Instrumental: The Persistence of Memory – Retrogrades by Dona Murphy

We’ve been under the powerful influence of retrograde planets lately. We’ve just completed a Venus retrograde and right on its heels, a Mercury retrograde began. A long list of “re-”s accompany these retrogrades: regret, remorse, review, redo, revisit, revise, re-evaluate; sometimes the “re”turn of ghosts from the past. All of these can be gifts to us. They’re an invitation to look to the past for what’s “re”levant and use it to our best benefit in the present.

The Venus retrograde through Libra and Scorpio increased passion and sexual tension. This affected real-time interactions with current or former lovers and partners – or both. It also affected dreams and memories, with the past springing up at unexpected moments.

Did you feel a longing for the past? Did your memories of a relationship with a former lover make you feel uncomfortable? Sad? Aroused?

My own surfacing memories prompted me to meditate on the Six of Cups – the Minor Arcana Tarot card that keys to reminiscence, return and memories of past experiences and associations. In short, the card is symbolic of nostalgia. This card’s astrological correspondence is the Sun in Scorpio.

In the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot there is less emphasis on the sexual aspects of the Sun in Scorpio. Its general meanings are nostalgia, revisiting the past, recalling childhood memories, and also joy and pleasure. In reverse and under the influence of the Venus retrograde – we may have discovered that we were clinging to the past or trying to live in the past; dwelling on past hurts and disappointments; yearning for past relationships or people that were not healthy for us or that we’ve outgrown and no longer serve us.

Using the Crowley-Harris or Thoth Tarot, the general meaning of the card is more centrally focused on the most natural expression of the Sun in Scorpio. All forms of pleasure – including sexual fulfillment – are inherent in this card. There is both a depth and a natural transcendence here that goes beyond the momentary gratification of desire. In union with another, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is our highest consciousness expressed through our emotions and feelings. If ill-dignified – as is possible under the influence of retrograde Venus transiting Scorpio – unhealthy sexual expression, jealousy and attracting the wrong partners may have been the outcome.

Our longing for the past – that sometimes inexplicable deep-dive into memories and feelings – all slightly tinged with melancholy, can take up a lot of emotional real estate.

I experienced a series of highly-detailed and vivid dreams about some of my past lovers. On many mornings I woke feeling almost hungover, thinking about the past and re-experiencing feelings I hadn’t examined for many years. I will confess to some quick Google searches (I plead human frailty). To my credit, I didn’t take any impulsive or potentially destructive actions.

But I did allow myself to reframe my feelings and put them into the context of my present life (pretty damn good) and my present relationship (damn good). I can’t claim to have learned something completely new but I was able to look at the present from a refreshed, positive and contented perspective. The gift of a retrograde indeed.

Then, just as Venus stationed direct on November 16th, Mercury went retrograde. Although it will spend a brief portion of this retrograde in Scorpio, most of this transit will be through Sagittarius. During 2018 all of the Mercury retrograde periods have been in Fire signs – Aries, Leo and now Sagittarius.

The energy of Mercury in Sagittarius can be difficult to manage. This planet and the sign have much in common such as communication, travel and education. But Mercury the Messenger is more concerned with the local, short-term and specific while Sagittarius the Archer has his arrow aimed at the higher, long-term and global aspects of these areas. Reconciling these as complementary energies or allowing them to cause conflict is the challenge.

The Minor Arcana Tarot Card corresponding to Mercury in Sagittarius is the Eight of Wands. Both the Rider-Waite-Smith and Crowley-Harris (Thoth) Tarot share the general meaning of this card: swiftness, action, ambition, travel and rapid transmission of information; dynamic events and communication.

When reversed or ill-dignified as they may be under the influence of Mercury retrograde – there may be communication breakdowns, misunderstandings, technological glitches or failures, anxiety, tension, delayed or canceled travel plans and a slow-down or stop to our activities.

In addition this retrograde shares with the Venus retrograde the tendency to dwell on former experiences, reminisce about the past, or unexpectedly meet up with people from your past.

See? True to retrograde form, we’ve returned to where we started. Catch you on the flip side.

About the Author: Dona Murphy

Dona Murphy is the owner of Destiny Tarot. She lives and works in Lake Bluff Illinois as a Tarot reader, Intuitive Counselor and Life Coach. Dona combines her metaphysical and spiritual studies, natural gifts and real-world experience to help her clients solve problems and live their best lives. As she says, “The cards don’t predict your future, they help you create it”.

Instrumental: Faith, Hope & Love by Keva Bartnick

I first remember hearing this saying in grade school, and I’m quite sure I heard it during one of the sermons. For any of you who never went to church let me tell you how it goes. It’s taken from first Corinthians 13:13 and says, “and now these three remain Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is Love.” Now I can get behind all that, but I’ve found one that I like better.


No disrespect to Corinthians or any other book mind you, but I’m not the bible-reading type. For full disclosure, I’ve never read the whole thing either. Only what I was forced to read while in school. I actually had to look up where this came from as not to screw up the reference. I like to cross my T’s and dot my I’s if you know what I mean.

