Starcat’s Favorites: Summer Is Coming

I wasn’t sure what to write about in my favorites summary this month, and then I received a monthly wrap-up from Nisha of Rainbow Plant Life. She writes about the food, media, and other things she’s been enjoying lately, and I loved it. So this is my version.

I’m on sort of a health kick with my reading material. I’ve been devouring Wild Feminine by Tami Lynn Kent, which I read for my spiritual book club. It’s excellent. I also bought Fast Like a Girl by Dr. Mindy Pelz at a recommendation from a biz sister friend. 

In terms of fictional stories, I read The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, which centers around art and history, artists and mental illness. It was a bit slow to start, but very well written.  I enjoyed it, and the ending was satisfying. I’m trying to read Sandcastles by Luanne Rice but I’m having trouble getting into it fully.

BlackLion and I are watching Jane the Virgin, which we’d never seen before. It’s silly and amusing. We’re also watching the new Muppet series about Dr. Teeth and Electric Mayhem. Again, lighter fare. He and I went to the movies recently and saw The Guardians of the Galaxy part 3, which we both loved. My mermaid sisters and I are going to do a watch party to view the new Netflix documentary on mermaids!

I’m hosting a workshop soon about writing nonbinary characters. The idea came from a question one of my clients had about how to use they/them pronouns in fiction without confusing readers. I reached out to an online friend with personal and professional experience in this area, and they agreed to do a workshop. You can find out the details and sign up over here (there’s no cost, and yes, it will be recorded).

My Mom and I found a new-to-us local cafe, Verbena, that’s a farm-to-table type of place. I loved their spicy grilled tofu sandwich, and their Portuguese rolls are delicious. I’ve been eating out more now that the weather is good and people are out and about, doing things. I’ve enjoyed Indian food, pub fare, and a women’s potluck where the magick worked – all the flavors of the various salads and side dishes complemented one another exquisitely.

BlackLion and I have been getting back to the yoga studio in person more, too, and that’s such a treat. I love Samudra – if you’re in southern Maine, I highly recommend it.

Random thought – I want to put up my hammock. It’s time for some outdoor reading and journaling sessions. I love this time of year (the lilacs in the picture are from our front yard).

Perhaps because I’ve been so busy with other things, I don’t have that many links from the web for you this time. But here are a few gems to check out.

Feeling messy and inconsistent with your journaling practice? No problem!

I’ve been listening to this abundance meditation and reprogramming my thoughts.

Jeannette Maw recommends using flashcards to help with manifesting.

Enjoy your weekend!

Why You Need a Creative Community

What do you think of when you picture yourself writing a book? If you’re like most people, you think of long solo sessions at your laptop, at home – or possibly in a coffee shop, for variety. 

The thing is, if you want to write a book but you’re not already doing it, that image of the solo writing sessions might actually be slowing you down.

What I’ve discovered in my five years as a book midwife is that most creatives, yes, even the introverts, crave (and thrive in) community. 

Even the introverts? Yes – hear me out. In a creative community, especially with like-minded folks, there isn’t the usual small talk and awkwardness that turns us off.

Instead we dive right in to the deep end, talking about new story ideas, odd dreams we had, what we’ve been reading, numerology, or any number of weird fun things. 

For three years now, I’ve been running the Parallel PlayDates. It’s a virtual co-working session on Zoom where I take everyone on a guided meditation at the start, we play with a short writing prompt, and then we each do whatever it is we brought along to play with. There’s time for shares – what we’re working on, what messages we got in the meditation, new inspiration from the prompt, how life is going – and that’s when the magick happens. There’s so much creative energy. 

The other magick is that people are getting things done, while having fun. Book chapters, yes, but also blog posts, emails for their business, afghans, edits, and more.

Having a community of Thriving Artists where you can show up each week, just as you are, and be not only accepted but seen and understood is powerful medicine.

If you want to write a book, or create any kind of long-form creative project, think about your own creative community. Do you have one? Do you want one? What would it feel like? Would you wish to join an existing group, or create your own? Are there people in your life that you’d invite in? 

Maybe you’re ready for an in-person experience, and can seek out a local writing group. I like the virtual realm because it feels inclusive – there are creatives from many different geographical areas and backgrounds. 

