Sunday, August 30, 2009

Oracular Spectacular!

A Primer on the Use of Astrology, Tarot, Dreamwork and Other Oracles

© 2009 by Joyce Mason

At Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights, I often talk about “playing the symbols.” This imaginary one-person band involves putting together everyday waking signs and synchronicities and sleeping dream ciphers for some resounding insights. Alternatively, we can seek guidance from symbol systems or oracles. In this article, also posted on, I hope to introduce you to—or expand—your knowledge of oracles and their value.

Q: What do tarot cards, fortune cookies, astrology, dreams and meaningful coincidences all have in common?

A: All can be used as oracles

“Oracle” has many meanings from hokey to holy. I am most interested in #5 in the Dictionary-com definitions, namely a divine communication or revelation.Oracles are symbol systems that help us receive insights or spiritual communications. I believe the Source of their inspiration follows strictly the orientation of the seeker. When you open yourself up to divine inspiration, the Holy Spirit, your Higher Self—however you see good guidance according to your personal beliefs—those are the forces that will shine through when using these symbols. If you are fearful, or if you want your “fortune told” where you have no power or spiritual backbone to co-create your own dreams in divine partnership, don’t be surprised to find negative energy in a tarot reading or other symbol system consultation.

Like any tool, oracles can be used for higher good or dubious intent. Think of a knife. In the hands of a skilled surgeon or premier chef, this tool can perform miracles of healing or nurture. In the hands of a serial killer—not. Like all tools, oracles run the gamut of agony and ecstasy. Again, the difference lies in the hands of the user. With oracles, the seeker often uses a medium—a consultant—rather than consulting the cards or other symbols directly, although people do both, of course. That’s why choosing your consultant is especially important if you use one.

The Medium Is the Message
Let me start with a couple of bad examples. I once worked with a woman who consulted a well-known, local astrologer on all her investments and life decisions. This was in the 1970s, but I swear, if ATMs were in operation back then, she’d have consulted her “friend” before she made a $20 cash withdrawal.

You can probably predict what I’m going to say without an astrology chart. Ultimately, my workmate lost her shirt by turning her power over to this woman’spredictions. It was a stark lesson about making a god of either the symbol system or the medium. Ironically, the astrologer also worked herself out of a job. They both lost. After all, how could my workmate continue to pay her for advice after she lost everything?The most horrible story I ever heard—same astrologer—was a reading wherein she predicted the exact date and time of a male client’s death—and he died exactly when she predicted! I was utterly appalled; convinced she had literally scared him to death. Few people would want to know this information. To ask for it, is—well—asking for it!

Still, I believe to this day that the astrologer in question abused her power over this man. Astrology can be (pardon the pun) dead accurate, but she would have no way of knowing his fate. Even if she did, “pronouncing” it took away any personal power he had over the outcome, which was not necessarily sealed. Specific predications can be a real power trip. (That’s why I refuse, personally, to make them.) The same symbols can portend literal death or any other major, life-changing transformation while the person remains embodied. Did the astrologer contribute to his death? Depressing thought, but I think it explains why these tools have sometimes had a terrible reputation. It’s all in how they’re used. Fortunately, in general, they tend to be used for higher good by most people I encounter nowadays.

Positive Outcomes

Examples: As a consultant, I have helped people out of thorny dilemmas and have foreseen the potential for happy marriages later realized in tarot or astrology readings. I use oracles directly for myself on an ongoing basis, and now with years of practice my use of them is refined. I am able to see new angles to problems and personal tendencies I want to change. Symbols never cease to amaze me with their simple wisdom.

How Does It Work?
My theory is that oracles work like a symbolic mirror and magnet. Symbols have strong universal meanings. Much is contained in their simple patterns, and more importantly, the person who seeks guidance will fill in the blanks with the personal details needed to make the symbols meaningful.The magnet part: Everything on earth has an energy field; every person and thing resonates. When we seek guidance, we are drawn to the energy—or it is drawn for us through the reader—that matches the frequency of the issue on which we want guidance. When you shuffle a tarot deck, for example, and put the energy of your question into the cards, the “right ones” fall into the layout. Magical!

