Reduced to Joy

Behind the Thunder

I keep looking for one more teacher,
only to find that fish learn from water
and birds learn from sky.

If you want to learn about the sea,
it helps to be at sea.
If you want to learn about compassion,
it helps to be in love.
If you want to learn about healing,
it helps to know of suffering.

The strong live in the storm
without worshiping the storm.

Excerpted from Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo, published by Viva Editions, ISBN: 978-1-936740-57-4, $15.95,

Reduced to Joy - Mark Nepo

About Mark Nepo:
Beloved as a poet, teacher, and storyteller, Mark Nepo, the New York Times bestselling author has been called “one of the finest spiritual guides of our time,” “a consummate storyteller,” and “an eloquent spiritual teacher.” His many books have been translated into more than twenty languages. His new book, “Reduced to Joy” (Viva Editions, August 2012), gets to the stuff of happiness with deep wisdom, poems, and personal revelations that reminds us all of the secret and sacred places within, forgotten in the noise and chatter of our busy, distracted 21st century lives. Profound and accessible, Nepo’s writings are tools for staying close to what matters. For more information about Mark Nepo, please visit:

New Paths to Animal Totems

Animal totems are something I was interested in but never really explored. I always sort of felt that you needed to be a big nature lover to work with animal totems and if you know me, you know that me and nature do not get along. I’m allergic to just about everything that grows and every animal. All fur, feathers, dander, down, all of it. However, Lupa’s new book “New Paths to Animal Totems: Three Alternative Approaches to Creating Your Totemism” really opened my eyes.

Lupa explains how you don’t have to be tied to the Native American model that so many books and websites tend to favor. She offers three alternative models to discerning your totems: correspondences, bioregional, and archetypal. In correspondences Lupa discusses discovering your totem/totems using the directions, the Chinese or Western Zodiac, the Tarot and more. Bioregionalism is finding your totems not from within arbitrary boundaries such as state lines but instead from a place defined by natural phenomena such as waterways and geographic formations. Last is archetypal which is more psychological than other options. It matches our internal impulses and instincts to what we know of nonhuman animals, creating a personalized map of both the internal self and the world we inhabit. Lupa offers exercises, meditations, and examples for all of these so the seeker has a companion working with them along their path. She also discusses the option of combining these totemic paths.

Additionally, Lupa discusses ways to interact with, honor, and assist your totem animal. There’s a guided meditation for helping find your totem animal. My favorite extra is a list of animal nonprofits.

“New Paths to Animal Totems” is a great book for anyone looking for a new perspective, or for someone new like me. I thought that someone housebound like myself couldn’t have a relationship with a totem animal, but Lupa’s writing opened my eyes. Ideally yes, being out in nature is great. However many people have totem animals that aren’t found in nature where they live, so being outside doesn’t effect the relationship one way or the other. That’s a pretty big leap from one book. Just think what “New Paths to Animals” might teach you.

Moonlight Tarot’s Question Corner: Mystical Answers to Mundane Inquiries

By Angela Kaufman, Moonlight Tarot LLC

It is strongly advised in Tarot and Psychic practice to not conduct readings for those who have not requested guidance. Yet this month I felt compelled to acknowledge a need that exists in our time of transition of the ages and heightened spiritual and mundane anxieties. In honor of the birthday of America as we know it I chose to conduct an oracle reading unsolicited for the people of America in our new age of consciousness and spiritual enlightenment.

It was a struggle for me to pin down the exact question I wanted to ask. How can things get better? What do we as a society need to do to improve our culture? Are we doomed? After reflection and meditation on this question I was led to use a special deck- the Medicine Cards deck- an animal oracle by Jamie Sam and David Carson. The question is less of a question, but rather a request- Animal Spirits…. What do we need to know, do or experience? In this reading, the spirits of animals native to this country bring their message of guidance and healing.