The one I found that I like best is, “I choose Faith over Anxiety, Hope over Worry, and Love over Fear,” by Ms. Mary Davis. I feel this more encompasses my beliefs and what I have chosen to work with in my daily life. Also, it doesn’t feel so oppressive as memorizing bible verses did for me as a kid. I always forgot them and then had a hard time hunting them down later. Reminding me for the millionth time what I was supposed to be remembering in the first place. It was exhausting.

This is more my speed and something I can throw up on a vision board or whatnot. Getting what I need out of it whenever I’m not feeling up to snuff. So, I choose Faith over Anxiety.

Anxiety and I used to be besties.

diego-ph-254975-unsplashThick as thieves we were. We’ve since broken up like the Taylor Swift and Kanye West fiasco of whatever year that was. All I know is that at the end of 2015 I had had enough of Anxiety and the bullshit it had been whispering in my ear. Anxiety and it’s devious friend Depression were at an all time high. Stalking me left and right. Telling me that things were going to implode if I didn’t follow the direction they had planned out for my life. If I didn’t listen to everything they were telling me was true, I’d be screwed. That my life, as I’d built it from that moment would cease to exist. In the end I would be found wanting and lonely, dragging my loved ones down with me. “Follow us,” they whispered, “we know the way,” they’d hiss. I remember sitting on the couch thinking, “how can this get any worse?”

At that moment, remembering that I had a ‘Phone a Friend’ card in my back pocket. They sat next to me and hissed even louder as I reached for my phone. Sticking my tongue out at them and glaring back I sent a text to my dear friend Melissa. We chatted over text message back and forth for a bit; she showing me a door I could walk thru. I took it for the escape for which I was looking. Vowing that this was the last time I’d take Anxiety and Depressions shit lying down. I’d lived with these two buggars for far to long without a backbone. In that moment I started taking my life back, and in all honesty I petrified.

Faith over the next couple months was my companion. Walking next to me I’d look back over my shoulder and see Anxiety and Depression glaring back at me. Kicking cans, sticks and rocks out of their way as they walked, sometimes flipping me the bird as they went along. Ticked that I’d chosen another one to walk with over them.

Faith wasn’t an easy companion either. There were times I wanted to go back and walk with Anxiety and Depression. Sometimes I’d slow down a bit so that they could catch up. I didn’t want them to feel left out. I’d grown so accustomed to them over the years, they felt like family. Part of me actually missed them because they were easier to have around, like a sick security blanket. A mentality to fall back on when I didn’t want to do the hard stuff. Feeling that if I slipped back into my old self I’d feel better. Growing a backbone is hard work when you become your own stopgap. Growing thru what I was going thru was the understatement of the year.

Don’t get me wrong, Anxiety and Depression are very real, they are a disease just like any other as far as I’m concerned. Many a time after that they’ve tried to hold my hand. Faith always sees, stepping in to separate us like that chaperone at a dance when they get to close. Letting me know that she’s always there and has my back when the creepers start creeping in.

Faith lifts my chin to look out into the world. Pointing at it all she says, “look for the helpers, look for the good, what you look for you create.” She then signals Hope to come along with us. “Hope,” she tells me, “is like me, and be careful of worry. You always have two options, but Hope is the best.”

Hope floats up, taking my hand. She tells me that she and Faith are just like peas and carrots. She tells me that she doesn’t try to pretend that troubles don’t exist, it’s just in her that troubles won’t last forever. That the things that hurt will heal, and the difficulties will be overcome. Hope shines light into the darkness and let’s you see that it may be scary now, but this too shall pass. With her by my side we walk into the light. Telling me as we go not to be afraid, that it all works out the way it should in the end. She tells me not to worry, for she is always there when I need her.

Worry stands over in the corner shaking her head, cigarette in hand, smoke wafs around the top of her head. She watches Hope and I pass by her. She likes to be worshipped. When she is, it keeps the problem alive and well. She’s all about that. The more we feed Worry the stronger she gets. When we do, believing that God or the Universe won’t get it right, this is her wheelhouse. She loves it there. What she doesn’t want you to see when you look close enough is that those thoughts are notoriously inaccurate.

Much like the shadows and boogeymen that hang in our closet, they hide what is truly there. Partners in crime with Anxiety and Depression she too likes to run the show. She’s always waiting though, patiently, for you to slip back into the corner with her. She likes companionship and won’t take, “it’ll be just fine,” for an answer.

steve-halama-558233-unsplashAs I walk with Faith and Hope, Love appears on the horizon. “We kept the best for last,” they say in unison. I look over at them smiling, almost giggling for Love is amazing! She prances over to where we are giving me the biggest hug I’ve ever received. Holding me at arms length she looks me up and down and nods her head approvingly. “You look GOOD! I knew you’d make it!” I look her in the eye and confess, “I wasn’t so sure there for awhile, but hey, I guess it was a thing.” She laughs at me knowing all too well that it definitely was a thing. We split off from the others as we walk to the top a hill. The grass seems greener here, the air fresher. She wants to show me something, and I fall in beside her.

“See out there, the dark parts?” I look out to where her finger points, squinting. “Yeah, what is that?” She looks at me and says, “That’s the place you came from, the place you escaped from. That’s what you were totally immersed in.” I look over at her with my mouth hanging open like some goofball in disbelief. “I’m glad you figured out finally that Fear is an illusion, it’s a darkness of the most horrid sort. It’s like the Nothing from the Neverending Story. It sucks up all the light and all the goodness in the world and turns it into utter darkness. Yet, when we move to put a light on it, it squeals, backing away as quickly as it came. It doesn’t like the light because in the light it can’t hide. Fear grows from false information, false witness, false beliefs. Yet, people feed it so it grows. They haven’t figured out that Fear really means False Evidence Appearing Real.”