It’s no different with any of the other symbol systems. We are drawn to want an astrology reading when the vibration of the issue is creating internal pressure for resolution, so we seek out an astrologer when we have significant transits or activity in our astrology charts. Our subconscious gives us dream material, asdoes our internal synchronicity machine, our magnet for meaningful coincidence.Once when I taught a dreamwork class, I spoke about encountering people I was thinking about or repeated encounters on a topic I felt were “signs.” A surprised participant said, “You talk about real life the same way as dreams.” Exactly! When we have the eyes to see, the symbols and signs are all around us. Our subconscious is in constant dialogue with us, and when we pay attention, we can get limitless Higher Direction.

I Want to Try It. Where Do I Start?
If you haven’t done this before or haven’t done much of it, here are my suggestions—probably good for seasoned oracle users, too:

1. What system appeals to you most? Start there. If astrology fascinates you, go there first. If you can’t remember dreams, maybe you need a little more work on bringing the subconscious to waking awareness before you can use this one.Do tarot cards call you? Runes? The I Ching? If you don’t know, visit a metaphysical bookstore where you can look through many of the symbol sets or books on them like a kid at Christmas. Let yourself be drawn to the images or system that calls you.

2. Approach oracles with the wonder of a child. These systems are completely about connecting guidance to your own inner tracking device, your intuition. Play with them and respect them with wide-eyed wonder. Their optimal guidance will flow through your openness.

3. Get trusted referrals for consultants. A personal referral from someone you know and trust who has seen this particular astrologer, tarot reader, or dreamworker is always best. The metaphysical bookstore or resource center isanother source. Try someone at a local psychic fair—the one with the longest line! Reputation rules when it comes to trusting someone to work these channels with you. If someone “doesn’t feel right,” don’t open yourself to that person.

4. Take what fits, toss the rest. This was the advice of my first mentor in all things intuitive, the late, great Betty Bethards, a San Francisco Bay Area psychic and meditation teacher. I have lived by it with optimal results. No “reader" can be 100 percent accurate because his or her own experiences can’t help but influence interpretation, at least a little. That can be handy, if they have like experiences and lessons to learn, or it can put you off track, if they don’t.

While most good readers do their best to avoid putting their own “stuff” into interpretations, the translation of symbols is a tricky business. The analogy I like to use is a ballpark. It’s easy to get into the right ballpark or neighborhood on an interpretation because of the breadth of content each universal symbol holds. That’s what makes them so powerful, like the oak tree contained in an acorn.

However, to find the right seat in the ballpark really takes reaction, dialogue, and sorting from the seeker. If you don’t actively participate, you will suffer pronouncements instead of helpful insights. Which brings me to the final point:

5. Be an active participant in all readings with a consultant. Ask questions. Give your opinion. Say when something feels right or when it feels off. Be sure you walk away getting your key concerns covered. It might not be quite as complicated as being a patient in an HMO system, but the idea is the same as navigating this bureaucratic form of medical care. You have to be your own patient/seeker advocate. The best readers will welcome you as a co-pilot on the adventure of going a layer deeper into your inner growth during your time together. You enter the sacred ground of your psyche together. Your reader needs to respect the inner sanctum, your needs, and your help to make it a meaningful journey.

Sealed with a Ms.
I thought it would be fun to draw a tarot card to seek Higher Guidance in wrapping up this article. At first when this idea came to mind, I thought, “Huh?” Using these tools has made me respect these inspirations, no matter how sillythe light bulb over my head might seem at first.Turns out, I’m also going to be able to illustrate how anything can become an oracle. I “got” that the words I should Google were “tarot oracle.” They led me to a new deck I hadn’t heard of, literally called the Tarot Oracle. Click on the link and look at the Magician Card, that Mystical Ms. She’s for us; I’m convinced of it! She’s juggling the stars and her key words are Intuition, Taking Chances.Take a chance on your intuition. Oracles will expand your sense of inner knowingness and connection to All That Is.

Photo Credit: ESOTERIC ATMOSPHERE © Starblue

For more on oracles, including How I Read Tarot Cards and some of my favorite ones to use, visit the
Oracles page on

Sunday, August 23, 2009

IONS at the Movies: Ideas and Tools to Change the World (Part 2 of 2)

In Part 1 of this two-part series on the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), my friend Janet Walden introduced us to this unique and transformative organization. Founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell, IONS brings within our reach the world’s greatest thinkers on the leading edge of merging science and spirituality.