The Parallel PlayDates are a fun combination of witchy spirituality and creative focus. That’s the flavor over here, and I invite you to come and check out a session. I’d love to see this type of thing replicated all across the globe, so you should also feel free to take the idea and make it your own.

When creatives gather in community, the energy is empowered and expanded. It feels so free to be in a space where people get what you’re up to and cheer you on. It’s also useful to have the accountability of showing up and actually doing the work. 

I’ve recently had the inspiration to change some of my offers and refresh my business overall, but I already know I’m keeping the Parallel PlayDates. Why? Because I’m right there with the attendees, writing, editing, and doing other creative stuff each week. I get so much out of them.

What does your inner wisdom say about my offer to join in? If your Muses are nodding vigorously and your heart sings a little song, follow their lead and come on in. The water’s fine.

Starcat’s Favorites: Balance

It’s that time of year when I have to pay closer attention than usual to balance. What do I mean by that? The balancing postures in my yoga practice?

Well, yes, I do love a good tree pose, but I mean balance in terms of activity and rest. Everyone is coming out of hibernation, the weather is warmer, and my weekends are starting to fill up with social events.

That’s all well and good, but as an ambivert who leans toward the introvert side of the spectrum, I need my down time, too.

Just last month, glancing at the calendar, my activities have included: two birthday celebrations (one at a singalong piano bar), yoga classes in the studio, the first in-person meeting of my women’s group in many months, a Celebration of Life for my cousin’s husband, a Full Moon celebration with friends, family D&D sessions, and of course the usual weekly family dinners. And more!

Today we’re going to breakfast and a book sale, and I look forward to integrating some new books into my home library and then settling down with a stack of them. Which reminds me – I’ve finished my book cataloguing project! Here are some stats, as promised. Drumroll, please…

Physical books in our home library: 1,928

I also have 195 e-books in my digital library.

Here are some interesting tidbits to check out:

This article has such a powerful message. There’s a lot of truth here.

A useful video on how to make magickal sigils – I tried out the second method and it came out great.

A friend was telling me about this website where you can order healthier candies. I haven’t tried them yet, but they look delicious.

Here’s a new tune by Jason Mraz, with uplifting lyrics. Fun!

I had another guest post published on Mike Dooley’s website – my ninth. Click here to read my article.

Enjoy your day, and remember the importance of balance.

Starcat’s Favorites: Yoga Practice

As I write this, the calendar has officially switched to Spring, and the Sun is in Aries. This is our sassy Aries-born catten (still a kitten but almost a cat), Milton LoveCat.

We’re having that weather that makes you wish it was warm out – but it isn’t, truly, not for me, anyway. But I do love the pretty sunshine, the birdsong, and the snow melting.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most consistently this year so far is my hatha yoga practice. I’ve been doing a daily yoga practice since January 2nd, at home using the excellent yoga challenges by Yoga with Adriene. The two years prior to that I’d gone in and out of doing yoga regularly. With this renewed commitment, I’m starting to notice my strength and flexibility improve. I’m so thankful for yoga (physical and the other branches as well).

My internet reading list this month is more of a “to be read” list.

I’ve mostly been reading paper books recently. I read Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, a wild ride.

I’ve already read five of the books (or series) mentioned here – and judging by the high-quality recommendations, I have five new adventures to look forward to acquiring and devouring.

Bookwyrm side note: I think I actually like The Starless Sea more than The Night Circus. What? It’s all about books and has cats…

This Chani-website article on astrology and the generations is quite fascinating.

If you want to be a regular journaler but aren’t yet, I recommend Susannah Conway’s work. This is a new course that looks soooo good.

Okay, these are my “bookmarked to read soon” links – I can’t endorse them yet as I haven’t fully read or listened to them. But this is where my interests are tending this season, apparently! Hee hee.

That’s all for now. I’m either going back into second hibernation or venturing out bundled up to feel the Spring breezes. We’ll see.

Progress Despite Myself

There are just a few days left until the official start of spring. It doesn’t seem like it, looking out my office window and seeing the expanse of snow. But as my Mom pointed out, spring has always come each year so far. 

I feel like this winter has been especially hard. I probably always say that – I’m not a winter person – but I feel like I’ve done absolutely nothing productive. I know that’s not true, but it feels like it.

