a treasure trove of book recommendations.

Here are my 2021 favorites:

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. This was recommended by Mike Dooley in one of his workshops. I absolutely loved it! There’s a lot in here that’s outdated, and I could have done without all the Christian Bible quotes (although I see why they did it, to appeal to Western audiences by highlighting the similarities between Hindu and Christian values). But there are so many gems of wisdom, and it’s a window into another time and place. If you identify as a spiritual seeker at all, read this book.

Cakes for the Queen of Heaven: An Exploration of Women’s Power Past, Present and Future by Shirley Ranck. As a practicing Pagan, I’ve been on the periphery of several different Unitarian Universalist churches. This book was written as part of UU curriculum, and it’s extremely well done. This might be review material for many of us feminists and Goddess worshippers, but it’s still worth reading. I enjoyed the way the book was organized, as well as the thought-provoking questions and exercises that are included.

The Moon Book: Lunar Magic to Change Your Life by Sarah Faith Gottesdiener. Since I’ve co-written a book that talks a lot about lunar magick, you might legitimately wonder why this one made the list. First of all, there’s always more to learn about any given topic. That’s true for me as I explored this wonderful tome. Second, this book is visually stunning. Yes, the content is terrific – but it’s enhanced by the beauty of the design and layout.

Sovereign Self: Claim Your Inner Joy and Freedom with the Empowering Wisdom of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita by Acharya Shunya. I’ve already written about the synchronicity of how this book came into my world. I loved reading about the Hindu classics from a female perspective. Shunya is a wise teacher. She puts these ancient teachings into a modern context for the reader, which is useful in daily life.

Unbound: A Woman’s Guide to Power by Kasia Urbaniak. If I had to pick a book on this list that most changed my perspective, it would be this one. I strongly feel that everyone – not just women – should read it. It’s a game-changer. It also made sense of so many things that I hadn’t understood about interpersonal communication. Amazing.

The Art of Contemplation: A Gentle Path to Wholeness and Prosperity by Richard Rudd. I haven’t yet finished reading Rudd’s book The Gene Keys, or that would certainly be on the list as well. This slim companion volume was succinct and powerful. His work is in service to the awakening of human consciousness, and his writing is powerful.

Rewire for Wealth: Three Steps Any Woman Can Take to Program Her Brain for Financial Success by Barbara Huson. My biz coach is running a book club based around finances, and this was the first one we read. It’s also a workbook, and I did most of the exercises while at a resort in Mexico on vacation. Talk about the perfect setting for upgrading my wealth mindset! Huson is wise, and shares her wisdom in an accessible way.

Paths of Wisdom: Cabala in the Golden Dawn Tradition by John Michael Greer. Greer is one of the authors I found through the WEALTH alchemy course. He is obviously smart and knows the material inside out. I’ve already acquired two more of his books on magick. If you’re interested in Western occultism, Greer is a wise go-to.

Rhythm of War: Book Four of The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. I’ve chosen only two works of fiction for my favorites list, but this one is part four of a series. If you like fantasy, the whole series is a must-read as far as I’m concerned. Sanderson is a master of world-building, and his characters learn, grow, fail, succeed, agonize, delight, and change as often as the rest of us. Start with book one and read the Stormlight Archive series (including the novellas that happen between books) as it unfolds. You won’t regret it.

The Luster of Lost Things by Sophie Chen Keller. An old friend recommended this the year it came out, which was 2017. I’ve had it on my “to read” list ever since, and from now on I resolve to read his recommendations much sooner. This book is set in contemporary New York City, with a magical touch that makes the story shimmer. The ending was unexpected and satisfying. I loved it.

The runners-up: Here are three books that almost made the list, two of which are fiction. The Red Goddess by Peter Grey is a very, umm, interesting work about the Goddess Babalon. Widdershins by Charles deLint is his usual excellent brand of urban fantasy, set in the fictional city of Newford. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami is delightfully weird. He’s another author I’ll be sampling further.

What did you read last year that you loved? What’s on your to-read list for 2022?

Receiving Success

As I prepare for the beginning of a new calendar year, two words have emerged as themes for me for 2022.

The first one that showed up was SUCCESS.

In many ways, though, I’ve already achieved the success that I’ve been visualizing and working toward over the past several years.

