How to Get Started With Tarot

So you want to get started with tarot but either feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start. I was just like you, before the slippery slope into a gazillion tarot decks and “I’ve got a tarot spread for that!” This article will give you a quick start and some tips on how to learn to work with the tarot without having to know everything or read a million books.

What deck should I start with?

It’s always a good idea to start with the good old Rider Waite Smith, since most beginning tarot books still reference that, and if you google “what does x card mean?” you’re likely to get an answer that shows the RWS card concerned. Many people don’t resonate with the original RWS because of the christian imagery, the medieval pictures, or the lack of non-binary representation. I wasn’t that fond of it myself, but that worked great, because it was useful to have a reference deck that I was NOT going to read with, so I could keep the cards in order so I could study with it. I even printed out the meanings of the cards and stuck them on the back of the cards, which meant that I could use them like flash cards and when I couldn’t figure out the meaning of a card I could just flip it over instead of digging out a book. The print was small enough that I wouldn’t read it while I was shuffling them.

how to get started with tarot

Having said that, I also wanted a deck that I really loved, even if it might not be the easiest to read with. This turned out to be a great choice, because having two decks ended up being a great learning tool, as I’ll describe below.

But first, let’s learn how to get around the basics of a tarot deck

The tarot deck has three different types of cards: the Major Arcana, the Minor Arcana, and the Court Cards. This is what makes a tarot deck a tarot deck and not an oracle card deck — an oracle card deck does not have to stick to this structure and can have cards that mean anything they want.

The Major Arcana are like major players on a stage. They’re the archetypes of humanity and the major processes of living; the Fool, the Priestess, The Wheel of Fortune, Death, Judgement. When you pull these, they refer to major ways of being or forces in your life.

The Minor Arcana are the nitty gritty situations in all the areas of our lives: going out with friends, feeling lost in the cold, moving on from a bad relationship. These cards can reflect situations you’re going through, identify challenges, or suggest solutions.

The Court cards are either people, energy types or stages of being. They may or may not look like people depending on your deck, and just because they have a particular gender doesn’t restrict them to that gender–it’s more of an energetic yin/yang thing. This is one area where the people have issue with the standard RWS–if tarot is non-binary, why does everyone look so cis-normative? Representation matters, and there are plenty of newer, more diverse decks to choose from (or ones that don’t have people at all). People often have difficulty reading the court cards, and there’s plenty written about them. For the moment, just remember they can represent either people, or a way of being (for example, knight of cups is someone who ventures out after some romantic goal).

While the minors can be overwhelming, it helps to look under the hood and get a little geeky about the structure of the tarot. There are four suits of minors: Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles. They refer to the different areas of your life: energy/spirit, thoughts/communication, emotions/relationships, and money/tangible matters. The suits also each tell a story, starting from the beginning at 1, though the often agonizing middle of the 5, and to the complete end at the 10 (actually 9 is pretty much the end and 10 is the aftermath.) Each number has a meaning (for example 2 refers to pairs, couples, duality, and threes are about creating something new or adding something into the mix.

So, you can get a general read on a card based on its number and suit. For example, the Two of Cups will be about some binary relating to love or relationships–and, surprise, most decks often show two people having a cup of wine together as aa relationship blossoms. This is a good way to learn how to read intuitively, because if you look up the “meaning” of a card, you’ll often get a whole list of meanings. How do you know which is right? If you have the way more general numerological/suit meaning in your mind, you’ll have an easier time feeling out what pulling the card means to you at that time, and it won’t restrict you to the first narrow “meaning” you might find. There’ll be an example of this below.

How to learn the tarot card meanings — compare between two decks

If you figure the tarot has 78 cards, and that some people read them differently upside down, that’s 156 different meanings. Yikes! Memorizing things as unrelated points of information is a difficult process, and not the best way to go about things. Instead, if you work with two decks and compare the same card from both decks, it’s much easier to learn and retain the meaning because you’re using more of your brain to ask “how can these two cards say the same thing? It’s especially helpful if one of the decks you’re using is quite different or more abstract than the other.

I absolutely love The Wild Unknown by Kim Krans, which by itself could be difficult to work with as a new reader because the pictures are often quite abstract. But working with it alongside the RWS lets us learn quicker than we would from each deck alone. As an aside, the quality of the deck for the price is amazing, and also Carrie Mallon has a great series of blog posts on the “unofficial” meanings of the cards here.