I’ve been taking a lot of down time, nurturing myself in my grieving process, and doing what feels like the bare minimum to keep my business going. My income isn’t what I wanted it to be. I haven’t been moving my own creative projects forward as much as I’d wished. I’ve had a lot of down days, where I’ve felt like hibernating.

Even so, I know that I’ve accomplished things that are meaningful to me. I thought I’d make a list of them, so I don’t feel quite so useless.

  • The thing I’m most proud of is that I’ve done yoga every single day, starting on January 2nd. The length of time ranges from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the day. BlackLion and I like doing the Yoga With Adriene videos on YouTube. I’m noticing myself getting stronger and more flexible.
  • I’ve posted on this blog 10 times (including this post) since the beginning of the year. 
  • I’ve kept up with sending out bi-weekly newsletters, and weekly emails about the upcoming Parallel PlayDate.
  • I’ve been keeping up with my social media posts for my business. Since the beginning of 2023, I’ve published 7 videos, 17 content posts, 19 promos (mostly for retreats), 8 Monday Memes, and 37 just-for-fun Instagram posts about cats, books, and food (among other things).
  • I’ve gone on 2 Artist Dates this year so far, keeping up with my monthly goal, plus an extra one that included doing a float tank session with a friend.
  • I’ve submitted my information to 19 podcasts, and have had 4 positive responses so far. My interview with Jennifer Elizabeth Moore from last summer was published, and I submitted a new guest blog post to Mike Dooley’s TUT website.
  • My writing clients have been finishing manuscripts, making queries to literary agents, and publishing e-books. I led my February virtual retreat for 9 Thriving Artists. I’ve led my weekly Parallel PlayDates and have a small but mighty community showing up each week.
  • I’ve finished a small editing project for one client, and have been working on two longer-form ones.
  • I’ve taught almost 3 months’ worth of courses on magick so far in Spirit Sanctorium, which just launched this year. I’ve co-taught (with BlackLion) a monthly workshop at Good Vibe University.
  • My summer in-person writing retreat is nearly full, for the first time!
  • I’ve participated fairly actively in three coaching programs that I’m part of  – one is my biz coaching program, and two are magickal-spiritual. I’m so thankful for all the support that I’m surrounded with this year! I’ve needed it. I’m also part of a LOA-focused Mastermind group, and have kept up with the calls and the coursework that we’re doing together.
  • I’ve read 17 books so far this year – which isn’t surprising, as it’s one of my main hobbies and coping mechanisms.
  • My winter project of cataloging my personal library is nearly complete, and it’s been quite a bit of fun. I don’t yet have a total of books we own, but I promise I’ll share the results once I’m finished.
  • I learned to cook Indian food (which is my favorite type of meal) in a new way. Not only is it more flavorful, but it’s also vegan. Quester said I’ve really upleveled my abilities. It tastes like the best restaurant Indian food. I’m thrilled! (The picture shows BlackLion and Milton kitten helping me prepare an Indian food feast – just before Milton got removed from the top of the microwave)

Wow. That’s a lot. After typing it all out, I feel better, for sure. It’s so funny how we get caught up in what hasn’t happened, and tend to forget to celebrate what has. 

I’m thankful for all my accomplishments, and my very Virgoan habit of keeping track of things. Heh heh.

What about you? As we near the end of the first quarter of 2023, what are you celebrating? What have you accomplished so far?

On Receiving Authentic Guidance

I’m reading a compilation of channeled writings by Alice A. Bailey, called Ponder on This. It’s fascinating stuff. Bailey was part of the Theosophical movement of the early 20th century. 

As the friend who loaned it to me noted, I don’t believe all of the things I’m reading in this book. But there are plenty of gems and lots of food for thought.

One of the sections I just read was about receiving guidance from the non-physical realm

The text cautions the reader against accepting guidance from sources which might not have their best interests in mind. It’s important not to give up your free will and follow guidance blindly, just because it comes (or seems to come) from a source beyond one’s conscious mind.

How do you know if the guidance you’re receiving is authentic? The primary method is to evaluate the advice on its own merits. As Bailey notes, no true spirit guide “ever seeks to control any person, nor will he indicate to him in the form of positive command, any action which he should take.”