Ant. Like any modern American I admit my ego secretly fantasized that the first messenger would be large and grand- Hawk, Eagle, Mountain Lion….Ant? The Powers that Be certainly don’t miss a beat in reminding me that my ego has no place in spiritual matters. Ant appears first with Her gift to America. Work, community, collaboration and diligence. Ants are small but strong, surprisingly so. Her message to us is to not deny our own strength and ability to move mountains- one grain of sand at a time. She reminds us of the value of our communities- of all members of our families, neighborhoods and cities- and that we are as strong as our weakest fellows. Our capacity and determination to build and thrive are endless as long as we work diligently toward our goals. Ants remind us to work from the ground up. Grassroots organizations exemplify this energy well. Ant also reminds us of lessons from our heritage- the folk heroes who regardless of our individual cultures, collectively embody the spirit of the individual who overcomes great odds, achieves the unexpected and acts with integrity in honor of community and the benefit to future generations. Discipline and collaboration, as well as harboring large dreams but having the humility to begin with small steps to achieve these dreams are all part of Ant’s gift to us in America today. Sometimes we may need to be persistent, sometimes we may present as pests, but we can not let fears and obstacles block us from our goals. An ant in the midst of their work will go under, over, around or through any obstacle in its way. Each ant carries their work with the collective benefit of each small endeavor benefiting the greater community. Ant also brings the gift of patience and faith, as we co-create the new era of spiritual awareness, let us not forget that each step we take brings us closer to our goals. Perhaps the time is dawning in which we must all ask ourselves what steps have I taken today to strengthen the community and to build our collective dreams? Each part of the whole counts, Ant teaches us. Therefore let us not disregard any part of our community, any portion of our resources, or any step in the larger process of accomplishing together what we can not alone. Having been given this message, I know I have a lot of reflecting to do on how each day can bring an opportunity to be of service to a larger cause than my immediate- and fleeting- needs. And if that isn’t enough, from what I hear…they have high hopes!

Raven is the second animal to come forth through this oracle and share Her message. Raven carries mystique and power. She is synonymous with mysteries of death and with the battlefield. In Celtic lore Raven was the symbol of the Morrigan who was the personification of the warrior spirit. Raven is a shapeshifter, trickster and a bringer of great Magick. Well America, we have our work cut out for us! First Ant is reminding us to honor the smallest of steps in our effort to build our dreams for the collective good- to patiently allow that the sum total of our actions result in the manifestation of progress, regardless of how small or powerless we feel on our journey- and now Raven is bringing the message of change profound transformation. Raven’s power comes from encountering and passing through the realms of death in order to be reborn. It is no surprise that we are given the gift of Raven’s message- as the country faces numerous sources of great unrest and confronts pivotal crisis points both socially, politically, economically and environmentally. Raven signals dangers to those who are aware and open, She prepares warriors for great battles, and she stands by to initiate those whose time has arrived into the mysteries of death and rebirth. She has a bad reputation for destruction and association with darkness- but this is short sighted. She is not the cause of the darkness, rather she is a wise teacher- the type of teacher who will stand by you at the height of a crisis, let us not forget that her presence at the climax of a tragedy does not mean she caused such tragedy in the first place. Raven is there to show us how to transcend disaster, how to integrate and heal significant wounds, and how to rebuild after destruction has occurred. If we are wise we will heed Her warning and prepare for a time in which our illusions are challenged and new vision will be required in order to regroup and succeed. We can not win the battles ahead with outdated ideas and assumptions, nor with the ignorance of the past eras. Raven helps provide us with the most powerful magickal ability- the power to see beyond what we already believe to be true. After all, it was Raven who gifted the Norse God Odin with the wisdom of Rune lore in his time of greatest need- suspended from Yggdrasil by his ankle and rendered powerless and stuck. Perhaps we too, as a nation have reached a point in our development in which our old definitions, systems, and ideals have reached their natural conclusions. The firm ground we once stood on has been shaken by changing times and we may feel we no longer have a leg to stand on. In Odin’s case, liberation from bondage was found in exchange for one physical eye- the price he paid to Raven for the gift of the runes- the exchange then of sight for insight, physical vision for spiritual wisdom. Perhaps it is time we reflect on the strong currents of change revealing themselves all around us, and what sacrifices we are ready to make in order to transcend our old expectations that have only brought us illusions and limitations. When we are ready to open our true eyes, Raven will be waiting. In the mean time I wonder in what ways I am being summoned to accept transformation? Perhaps the warnings from nature that our way of life must change can no longer be ignored without consequence. Raven reminds us that through encountering the dark we find light- be it health, vision, or enlightenment- that all things are held in balance and there are truly no easy gains. Just ask an Ant.