Let’s look at the Four of Pentacles from both decks:

The traditional read of the RWS card is someone being stingy or miserly. Look at that guy! It’s hard to come up with any other meaning. But what the heck is going on in the TWU card? We know it’s the four, which is a number of stability, and pentacles is about money or resources. AHA. Stability of money and resources can be a good thing; we can’t do much of anything unless we have a stable place to live and enough money to buy food. Those four pentacles wound with string make a nice bright nest, don’t they? Yet, you can see how that structure could be restricting. Maybe you’re all set but don’t reach out to or help others, or you don’t let anyone share what you have. Maybe you’re cranky because you feel like you’re outgrowing your surroundings. There you have it–both the “positive” and “negative” reading of the card, from which you can choose what makes the most sense for you when you pick it.

Now that you have a tarot deck, how do you use it?

Most people go to the tarot because they want to know something. Either they have a question, or maybe their life just sucks and they need to figure out a new plan. The most important thing is to realize that you have the ultimate power over your own life, and anything the tarot might show you is to give you the information you need to create the future you want. Tarot doesn’t “tell the future” in a way that can’t be changed. You could argue that there’s nothing magic at all about the tarot and that because the cards represent the entirety of human existence, any cards you pick will be meaningful. Yet, it’s amazing how just the “right” card will pop up, or one card will stalk you despite any rational understanding of probability.

Just as important as free will is asking the right question. Don’t ask yes or no questions, because you will not get any information that you will be able to act upon. The best questions are things like “How can I,” or “What will it be like if…” or the old standby “What do I need to know…” Often, you’ll find that if you ask the right question you’ll suddenly know the answer. Also, don’t ask dumb questions (there’s a standard tarot joke along the line of someone asking “will my ex boyfriend from 30 years ago who cheated on me five times and moved to Siberia and who I haven’t heard from ever again COME BACK TO ME?”

Instead of asking questions of your deck, you can get to know it by doing what’s called a “daily draw.” Pull a card at the beginning of the day, and play a game of guessing how that could relate to what might happen during the day, or how you might want to approach the day. Don’t forget to check in at the end of the day, and write down anything you’ve noted.

You’ll likely want to start with simple “spreads.” Spreads are arrangements of cards where each position represents a specific thing. This makes it easier to narrow down what each card might “mean.” For example, a few spreads using three cards in a row are “Past, Present, Future,” “Situation, Challenge, Result,” or “Mind, Body, Spirit.” If you were trying to pick between two jobs, you could ask “What will taking this job be like,” and pull a card for each job.

It’s often hard to have enough questions to ask of yourself to get any good amount of practice, so don’t try! You can read for characters on TV, for a teddy bear or other stuffy (mine evidenced serious issues including some amount of kink), or you can just pretend you’re doing a reading for someone else as practice. Even if you’re asking the same question you’ll likely come up with a different story or answer from the cards, and this is amazingly good practice.

My favorite tarot decks

Ah, this is like picking a favorite child, except that I can have way more tarot decks than I could ever gestate humans). There are SO many beautiful decks out there that fit different moods and questions, so in one sense there’s no pressure to pick the right one because you can (and likely will) just get another (and another…)

As I said before, the RWS isn’t very “modern” looking and is very gendered. My favorite modern, diverse deck that I’d recommend as a go-to is currently the This Might Hurt Tarot. The Modern Witch Tarot is somewhat similar, though I like the card stock and coloration of the This Might Hurt better.

If you’re looking for something that is really queer-friendly and non-binary, you can’t do better than the Fyodor Pavlov Tarot. There are other LGBTQ+ friendly decks out there, but this one is amazing. It’s not just about modern-looking diversity for diversity’s sake — the style of the deck is quite classical, and the idea of the deck is to include queer and non-binary people as if they’ve always existed, which is totally radical — because they have, of course. Pavlov is trans and the illustration on the Six of Cups, which is him walking with his young, female self makes my heart thump every time I see it.

And for a deck that doesn’t rely on human imagery, I very much love The Gentle Tarot. Like the name suggests, it’s a big hug of a deck. The cards this deck gave me when I asked, years ago, if my dog was going to pass away (Note: do NOT ask if your dog is going to die, because you probably already know the answer, and ok it was a really reassuring and poignant reading, but STILL.)

One more thing — DO NOT BUY fake tarot decks

You’ve been warned! Sites like Wish and Temu and Amazon (yes, even Amazon) are full of decks that are made from artwork stolen from the artists and publishers. If they’re “too cheap to be true” they probably are. You can also often spot a fake deck if it doesn’t come with a print guidebook and only a “PDF guidebook.” Even some metaphysical stores might be stocking “fake” decks intentionally or unintentionally.

Yes, they’re cheaper, but don’t do it. Some artist spent a huge portion of their lives painting or drawing 78 pieces of art, and WRITING A DAMN GUIDEBOOK. They deserve your money. Someone who scans in the art and the guidebook and fakes a box and sells the deck for $10 is stealing from the artist. This is amazingly common now, and a lot of tarot artists are deciding to no longer keep publishing decks because they’re not making a lot of money off them to begin with and having heir artwork stolen and resold cuts into what they make as well as sucking horribly.