Your spirit guide will make suggestions, but not try to force you. They know full well the value of your freedom to decide your own course of action.

It’s also key to establish an ongoing relationship with your guides. Get to know them like you would a new friend here on Earth. Like a good friend, your guides are more likely to respond to your own sincere queries, rather than offer advice at random times.

I first met my primary spirit guide, who is my Holy Guardian Angel (HGA), to use a term from Western occultism, in a dream in February of 2007. When I wrote about the dream in my journal, I noted, “I wonder if he is some sort of archangel or oversoul person.”

Recently I was going through some old journals as part of my library project, and discovered that I first received my HGA’s name, Zeke, several years later, in February of 2013. It happened during a polarity session, when the polarity therapist was working on my heart chakra.

Throughout the ensuing decade, I’ve been developing a closer relationship with Zeke. We communicate in many different ways: through channeled writing, divination (Tarot or oracle cards, usually, though sometimes the pendulum), and a sort of tele-empathic conversation that involves feelings as well as words.

There are still times when I wonder if I’m just “making up” a response from Zeke, but as the years pass, I’ve noticed an energy signature that accompanies his replies. It’s easier now to distinguish from my usual train of thought.

But even if I’m creating the whole relationship in my imagination? We know through psychology that it’s healthy to encourage conversation between the different parts of the personality. 

In Ponder on This, we learn that true guidance comes from one’s “own soul, when through meditation, discipline and service, he has established contact, and there is consequently a direct channel of communication from soul to brain, via the mind. This, when clear and direct, is true divine guidance, coming from the inner divinity.”

This is in line with what Zeke told me during the polarity session in 2013, which was one of our first direct, conscious conversations. From my journal: “The concept was complicated, but in some way I’m part of him or he of me (or both).” This is also aligned with Jung’s concept of the animus, or the unconscious masculine side of a woman’s psyche.

I didn’t consciously realize it until I was taking Carolyn Elliott’s WEALTH course in 2020 and 2021, but “attaining Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” is one of the major milestones on the spiritual path, as described in Western occult traditions. It’s fascinating that my rather eclectic study and practice of magick brought me, inevitably, to a conscious relationship with Zeke.

In my experience, receiving authentic guidance from “beyond the veil” has a subjective ring of truth to it. Often this guidance feels like something I once knew, or have intuited, but phrased in a simple, understandable way.

Zeke gets right to the essence of the topic. He is kind, focused, and succinct.

What’s your experience with spirit guides? Have you received wisdom that you knew to be true, from a source beyond the physical realms?

Books: My Favorite Hobby

I’m obsessed with this library-building project – in a healthy way, I hope! It’s so much fun to catalogue the books we own, and also to add all the books I’ve read over the past 25 years or so (when I started keeping track of them in my journals).

There’s a feature in LibraryThing where you can mark a book “read but unowned,” which will come in handy when I’m at book sales or used bookstores. My memory can be iffy, and I don’t always recognize a book I’ve read by the title – but now I can look it up.

The point of the project is not to be useful on a physical level, necessarily, though. It’s something for my Talking Self to delight in while I’m on this healing and grieving journey.

I was told by my guides that right now, for me, being is more important than doing, and that I’m undergoing some kind of deep inner transformation. I mean, I suppose we’re all in that boat in terms of energy transformation, as our planet gradually adjusts and the energies of the new astrological era flow in (yep, that old cliche the Age of Aquarius – cue the cheesy music – but there’s an element of truth to it).

At this time, though, I’m being specifically told that the most important thing for me right now is to BE, without falling into the old patterns of worry and struggle. Giving my brain something interesting to do is helping me to follow these instructions.

Plus, I’ve been fascinated with books and stories (and libraries!) since I came into this lifetime. It feels so good to organize our books, both physically and digitally. It’s inspiring my creativity to page through old journals and re-discover what I read and when. It’s like seeing old friends you haven’t thought of in a long time.

My reading goal this month is to make some space on my TBR (to be read) shelves (pictured here) for some new books. There are some local library sales coming up in April and I want to be able to get some new reads, and have space for them already prepared. Virgo goals, right?