If we can open to Raven’s transformation through darkness we will find light. There are no quick solutions that will be lasting. By encountering sacrifices and accepting loss of what once provided security, we open ourselves up to potential for new growth and fulfillment. As if on cue- Raven is followed by a bringers of light- the Dragonfly. Dragonfly holds a special place in two realms- that of air and water- therefore Her message pertains to the collective conscious, attitudes and creativity of American people, as well as the emotional connection and heritage that bonds us together through our empathy for the common experiences we share. It is worth noting the synchronicity in the evident imbalance of these two qualities at present in the US- tornadoes and floods have ravaged numerous parts of the country. As we bring our collective minds and hearts into balance and open up to the gift of insight and healing provided by Dragonfly- perhaps a greater purpose in the disruption of these two elements will be revealed. We are reminded by Dragonfly that while illusion and distortion of reality can provide a fascinating escape it is not a frame of mind in which we want to get lost. Dragonfly nymphs linger on the water for two years as they develop into their mature form and are able to take flight- this suggests that the next two years will bring a transformation that can provide the catalyst for Americans to soar above their current limitations. This will require creative thinking and the willingness to look beyond immediate gratification. Dragonfly wields the power of light and thus brings both enlightenment and the ability to bend and shape our perceptions in order to reach greater wisdom. A collective commitment to greater consciousness is approaching and many Americans in their own and different ways are answering this call by questioning their values, challenging their assumptions and breaking out of their comfort zones in order to develop new philosophies of living, treating their fellow human beings and all creatures in nature with greater respect and viewing purpose and life from a different vantage point. While crises arise that may diminish the potential capacity for Americans to work collaboratively toward change and consideration for greater good, it is even within these crises- and sometimes because of them- that we are being shown a different way to live and relate to each other. Dragonfly is reminding us of our own inner light and the potential to carry this light to others- but also warns of the distorting quality of illusions which may distract us along the way. Economic and environmental, political and social tensions are causing more of us to see the truth lingering behind our illusions. We are being reminded that a greater purpose exists beyond just treading water- and we must find ways to transcend into higher ideals to find enlightenment.

Happy Birthday America, and may the gifts of these three animals help us in our collective transformations for the good of humanity, the Earth and all Her life forms. May we find meaningful ways to exercise patience, diligence and teamwork, may we come together in times of transition and crisis and be open to the guidance toward our highest potential, and may we find the strength to see truth shine through illusions and distractions.

Remember, no matter where you are reading this, in accordance with NYS law all readings are intended for entertainment only.

Interested in being the Querent in next month’s column? Contact Angela at

About Angela Kaufman:
Angela Kaufman has been exploring divination through Tarot cards for over a decade. She is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and formed Moonlight Tarot in 2009 which would become Moonlight Tarot LLC in 2010. Angela uses the Tarot to assist clients in exploring personal growth and development, and in accordance with New York State Law offers readings for entertainment purposes. Angela began providing readings on a professional, “Moonlighting” basis in order to provide affordable readings to those seeking guidance, inspiration and fun. Angela is also co-author of the new book “Wicca, What’s the Real Deal? Breaking Through the Misconceptions.” And the newly released “Sacred Objects, Sacred Space, Everyday Tools for the Modern Day Witch” (Schiffer Publishing, 2011). In 2006 she joined ISIS Paranormal Investigations and has accompanied the team on numerous investigations in private residences and businesses throughout the capital region, Adirondacks, Vermont and Massachusetts.

For more information on services offered by Moonlight Tarot LLC, visit

Check out Moonlight Tarot on Facebook:

For more related to Tarot and Wicca, check out: “Wicca, What’s the Real Deal?” At

Want a chance to get a live Tarot Reading? Check out for listing of Tarot events at Café Nola in Schenectady NY!