I stand there quiet for a moment, soaking it all in.

“So many people believe that it’s real though, they believe that the fear is real.” Looking back towards the horizon again, “Danger is real, fear is the illusion.” She says, “There are people out there that don’t know there is a difference, but there is. That’s why you are here. You’ll help be that light for some, the ones you are destined to meet. You’ll do what you were always meant to do; shine.” I looked over at her, loving her even more than before, “I love you! Thank you for showing this to me, thank you for sharing, but most of all thank you for being. You are so amazing and I hope that everyone gets the chance to know you someday. You my friend are incredible.” Turning back towards me she takes my hands in hers, “Ditto,” she replies.

Walking back towards Faith and Hope I feel complete and whole with Love by my side. Knowing full well that no matter what happens in life I’ve got this. My favorite companions not far from me, available at a moments notice, whenever I need them. The other darknesses so far removed and untouchable from where I stand now. I feel lighter than I’ve ever felt before. The sky’s the limit and I’m finally living my best life with Faith, Hope & Love.

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.

Escaping From the Norm by Keva Bartnick


Summertime for us meant that when my husband was done teaching summer school it’s time to go on vacation. Every year we shoot to go somewhere we’ve never been before. Experiencing life in new fun ways. Showing our children that playing hard is just as important as working hard. Adventure is assured.

I don’t want to have a life that I feel the need to escape from all the time, even though I have escaped in the past. I want everyday to have wonderful happenings, even if it’s only a small one here or there. Appreciating what I have in the moment. Every day having purpose in its own right. For me, traveling just adds another layer to what already is and what could be. Growing more beautiful flowers in a garden already lush with life.


I promise I don’t live in Neverland, but I know that when we look at life in a certain light we can see it for all it’s wonders. Being alive holds a certain je ne sais quoi. That there isn’t anything quite like it on earth that stacks up to its many facets.

Where else can you be so unequivocally you? Molding ourselves into the being that we want to be? Becoming and experiencing so many ways of seeing how a people can become what they are, and what they long to be. The sky’s the limit and we all have a round trip ticket.

In times of sadness or discomfort we are offered any number of escape hatches in order to take a time out. Taking a breather if you will, escaping from the norm. Traveling, reading about traveling or watching shows on traveling for me is this kind of escape when I feel I need one. Knowing that there is more to life out there than what I’ve experienced up to this point for myself.


If I could travel to far off lands, taking in the sights and sounds I would do it at least once a month. Spending a week here or a week there. Learning about different cultures and people that are outside of my comfort zone. Breathing in their way of life. Experiencing everything with my senses. Every nuance and every moment beautiful for what it offers me. Escape into another’s life, another view of this world. Seeing it thru someone else’s eyes. Experiencing all life has to offer. Expanding my horizons into the unknown. Capitalizing on what could be and what is right in front of me.

I want to pass that wonder onto our children. Realizing that the world is big and beautiful. That there are so many people to meet, so many stories to learn about and share. To experience the escape of listening to another’s story. For in many ways listening is a cornerstone of healing. When we listen to another human being and their story it takes on a healing property unlike any other. We hold space for them in that moment. Letting them express who they are to us in their own way. Showing us all of them in that space, like we’ve been told, “better out than in.”

When we hold space for someone in these moments it offers them an escape too. Escaping from the confines of who they believe they are and must be. Free to express themselves in whatever way they see fit. Telling us, sharing with us, their lives in ways only they can. Taking into ourselves the energy of their words. Transmuting it into something good, healing, and full of compassion. We become the living conduit for this energy. Listening to them, holding them in awe and reverence. Compassion is assured. We would ask the same of them if the roles were reversed.

Their stories not unlike our own. Some of pain, some of heartache, of joys unmeasured and of love. They have a certain flavor and tastes not known to us before this time. The story lines may seem similar, but the way they share them is unique.

We get to see and feel their lives in ways not seen before. For they are them and we are us. A symbiotic relationship not yet seen up unto this point. We bring too with us our stories not known to them. This goes for any human being experiencing another’s story. Our background and culture different from the other. Offering each other a peek into the other’s world. In the end changing both the issuer and the recipient in ways unseen. Changing everyone’s chemical makeup because of the energy that was exchanged. Coming away better than when they arrived. In a way feeling more whole than expected.


This is the best way I know to escape from the norm. In doing this it brings me back to center. Understanding the world around me just a little bit better. Softening my edges and continuing to show me compassion for others. Life is not always easy, and escape sometimes is a must. Whether we escape inward or outward we change ourselves regardless. We experience our lives from a higher perspective. Taking in new energy from our surroundings. Solidifying the fact that living is such a beautiful gift. Sharing our lives with others is even better.

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.

Instrumental: Ten Tips for Creating Your Own Art Camp

Yesterday I shared the story of how I escaped to Art Camp. How would you like to create your own art camp? I’m sharing some tips to help you make that happen!