Now we’re taking it to the movies! Janet is about to share with us how she and her friends bring these ideas home in the most wonderful way, by creating an inspirational video circle on a monthly basis.

Joyce: Janet, tell us how you created the movie-viewing group with your local IONS community here in the Sacramento Area.

Janet: Along with my two dear friends, Bob and Carolyn Blackstone, I shared an interest in being inspired by the many wonderful speakers we had heard at various conferences over the years. These leaders are people who are making a difference, have a vision of a better world, and are exploring the unknown of human capacities and the interconnection of science and spirit. So, we decided to look through our video collections and start watching and discussing some of them.

Our interest in these inspirational movies was strong enough that,to this day, we three would be watching films together once a month —even if no one else participated!

But it has turned out to be much more than that. As we are all active members of SacIONS, we decided to let others in SacIONS know when we were getting together to watch the videos. Then we got a little more organized and also started listing which films we were watching. Next, we wrote and included our descriptions of the films and why we thought they were fascinating or inspiring.

We chose Sunday afternoons, and I said I would host and make popcorn. (Popcorn at the movies, right?) Here’s where we are today:

~ We have 10 to 20 people joining in our discussion circle each month.

~ We are a very informal, drop-in group – no RSVP’s.

~ People have started bringing all manner of delicious food, so we eat very well!

~ Together as a group, we discuss and then select the videos we will screen; and the person who recommends each film we choose writes a description for us.

~ We have an email list of everyone who is interested in our group, and once a month, I send out the upcoming dates and films we will be screening.

~ We usually watch two or three films in an afternoon. After each film (and sometimes during) we share our perceptions, questions, and personal stories relating to the topic. These discussions are informal and free flowing. Sometimes they are short, sometimes long. Although we advertise our session times as 2:30 to 5 p.m., we often run late, and sometimes we have to hold one movie over to the next month because we run out of time.

Joyce: What are your top five favorite inspirational movies, seen at the IONS group? Tell us a little about them--how to access them--and we’ll link to additional information.

Janet: This is a very tough question! We have been operating for several years now, and have seen many fine films!

Early on, we had several films recommended to us from the
Spiritual Cinema Circle. One in particular stands out as a favorite of mine: Ryan’s Well. It is a very inspiring story of a young boy who learns in school about the need for clean water in Africa, and becomes very active in raising money and helping a particular village. There is no way a mundane description such as this can do justice to this wonderful, little documentary film!

Many of my favorites, although coming from a variety of sources, have one similarity: They feature the lives and work of individuals who are making a huge, positive difference in the world. Some examples are: Hafsat Abiola and Lynne Twist on
Living a Committed Life, a keynote address at the 2007 IONS conference; Bill Strickland’s keynote address at the International Conference on Business & Consciousness in 2008; and several recipients of the IONS Temple Awards for Creative Altruism, including Wayne Muller of Bread for the Journey and Stan Brock of Remote Area Medical. While I’m on the topic of great presentations at IONS conferences, all IONS films can be obtained from Conference Recording Service in Berkeley, CA; and Bill Strickland’s keynote was recorded by The Message Company in Santa Fe.

Another film that impressed me was a biography of Nicholas Roerich called
Messenger of Beauty. Roerich lived from 1874 to 1947 and painted over 6,000 pictures of extraordinary beauty. It is available through The Nicholas Roerich Museum and from The Theosophical Society in America. carries a complementary art book.

Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: We are the environment. There is no distinction.
~ David Suzuki

We have also screened some wonderful presentations from scientists, such as Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe. The full three-hour film series is linked here on PBS. You can watch it free. (If you want a shorter taste and preview, here’s a 10-minute YouTube video, Elegant Universe -- Can String Theory detect God? ). I also recommend the work of David Suzuki. (Big ditto from Joyce, especially his environmental documentary, Suzuki Speaks.) Other favorites of mine include the PBS shows featuring green architect William McDonough.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another great source for several fine films we have viewed—the
Earth Cinema Circle. Among my favorites in this category are: Kilowatt Ours, a documentary made by a young man who investigated where our electricity comes from, and Coffee to Go, which explores where our coffee originates and the path it travels. This film inspired us to begin purchasing fair trade coffee to serve at the Video Circle.