It’s also worth watching out for decks created with AI (artificial intelligence) that may have been made by feeding someone else’s art into a program to make something “new.” While there’s a huge argument over whether AI art is “real” or not, that’s not really relevant as long as you’re not depriving an artist of what’s due to them. It doesn’t take a lot of research to figure out whether a deck is legitimate or not. Check whether the publisher is for real, and if the deck is packaged as it should be. You can search on YouTube for deck unboxing that will show you how a deck comes packaged from the authentic publisher. You can also often reach out to the artist themselves!

Easy Ways to Achieve Your Goals Using the Tarot

achieve your goals

Tarot and oracle cards are wonderful tools for helping you achieve your goals. Whether you’re witchy, into new-age stuff, or just a personal growth junkie, they provide a great visual tool for holding you accountable and manifesting your dreams. Here are some specific ways to use them.

Use Your Deck to Ask the Right Questions

It’s my opinion that the most powerful thing about the tarot isn’t what you expect. It’s not the spreads or what the cards tell you, but the process of thinking about and asking a question before you choose the cards. Often, asking the right question can make the answer obvious, or at least open up a previously unexamined line of inquiry.

One example is the iconic and unhelpful “Does my boyfriend really love me?” question. With a little poking, that question could more usefully be something like “why do I have trouble trusting my boyfriend,” or “how can I be more comfortable with feeling vulnerable?”

You can also use the tarot as a journaling tool to help you figure out what to write about. You can also explore issues and how you feel about things easier if you have something to respond to. For example, if you ask yourself “Who do I want to be,” it can be easier to write into that if you first pull a card and get the Queen of Cups. Do you like her? Does she remind you of anyone?

There are many sites that list good questions to ask, and a good place to start is with this well-thought out list by The Traveling Witch.

Do a “What to Do and What Not to Do” Spread

It’s easy to get lost in the logistics of daily life and lose track of what we need to do in order to achieve our goals. Tarot can help keep things simple. A simple “what to do/what not to do” two card spread can give you easy actionable items.

Here’s how it works. For example, say my goal is to lose weight. I think about that, and then pull the two cards that are in the picture above. You don’t need to be an expert in the cards or know all the “official” meanings–you just need to be able to get at least one good intuitive cue from each card. These two cards are from the Mystic Mondays tarot.

The first card, “What to To Do,” is the King of Pentacles. He looks really spiffy and well-groomed. I think that if I up my attitude to self-care and maybe dress nicely and put on makeup and brush my hair then I’ll be more likely to take care of myself in the other ways I want. I’ll look in the mirror and think “This is the kind of person who has it together, who does yoga and eats right.”

The card on the right is the Six of Swords, for “What Not to Do.” I took at this and think of a bed of nails (which, incidentally, has nothing to do with the “traditional” meaning of the card). This makes me think “Don’t chastise yourself for your previous failures.” Negative self-talk can really affect us, and often we don’t even notice that we’re doing it. So I’m going to pay attention to my inner critic and what I’m thinking, and tell myself to shut up when I’m being mean to myself.

If you have trouble trusting your intuition, you can be more literal with the meanings and consult an online source like Biddy Tarot.

Use the Tarot to Keep Your Goal in Mind. Visually

It’s easy to lose track of our goals when they’re no longer in the front and center of our lives. We put so much energy into envisioning them at the end of the previous year, and then quickly lose our focus as our energy goes into other things.

You can choose tarot cards deliberately to help you keep your original desire and energy in mind. Major Arcana cards like Strength or The Sun are good for reminding you of exercise goals. The Empress can help remind you to take care of yourself or surround yourself with beauty.

Having an “extra” deck that you don’t use for reading with is very useful, because you can pull out cards and use them as visual aids. You can tape them to your bathroom mirror or magnet them to your refrigerator. You can even take a picture and use it as your lock screen on your phone. The options are endless.

Play a Game of “Warmer, Colder.”

Sometimes we think we know what we want but when it comes down to it, we realize we don’t really know what we feel about how to get there. Do we want to do yoga, or kickboxing? Is a keto diet or intermittent fasting better for us? We can research till we’re blue in the face, but that still often leaves us not knowing what’s really right for us.

One way around this is to use the old children’s game of “Warmer, Colder” to find our way. Choose an option for something you’re contemplating, like taking a class at the gym with friends. It would get you exercising and be fun, but with the travel it would take three times as long as working at home and it would mean you’d have to leave work early. What’s the right thing to do?