Ten Tips for Creating Your Own Art Camp

  1. Choose your fellow camper(s) wisely. It may be one, it may be two or three, but be quite certain your fellow campers are complementary and harmonious, can operate independently as well as together and all have a stake in completing a project or goal. Perhaps it is a deadline, an assignment or a tutorial, but have a personal purpose in mind.
  2. Share the load. Whether it is helping out at one person’s cottage with food expenses and doing dishes or sharing expenses evenly, make sure all are vested in both work and play. (If you’re lucky a camper will go above the call of duty and help paint your window trim!)
  3. Private time is fine. If one likes to walk, another swim, another do yoga practice and another just wants to read for a bit, that’s OK. We all need downtime, private time. In fact, for some of us, it’s essential.
  4. Document your time. Whether it is in photos, a blog post, a drawing or a journal entry, keep a record of the time together. It’s fun to look back and remember how your time together has evolved.
  5. Choose your location carefully, to fit your participants. Not everyone has a cottage available and one may have to rent a spot, whether for two or ten. Look for a place where nature is at hand, daily news is at a minimum, the environment is safe and there is ample work space and individual space for all. Whether you are in the mountains, on a lake or in the woods, it is important to feel safe.
  6. Consider road trips. You may be going to do art but if your time permits, consider a road trip, whether it is to wander the nearest town or visit a somewhat more distant site. Depending on your projects and state of mind, you may find inspiration where you least expect it.
  7. If you are a visual artist who works in a variety of media, pick one (or two, max!) to work with. Rather than hopscotch from mixed media to painting to a fiber craft, you will find that you are more likely to complete or make better headway if you focus your effort on one or two types of projects. And it makes packing a heck of a lot easier.
  8. No matter where you are, check the weather before you go! And don’t always believe it! There’s nothing worse than getting caught without a jacket during the one cold spot in a warm summer or being without shorts on an unexpectedly warm day. Yes, you can probably shop “in town” but who wants to? And don’t forget things like a swim suit, sunscreen, insect repellent or other items specific to your locale.
  9. Food allergies or special needs? Cover your bases and bring what you might need. It may not be easily available in the area where your camp is.
  10. Start small, work up! Kate and I started art camp as a weekend. It worked for us, we were compatible and we gradually added more time. There’s nothing worse than starting out with someone for a full week or two and finding out that as much as you like each other at home, too much togetherness could damage your friendship. And really, when it comes right down to it, enjoying the time with a friend or two is what it is all about.

Are you ready to create your own art camp?

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

Instrumental: Can You Be Free? by Melissa Cynova

In my time doing tarot readings for people, I find that it’s the inner prisons that hold us the tightest.

In the 8 of swords, we see a woman barefoot. She is standing in a muddy field, surrounded by blades. Her arms are lashed against her sides, and she is blindfolded. It’s raining, desolate and dreary.

Can she be free?

If you look more closely at the woman, you’ll see that her legs are not bound, and there is an empty space in front of her. She has been there for so long, I’m afraid, that she is trapped not only by the hardships that brought her there, but by her fear itself.

Sometimes, we are so conditioned to things going wrong in our lives, that we don’t move away from the things that harm us. We stay – in a bad marriage, bad job, bad living situation – much longer than we should because we’ve become conditioned to the bad.

This is not, of course, referring to folks in a dangerous living situation. This is the woman who looks in the mirror 8 years later and sees that she’s living with a roommate, and that they don’t really like each other anymore.

The best thing to do if you find yourself in this situation – in the 8 of Swords – the first thing is to look at where you are now. Assess your surroundings and make a plan instead of waiting until it’s unbearable and snapping a little bit. You can’t make good decisions when you’re filled with rage or sorrow. Those emotions color your decision-making skills and often you move too quickly and lose your balance.

Once you know where you are, take some time to make a plan.

For example, you’ve been working in the same office with the same people for 5 years. It’s a good job and you make good money, but the people that you work with are the gossipy, office shark type. You’re not really good with office politics so you keep your head down and are quiet all of the time. Always.

If you’ve decided you’ve had enough swimming with the sharks, move slowly. Update your resume. Find a headhunter in your field. Line up interviews and remember your value. Make slow, deliberate strides out of the beige world you’ve found yourself in, and into something that better suits you.

The most important thing to do when you’re in the middle of the 8 of Swords is to assess the situation before you start walking away. Take stock of the ground beneath your feet. Start loosening the ties on your hands and slide that blindfold off. Now that you can see what’s around you, you can walk free.

About the Author: Melissa Cynova

Melissa CynovaMelissaC_Bio is owner of Little Fox Tarot, and has been reading tarot cards and teaching classes since 1989. She can be found in the St. Louis area, and is available for personal readings, parties and beginner and advanced tarot classes. You can Look for her first book, Kitchen Table Tarot, from Llewellyn Publishing.

Melissa lives in St. Louis with her kiddos, her partner, Joe, and two cats, two dogs and her tortoise, Phil.

She is on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Go ahead and schedule a reading – she already knows you want one.

Instrumental: Cultivating a Healthier Mind by Keva Bartnick

We all know that our world has seen its fair share of mental illness these last few years. It’s no secret that mental illness is at the forefront of many news stories today. Anything from the school shootings to using vehicles as ram rods rolling thru crowds. It breaks our hearts and makes us wonder if there is anything we can do about it.