Joyce: This recap is exciting to hear—and it’s even more exciting to watch the actual films when I attend the Video Circles. I want our readers to know how they can start one, too! Please tell us.

Janet: It’s really easy and fun to sponsor the Video Discussion Circle. Because it’s very informal and everyone contributes, it doesn’t involve much work at all. It does need a shepherd, which is my role. I make sure our dates get selected well in advance and that we gather and publish our film descriptions in a monthly email.

I think we are a popular and successful group because everyone enjoys the learning and inspiration we gain from the films and from each other through our discussions.

Joyce: Janet, in wrapping up these movie reviews of this unique film genre-- and also our two-part series on IONS-- I have to say that just like Edgar Mitchell’s epiphanies from the higher vantage point of the Moon, IONS has continued to offer me the perspective from On High. It is one of the few organizations I have returned to, on an ongoing basis, in my own personal spiritual quest.

Thank you for bringing your time, talent, and evolutionary energy to Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights. I hope you’ll come back anytime you discover something you think would be of interest our readers. I’ll definitely be asking!


Janet Walden is the President & CEO of the
Center for Collaborative Solutions , a non-profit organization with a mission and a passion for unleashing the power of people working together. Janet can be reached at


Sunday, August 16, 2009

IONS: Ideas and Tools to Change the World (Part 1 of 2)

My guest for the next two posts in Janet Walden, a dear friend who does admirable work in the community helping people to come to collaborative, peaceful decisions in a number of important realms like schools and the workplace.

Besides being a member of my personal, spiritual support team: Janet ignited my interest in the Institute of Noetic Science or
IONS. Through her connection and commitment to IONS, Janet has brought an ongoing blast of fresh air to my mind. The IONS organization brings the world’s greatest thinkers on the leading edge of merging science and spirituality within our reach. It’s poignant to me that IONS was founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell. The first view of the Earth from the Moon was his—and our—real opportunity to “get” that we are each other, that we live in an ecosystem, and that every individual act influences the whole. Enjoy this inner and outer space odyssey!

What is IONS?

Joyce: Janet, thank you so much for visiting Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights and sharing an ongoing source of spiritual inspiration and spirited living with us. Tell us the basics about IONS.

Janet: The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) is a non-profit organization that grew out of the vision of the founder, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 14.

On his way back from the moon, Dr. Mitchell had a profound experience of the interconnectedness of all life.

Trained as a scientist and engineer, this “knowing” came to him completely beyond the traditional ways he was used to. He founded IONS to broaden our knowledge of the nature and potentials of mind and consciousness--to study how we “know” things. The word “Noetic” comes from the Greek word noetikos, which means inner/intuitive knowing.

Here’s a One Minute Shift video from IONS that recaps one of Dr. Mitchells epiphanies in space.

Today, IONS is a trail-blazing organization applying the scientific method to studying the phenomenon of consciousness. IONS encourages open-minded exploration of both science and spirit and is on the leading edge of helping to birth a new worldview that recognizes our basic interconnectedness and promotes the flourishing of all life. The IONS Mission is “to advance the science of consciousness and human experience to serve individual and collective transformation.”

How Can People Participate?

Joyce: I know there are many levels to participate in IONS, and since I have limited myself to a local connection, I hope you’ll expand on the realm of possibilities for our Hot Flashbacks readers to consider.

Janet: One of the most exciting ways to participate is to join IONS
Shift-in-Action membership program, which offers weekly teleseminars with leading thinkers, authors and other experts, and stores a host of interesting and inspiring interviews and other materials that are downloadable from the IONS website. It is a way to connect with a like-spirited community and learn the latest in cutting-edge science, consciousness and transformation.

Another wonderful way to participate is to attend IONS conferences and workshops. A third way is to join an IONS
Community Group in your local area. IONS has over 200 of these groups on every continent in the world.

How Do You Participate Yourself?

Joyce: Janet, I know that you have really brought IONS home to our Sacramento area community in a special way. I think hearing about what we do locally will give readers an idea of the possibilities once they connect with this great organization.