My business, which is my second career and is entwined with my callings, is thriving. My relationships with family, friends, and beloveds feel magickal and blessed. I’ve implemented some new wellness practices that are improving my health (which is pretty good to begin with). My creativity is flourishing. I love my home.

I’m so grateful for all of the blessings in my life, even during a time of collective uncertainty.

The second word that emerged, and the one I’ve chosen as my Word of the Year for 2022, is RECEIVE. It’s time to allow all the success that I’ve been visualizing, planning, and working toward to come flooding in. I have some big ideas and am following my callings to new realms.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but of these two words, RECEIVE is the one that sounds a wee bit challenging or perhaps even scary. It’s a growing edge.

It feels natural to me to give. Receiving is… complicated. There are lots of emotional attachments to deserving, worthiness, fairness, and the like.

So I chose RECEIVE as my companion for the year to come. Gulp. I’m curious to see what this word, this concept, has to teach me.

One of the things I’ve discovered as I considered which word to choose is that receptivity isn’t the same as passivity. I tend to be an active person, wanting to do stuff and create and explore and experience. In order to receive, there needs to be a balance of those active energies with plenty of stillness in which to receive. I’ll meditate on it.

For now, I wanted to share the vision board I made last night, in (virtual) sacred space with some awesome Thriving Artists and co-creators. There were 16 of us at the 2nd annual Vision Board PlayShop that BlackLion and I led.

I had such a fun time making this board. I’m looking forward to seeing how these words and images make themselves known. 

What about you? Have you made a vision board for 2022? What energies, experiences, and blessings are you calling in for the new year?

Guilt: What Is It and How Do You Get Rid of It?

For years and years, my Mom has had a saying that she shares at appropriate moments: “No guilt!” 

But what is guilt, anyway? Is it necessarily a bad thing?

I looked to Wikipedia, and the definition of guilt there says: “Guilt is a moral emotion that occurs when a person believes or realizes—accurately or not—that they have compromised their own standards of conduct or have violated universal moral standards and bear significant responsibility for that violation.”

That could be a good thing. In its proper context, guilt can alert us when we’ve relaxed our standards in a way that doesn’t line up with our own ideals.

But what about when we get enmeshed in guilt, in an unhealthy way? In my experience, guilt comes up when I haven’t done something that I didn’t really want to do anyway.

In the context of the Law of Attraction, unpleasant emotions point to places where we’re out of alignment with our higher self, the wiser part of us that resides primarily in the non-physical. In this sense, maybe it simply wasn’t in my best interest to do whatever the thing was, and guilt illustrates that plainly.

One friend of mine says that guilt was used by her family as essentially a form of emotional blackmail. Her parents manipulated her to do what they wanted by imposing feelings of guilt on her, which makes her especially sensitive to it to this day.

I feel like guilt is entwined with a lack of self-worth. If we’re doubting our own ability to know what’s best for us, we become much more susceptible to what others want us to do.

This explains why guilt is often associated with patriarchal, dogmatic religions. The dogma tells us how we “should” behave. When our own intuition leads us in a different direction, we feel guilty about following our desires. In that context, guilt is meant to stop us in our tracks. It keeps us from following our bliss.

How do you rid yourself of unhealthy guilt? One of the ways I’ve done this is to get really clear about my own values, desires, and priorities. Establishing boundaries is also key.

Over time, I’ve focused on releasing things in my life that feel like obligations. For me, it’s especially potent around volunteering and helping others. When I know that I’m being of service in ways that use my gifts and feel good to me, it’s easier to say no to the invitations or requests that don’t light me up.

The other thing that has helped is cultivating love and trust for myself. When I feel solidly connected to my higher self, I can relax and trust that I will know the best course of action. When someone else tries to tell me what I “should” be doing, I can listen and then feel into it. If it doesn’t resonate, then I have an easier time letting it go, without feelings of guilt.

My Mom’s “no guilt!” reminder has helped me remember that I have my own access to inner wisdom. Rather than doing things because I feel guilty if I don’t, or repressing the guilt, I can see it for what it is and release it. This has helped me to thrive, and to give back to the community more consistently.

Guilt is an emotion, and can be processed and let go just like sorrow or anger. Clinging to guilt, and letting it grow into shame and self-criticism, is a waste of your time. 

Unhealthy guilt keeps you feeling – and playing – small. It takes you away from following your callings and sharing your gifts. That’s what the world really needs from you.

