Sunday, April 16, 2023

Bump Up Your Positivity Meter


Conquer Negativity Where It Starts—in Your in Your Mind and Self-Talk

Article © 2023 by Joyce Mason

Few people see themselves as negative, even the Debbie Downers or Guys Stalked by Dark Clouds of Toxic Thoughts. The latter are just like Pigpen from the cartoon Peanuts. They are constantly followed by an energetic dirt cloud. It’s invisible but feels like a poisonous force field to everyone around them.

I have recently experimented with cleaning my mindset for spring. I decided that rather than “giving up” any of the traditional fare for Lent, I’d try giving up negative thoughts and especially negative self-talk. No picking on myself. One of my friends, also a Radical Virgo said it would be easier to give up chocolate.

People often tell me I’m one of the most upbeat people they’ve ever met. Still, even though that’s my orientation, my mental house is as hard, if not harder, to keep clean than the one I live in that’s made from brick and mortar.

So, with Lent and Easter over, I have decided to review my work to date on this exercise and share some tips I’ve discovered, not just from this exercise by from the life experience I brought into it. When it comes to self-talk, no one said it better than one of my favorite artists.

“Don’t belittle yourself. Be-BIG yourself.”

--Sister Corita Kent

Whether it’s your attitude toward yourself or the world, be big with positivity. Know that all things fit into a larger picture. It’s a spring cleaning or cleanse you can do any time of the year.

Ten Tips toward the Plus Side

1.   Fast from Toxic Relationships. We’ve all known them, people who you hate to see coming because you feel like you need to put on a lead vest

like you do at the dentist. It will protect you do from the fallout of an X-ray or a radioactive person. There is no one worth having in your psychic or physical space who literally gives you a pain in the gut or a headache. It’s hardest with close relatives, but if you can’t have a clear conversation with them about why you avoid them, it’s time to save yourself. This one is probably the most obvious but often the hardest to do because of how we “should” on ourselves.

One of the first clues that a person is toxic is that they cannot admit that they may be part of the problem. I have met incredibly intelligent people who actually believe it is everyone else’s fault 100% of the time. From a purely logical standpoint, how could this be true? What they are really saying is that everything has to be their way: their perception, their values. You don’t count. This is definitely a call to be-big yourself. Be big enough to stand up to them.

A sidekick to this behavior is often poor boundaries, especially when it comes to what most of us would consider nosy questions. They want to know everything about you, whether or not it’s appropriate for the intimacy level (or lack thereof) of your relationship. They act as if it’s normal to probe, and the part of you that wants to be nice buys in. Best to assume they don’t mean anything by it (which avoids having to confront them).

The way to bust this sort of behavior is to push back. Stand in your truth. “I’m not really comfortable answering that.” Let them know when you’re angry. You may be surprised. If they really care, there may be a breakthrough. If they care more about being right and their one-sided worldview, they may leave you before you have to leave them. You’re no fun for them anymore once you can’t be bullied. That’s what this really is in plain English. It’s like the story of the Emperor with No Clothes. The unspoken rule is not to speak up or speak out. If you wonder if it’s just you, it rarely is. Check with others.

2.   Monitor Your Dialogue, Inner and Outer. If you keep a journal, reread key entries now and then. Your journal it is a chronology of where your head is at. If not (or in addition), read your personal emails. They will provide eye-opening data about how you perceive the world. Are you complaining a lot? Swearing a lot? Woe-is-me-ing? Them-and-us-ing? It’s fine, in fact absolutely necessary, to express your feelings. What doesn’t serve you is to generalize the fact that the man at the bank acted like an a*hole means all bankers or all service people are the same. Anger and other unpleasant feelings are best let in to be expressed and let go as fast as you can let the wave pass. Don’t hold onto it. Don’t invite them to move into your house (you) indefinitely. We all know how fast house guests get old, especially negative ones. Thoughts and attitudes are strong magnets. If you let negative experiences build up to worldview like “people are jerks”, guess what you draw? Just sayin’. That’s how Debbie Downers are born.


3.   Have a Good Talk With Yourself. There’s nothing that pains my spirit more than someone who says out loud to themselves, “Damn me” or “F--me.” It hurts me because I used to do that, and I’m an empath. OMG, we didn’t get enough of that from dysfunctional adults growing up?


It is every adult’s job to reparent themselves.


We may have been stuck with less than ideal families, but we are in charge now. We create what we experience, and the best experiences are created from the inside out. Try this:


a.   Make a list of the 10 top things you love or appreciate about yourself. For people who have a lot of mental housecleaning to do, this may be hard. You can expand this list over time. Keep a copy. Read it whenever you are tempted to beat on yourself. Berating you is never a good thing.

b.   List your accomplishments every day. Sometimes just getting up is a big accomplishment. I list chores, entertainment, goals reached, and times I was tempted to pick on myself and didn’t. (Or started and stopped myself.) These habits create new pathways in your brain that help you see yourself as a fully competent, imperfect but ever-evolving human.

c.   Give yourself a pep talk whenever you need one. Using a mirror when you talk to yourself is especially powerful.

4.   Talk to Yourself But Also Listen. This is really an extension of #2. Stop long enough between thoughts to hear what you just said to yourself. Is it positive? Is it life affirming? Considering the damage the accumulation of these thoughts can do to you, yes. You have time.