Janet: I am a member of the
IONS Sacramento Community Group (SacIONS) and am on their Leadership Team. We host regular monthly meetings that either bring in speakers on various topics of interest or engage participants in discussion of articles in IONS publications or other materials. For example, we have had speakers ranging from best-selling authors such as Hank Wesselman and Angeles Arrien, to local practitioners of various healing modalities. Discussion topics, when we don’t have a speaker, have included exploring peak experiences and the relationship between science and art.

I also attend IONS
biannual international conferences, which bring together so many inspiring speakers! (Through the conference link, you can purchase recordings and bring the conferences right into your living room.) And I am a Shift-in-Action member and participate in the weekly telephone interviews and conversations with leading thinkers as often as I can.

I also host a monthly SacIONS Video Discussion Circle. We meet in my home and screen a variety of fascinating videos. Members of the group recommend videos they think would be of interest, and the group then decides on our monthly viewing schedule. Types of films we have watched in the past include material from the
Earth Cinema Circle, PBS documentaries, the Spiritual Cinema Circle and videos published by popular authors. Another favorite source is keynote addresses from IONS conferences, which have included such speakers as Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Lynne McTaggart, Joan Borysenko, Andrew Harvey and Van Jones. I’ll be writing about some of my favorite films we’ve discovered through the Video Circle on Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights next week.

Ideas That Inspire

Joyce: Janet, what or whose ideas have been most influential to you from your IONS experience?

Janet: This is a tough question, because there are so many! I am inspired by
Lynne Twist’s work. Lynne is a Life Director of IONS and has recently formed the Pachamama Alliance – a group that draws together various cultures around the world working to bring about an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on this planet. Bruce Lipton is another one. Bruce is a cellular biologist who has done groundbreaking work on the way the cells of our bodies really operate, which he explains in his book The Biology of Belief.

Fundamentally, I am attracted to the entire IONS community because it brings together and exposes us all to so many individuals who hold a vision of bringing about a better world, and who contribute so much to this effort.

IONS at Home and in Cyberspace

Joyce: Could you give us a final recap on where to find the IONS website and a starting point for readers to find a local chapter?

Janet: Everything can be found at On the home page, click on Community Network, and then on Visit the Shift in Action Community Groups Page, where all community groups are listed, including contact information.

Joyce: Janet, thanks so much for sharing your love of this organization with our spirited living community. You are the embodiment of the Age of Aquarius! (And, in case you didn’t guess, Janet is an Aquarius, in fact!)


Janet Walden is the President & CEO of the
Center for Collaborative Solutions , a non-profit organization with a mission and a passion for unleashing the power of people working together. Janet can be reached at

Up Next: Janet shares some of her favorite movies viewed at the SacIONS Video Circle. Prepare to discover a whole new genre of life-affirming, spirited living movies that you may have never heard of, but are easily accessible and affordable—perfect for shared viewing, as we do in Sacramento.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cool Saging Conversations: Generation Segregation

Good Idea or Bad Medicine?

Boom is the sound the baby generation makes when it explodes the old Old. TM

Let me say upfront; there is no right answer to this question. At best, you might find the right answer for you.

I am proud to be a baby boomer. While I don’t necessarily broadcast my age, I don’t hide it, either. The postwar babies born between 1946 and 1964 are a unique generation with a generous span of fascinating life experiences. The question is whether we want to spend most of our time with “our own” as our main companions and primary influences.

My husband Tim and I talk regularly about whether we should consider a 55+ active community like Sun City. (We have two of that brand and several others in the greater Sacramento region.) He has some physical limitations, and I have some conditions that nag and potentially could become more than annoyances. If we moved to a mature adult community, it would make our neighbors all close to our own age or older.

Truth is, we relish our privacy and know only a few of our neighbors after living in our home eleven years. My communities stretch way beyond neighborhood geography considering cyber, work, and organizational connections. I can’t say we know any of our neighbors well, although we have a pleasant relationship with those we see regularly, especially our wonderful next-door neighbors. Yet there are potential physical barriers to our current home we love. This knowledge keeps us on the brink of realism about how long we can stay here.

My uncle lived in the family homestead on Long Island past the deaths of his parents and his sisters, who lived with him most of the time. He lingered there until shoveling snow and some of the other heavy work just became too much for him as he rounded 80. A few years ago, he moved to an active senior condo complex not far from his home of over 50 years. It was the best thing he’s ever done! His only regret is that he didn’t do it sooner.