When we see the issues for what they are, a lack of mental illness initiative, we need to ask ourselves what can we do? For starters we can start looking within ourselves asking some pertinent questions. Are we depressed? Do we have anxiety? What is our mental health status?

When we start looking inside, evaluating where we are personally it takes on a new way of seeing. We have to be honest with ourselves though, and that’s where we may start running into issues.

Self-evaluation can be especially hard. It’s not for the weak. When we put our own mental health under the spotlight we may want to sugarcoat what is actually going on. It can be harder than it looks. We may say, “oh I’m fine, it’s no big deal, it’s just a little (fill in the blank).” In actuality it can be a big deal. It may be something that we may want to discuss with our partner, our friends, or a therapist. We are never alone in what we are going thru even if we feel that way sometimes. There are plenty of others going thru and experiencing exactly what we are.

Our mental health is no joke. It is as important, and sometimes even more so than our regular health. Yet, many of us put it on the back burner. Pushing it away, saying we will deal with it later, and never putting in the effort to see it for what it is.

Healing takes a ton of courage. Take it from a woman who knows.

Healing is one of the most courageous acts we will ever encounter. It is something that no one can physically see even though it takes a lot of energy to manage. It is something that many of us keep hidden even when we are in the right mind to act. Yet, people don’t talk about their healing process. It’s a taboo subject. And a lot of people don’t want to know. They believe it is too hard. They perceive the person healing may be shining a spotlight on what they aren’t doing themselves. Others take it personally, making healing even harder.

Yet these things, these incidences, shouldn’t sway our self-reflection. We owe it to ourselves. If for no other reason then to be the healthiest we can be.

So what needs to be done to cultivate a healthier mind? For starters we can take stock of how we feel. We can start asking ourselves probing questions about what stresses us out? What makes us sad and how often we feel this way?

When our answers to those questions are more than 50% of the time then we need to start asking ourselves more questions. How much more than 50% of the time? Are the numbers higher than 60%? If so, then maybe it’s in your best interest to talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you don’t want to find a therapist, talk to a friend, hell talk to a stranger. Talk to anyone. If you don’t want to do those things than journaling or writing may be a great way to release some of that stress.

Better out than in I always say. The more we can get in touch with how we feel the healthier we become. If that means writing it all out then that’s great, but we need to release the pressure somehow.

I find a great way to manage when I don’t want to talk to someone is write it all out and then release it by burning what I wrote. I release all the pent up feelings and emotions onto the page, then release it into the universe by burning it. Put it in the sink, in a burn pit, in the grill outside. It doesn’t matter where you burn it as long as it’s safely dealt with.

Our soul always knows what it needs to heal. We can heal our mental health issues if we start small. Focusing on what we want to privately deal with and handle is a great place to start. We can cultivate a weekly practice of journaling or writing down what bothers us. Feeling all those feelings seep down thru our fingers and out of the pen or pencil out onto the page.

When we are finished we can get up, release it, thanking it for coming to the surface and allowing it to leave our bodies.

We are allowed to be human. We are allowed to feel all of our feelings. We are allowed to heal privately or publicly. We are allowed to express ourselves in ways that are conducive to the betterment of society. We are allowed to feel courageous and heal our mental health issues without stigma. And for the love of all things holy we are allowed to love ourselves without condition.

When we put ourselves and our mental health on the front burner, we cultivate a healthier mind set. In doing this we help more than just ourselves. We help everyone around us know that they can be who they need to be in order to heal what they need to heal. We show them by being a good example and being honest. Healing may take time, effort and a ton of heart, but we know that in doing so we are important. Our mental health is important. Building into our lives a practice of cultivating a healthier mind is the first step in healing the collective. I believe we owe it to ourselves to heal, whatever that healing looks like to you. We owe it to our loved ones and in doing so we help our society become the best it can be.

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.

Cultivating Happiness Anchors by Keva Bartnick

We all live in a world that can lack a sense of happiness. Far to often we have to fake it to make it. I am no different. I speak of healing and goodness, yet I have to work at being happy and healing myself too. I know I am not alone in these struggles, which makes it easier to manage.

Since my husband and I have children I admit that they have taught me more than I could have ever dreamed. They teach me something new everyday. They bring into my sphere a new way of seeing the world and all its wonders.

Because of them I can’t begin to tell you how many Lego movies I’ve seen. Here’s a hint… it’s a lot! Every one of them better than the last surprisingly. And thus brings into our lives the topic of anchors.

You might not have ever heard the term so let me let you in on the best kept secret of our house. Anchors.

They are a cherished piece of time set aside. A time that has already been scheduled in advance so everyone knows what’s coming. For instance, Taco Tuesday is an anchor. Every Tuesday we have tacos for dinner. (Thank you Lego Movies for introducing Taco Tuesdays.) Also, if you’d like, I have a great fish taco recipe that we’ve been using and the kids LOVE it!

This is what I mean, intentional living. That’s a good way to describe an anchor.

We also looked to ‘The Big Bang Theory’ for our second anchor of the week. Like Sheldon, Leonard, Penny and the rest of the gang we’ve set aside one night a week as pizza night. Every Wednesday, we don’t have to think about what to make for dinner, we already know that it’s going to be pizza. Everyone looks forward to it, and everyone is happy. It’s a win win.

