Here are some things that taught me something, or many things, last year.
An amassed resource of astrology, books, meditations, podcasts, articles and essays that may or may not pique your interest, pick your brain, and help you practice sitting.
First things first: last year, I started a daily and continuing practice of seated meditation. This is something I had wanted to do and half-heartedly attempted before, but never dedicated myself to. While my first vipassana was the kick in the butt I needed to start, the app Insight Timer was the perfect way to stay accountable. You certainly don’t need an app to meditate, but I like the act of setting a timer and having a bell at the end.
While I enjoy the silence for my daily practice – sometimes, more of a silence-as-accompanied-by-a-cacophony-of-thoughts, or here in Mexico, silence-as-pierced-by-the-shouts-of-roaming-tortilla-vendors – there are some great guided meditations and soundtracks on Insight Timer, too.
Here is a sampling of ones I’ve loved:
- A Listening Presence by Tara Brachs (28 mins – a lovely guided meditation that flows in and out of speaking and silence)
- Transforming Fear by Sarah Blondin (10 mins – a beautiful and transformative approach to fear and anxiety)
- Healing Darkness for Sleep by Jennifer Piercy (30 mins – a yoga nidra for falling asleep peacefully!)
- Tibetan Singing Bowls by the Sonic Yogi (various lengths – the Sonic Yogi is kind of an obsession of mine – he has created these tracks of cosmic singing bowls accompanied by rain sounds to accompany each chakra)
A daily meditation practice might seem ambitious or scary – as it did for me until very recently. Reframing it as sitting with yourself may help to open that door, as this post by the teacher Cat Kabira says beautifully:
“I stopped calling my practice meditation and I instead call it ‘sitting with myself’… I feel grateful for this practice. It’s the only way I can surf my inner turbulence and remember the director (or witness) within, be gentle with myself and have a sense of humor. God is the universe playing hide and go seek with herself and I simply sit to remember.”
- The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles – this book follows three American travelers into the Sahara, where the situation escalates quickly. Besides the exoticization of the locals and the locale – which one could also argue is part of the novel’s point – it’s aged well since 1949. As Wikipedia says, this is a ‘novel of alienation and existential despair’. I read it on vacation to add a little spice in the form of existential despair to lying poolside.
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – potentially a better vacation book. This is a quick read for anyone who wants to learn more about creativity, and how to live in a way that nourishes and nurtures it.
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – I! love! Persepolis! It’s a graphic novel about the author’s childhood in Iran during the Islamic revolution. It’s feisty and educational and feminist and fun. It was one of my favorite books growing up, and re-reading it for the first time in a long time last year was really touching.
- The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño – my dear friend Sam lent me this book at the tail end of the year. A couple of weeks later, I walked into his house and announced I was going to Mexico. So be careful. This is a great read, starting with a group of poets in Mexico City in the late 70s that ends up spanning large distances and several decades. It gets better after the first few chapters of the book, by the way.
- Chani Nicholas – Chani is an astrologer and author who is becoming rightfully well-known in the mainstream world – here’s the NYT feature. In case you haven’t heard, her take on astrology is uplifting, socially conscious, and awesome. The newsletter is a great addition to your inbox.
- Evolving Door – if you’re already down with astrology and want more long-winded updates on retrogrades, transits and, um, everything – Evolving Door’s section ‘the Low-Down on the Far-Out‘ is an in-depth look at what’s going on and going down. It comes out every new and full moon.
- Karen M. Black – I haven’t looked through this site extensively but the section on the North Node and South Node is a real gem. Prepare to feel very read… and hopefully inspired to pursue your soul growth, too. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the linked page has all the info you need!
Articles & Essays:
- Stab a book, the Book Won’t Die by Craig Mod – consider reading if: book recommendations make you feel guilty about how many books you didn’t read last year in favor of apps and screen time.
- My Year of No Shopping by Ann Patchett – consider reading if: you have a soft spot for online shopping and have been the victim of your own consumerism and horrible drop-shipped, un-returnable and ugly nightmares (um, me).
- There is No Such Thing as Documentary by Erika Balsom, interviewing Trinh T. Minh-ha – consider reading if: you are interested in learning more about post-colonial thinking, feminist ‘weaving’, and documentaries (also me).
I was late to the podcast game and remain utterly biased to the first one that got me (and it got me good) – That’s So Retrograde. While the name pertains to astrology, the podcast is about everything wellness and spirituality in a lighthearted, growth-oriented manner. It takes some of the seriousness out, adds some humor in, and presents a side that is healing, feminine, and friendly. They feature experts and healers and mediums and friends, on everything from CBD to somatic experiencing to lymphatic drainage.
My favorite episodes:
- Eps. 156, 206, and 238 – three episodes featuring the straightforward and epic truth-telling of life coach Lauren Handel Zander. These episodes also contain some ‘homework’ inspiration for some self-study and journaling you can do on your own.
- Ep. 236 – Female Biohacking and Syncing your Cycle to Upgrade Your Life with Alisa Vitta – less biohack-y than it sounds, if you have a kneejerk reaction to that word. It’s all about women’s hormonal cycles and living in tune with your natural rhythm.
- Eps. 154, 166, 213 – three episodes featuring the feng shui expert Meghan Wallace James – like the Savage Detectives, this ended up being an unexpected biggie! I completely feng shui-ed my bedroom and living room in Melbourne one afternoon while listening to these episodes. The next day, I changed my plans for this year entirely. Shifting the external surroundings released something from deep inside.
… which is exactly why I am feeling so excited to share, and continue to share, the things that inspire me. You never know when inspiration will hit big time – so if you’re reading this and have things to send my way, too – please do!