What’s your experience with unhealthy guilt? Is it something that you’re ready to release? How will you do so?

Starcat’s Favorites: A Long Weekend

For the past ten years, I’ve worked the Thanksgiving weekend. This year, I have the whole long weekend off!

It was good work – I filled in at the public radio station where I’d previously worked full-time for years. It felt good to be able to give the regular hosts a break, and the extra money was nice.

Last December, I resigned from the last bit of work in public radio, my first career. That’s because my book midwife business had gotten to the point where I needed my time back. In the 11 months since, my second career has continued to flourish. I’m so thankful!

So, as the President of the Tidingdale Literary Collective, I gave myself the long weekend off.

I’m enjoying good food with my family, having an Artist Date that includes a float in a sensory deprivation tank and a meal at a new-to-me restaurant, reading books (of course), and hanging out with my daughter-in-love. Oh, and working on finishing up NaNoWriMo…

I hope your holiday weekend is full of laughter, fun, and delicious food!

Here are some links to check out while you’re relaxing by the fire…

What would happen if we treated our emotions with respect?

Interesting philosophies for success from Carolyn Elliott – I was especially intrigued by #4.

Some good advice on blogging (and writing in general) – I loved this: “burnout is caused by doing something I usually love at a time when I don’t love it.”

Are you doing National Novel Writing Month? Here’s an awesome pep talk for these final days.

I often tell my writing clients that exploring other art forms can feed their passion for writing – here’s an example from a visual artist.

Thinking about a cover for your book? Read this advice before trying to DIY it.

I don’t think I’ve shared this here yet. It’s a post I wrote for Mike Dooley’s blog, on how to receive.

Doing some holiday shopping? Here’s a terrific gift, for you or someone on your list: The Energy Almanac. It’s one of my must-have tools for spiritual practice.

Happy Holidays!!!

The Elements, Part 5: Spirit

The element of Spirit is the ethereal combination of all the other elements. It is the very energy which comprises our entire cosmos. Spirit encompasses all that we can see, and the mysteries which are unseen to our mortal eyes. Spirit resides in the center, but also pervades the entire circle of life. It is associated with all times and seasons, and the mystical realms beyond the time-space continuum. The colors of spirit are white, black, gold, and silver.

Each of us has a soul, a spirit, that which goes on living when our physical bodies die. Our spirit is connected to the non-physical realms and is part of a much greater whole. Spirit cannot be proven or measured. Indeed, traditional science has not yet discovered its secrets, yet somehow we know that it exists. Spirit is, in many ways, a paradox. It is exalted and Divine, and also commonplace and ubiquitous. Spirit is darkness and light, male and female, old and young, wise and naïve, active and receptive, without and within, above and below, and everything in between.

The voice of Spirit speaks to us through intuition. We sometimes “just know” things that are beyond our physical ability to perceive. The context doesn’t matter, because Spirit is everywhere and always present, which can be comforting when we feel in need. The essence of Spirit is unconditional love, grace, and communion.

Some of us are in touch with non-physical beings in the realm of Spirit, such as ancestors, faeries, angels, and other spiritual guides. Spirit brings us magick and miracles beyond our conscious understanding. It is the Great Mystery.

Sacred geometry is one of the tools of Spirit. It has been taught across the ages that under the surface of all that we see, there is a web of interconnection. Each point on this web is holographic, in that it contains the essence of All That Is. When we recognize our own connection with everything that exists, Spirit aids us in bridging the gap between our individual selves and the unity of the eternal, infinite cosmos.

Author’s note: This is the final entry in my series on the elements, which was begun over 10 years ago. You can find links to the other articles in this series right here.

Starcat’s Favorites: Upleveling

How is it that the entire month of October is, well, over? Did it fly by for you like it did for me?

I’m sure part of it is that I was away for a week. BlackLion and I finally got to go on our much-awaited vacation to Cozumel Island, Mexico! It was amazing. We had such a blast. All of the pictures on this post are from there.

It felt so deliciously luxurious to be staying at the resort – and I love that it’s an eco-friendly, sustainable company that runs it.

Longtime readers of this blog will know how long I’ve been dreaming of tropical vacations. Now they’re part of my reality. I feel extremely blessed.

I’m definitely still in the process of upleveling. This week was my biz coach’s retreat, and I’ve had a bunch of insights about various areas of my life. I’ll be sharing some of those in the weeks to come.