We have other anchors in our house, but those two are the best. Maybe it’s because I’m mom and I’m the one that has to feed them so anything to make my life a little easier. I’m all for that. I’ve discovered another anchor that I plan on implementing as soon as possible.

I’m calling it The Friday Night Champagne Toast.

It was inspired by my husbands cousin and the birth of her daughter.

At her baby shower, as a parting gift, she sent us home with a Brut Split. If you’ve never worked in the restaurant business, Splits are those smaller bottles. Purchased for a celebratory occasion between two people, hence the word Split. The instructions were that when we heard of the birth we had to break open the bottle and toast the newest addiction! I LOVED THAT!

So as we were popping open the Brut on a Tuesday night to celebrate Anna’s birth it hit me like a ton of bricks. Oh My GOSH! Why are we just now doing this? Where has this been all my life? I kind of think I need another anchor for celebrating, and I believe that we are going to do it weekly.


Let’s think about this, how often do we celebrate? Birthdays, holidays, special occasions. Like normal people we have our yearly celebratory anchors, the ones that you can count on.

Many of us have daily anchors like praying and worship, but we don’t have something set aside weekly. Acknowledging the fact that we do awesome things every week. So why not celebrate that!?

Justin Timberlake brought sexy back. Well I want to bring The Friday Night Champagne Toast night to the forefront. For those who don’t drink, choose something special. Juice, juice works just as well. Buy something that you normally wouldn’t buy for yourself and use that. It’s a special occasion.

So treat it like one.

If you don’t want to spend the money, chalk yourself up as a Spiritual Money Launderer.

Yes, it’s a thing.

Think of the money you are spending as putting something good back into the universe in a monetary way. You are celebrating! So treat each part of this endeavor as a celebration. Even if it’s a $1.50 Yoo-hoo from the gas station down the street. It still counts.

Think of it as a sacred act of being grateful and happy. Cultivating and creating a space of positivity in an otherwise normal day. Taking the time out to celebrate life! That we made it thru another week.

I will be taking the time to list out everything I’m grateful for. For instance that we survived with our wits still intact and that we didn’t lose our minds along the way. That in and of itself is HUGE with three kids. Some days probably were tough, but we kicked this weeks dupa and got the things that needed to get done done. Or that we only fought once this week! Pick any number of ways to chalk up the fact that we all survived!

Cheers to us!

Taking time out of our week to recognize what we are grateful for gives us room for more gratitude, more happiness. I do it everyday before I go to bed and before my feet hit the floor in the morning, but those moments are personal. This would be a time spent with just my husband and I, together. To acknowledge the fact that we matter. What we accomplish together matters. Congratulating each other for doing what needed to be done that week. When your other half feels appreciated, wanted, and gratified magical things happen. So that settles it.

Anchors away!

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.

Instrumental: Cultivating Mindfulness (Part Two) by Diana Raab

(Read Part One of Cultivating Mindfulness Here)

Mindfulness meditation, which originated in Buddhist circles, encourages you to focus on feelings, experiences, and internal and external processes in a nonjudgmental manner. It is about being fully present in the moment, thus making you more aware of yourself, others, and your environment. Mindfulness meditation is about paying attention to the thoughts racing through your mind, without obsessing about them or trying to fix them in any particular way. Meditation is one of the best ways to increase self-awareness, calm your mind and your body, and connect with what is happening in the present moment.

Many studies have shown the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Some institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic, have already integrated mindfulness meditation into many of their programs to foster healing in those dealing with mental and physical illnesses. When mindfulness meditation is used to help addicts in recovery, studies have shown that it minimizes the stress caused by the trigger to use alcohol or drugs. The results can be very effective when used in conjunction with other modalities, such as psychotherapy.

Mindfulness meditation forces you to sit with yourself and to accept and tolerate your feelings rather than medicating them. Sitting with your problems and recognizing them with curiosity and acceptance helps you better to diffuse any triggers that you may regularly encounter. One of the many wonderful aspects of mindfulness meditation is that you can do it alone and anywhere. You don’t need props, mentors, or facilitators. It only takes a few minutes, and the results are effective, long acting, and empowering.

Meditation may be practiced either while sitting still or, for those who have difficulty sitting, while walking. Other practices such as Qigong and Tai Chi are also good options. In mindfulness meditation, the idea is to sit still and focus on the breath—breathing in and pausing, breathing out and pausing. Full awareness is kept during the breathing process, even when there are outside noises—such as cars honking, dogs barking, trains passing, or people engaged in conversation. You will notice that, even while focusing on your breath, your thoughts might interrupt you, but your attention should quickly return to the breath.

Before beginning your meditation practice, it is important to sit still on a chair or cushion with your back straight. I like the metaphor one meditation teacher taught me of imagining your head being a helium balloon floating through the roof into the atmosphere. Then, as a grounding force, think of your spine sinking into the floor. This prepares you to anchor yourself in your meditation experience (for how to ground yourself, see step 2).

When I was recovering from breast cancer surgery, my meditation instructor taught me to imagine a ball of white light above my head permeating into the crown of my head and moving down through my body. The idea was to purify any negative energy or thoughts. I had to remind my body to relax. I dropped my shoulders, the part of my body where I hold a lot of my tension. Then, I focused on my breath and said, “Breathe in, breathe out.” I repeated this until I felt a deep sense of peace. Sometimes I even drifted off, but paying attention to the breath is important as a mindset.