While spring is bursting out in many areas, right now in Maine we still have lots of snow falling, and it’s a great time to snuggle up with a book. I usually have a few books going at once. I tend to read fiction pretty quickly, while taking my time with nonfiction, especially dense works where I might even take notes.

I joined a virtual spiritual book club, and this month we’re reading The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness by Maureen Murdock. I’m slowly making my way through Ponder on This, a collection of old channeled writings from Alice A. Bailey. I just finished reading Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers, and enjoyed it. I need to pick a new novel from my TBR shelves. I tend to rotate between fantasy or sci fi, general fiction, and historical fiction. What’s on your bedside table? 

With my own longer-form writing projects, things are going a bit more slowly. I’d been editing my fantasy novel, having printed it out to mark up with a red pencil, but I haven’t picked it up lately. I have a finished draft of my Elements of Creativity book, and I’m getting ready to dive into a new round of edits for that. BlackLion suggested that I add some fictional case studies to it, and I’m having fun fleshing those out. It’s proceeding at a snail’s pace, but I’m relying on my guides to let me know when it’s time to ramp up the doing part.

In the meantime, while I’m following their lead, I’m deep-diving into just being, which for me will eternally include the pleasures of a good book, or several.

Comment below with your latest favorite reads – let’s inspire one another, bookwyrms!

Starcat’s Favorites: My Library

I started a project earlier this winter that is truly just for me: organizing and cataloguing our home library. It’s turned out to be a perfect way to help me deal with the grieving process, by keeping my mind busy.

Plus, I find playing with my books to be a lot of fun.

My catalogue is housed in LibraryThing, which I’m finding easy to use. It has all the features I was looking for and can be accessed by computer or smartphone.

So far I’ve catalogued the books in my office, our upstairs hallway, and most of the ones in my bedroom. We’re already up over 1,000 volumes! It’s officially a library, even before I do the two huge bookcases in the living room.

What do I mean by official? I did some research and learned that in order to qualify as a library, you need to have at least 1,000 books. Fewer than that is a book collection.

The books aren’t just mine – I’m including Quester’s and BlackLion’s in the catalogue. I’m guessing we’ll be close to the 2,500 range. I’ll let you know once I’m finished.

In the meantime, here are some fun reads from the internet to keep you company:

Speaking of libraries, a client shared that the soundtrack for her work sessions includes ASMR videos like this one, where the setting is an enchanted library.

One of my favorite new-to-me writers is Erin Morgenstern. She’s only written two books so far, and I’ve devoured both of them. But I recently found out she has a blog full of stories, and I’m captivated.

If you’re doing some de-cluttering and want to make a bit of extra cash, here’s a helpful article about selling unwanted items online.

Are you a perfectionist? Or a recovering one, like me? Here’s a fun piece from NPR and a quiz that goes with it. Turns out I’m a Parisian perfectionist. Oh la la!

Winter in Maine is hard. I’m daydreaming of a vacation to tropical beaches, perhaps staying in a lovely home like this one.

Feeling stuck? Here are some tips for getting back in the groove.

A thought-provoking article from a priestess friend: “I give myself permission to step away from the blame game patriarchy wants to play and begin defining the world in which I want to play.”

Have you heard of the “second arrow” of suffering? I ran across this Buddhist concept this week. Here’s the story.

I enjoyed this interview with one of my favorite astrologers, Chani Nicholas.

An amusing riff on novel writing from author Margaret Atwood.

Here’s a video tip for releasing tension from your neck (and check out some of her other videos too – very cool!).


Life Through the Lens of Pleasure

Here’s a question for you: How often do you do things just for your own personal pleasure?

Do you even know what those things would be?

I’m in a coaching program where our theme this month is embracing pleasure.

Even though I’m at a point in my life where my kids are grown, my partners are mostly self-sufficient, and I work for myself, I’m finding that I don’t often focus on pure pleasure.

Why? I’m not sure. Maybe some remnants of the Puritanical culture here in New England. Perhaps because I was taught that service to others come first. Maybe I’m still a bit of a workaholic, although you wouldn’t know it from my weekly schedule.

I allow plenty of time for daily spiritual practice, yoga, rest, and nourishing self-care throughout each day. But it’s about more than just how we spend our time.

Embracing pleasure is about the attitude.