Shuffle and pick a card from the deck. If you need to, you can pick several. Look at the card(s) and write down your first impression. Is it positive and encouraging? Or does it look like a big no? Check in with yourself. Remember, this isn’t about the cards telling you what to do, but them helping you access a gut feeling that you weren’t aware of before. Does it make sense to you?

If you get an answer of just a little bit warmer, go with that option and brainstorm a few ways you can make it better, then check in with your cards again.

Use Your Cards to Create Steps Toward Your Goal

You may be excited about your goal (Making new friends!) but not sure how to go about achieving it. Even if we do have a plan, we often limit ourselves to only what we’re familiar with. The tarot can be a great tool for thinking outside the box or giving us more options. And the more options we take, the more likely we’ll be successful.

Let’s take the example of making new friends. You can start by pulling two cards that represent how you feel now and how you’ll feel when you’ve achieved your goal, and putting them about six inches apart. Good examples of these might be The Hermit (we’ll go with the obvious choice) and the three of cups, which shows three people drinking together.

Then, pull three cards at random from your deck and place them down in between these two. You can pull more, but three to five is a good amount. Then write down what actions these cards suggest. This is a great way to brainstorm what NEW things we could be doing. A King of Cups might mean to approach men who are older or more mature than you have previously. The Four of Cups, with a person looking bored underneath a tree could mean starting a Philosophy Meetup at the local park.

There are so many ways to use the Tarot or a good Oracle Deck to help you breathe new life into those New Year’s Goals, but these are just a few of them. If you’re interested in learning more or would like to work with me in exploring these, contact me!

How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

So you’ve made all sorts of New Year’s resolutions, and now that it’s almost a week in you’re finding yourself losing traction or maybe giving yourself till February to start. How do you actually make it more likely you’ll do the things you said you were going to do? Here’s five tips for putting yourself on the road to success.

1. Release old baggage.

Often we don’t get traction on our goals because we’re lugging along a giant brick of unresolved issues. We think we can power through anything with pure stubbornness and good intention. These things that we’ve ignored, however, hold us back and weigh us down without our even realizing just how much they sabotage us–because we’re so darned used to them. 

 The things weighing us down can be emotions we haven’t dealt with, ideas about ourselves we’ve had since childhood, images of our bodies that keep us hiding from success, or even voices of parents and ancestors criticizing us or putting us “in our place.” 

Do the work of acknowledging the difficult and hurtful aspects of your past. In order for new stuff to grow, dead stuff needs to compost. You need to work through who you were in the past to change who you can be in the future. This doesn’t have to be awful and ugly – sometimes this just means seeing it and acknowledging it, and thanking it.

This type of process is called “shadow work,” and there are numerous links and aids that your can find. It’s easiest to do this work along with a therapist or a coach, or at least a supportive group of people who are doing the same thing.

2. Be patient and forgiving with yourself. 

You wouldn’t yell at your infant for not learning how to walk fast enough, or at your dog for being two slow at fetching that ball. We want to think we can do anything, whenever we want, and if we put enough effort into it we’ll get what we want. And then we beat ourselves up when it doesn’t work! We tell ourselves we suck, we’re lazy, we’re not good enough — that if we had just wanted it more, we’d have done it. 

But what if there’s nothing wrong with our desire and our effort or our intentions, or even with us at all? What if life is just difficult and nonlinear, and sometimes it just isn’t the right time? When you’re holding yourself accountable, make sure you’re doing it with honesty and kindness, and if you have a hard time doing this then make sure you have the support of a therapist or coach. 

3 Make sure your new year’s resolutions are “SMART.”

Now that you’ve set some goals, review them to make sure they’re SMART. Smart goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. If they’re not these things, then there’s nothing to keep your goal from just being an unfulfilled wish. All of the aspects of a smart goal are needed to make it able to manifest.

There’s all sorts of words written about SMART goals, but the elements are pretty simple.  You say you want to eat better, be kinder, or watch less TV? What does that mean? Maybe you want to cook three healthy meals a week, or eat salads for lunch? Maybe you want to be say five kind things to people each day, or turn your TV off at 9 and read for an hour. These things will help you see change in your life.

The only thing slightly confusing is “relevant.” What does that mean? It means that your goal can’t just be an intellectual exercise — it has to really matter to you, right now. You have to want what it would feel like to achieve that goal, to be able to taste it, see it, want it really bad. If you don’t stay connected to this desire, you won’t make it happen.

4. You don’t need motivation – you need discipline.

Your motivation is pretty high early in the year, especially after you’ve psyched yourself up to do something — but that motivation will flag. You won’t feel like doing the thing, and may not remember why you wanted to in the first place. This is where discipline comes in. You don’t need to feel like you want to Do the Thing. Don’t beat yourself up about how you feel or don’t feel, just get to work. Ditch the drama, and just show up.