For those who have struggled with addiction, mindfulness meditation is an important part of recovery. Noah Levine in his book, Dharma Punx, says that prayer and meditation became an integral part of his life and that it helped him find a sense of purpose in his life. “Being an addictive type, when I find something that makes me feel good I want to do it all the time, so I did, I turned my life toward recovery and spiritual practice.”

One way to achieve bliss through writing is before writing to engage in what Levine calls, “Appreciative Joy Meditation,” where after settling the body, you focus on breathing into the heart center. With each breath concentrate on appreciating all the joyfulness and happiness you’ve experienced in your life. This might be a good time to wear a slight smile on your face. Now offer some intentions to encourage your deep gratefulness.

The intentions you set can be ones you create for yourself or you may use the suggested ones provided by Levine, such as:

May I learn to appreciate the happiness and joy I experience.
May the joy I experience continue and grow.
May I be filled with gratitude.

Writing Prompt

After doing” Appreciative Joy Meditation,” consider writing a few pages on what you are thankful for, presently and in the past. What you are thankful for can pertain to certain individuals who have been in your life, belongings, experiences, feeling, and/or ways of being.

Hanh, a Buddhist Monk and also a mindfulness advocate, wisely says that the breath is the bridge connecting our life to consciousness. It also unites our bodies to our thoughts. When your mind becomes scattered, focus on your breath to get hold of your mind once again. In Hanh’s tradition, zazen, or seated meditation, is a part of everyday life. In Western living, meditating for fifteen or twenty minutes might be all that is needed to calm you, but of course you may do so for as long as you like.

I also like Bernie Siegel’s definition of meditation as a way to focus the mind into a state of relaxed awareness. Relaxation is the key here because, even though the mind tends to be less responsive to distraction during meditation, it can be more focused on certain images or feelings. These images are usually important to us, whether they are connected to healing or peace.

Writing Prompt

After your meditation, write in your journal about your experience. Did you notice any mood shifts or subjects that kept popping into your mind?

What thoughts kept interrupting your attention to your breathing? How did those interruptions make you feel?

Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand and it’s good to practice both. Here’s a simple meditation exercise to practice at any time:

Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Sit as if you are a puppet and there is a string attached to the top of your head. Gently let your eyes close. Allow your body to become relaxed and quiet. Take a deep breath through your nose and let it out through your mouth. Repeat this a few times. Allow your mind to become peaceful and quiet. Let go of the emotional and mental chatter. Expand your awareness. Feel the silence within. Keep your eyes closed for about fifteen minutes; then pick up your pen to write about your experience.

About the Author: Diana Raab

Diana Raab, PhD, MFA, is an award-winner writer, speaker, and educator. She’s an advocate of writing for healing and facilitates workshops in writing for transformation and empowerment. She believes in the importance of writing to achieve wholeness and interconnectedness, which encourages the ability to unleash the true voice of your inner self.

Raab blogs for numerous blogs, including: Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, Global Thrive, and PsychAlive. She lives in Southern California. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Instrumental: Cultivating Mindfulness (Part One) by Diana Raab

Mindfulness is an important practice for the creative individual, and mindfulness may be defined as being in the here and now. This practice is essential for the best writing, because it taps into the messages of your heart and soul. Being mindful entails awareness and interconnectedness between your inner and outer worlds. If we are more awake and alert, we can more easily receive the messages from within us and from the universe.

In her book, The True Secret of Writing, Natalie Goldberg (2013) reminds us of the importance of mindfulness as we move about our day, whether we are writing, doing errands, or engaging in interpersonal relationships. Some of the characteristics of mindfulness also include being nonjudgmental, being patient, being accepting, trusting, maintaining the beginner’s mind, and letting go.

When considering mindfulness practice or how to quiet your mind, try to sit for a minute and think about what calms you and contemplate how you can incorporate those things into your daily life. Even just a few minutes of walking meditation or mindful breathing can bring you into the present moment. In addition to incorporating mindfulness into your day, such as when standing in line at a store, it is good to practice it before sitting down to write.

My day always begins with a meditation, sometimes even before my coffee. Sometimes I do a shorter meditation later in the afternoon to give me a boost of energy.

Goldberg, in her Zen writing retreats reminds her students to anchor their mind to their breath by using paper and pen to write. This helps you stay in the moment, as does the mantra, “Sit. Walk. Write.”—which she calls the “true secret.”

Even though the mind is a wonderful thing, it can sometimes get in the way of creativity, mainly because the voices in our heads can get in the way of what our heart wants to say. In fact, sometimes the voice in our head turns to the dark part of ourselves. This voice can point to feelings of fear, guilt, anger, sadness, envy, and resentment, instead of a sense of lightness of being. It might seem like a nagging parent or spouse.

The ego has the ability to create false thoughts, which is the inner chatter we hear most often. In fact, it is the voice in our heads that we sometimes try to tell to “shut up.” Otherwise, we can become overwhelmed by these thoughts and lose touch with reality.