Uncle Mike and his condo-mates are family to one another—they eat, drink, and play together on a frequent basis. There’s always a card game, a birthday to celebrate, an invite for dinner, or some trip they’re planning. Since moving there, Mike has been on cruises to the Mediterranean, Canada and the Caribbean—air and bus trips Las Vegas and the Saratoga, NY races and other “gambler specials.” The way the community cares for each other and its camaraderie are touching. We loved spending Thanksgiving at the condo a few years ago and meeting many of these lively people, not to mention all the amenities of a pool and gym on site.

I am a mind and spirit kind of person. It’s more important to me to be with kindred spirits than to be with a kindred age group. Like mindedness and a broad view from the mountaintop about life is the neighborhood I need to live in. Oddly, that’s often easier to find on the Internet than anywhere because here we connect mind to mind and heart to heart and by like interests. If we’re lucky, we might meet face to face someday. Still, I’m not naïve enough to think it’s good to be too homogenous when it comes to friends and family. That can quickly go from kindred spirits to cliquish or clannish—just a step away from exclusionary. I wonder for myself; where is the balance?

Other practical considerations: As we age, we lose friends and family at a faster pace. Tim’s sister and husband live in a 55+ active community where they are beginning to attend one funeral after another. Sometimes, their layers of grief on top of grief are hard to bear. Yet, they also feel solace knowing that whichever one of them goes first, the other will go on in a caring community of support. If for no other reason than the terrible prospect of being the last one standing, I am grateful that several of my close friends are 10-15 years younger than I am, especially since I don’t have children or grandchildren. Theoretically, I won’t outlive all my friends. Still, if I think about it, even the youngest among my close friends is technically a boomer, thanks to the fact that our generation is defined by an 18-year age span.

When I made the decision early this year to
revision my blog, there were many reasons that motivated me. One I may not have emphasized; I was not comfortable with age segregation. It took a quote on Twitter from my cartoonist friends at Perrie Meno-Pudge that finally helped me realize why:

The key to successful aging is to pay as little attention to it as possible. ~Judith Regan

There’s nothing that makes me feel older than talking about aging too much, even in a positive way. There’s nothing that makes me feel younger than diving into life and dealing with the petty annoyances of aging as comical asides and not the real drama.

Bottom line, I don’t want my age to define me. Of course there’s a place for boomer forums, how-to’s and humor, or I wouldn’t be writing this article. Yet, if we truly become what we give energy to, I think I’ll stay away from senior segregation and an age-related focus for now and keep feeding my timeless spirit.

And if a time comes when I don’t have a realistic choice but to live exclusively among the saging set, I’ll make the best of it—and hang out with the most young- at-heart and upbeat boomers in the batch to keep me on my toes!


Cool Saging Conversations is an occasional feature retained from when Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights was geared to a baby boomer audience. When issues arise that impact our generation and I feel compelled to comment, the cool sages watching boomers blow up the old Old will come out. I hope our boomer readers still enjoy seeing them. As ever, your feedback is welcome.

A Special Happy Birthday to my sister, Janet—a regular reader of Hot Flashbacks. I won’t give away her age, but I have to rib her a little and tell you she’s the older sister, even if not by much!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The 100th Post: A Journey in Frosting, Surprises and Prizes

Join the party and have a virtual cupcake as we celebrate the 100th post on Hot Flashbacks, and I round the bend on nearly two years of blogging. Something you might notice about Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights. We celebrate milestones.

Past festivities include our first birthday party on September 17, 2008. On June 17, 2009, we had a rebirthday celebration, marking a new blog direction. This 100th blog post is close enough to our second birthday—it’s a two-fer!

100th Post Giveaway: The first 10 people to Comment on this post will receive a free copy of "The Training Tape," Joyce’s new e-book.

Now’s a great time to put into perspective what you’ve most liked to read here, what you were looking for that led you here, and, and how our cool saging to spirited living community has grown. Statistics can be a bit of a bore, so I’ll keep it short but sweet like cupcake frosting for the bigger substance later about blogging as a journey.