This month’s reading was conducted using the Medicine Cards; Discovery of Power through the Ways of Animals deck. Published by St. Martin’s Press, 1988-2012 David Carson and NATT- LLC. For more information please visit or

Crafting Calm

I love books that inspire and Maggie Oman Shannon’s “Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation” does just that. And we’re talking truth in advertising, her book is divided up in to craft projects accessible to crafters of all levels that are designed to facilitate: calm, clarity, comfort, contemplation, creation, community, connection with others, and spirit.

By the time I was done reading “Crafting Calm” I had a handful of projects bookmarked that anyone could do, even me! There’s making personal prayer flags from crafting for clarity where you use things like placemats and a strong crafter’s glue for heavy beads and the like. There’s creating rock cairns from crafting for contemplation. The idea of taking some of my stones and minerals and stacking them meaningfully never occurred to me. Really! Then there are portable shrines from crafting for comfort.

I was particularly taken with Shannon’s description of a tiny matchbox style portable shrine that is often used in Central and South American countries. She bought one at an import store that was covered in bright fabric and had a small seal on it that read “Emergency Kit”. Inside was a “worry doll”, a red seed, and a clay angel pendant. The label glued to the bottom of the box read, “There are moments in which you need a peaceful vibe, a touch of good luck, and someone to tell your worries to. Use this emergency kit to balance those tough moments! An angel for peaceful thoughts, a Lucky Bean, and a Worry Doll.”

Shannon goes on to describe several simple ways you could make your own using Altoid tins or matchboxes. Some paint and some glue, a few bits and baubles that many have around the house and you’re well on your way. Well, I’m not a craft person. (Actually, I am and would love to be but I lack the time, space, and funds to indulge that part of myself.) However, I am a magical dabbler and one does not play in the occult without gathering up a box or two of portable shrine worthy odds and ends.

I decided to make a portable shrine focused on prosperity. I first found a piece of quartz, because in my opinion clear quartz makes everything better. Also, clear quartz is good for prosperity. I had a “wish stone” kicking around. It’s a smooth stone with the word “create” on it. I thought it would be a good addition because it would remind me and the universe to work to “create” prosperity. Lastly, I added some play cash, just to kind of spell out in clear, bold, text to the universe that we’re talking financial prosperity. Yes universe, CASHY MONEY! I didn’t have any tins or boxes, but if you’re a new age shopper like me you probably have multiple little velvet bags. So everything is in a royal purple velvet bag.

Not quite what the author intended, but I couldn't help but dive in!

This is how good “Crafting Calm” by Maggie Oman Shannon is; I couldn’t help but dive right in and create something after reading it! I hope to try more soon!

Geek Month in Review: June 2013

By JB Sanders

Summer, summer, summer…

That’s Not a Train
When the US Army wants an overland train that doesn’t need tracks in 1950, they build this.

Clockwork Automaton from the 1500’s
It’s a clockwork monk, who prays, does his rosaries and kisses his bible.

Lost Egyptian City Uncovered
And not from the “sands of time”, either. It was a major port city near Alexandria and was submerged centuries ago during an earthquake. It’s now below water. They’ve discovered it 13 years ago, and have been steadily uncovering statues, shipwrecks, anchors and tablets. Plus some mummified cats — so you know it’s Egyptian! Spectacular photos and some raw underwater video included.

The Sun Still Hasn’t Set on the British Empire
No, really. There are enough British Overseas Territories that it’s still the case that the sun doesn’t set on British soil. Kind of makes you wonder if it was a colonial land grab, or the monarchy made some kind of sketchy deal with a Faerie Lord that they’d give up their throne if the sun ever set on their Empire, and then set about making sure it would never, ever happen.

Geekiest Location on Earth?
It’s immediately recognizable to just about everyone on Earth — well, ok, except those few who haven’t seen the Star Wars movies. See photos of the outdoor set used to film Star Wars (1976) as it looks today.

Original Series Star Trek, New Episodes (sort of)
So a bunch of people got together to fill a hole that’s been there in SF fandom for decades: the final two seasons of Star Trek’s “Five year mission”. They’re showing online, of course, because this is the 21st Century, but otherwise, it’s right out of the 1960’s — lighting, makeup, effects, story-line. Take a look.