I can do my morning routine of meditation, journaling, yoga, and brunch with a determination to get it done, check these things off the list, then get to my office to work.

But it’s very different when I dive into this same routine with the intention to savor each moment

Sure, there is a certain pleasure that comes from checking things off. Dopamine, anyone?

But I’m finding there’s even more juicy goodness in the act of being in each moment, no matter the activity. 

It’s even possible to savor the pleasure of housework. Hear me out. I like a clean and pretty home. Spending a few minutes doing the dishes and tidying up each morning contributes to that. I could do it with resentment, or rush through the process in order to finish up.

Or I can breathe, feel the warm water, be grateful for these plates and cups and bowls. 

Pleasure isn’t just about doing the things that you love, although that’s part of it. I mean, I made a list on a post-it note called “FUN & PLEASURE,” so I’d be reminded of the things I enjoy.

But again, any of these things could be done with a “checking it off” approach, which in my view misses the point.

What is the point? To enjoy life to the fullest.

We’re not here for very long, in the scheme of things. Why rush?

Why do we have this default need to be productive, get things done, move forward constantly? Why do we feel guilty when we do things just for our own joy? Doesn’t that sort of attitude contribute to burnout and even illness?

Honestly, I think we might (collectively) be addicted to the hustle.

My dear rebels and Thriving Artists, let’s flip the script. Let’s change the paradigm by starting with ourselves.

How can you begin to add more pleasure to your life, and embrace the joys of the things you already do?

I suggest that you start with a simple list, like my little pink post-it note. Write down your particular pleasures, even if they seem odd. I mean, de-cluttering is on my list. I find the process satisfying and enjoyable. So what?

Next, begin to cultivate awareness of how you’re feeling during any particular activity. Can you shift your lens just a bit, to embrace the pleasure in it?

It’s a bit like mindfulness practice. You’re encouraging yourself to notice how you feel, and tune in to the particulars of what your body is up to. The natural landscape on your walk or commute. The warm water of the shower, and the scent of the lavender soap you bought at the farmer’s market last summer. The smells of the aromatics and spices as you cook dinner.

These tiny sensory pleasures are everything.

Coax yourself to become more present to your daily activities. Include some non-productive times where you get to do your favorite things, just because. 

Embrace pleasure, and notice how it unfolds into your day like a cat stretching after a nap. 

Imbolc Blessings!

Imbolc, sometimes called Candlemas, celebrates the turning point from winter to spring. Here in New England, the nights are still long and the weather is cold, though the days grow longer and a bit lighter.

It’s the time when we plant the seeds of the spiritual work we want to pursue this year. We carefully craft our intentions, letting the growing light feed them as the Wheel begins to turn slowly toward spring.

As part of our celebration, we make and bless the candles we’ll use in this year’s rituals.

Our work at Imbolc might encompass setting new goals, releasing old patterns, creating healthy habits or planning new ways to become active in the Pagan community.

The early signs of spring appear: buds sprouting on the trees, snow beginning to melt and perhaps even a crocus or two coming up (though often we must wait for Spring Equinox for actual flowers).

We are anxious for spring to arrive so we can once again take walks outside and work in the garden. Yet we still face wintry weather, such as snow, ice storms and chilly winds. We learn to be more patient, watching the slow progress of the land’s awakening.

In Celtic lands, Imbolc was also known as Brighid’s Day, honoring the Goddess of poetry, smithcraft and healing. We create crafts and poems and include them in our rituals. We have time to explore indoor pursuits such as learning about astrology, designing a garden or practicing martial arts. We may have the opportunity to help those who are in a crisis situation and need our healing energies. We explore ways to simplify our daily lives.

During the last few weeks of winter, burrowing under the icy surface to work with deeply felt emotions can be very powerful spiritual work. We can learn to flow with our own emotions and those of others.

Imbolc is a good time to practice deep listening and pay closer attention to our inner landscape. We might find new ways to meditate, becoming more mindful or exploring our senses in more detail.

As we shed light on our hidden depths, we watch the days grow gradually longer and warmer, lifting our spirits as the Wheel turns toward spring.

NOTE: This post is an excerpt from my book Starcat’s Corner: Essays on Pagan Living. You can get your copy here.