Discipline will hold you over through the little changes that occur before you see the progress that makes you feel motivated. Remember that little changes can make a huge difference. Those complicated yoga moves can seem totally out of reach, but if you keep at it, you’ll get there. A little change in diet can totally affect your energy level, and even a little bit of movement can affect your mood. Little changes add up, and you never know when you’ll have shifted the energy just enough to maybe even make a big change.

5. Have Support Systems

We often think that we need to do everything on our own without any help or special treats, but where’s the fun in that?

Connect with other people. Sometimes supporting yourself doesn’t work, or isn’t enough. Nothing beats seeing other people check in with what they’ve done, or chime in with a pat on the back for you on your good and your bad days. And, if you forget to log something in your notebook, you’ll have another record of it.

Don’t forget to support yourself! Why not give yourself little rewards or create an environment for yourself that will make working towards your goal more enjoyable? If you want to meditate more, lighting a special incense or scented candle can relax you and ease you into it quickly. If you’re a visual person, putting a gold star in your planner every time you work out can entice you to keep going. A new perfume or necklace can remind you of your commitment to yourself and remind you that you matter when you’re feeling low and like you’re not worth it. 

Great Gift Ideas for 2022

holiday gifts 2022

This is a little late in the holiday buying season, but I wanted to share some of my favorite thing that would make great gift ideas in case you’re still looking for that special something to give a friend.

  1. Do you have a friend who loves poetry, especially Mary Oliver? I don’t read poetry much these days, but after coming across Molly Remer’s books I think I should. You can find them on Amazon here but if you purchase them from her store Brigid’s Grove on Etsy then she makes more money off the sale, and you’re supporting a small family business.
  2. Your friends will thank you (or curse you) if you get them addicted to the wonderful leather journal covers from Chic Sparrow. They come in all sorts of sizes and leathers, and they sell and feel wonderful. They also have handbags and pouches, all made with care and the best quality. Get one for yourself. You’ll thank (or curse) me.
  3. I came across wxy oudh incense at a little shop in Salem, and fell in love. It’s a little bit of a splurge, but it comes in a reusable concrete box with a brass plate for burning the incense. The whole setup looks so simple and gorgeous, and has really elevated my morning routine. And even better, the box is reusable and fits a small tarot deck. Squee! The cheapest I’ve found it is here at Terma Goods.
  4. Everybody needs a Grumpy Japanese Frog Shirt, available here from the MinistryOfFrogs on Etsy.
  5. This Palo Santo Spray with Rose & Wild Tobacco smells absolutely amazing. Whether you’re using it to energetically clear a room or the cat just farted, you’ll love it. Get it here from HanaqPacha on Etsy, and make sure you get yourself some.
  6. This caddy from Amazon, is supposed to be a baby diaper caddy (Parker Baby Diaper Caddy) but its wonderfully minimalistic but strong felt look is perfect for storing journals near your couch or all those books you’re intending to read. It’s also perfect for planner or art supplies. And at only $20, it’s a steal.
  7. Anything from JetPens. You can even shop by color, and get someone turquoise Pilot Iroshizuku Ka-juku ink and a Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop fountain pen in like one minute flat. This place is deadly–crack is probably cheaper, ultimately.
  8. The Analog productivity system from Ugmonk. They have a starter kit as well as a felt travel pouch. Its a little spendy but it’s so well-designed and dammit, it works.
  9. The Spirit Cats Moon + Sun 2023 Calendar from Nicole Piar, available at her Etsy Shop is just the right size to fit by a desk or a coffeemaker and provide a whimsical note to keeping track of the days. It has astrological data and the moon phases and is the kind of smallish second calendar that someone can always use. The artwork is so sweet and uplifting.
  10. If you want to make something yourself, this sloth planter/planthanger pattern from Corrieneeltjeshop works up really quickly. I’ve seen many other patterns, but this one was the cutest. The gauge doesn’t really matter, so it’s easy to find a yarn to work with.

Book Review: “Soul Vows”, by Janet Conner

I occasionally peruse my bookshelves and look for “new” old books that I haven’t thought about in a while. “Soul Vows,” by Jannet Conner is a gem of a book that I did a lot of work with about six or seven years ago, and it’s struck me recently that this is a great book to read if you’re doing shadow work even though it’s technically not about shadow work at all.

Subtitled “Gathering the Presence of the Divine In You, Through You, and As You,” it comes across as a thoroughly spiritual book, not one with a psychological bent. The back of the book says “If you long to know your soul’s purpose, Soul Vows is an ideal place to begin. Your soul vows describe how you choose to walk this earth, in every moment of every day. They are how you receive and spread grace. As you live your soul vows, you become a fertile container in which your purpose can take root and prosper.”