Growth and Recognition

Visits have quadrupled over the past year and readers have more than tripled. People from twice as many countries read Hot Flashbacks now. Most readers wave the following flags by frequency of visits: US, UK, Brazil, Canada, Belgium, and Australia. I am grateful that Hot Flashbacks has been recognized by fellow bloggers, who double as some of the world’s most avid blog readers, with both Lemonade and Kreativ Blogger Awards. In Fall 2008, I was named one of the 101 Women Bloggers to Watch by WE Magazine for busy women on the move.

Top 10 Articles

In case you’ve missed any of the Top 10, here’s an annotated blogography of the best of Hot Flashbacks based on popularity by volume of visits.

1. The No Soliciting Sign - The popularity of this post—five times the hits of any other and the post with the most accessed via search terms—made me realize I’d hit a nerve and had the potential to fill a need. My sign requests, “No soliciting—religion and religious literature included,” and many people were searching for something like it. While the post shares how I evolved from an angry to a gentle place with my request to respect my privacy and spiritual path, I saw an opportunity to serve. In the near future, I will be selling newly arted version of “my sign” and another one recently designed with a similar, gentle sentiment about solicitations. Watch for it!

2. Venus Girls, Boomer Beauty – The perennial question of how much we “help” nature to maintain our good looks as we age hit a chord with readers of all ages.

3. Auntie Mame: A Tale for Today, Tomorrow and Always – My heroine and favorite character of all time has the one philosophy that says it all, “Live, live, live!” Mame not only tells us about how to live life with pizzazz, but her story covers how she handled the 1929 crash of the stock market and its aftermath, a timely parallel for today.

4. It Runs Downhill - How my dog got literal about a popular expression and continuously proved that dogs are among the funniest beings on earth. They outsmart us, sometimes by playing dumb, while we’re cleaning up after them or laughing at their antics.

5. Boomer Tube Babies – How early TV influenced the first generation that cut its teeth on Howdy Doody and a host of other characters revisited on this nostalgia trip. We were the first kids who were exposed to advertising early in life. How did it form us?

6. Penny Candy: Sweet Memories – A nostalgia trip down Memory Lane with a big color illustration of the stuff we often saved up, and walked miles for, to satisfy our sweet tooth. Flashbacks on Mary Janes, Bazooka Gum, Laffy Taffy, and Tootsie Rolls, just for starters. Includes links to places online where vintage treats are still available.

7. Flower Essences: Emotional First Aid, Boomer Plus Edition – Before I became a certified flower essence practitioner in 1989, I would have said you were crazy if you had told me that a few drops of liquid containing the vital energy of flowers could calm my emotions. A tool for a cool life that’s good to the last drop.

8. The Fairy Godmother – I have the gift for gifts, and in this Christmas season post, I share some of my most original gift ideas. Plan ahead to surprise your loved ones with some nifty gifties!

9. Tone Deaf – How to buy a custom ring tone without breaking the bank, deal with hearing loss and irritating rings, and navigate all kinds of cell phone and hearing things.

10. Dreams—Waking and Sleeping – A primer on decoding the messages in your night movies.

Born to Blog

According to my research, Justin Hall, is widely recognized as one of the earliest personal bloggers. He started in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College. Like anyone before his time, it took the rest of us awhile to catch up with him. When I was first advised to start a blog in 2007 as a way to begin to get readers, ultimately of my books, I had to look up the definition of blog. I had no idea that I’d take to this medium like a duck to water, mostly because I didn’t have any idea what kind of pond we were taking about. Thanks to some fabulous friends I made at Boomer Diva Nation, I got a quick how-to course and was a fast study. Lots of jumping in and swimming in the waters of trial-and-error honed my skills. With a little help from my friends, I became good enough at it to take some huge leaps of faith …

… like starting my second blog, The Radical Virgo. I made that jump blindfolded in March 2009, thanks to encouragement by an avid reader of my astrology articles, housed on other Internet sites. Soon I realized I could repost them and draw people into current contact with me, since the primary site where they were archived was no longer being updated and my contact information there was dated. My return to astrology, at least as a writer, if not a consultant, gave me the strongest feedback that I had really “become a blogger.” I knew I wasn’t just trying my hand at it anymore when the Radical Virgo’s visitor statstics began surpassing those of this more established Hot Flashbacks blog right out of the gate. The Radical Virgo hasn’t even celebrated its four-month anniversary and it has been running in the top 20 of Post Rank’s Top 100 Astrology Blogs, #14 as of this writing. To say I am honored is an understatement. I was beginning to realize that blogging for me is like eating potato chips; can’t eat or have just one, and the more you eat the more you want!