This is one reason why during meditation it is a good idea to let thoughts come and go, rather than becoming obsessed by them or focusing on any one in particular. If you focus too intensely on your thoughts, the chance is greater for you to lose touch with the here and now. On a trip to Maui for a writer’s retreat a few years back, I met with Ram Dass, who continues to relay his very important message of “be here now,” dating way back to the 1960s and 1970s.

Those who live in the present moment, often come across as being more grounded. As Ram Dass says, “When you meet a being who is centered you always know it. You always feel a kind of calm, emanation. It always touches you in that place where you feel calm,” he says. The more we bring our focus into the present moment, the more we experience the bliss and joy of that moment and what our true essence is.

I want to leave you with a couple of writing prompts to help you cultivate mindfulness for your creative life.

Writing Prompt

 Practice focusing on the here and now. Take a few slow, deep breaths and focus on your belly. What are you seeing, sensing, hearing, or intuiting at this moment? Ask inside your body what you are feeling. Do you feel discomfort anywhere? Does an image pop into your mind? This is body intelligence.

Writing Prompt

Describe the person your mind thinks you are. What do you look like? What do you believe? What is your connection with the universe or loved ones? Have someone else write about you. Is how they perceive you the same as how you perceive yourself ?

Check in tomorrow for Part Two, focusing on Mindful Meditation. There will be writing prompts for that, too!

About the Author: Diana Raab

Diana Raab, PhD, MFA, is an award-winner writer, speaker, and educator. She’s an advocate of writing for healing and facilitates workshops in writing for transformation and empowerment. She believes in the importance of writing to achieve wholeness and interconnectedness, which encourages the ability to unleash the true voice of your inner self.

Raab blogs for numerous blogs, including: Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, Global Thrive, and PsychAlive. She lives in Southern California. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Instrumental: Mindfulness. A Path Toward Healthier Creativity and Balance by Sweta Vikram

Creativity takes vulnerability. Creativity takes courage. Creativity takes honesty. As Brené Brown so eloquently says, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

While the process of writing and sharing, our stories can be empowering, the in-between process can turn us writers into wrecks. Writing can sometimes mean opening certain doors from your past you had sealed shut. It can feel like picking on the scabs of a wound until it starts to bleed again. Sometimes, writing can introduce us to the inhumanity and darkness in the world.

I have spoken with memoirists who explore themes of darkness from their childhoods. That often means collecting memorabilia, going through diaries and journals, talking to a few accessible family members and often, their perpetrators. Can you imagine the different ways this path can lead to if they aren’t careful?

People like to believe that distraught, broken, sleep-deprived artists truly lead the creative life. I would argue against that. If you are mindful, your creativity won’t necessarily be nestled in an unstable space all the time.

What is mindfulness? As says, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

In Louisiana Catch, Ahana (the female protagonist) is a marital rape survivor. Though she ends up organizing the largest feminist conference in New Orleans and meets a great guy eventually, she is hurt by her husband. Writing about a marital survivor with respect and authenticity meant interviewing women who had been through this heinous crime; talking to experts and psychotherapists to understand what danger at home can do to a woman; and, reading up immensely on all the information available on rape within a marriage.

I elevated my yoga and meditation practice during this period of creativity as they help lower stress and release happy hormones. Mindfulness meant being aware of what nurtured me and what hurt. For instance, I made sure I didn’t watch anything on television or a film that was triggering.

Think about the authenticity of the story. What I mean is that if you aren’t writing about yourself (If you call it fiction, you shouldn’t be writing about yourself), your character needs to have their own voice of reason and action that might not mirror yours.

I am a social issue advocate and fierce expressionist of women’s rights. I also teach yoga to female survivors of trauma and rape. Ahana in Louisiana Catch is the opposite of me.  For instance, writing about Ahana’s danger in Louisiana Catch was disturbing to me. And there were times, I would find myself talking to my character, “Girl, don’t do this.” Ha ha, spending six years with your characters will make you believe they are real people. Every time that I felt I was slipping and creating Ahana’s responses based on my personality, I would walk away. Mindfulness helped me create healthy boundaries between fiction and reality.

Truth: Researchers have found that writers face a greater risk of depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. Before we reveal our souls to the world, we need to be strong within. For writers, it is extremely important to take care of whatever and whoever helps us keep it together so every little rejection, research, review, and response doesn’t shake us to the core. Geniuses like Sylvia Plath, Hunter Thomson, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Yukio Mishima, Anne Sexton, and David Foster Wallace shared stories about the world with us, but when it came to their own lives, they couldn’t cope with reality.

Cultivating a mindfulness practice can gently remind: how much is too much, nudge you to tell truer stories, and introduce you to a healthier and happier space where creativity can reside.

About the Author: Sweta Vikram

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a best-selling author of 11 books, a wellness columnist, and a mindfulness writing coach.  Featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” Sweta writes about women, multiculturalism, and identity. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nice countries and three continents.

Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press 2018) is her debut U.S. novel. Born in India, Sweta grew up between the Indian Himalayas, Northern Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. Exposure to this vast societal spectrum inspired her to become an advocate for social issues and also to get certified as a Holistic Health Counselor. In this avatar, Sweta is the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife through which she helps people elevate their productivity and creativity using Ayurveda and yoga. A certified yoga teacher, Sweta also teaches yoga and mindfulness to female survivors of rape and domestic violence. She lives with her husband in New York City.