The way that this relates to shadow work is that one of the first steps is to “recognize the false unconscious vows that have kept you fragmented.” We all have stories in our shadows that we don’t even know we live by, and the goal is to understand these and transmute them into gold.

I loved this book so much, and I still have the card I made with my own soul vows taped up behind my desk so I can look at it every day. While the book talks about the divine, I didn’t find it troublesome or restrictive in case you’re not the religious type (I still enjoyed it as a pagany type, or more precisely a postmodern shamanic hermeticist).

Five Tips for Successful Journaling

Have you been intending to journal, but haven’t managed to do it? Do you wonder why something that seems so easy can be so hard? Here’s five tips for creating a successful journaling practice.

Pick the Right Journal

There’s so many journals out there that it’s hard to know which journal to pick. There’s leather ones, hand-bound ones, refillable journal covers, and even aside from that there’s the question of lined vs. unlined, or maybe graph paper or dot lined. It’s so complicated! What’s the right journal? The one you’ll use.

Fancy, gorgeous notebooks sometimes can be too intimidating to write in, and result in either you not using it or not being authentic in your writing because you want something that looks like it’s worthy of your journal. Big leather journals might be too weighty if you find you end up writing in bed in the evening. You might end up feeling silly using high-quality paper If you always end up grabbing a cheap ball-point pen to write with. Give yourself permission to use whatever is approachable, convenient, and simple. If it’s easier to write in a cheap wire-bound cat notebook from the drug store, then do it!

Decide What Kind of Journaling You Want to Do and When

Make a plan and stick to it. If you just tell yourself you’d like to journal, that’s all it will ever be — a vague desire. Make sure you have some accountability, even if you give yourself some wiggle room like writing thee times a week, or every day but it doesn’t matter when or how long.

The type of journaling you want to do may affect how and when you do it. Some people like to do morning pages, which is a well-known practice created by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. You can watch her describing that process live here:

If you find that it’s easier for you to write in the evening when you can reflect on the events of your day, that’s fine too as long as you make sure it somehow fits into your routine so you don’t decide you’re too tired to bother. Many people enjoy keeping a gratitude journal and find that the regular practice of expressing gratitude cultivates a positive mindset and appreciation for the small details of their lives. You can read about how to keep a gratitude journal in this article:

Whether you decide you’re going to write in the morning or the evening,  for three minutes, or three pages, set some goal that means you won’t just sit there staring at a blank page. If you’ve decided ahead of time on a duration or a page count then you’re less likely to be derailed by worrying about quality or whether your penmanship looks good.

Avoid the Blank Page

Most people find that it’s really hard to start by staring at a blank page. It’s overwhelming, but also an additional hindrance to our ordinary levels of resistance–often we very much don’t feel like writing about what’s on our mind even if we have the strongest intention to do so. You’ll be more likely to start and keep journaling if you make it easy for yourself.

One thing you can do is get hold of some journal prompts and write them on the top of some spaced-apart pages in your journal. That way, you can pick one and just get going, trusting that what you need to write that day will come out onto the page somehow. It can also be fun to bop around the pages of a journal instead of starting from the first new page each time. This is also a good way to make it less obvious if you haven’t journaled in a while, since it won’t be really obvious what your last entry was. Yay, no guilt!

Use More Than One Journal

It’s tempting to have one special journal for everything, but you may end up finding that you use it for nothing because it’s never in the right place. If you’re wanting to do morning pages, keep a diary, and write in a gratitude journal, you’re going to spend more time looking for your journal than writing in it if you try to use one for all these things! Or, you might develop a passive aggressive attitude toward your journal because it seems unfocused.

You can avoid all of these problems by keeping a separate journal for each focus, and leaving where you’re going to use it.  Make it easy for yourself, and keep your journal for morning pages by the breakfast table, your diary in your purse, and your gratitude journal by your bedside. The added bonus of this is when you pick up your journal your brain will know what to expect and it will be easier to get down to business.

Don’t Let the Best be the Enemy of the Good

We’ve all done it — started out with the greatest of intentions and wrote pages and pages for a few days, then got busy and stopped, and felt guilty every time we looked at our journal. It’s like when you keep thinking you need to call your friend or your mom and you keep putting it off and it gets harder and harder to ever do it because you feel really lame and guilty. Don’t do that to yourself.

It’s ok if all you’ve written one day is “Mondays Suck” for one full page, or if you think that what you wrote isn’t any good. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you show up and write something on a regular basis. You can even draw pictures, or draw pictures with your eyes closed with your non-dominant hand. You can give your cat a pen and help them write. As long as you’re showing up and not giving up on yourself, it’s a win.