In the meantime, here are some fun things from the magick of the internet:

I don’t have adequate words to describe this video. It’s spoken-word poetry, and it gave me goosebumps.

I’d never heard of this before, but it sounds like a super fun vacation idea!

Here’s some helpful worldbuilding advice from the folks at NaNoWriMo. (Are you doing NaNo this year? I am!)

Cheese is addictive. It’s true. Why give it up? Well, in my case, my body insists…

That upleveling I’m talking about? A significant chunk of it is related to prosperity. Here are some resources that are exciting in that regard: an article on getting into the frequency of abundance, rewiring your brain for wealth (I read this book on vacation, by the pool), Rachel Rogers changing the world, and getting smart about money.

My biz coach is running a free week intended to help women who are launching (or re-launching) a business. She’s amazing – check it out.

That’s all for now. Abundant blessings to you and yours!

Starcat’s Favorites: Autumn and Community

I’m loving the energies of autumn coming in. Can you feel it?

This week’s Parallel PlayDate had a theme of community. I based the guided meditation and writing prompt on some reading I’d been doing on forests. Until fairly recently, scientists had thought the trees in a forest competed for resources. But it’s not true!

Actually, thanks to the underground root system and the mycelium network, a forest is a collaborative community. 

It reminds me of the community of “biz sisters” I’ve been part of for several years now. We collaborate, we shout out each others’ projects, we give referrals and feedback and support and time to one another. It’s such a Feminine Divine way of being entrepreneurs.

As we transition from summer to fall, this element of community, which in centuries past would have manifested as farm families collaborating on the collective harvest, is coming to the foreground. How are you showing up in and for your communities?

Here are some of the things I’ve been checking out recently. I hope they’re as inspiring for you as they are for me!

Martha Stewart popped up in my emails from two separate sources, which delights my Virgo side. This blog post made me laugh, and nod in recognition. Leonie Dawson reviewed one of Martha’s organization books. It’s fall cleaning and decluttering time.

I enjoyed reading Rebecca Campbell’s suggestions for celebrating the arrival of fall. I’ll also share my own article on Fall Equinox with you.

Here are two gems from Jeannette Maw: a new blog post on trusting your inner guidance, and an older one about money mantras.

As I’ve noted before, I prefer reading to watching videos, but there are exceptions. I absolutely love Anna Bellissima’s YouTube channel! It’s all about practical magick and using it in your business and life. Check out her lesson on working with Mercury.

Here’s a fun and helpful reminder about seeking relationship with your creative muses.

I’m loving Lorde’s new album, Solar Power. This article showcases her quirky creative personality. It reminds me of a Netflix show I’m savoring, Anne with an E.

Enjoy!

Are You In the Autumn Groove?

Happy Autumnal Equinox, also known as Mabon! Fall has officially arrived.

Fall is associated with the element of water. Last night I led an online ritual that was focused on both water and Mabon, and the two energies worked well together. We invoked Yemaya, mother of the sacred waters.

I’ve been working with Her for about seven years now. The images in this post are from earlier this month, when my mermaid sisters and I celebrated Her annual feast day with ritual and offerings.

I learned fairly recently that the energies of autumn and spring mirror one another, and are both active times, as do winter and summer, which are quieter and more restful. I’ve been celebrating the seasons for decades, but this was a new-to-me way of seeing those seasonal energies.

A new friend, who I’ve been doing dreamwork with, described how the busy, airy energies (which she associated with Gemini, though in this case I’m linking them with spring) feel different from the active, flowing energies of water. Although both move quickly at times, and both have currents, the experience is not exactly the same.

The flow through air feels more chaotic, like trying to juggle a whole bunch of balls, with more being added and some bouncing away. Think of the wind blowing the fall leaves around the yard. They don’t all end up where you want them to, and you find yourself having to begin again.

It’s like trying to multitask, but finding that rather than saving time, your projects actually take longer because you’re continually interrupted.

Flowing with water is just as changeable, but more contained. The currents are playful and dance around, but ultimately are all headed in the general direction of the sea. This flavor of activity feels more restful to me. After writing for a while, I get up to move my body, and clean the kitchen. Then it’s time for some client calls, followed by errands with one of my beloveds.

The watery energy of fall calls me forward, but in a gentler motion than the wild inspiring winds of spring.