Bomb Shelter Found in Backyard from 1961
Inside: perfectly preserved (mostly) examples of typical household products, and some really old issues of Analog magazine to while away the hours. Fun discovery to stumble across in your back yard, huh?

Boating in Lakes of Not-Water
What would it be like to paddle on a lake of mercury? Not as cool as you’d think, especially if you’re in an aluminum boat.
Best quote: “Liquid tungsten is so hot, if you dropped it into a lava flow, the lava would freeze the tungsten.”

The Voynich Manuscript — Again
Ah, the Voynich Manuscript — variously described as a hoax that won’t stop hoaxing, a masterpiece of alchemical knowledge (which no one can read) and a book of herbal remedies written by a madman (or woman). Well, some linguistic scientists have run a statistical analysis of the language in the book and concluded that although they haven’t yet deciphered it, the text appears to be a real language of some kind. The article also has some nice higher-res pictures of the book.

If the Sky Was More Interesting
It would also be a little more terrifying. An artist’s conception of what the sky would look like if various planets were as close to Earth as the moon is now.

Secret Societies, Airships and Coded Notebooks
This article has everything! So some artist found the notebooks of a man who died in 1923 in a junkshop in 1969, and realized that the detailed drawings and coded notes were — amazing! Was the guy crazy? A secret genius? A member of a secret society of airship designers? Or was he the earthly representative of a an alien entity?

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:

The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime

There is a lot to be said for a children’s books that entertains and educates both children and adults. So buckle in because I have a lot to say about “The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime: Tales of Compassion and Kindness for You to Read with Your Child – Delight and Inspire” by Dharmachari Nagaraja.

The collection was inspired by the Jataka Tales, traditional stories offering guidance and wisdom which are believed to have been told by Buddha himself. The stories are focused on explaining the eight great principles that underpin Buddhism, known as the Eightfold Noble Path. “The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime” also gives a brief overview of Buddhism, ideas of how to work with the stories and storytelling, and introducing meditation to children, if you’re so inclined.

However before you think Nagaraja brought us a book that is all work and no play, let me set your mind at ease. “The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime” is filled with adorable and charming tales. You and your child won’t feel as if you’re being beat over the head with some sort of overbearing Buddhist message when reading these stories. Like the best children’s tales, there are lessons to be learned, but I wanted you to know it wasn’t some sort of indoctrination text. What it IS, is filled with stories of monkeys wearing high heels, beautiful horses mastering fear, little boys battling water serpents, tree spirits savings goats, and a Queen of monkeys teaching humans what it truly means to be a leader.

Monkeys with desserts and heels. Love it!

Last we’ve got to talk about the illustrations. “The Buddha’s Apprentice at Bedtime” is full color and fully illustrated. The art so adorable! I did a couple of scans that don’t do it justice, but you’ll at least get the idea, and the idea is that the art is fantastic! The book credits Sharon Tancredi with commissioned artwork. I’m not sure if that means we should be crediting Tancredi for all the magic the art imbues into the book or not, but the illustrations are a big part of what makes “The Buddha’s Apprentice’s at Bedtime” a great book.

Did I choose it for the spirit? Nope. I loved the goats and the camel.

And that’s what Nagaraja has given us; a really great book.

Confident Creating

By Eric Maisel

If you want to live a creative life and make your mark in some competitive art field like writing, film-making, the visual arts, or music, and if at the same time you want to live an emotionally healthy life full of love and satisfaction, you need an intimate understanding of certain key ideas and how they relate to the creative process.

One key idea is that you must act confidently whether or not you feel confident. You need to manifest confidence in every stage of the creative process if you want to get your creative work accomplished. Here’s what confidence looks like throughout the creative process.

Stage 1. Wishing

‘Wishing’ is a pre-contemplation stage where you haven’t really decided that you intend to create. You dabble at making art, you don’t find your efforts very satisfying, and you don’t feel that you go deep all that often. The confidence that you need to manifest during this stage of the process is the confidence that you are equal to the rigors of creating. If you don’t confidently accept the reality of process and the reality of difficulty you may never really get started.