Book Review: Living in Flow

Living in Flow, by Sky Nelson-Isaacs, is one of those books that’s a real page-turner; both because its message is so powerful and interesting and also because you’ll find yourself checking back to what you’ve already read because you’re not sure whether you still understand it or not. Subtitled “The Science of Synchronicity and How Your Choices Shape Your World,” it’s a mix of quantum physics, psychology, and metaphysics. It combines information you’ve probably already read about on “flow” with the idea that the universe is responsive to our actions.

“In a responsive cosmos, when we enter flow different circumstances occur than would have occurred otherwise. The choices we make are reflected in the external situations that appear. Flow is not only a matter of our interpretation of life (i.e. a positive outlook) but a state of being that can influence events outside of ourselves.”

While I still don’t quite get what that means or how that works (and it’s one of those books where you think you get it but then it eludes you), the takeaway from the book is how powerful our desire and choices are in affecting the probability of getting what we want.  By keeping in mind what we desire and how it will feel, we navigate along a probability tree toward our goal, effectively pruning the tree of branches that do not lead in the right direction. Where my brain breaks is trying to understand whether he’s saying that the synchronicities that happen do so, then, just because those are the ones that happen on the branch of the tree we’ve taken or because the universe actually responds to our choice of action by providing those synchronicities instead of others. I think it has something to do with the field of possibility and the speed of light, but I’d need to reread the book with more coffee to fully understand that. And I’m not sure it matters.

Anyways, it’s a highly readable book although difficult in places. It doesn’t shy away from some serious science and probability theory, but doesn’t go too far in terms of it being too dense. It’s a good read, just hard to get your head around sometimes.

How to Build Self-love When You’re Down on Yourself

Cards about self love

Self-Love is such a common term these days; it’s like the american cheese of self-help. But it’s way easier said than done. Do you find yourself self-sabotaging or not doing things that are good for you because you don’t think you’re worth it? Do you feel uncomfortable every time you try to say an affirmation about yourself? Here are five tips for learning how to build self-love and change your relationship with yourself.

1. Know that you don’t need to like yourself to love yourself. 

You love your dog even if it pees on the carpet. You love your family even if they’re insane and make you want to flee to another planet. Love isn’t worship or approval or appreciation; it’s something you extend to someone else because you hold space for the feeling for them despite their shortcomings. Often when we love people we don’t even notice things about them that would drive us crazy otherwise.

So let yourself fall in love with yourself. Don’t worry about whether there are things about yourself you don’t like, or even if you just don’t like you. Give yourself the same benefit of the doubt you give to other people. If you hate people, then pretend you’re one of your favorite plants. See how you grow with the nourishment of any amount of affection you can shower on yourself.

2. Embrace your imperfections.

So much of the time we want to be perfect, or think that we’d love ourself if only we weren’t something or other. But we all have parts that embarrass us, that got shoved under the carpet when we were little so we could make ourselves look more lovable to others. These are parts of us, though, and just as deserving of love as the “good” parts. You need to integrate all your parts in order to be whole, not pretend they don’t exist.

Regardless of what you do or don’t like about yourself, you’re you! There’s no one else like you. Give yourself credit for being here on this planet in your awesome imperfection. Don’t hold yourself to a standard you wouldn’t even hold your appliances to. Did you ever get a car recall notice saying something like “Don’t park your car in or near a building because it might explode?” I bet you still did, and you still loved your car. Give yourself a break.

3. Look yourself in the eye.

Like, in a mirror. For real. And don’t give yourself any shit or start listing what you don’t like. We all like to be seen and acknowledged by others, and this is just as true when it comes to seeing ourselves. It makes a huge difference to stand in front of a mirror and look yourself in the eye.  There’s no reason you can’t do this daily, unless you brush your teeth in a closet or you don’t have any mirrors because you’re a vampire.

Ideally, instead of just staring at yourself, say some affirmations. Don’t worry about how cheesy it sounds or if anyone will hear. You can always whisper, or sign “I love you.” Find one of two things that you like about yourself, and if you want to go the mile write them down. If you can’t do that, just say “Hello, me! I hope you have a good day.”

4. Court yourself.

When we talk about self-love, it’s often in terms of the end-feeling, not the action. But how does anyone believe you love them unless you treat them that way, whatever “that way” is? We tend to amp up the loving action when we’re dating someone, because we want them to know we think they’re special. Why not treat yourself that way? Buy yourself flowers. Dress up for yourself. Go on a date 🙂

You’ve heard the phrase “Fake it till you make it?” You don’t need to pretend that you love yourself. Just act like you would if you did. Maybe you haven’t had anyone else do this for you, so why not start yourself? The better you treat yourself, the more likely you are to feel loved. It’s also quite possible that if no one’s gone through this effort for you that that’s why you don’t feel lovable. Love is a language, not just a feeling.