I’m finding this week that I’m flowing through my days with less effort, yet still getting things done. My biz work is woven in with errands and chores, creative play, and yoga sessions. Fall as the season of water feels true in a new way this year.

When I follow the flow, rather than micro-managing my time and activities, I end the day less tired and having accomplished more. I enjoy the journey.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that going with the flow is a thread I’ve been following for a long time. Yet it still feels fresh and new.

Perhaps I’m just finally able to balance my Virgo Sun (earth) and Cancer rising (water), which is something I’ve been focused on this year. Whatever the reason, I’m feeling good as we enter my second-favorite season, even though the warm weather of summer is behind us.

How about you? What’s your favorite season? What element is associated with it? What elements do you have the most of in your chart? How does that energy support (or hinder) the way you move through the world?

Starcat’s Favorites: Road Trips

Late summer means… a road trip! This time to upstate New York, where we’re taking in a Dead & Company concert, then exploring the Finger Lakes area. As well as lounging by the pool!

I love road trips. They’re like a longer version of an artist’s date, with lots of inspiring new input for the creative spirit.

While I’m away, I hope you’ll enjoy these links and let them inspire your creativity.

Speaking of road trips, I wrote about the importance of taking time off, just for you.

Is there a difference between excellence and perfection? Absolutely.

What’s your definition of abundance?

This “what’s happening?!” blog post by Jeannette Maw really spoke to me this month…

We’re a bit past Lammas at this point – getting closer to Fall Equinox – but I liked this take on “red magick.”

I’m usually more of a blog reader than a video watcher, but this month I have three videos to share!

This one is an instructional video on how to do soul painting. One of my witchy mermaid besties shared it with me, and it was so fun to do together on the Full Moon!

Here’s a video about how to optimize your reading experience, particularly if it’s a topic you’re interested in learning and/or sharing.

This video is on using oracle cards for decision making – including when not to rely on them.

Enjoy the remaining days of August!

Why Is Rest So Difficult?

I’ve been having conversations with some friends and biz sisters lately about rest – and in a bigger sense, receiving. Why is it so challenging, sometimes?

An obvious factor is mainstream culture’s focus on hustle. Here in the United States, particularly, we’re continually encouraged to DO more. What about some time to just BE?

Nope. That makes you lazy or unproductive. The horror! Also, you might miss something if you stopped to rest and turned off your devices. That FOMO (fear of missing out) has become a big deal.

So, why women in particular? Like it or not, women are the ones who keep most households running. We keep track of the doctor and dentist appointments, notice what grocery staples need replacing in our pantries, and are involved in planning family gatherings of various sorts. The (unpaid) work literally never stops.

Sometimes, especially when you’re actively parenting, planning and implementing a family vacation can in and of itself feel exhausting! We used to say that vacations with kids can be fun, but certainly aren’t restful. True story.

Yet when you think about taking time off just for yourself, perhaps even by yourself, well, there’s a bit of guilt, isn’t there? You wonder if you deserve it, if you can afford it (in time as well as money), and what on earth they’ll do without you.

Spoiler alert: they’ll manage.

It’s essential to take time off to rest and recharge. If you never do, it will catch up to you. Your body will force you, perhaps through accident or illness, to take a rest. This is true for everyone, but perhaps even more so for those who are actively practicing our creativity and spirituality.

You can’t receive wisdom from your deep inner wellspring if you never slow down enough to listen to it.

I’m learning this lesson in a deeper way this summer. I’ve been divided between wanting to continue to grow and expand my coaching business, and needing some extra down time to integrate all the things I’ve been learning.

It’s almost comical at this point – every oracle or Tarot card I draw, whether in general or with a specific question, says to “rest and receive.”

The way we approach taking time off often mirrors how we are with receiving. Again with the cultural programming: “It’s better to give than receive,” and all that. But there’s no giving without receiving.

Do I really need to keep my focus on building my business, day in and day out? Or is it better to take some time to allow the work I’ve already done to come to fruition?

I bet you can guess what the oracle says!

Messages received. I’m taking a road trip with BlackLion next week, a long weekend with my best friends for my birthday in mid-September, and a long-awaited vacation in October. I’ll also sprinkle in some artist dates, which I’d gotten away from recently.

All without guilt.

What about you? Are you taking regular time off just for you? Are you adept at receiving, or is it a challenge?