The Problem and the Gift

Therein lies both the problem and the gift. I now enjoy blogging so much, I am neglecting book writing. I keep joking that by the time I get around to doing some redirection and editing of both my memoir and mystery novel, paper books might be passé. Part of me feels I’m in the medium of the future, yet being a baby boomer, I love the feel of paper books and the medium of the past. The great news is that publishing is becoming multi-media. It took me awhile to “get” that all bloggers are not just writers; we are also publishers.

There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts. ~ Richard Bach

One wonderful aspect of blogging: It’s a test balloon. If it weren’t for my blog, I would have continued focusing my memoir toward a baby boomer audience. It took that forum for experimentation to clarify to me that the real essence of my book is sharing how I learned to play the symbols and the guidance we are presented constantly on how to make the best choices for ourselves. I can’t imagine where I’d be today without dreams, meaningful coincidences, and an assortment of cosmic nudges. Cool saging—yes!—but we can’t even do that in a customized way without those personalized hints from On High.

My adventure into my astrology blog reminded me that I’d been there and done it before in the old paper medium. From 1992-95, I co-edited—later edited and published—a high-quality astrological newsletter called Chironicles. It was dedicated to helping astrologers share information on the relatively new planetary body discovered in 1977, Chiron. (There is so much information on Chiron on The Radical Virgo, I refer you there if you’re interested in learning more about the planet associated with healing, life’s purpose, and wholeness.)

To be able to compare blogging to the publication of Chironicles a decade and a half ago makes me understand why I am so much more at home and in love with electronic media. Things I had to pay a graphic artist and Kinko’s copying service to do back then, I can do myself and enjoy thoroughly. With incredible effort, I don’t think our subscription base at Chironicles ever exceeded 150 paid subscribers. Granted, Chiron was a new astrological entity that appealed to the leading edge and was not yet everyone’s cup of tea, but our following was international. I keep thinking of the costs I save with my electronic blogs, including pricey overseas postage. I am pleasantly surprised how The Radical Virgo has taken off and exceeded in four months by five-fold the readership I worked so hard to build over a four-year period in with Chironicles. If I hadn’t stepped out on faith to create The Radical Virgo, I’m not sure I would have ever connected the dots to realize how much past experience I brought to blogging and how much better it is than the way of the past.

New Vistas

With the launch of my first short fiction e-book, The Training Tape, and an astrology e-book on the near horizon, I seem to be deepening my commitment to what I like to call the eclectic, electronic ink of Joyce Mason.

Where I go from here is a bit up in the air, determined by my good old GPS (God Positioning System), but as the transferability from one writing medium to another becomes more fluid day by day, I can only say: I’m loving this wild ride. I hope you’re “in” for the continued adventure!


Photo credit: CELEBRATION CUPCAKE - NUMBER 100 © Dehooks

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Training Tape: Debut E- Book by Joyce Mason

Learn the power and perils of how you talk to yourself. Words matter.

Is “The Training Tape” just a short story or a channeled instruction book on how to live? Joyce is offering her first fiction e-book for the introductory price of only $3.00. See Pay Pal button near the top of the sidebar to purchase.

The scene: A woman is traveling by train, a getaway to sort out her sordid marriage—the one that only leaves her with terrible choices. Suddenly, something completely unexpected happens … and nothing is ever the same.

Is it a channeled instruction book on how to live? Even the author doesn’t know for sure. You be the judge.


Readers Write:

A thought-provoking, engaging read with Joyce's signature and special twists. This one is sure to grab your attention and not let go! -- EW, SF Bay Area

I love the flashback memories and the humour that subtly deliver an important message in such an enjoyable, easy read. They really give the story depth. It’s gripping, I enjoyed every minute of it! Recommended! – SB, United Kingdom

I STILL keep thinking about the punch line … thanks again for the reminder of being so careful about what we say to ourselves! –TW, Carmel, CA