Stage 2. Incubation/Contemplation

During this second stage of the process you need to be able to remain open to what wants to come rather than defensively settling on a first idea or an easy idea. The task is remaining open and not settling for something that relieves your anxiety and your discomfort. The confidence needed here is the confidence to stay open.

Stage 3. Choosing Your Next Subject

Choosing is a crucial part of the creative process. At some point you need the confidence to say, “I am ready to work on this.” You need the confidence to name a project clearly (even if that naming is “Now I go to the blank canvas without a pre-conceived idea and just start”), to commit to it, and to make sure that you aren’t leaking confidence even as you choose this project.

Stage 4. Starting Your Work

When you start a new creative work you start with certain ideas for the work, certain hopes and enthusiasms, certain doubts and fears – that is, you start with an array of thoughts and feelings, some positive and some negative. The confidence you need at that moment is the confidence that you can weather all those thoughts and feelings and the confidence to go into the unknown.

Stage 5. Working

Once you are actually working on your creative project, you enter into the long process of fits and starts, ups and downs, excellent moments and terrible moments – the gamut of human experiences that attach to real work. For this stage you need the confidence that you can deal with your own doubts and resistances and the confidence that you can handle whatever the work throws at you.

Stage 6. Completing

At some point you will be near completing the work. It is often hard to complete what we start because then we are obliged to appraise it, learn if it is good or bad, deal with the rigors of showing and selling, and so on. The confidence required during this stage is the confidence to weather the very ideas of appraisal, criticism, rejection, disappointment and everything else that we fear may be coming once we announce that the work is done.

Stage 7. Showing

A time comes when we are obliged to show our work. The confidence needed here is not only the confidence to weather the ideas of appraisal, criticism, and rejection but the confidence to weather the reality of appraisal, criticism, and rejection. Like so many other manifestations of confidence, the basic confidence here sounds like “Bring it on!” You are agreeing to let the world do its thing and announcing that you can survive any blows that the world delivers.

Stage 8. Selling

A confident seller can negotiate, think on her feet, make pitches and presentations, advocate for her work, explain why her work is wanted, and so on. You don’t have to be over-confident, exuberant, over the top – you simply need to get yourself to the place of being a calmly confident seller, someone who first makes a thing and then sells it in a business-like manner.

Stage 9: New Incubation and Contemplation

While you are showing and selling your completed works you are also incubating and contemplating new projects and starting the process all over again. The confidence required here is the confident belief that you have more good ideas in you. You want to confidently assert that you have plenty more to say and plenty more to do – even if you don’t know what that “something” is quite yet.

Stage 10: Simultaneous and Shifting States and Stages

I’ve made the creative process sound rather neat and linear and usually it is anything but. Often we are stalled on one thing, contemplating another thing, trying to sell a third thing, and so on. The confidence needed throughout the process is the quiet, confident belief that you can stay organized, successfully handle all of the thoughts and feelings going on inside of you, get your work done, and manage everything. This is a juggler’s confidence—it is you announcing, “You bet that I can keep all of these balls in the air!”

Manifest confidence throughout the creative process. Failing to manifest confidence at any stage will stall the process. It isn’t easy living the artist’s life: the work is taxing, the shadows of your personality interfere, and the art marketplace if fiercely competitive. If you learn some key ideas, for instance that you must act confidently whether or not you feel confident, you give yourself the best chance possible for a productive and rewarding life in the arts.

About Eric Maisel:
Eric Maisel is the author of “Making Your Creative Mark” and twenty other creativity titles including “Mastering Creative Anxiety”, “Brainstorm”, “Creativity for Life”, and “Coaching the Artist Within”. America’s foremost creativity coach, he is widely known as a creativity expert who coaches individuals and trains creativity coaches through workshops and keynotes nationally and internationally. He has blogs on the Huffington Post and Psychology Today and writes a column for Professional Artist Magazine. Visit him online at

Adapted from the new book “Making Your Creative Mark” ©2013 by Eric Maisel. Published with permission of New World Library