5. Identify and terminate limiting beliefs.

Many of the reasons we don’t love ourselves sometimes aren’t even ours! They’re beliefs about ourselves we’ve carried with us since childhood or from judgements we’ve accumulated over the course of our lives. If you can find those beliefs and chip away at them, you may find a nice lovable core in the center. Examples of limiting beliefs are “I’m not good enough,” “I’m just like (x disfunctional relative),” “I’m ugly,” “I’m fat,” “I don’t deserve anything good.”

This is the kind of work that it’s easier to do with some form of accountability and help, such as with a coach, because they’re often buried or insistently clingy. It’s hard to go against a lifetime of conditioning, never mind all by yourself. On the other hand, it can be really amazing how quickly you can feel better when you realize that you’re being hard on yourself because of something that’s total bullshit.

How to Relax Your Mind: Using Mala Beads for Meditation


Why is it so hard to be still? One of the best things we can do for ourselves as far as calming our nerves, identifying limiting beliefs, or quieting the inner critic is sitting down and meditating. When you meditate, you learn that you’re the quiet observer, not the pack of rabid squirrels mud-wrestling in your frontal lobe and producing enough craziness to make you want to just give up and get a lobotomy. Many people find this difficult, however, and using a set of mala beads for meditation is a great way to help yourself focus on quieting your mind.

Instead of just trying to sit and NOT THINK OF ANYTHING, you gently and slowly pull the beads between your finger and thumb, bead by bead, starting with the big focus bead (called the guru bead). As you do this, you’re repeating a mantra, which is a short phrase, over and over. You can use a hindu or a buddhist mantra if that’s your thing, or just repeat a word or phrase over and over, like “flow and ease.” This will help quiet your monkey mind for at least a few minutes — and that feels really, really good.

You can find mala beads anywhere these days, though the price will vary depending on the quality of the stones and whether there’s a knot between each stone. Making a knot in between each of the 108 stones takes a long time. I’ve done it, and it’s an annoyingly long but meditative process. It usually takes me at least two hours to knot the mala, plus time to make the tassel and fasten it on with the guru bead.

Of course, you can make your own, and save yourself the labor cost. This is also a cool thing to do, because you can put your own intentions into the mala with each knot, and have it be highly personal to you. There’s kits you can get online, or you can go to a bead store and buy some nylon cord on Amazon (it’s stronger than the silk cord you get at the bead store). You can skip the knotting, if you want, and just put a small metal spacer in between each bead to make it easier for your fingers to move between them. Of course, the knotted ones feel really nice, and if the mala breaks then you don’t lose all the beads under the couch.

But if you’re not into the DIY thing, there’s nothing wrong with buying one to save yourself the trouble; I sell them on our Etsy store (raveninaworldtree), and you can also find them on there from seedofintention or merakalpamalas (if you want a kit). You can buy them on Amazon, but considering that you are going to use this for your spiritual progress it’s worth making sure you’re paying a fair wage for it and that the stones are of decent quality.

Learning How to Play With Coyote Energy


February in Massachusetts is peak coyote breeding season. I know, because I can hear it, and it sounds like a lot of fun. There’s a gajillion of them out in our fields, whooping it up and driving our dog crazy, even though she’s neutered. Coyote energy is wild and loud.

Even though the noise is really freaky, it’s pretty cool to hear the presence of creatures, since there really doesn’t seem to be much going on around here in Winter. I’m sure everything’s still here, biding their time just like we are, but if you’re looking for any meaningful contact with animals in the wild the pickings are kind of slim.

Coyotes are wild and scrappy, and usually look a little rough around the edges when you do get a look at them. They’re not beautiful, they’re not perfect, and they’re not majestic — but they will steal your chickens, lure your dog into the woods, and probably nick your wallet while they’re at it. 

I’ve always been fond of Coyote. There are many stories of trickster coyote, who frequently gets the better of others but sometimes tanks catastrophically, a la Wile E. But this is perfect; yes, his energy is often about laughing at other people, but he does know how to laugh at himself and not take things too seriously. 

Coyote reminds me that often we learn best through play, or by indirect measures. Learning anything is easier precisely if you can laugh and have a good time instead of being horribly self conscious. We can all use a heck of a lot more of that. And, frankly, there’s a part of me that just loves doing stuff like hiding under my kids’ desks and grabbing their ankles, or getting into other minor mischief. A good laugh can clear the energy of a room quicker than just about anything else. 

So what if you ride the rocket off the cliff and the bird gets the best of you? Just brush yourself off and try again. And who knows — maybe you’ll get that darned roadrunner one of these days!