5.   Accept Your Mistakes with Grace. In the past month, I have caught myself many times starting to pick on my imperfections or scold myself for my errors. Apparently, one of my favorite phrases prior to a self-whipping is “How could I have … (gotten it wrong in some way).” I am starting to catch my own catchphrases and to recognize I’m about to jump off the deep end of self-recrimination. “No, Joyce,” I tell myself. “You’re not stupid. You’re not just getting old or absent-minded.” The longer we live, the more opportunities we have to get it either right or wrong. Our brains are crowded after decades of living, and modern technology demands that we process information faster than we have yet quite evolved to do it. Noticing our mistakes is for righting the boat, not jumping overboard because we made an error. It’s for course correction. Treat it as such.


6.   Don’t What-If Yourself into Worst-Case Scenarios. This is the double-edged sword of a great imagination. Over the past couple of years, I have had my share of health challenges. The scariest was a terrible case of bronchitis where I was constantly coughing, wheezing and for the first time in my life, I had trouble breathing. In each of at least four different health conditions, I worried it was the beginning of the end. It took this Lenten practice to remind me that health ebbs and flows. Ebbing doesn’t mean you’ll never flow again. Being determined to have the best possible health is always the best attitude, even if sickness (which is often a cleansing or a re-set) has to take us there. If you must do death scenes in your head, do them intensely and get it over with … and laugh at what a drama queen you are. Then get on with remembering this whole gig on Earth is a tragi-comedy. Think well and get well. You only die once per lifetime. Why do it on your mind over and over? And shorten what time you’ve got or make it miserable with stress?

7.   If You’re Here, You’re Still Under Construction. I love the line from Richard Bach’s Illusions:

Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't.

Be a life-long learner. Once we adopt that role, there’s no end to the excitement, even at The End—the ultimate adventure.

8.    Never Lose Your Sense of Humor. Laugh often. I was blessed to be raised by hilarious parents. The two biggest things they taught me were to laugh at myself (mom) and to admit when I’m wrong (dad). As I often say, I feel closest to God when laughing. Then there’s that wonderful quote by author Anne Lamott, “Laughter is carbonated holiness.” Church fonts should contain carbonated water to remind us of this principle. Stand-up comics are so funny because they take the slings and arrow of life we all relate to and find their ridiculous, crazy core. It is a divine comedy, and when you can find the laugh track, it’s impossible to remain negative about much of anything.

9.    Can’t Get Your Meter into the Plus Zone No Matter How Hard You Try? Get Help. My niece once told me I’m the sane one in the family. Ironically, I’m one of the few family members who go or have gone to therapy. I even go for maintenance when I don’t have something I really need to work on. It’s kind of like a vaccine with no side effects except one. It makes me feel better. An objective, caring listener can tell me if I’m barking up the wrong bush or kidding myself. What’s crazy is to think anyone could get through something as complicated as modern life without it. If you haven’t, give it a try. The only thing you have to shrink is your negativity. Most insurance covers mental health care these days; too, so shrinking your pocketbook might not be involved at all. If you have to pay out of pocket, you’re worth the investment.

10.       Find Your Spiritual Niche. Healthy spirituality supports positive living. You don’t have to be religious to be spiritual or a good person. I know atheists and agnostics who are actually better “christians” than some who claim that faith. People who are not deity-oriented are often very humanitarian. It all comes down to love, and whatever thought system you need to create and see more of it in your life, go for it. It’s the glue that binds together the disparate parts of humans and their brethren. There are so many good parts to every faith and orientation. From Christianity I got the Golden Rule. From metaphysics I got that the Golden Rule is so important because we are each other. From Judaism I got an extra dose of the importance of ritual, as I also got from Catholicism. From Druidism I got how nature is a temple, or as I read in a recent Facebook post, the ultimate Holy Land. From Buddhism I learned that meditation is the force that rewires our minds for everything I am talking about in this article. This is just a sampler. We tend to think in terms of what we don’t like about other faiths or paths. What about studying them a bit and finding out what parts of them are worth celebrating? I have been an eclectic in my spirituality for many years, pasting together a worldview that, as the Dalai Lama says, makes love my religion.


If you try this experiment, I’d love to hear how it things change for you. My journal showed me that only 4-5 months ago, I was on the brink of despair. Now I am on an adventure in hope. I feel lighter. One of my favorite things about myself is that I love others warts and all. I am starting to do the same for myself. It kind of tickles.




Photo Credit:  Meter Positive Negative © Flashvector |

Friday, March 10, 2023


A Winter into Spring Poem

Poem © 2023 by Joyce Mason

I am waiting for Godot . . .

slurping the bottom of an iced drink from last summer

through a flattened straw,

patience drowning in an empty cup,

hoping to coax Spring to show herself,

even if only out of pity.


I am losing my faith in her.

I am nearly convinced she’ll never come,

that winter will never die, at least not by natural causes.


So much in one season!

Sickness, depression, grief

Isolation, loneliness, cold …

wondering if I might be dying.

sleeping so much, as if practicing—

my story for too many winters.


Yet as predictable as freckles on skin,

one day the dark breaks open and the Vitamin D Orb

is back pulsing heat and hope.

Life courses through my veins again.

Buds defy snow.

Newness becomes a religion.

I leave winter in its catacombs

To visit with candles

in the next Holy Season of Inner Renewal.


Join me.

Now go meet your New Self.

You’re going to just love you.



Photo Credit: Rebirth © motortion |

Want some background music for this post? Try George Winston's album, Winter into Spring.



Saturday, January 21, 2023

Synchronicity: Cosmic Hints and Divine Report Cards

Post © 2023 by Joyce Mason


The longer I live, the more meaningful coincidences I have. They offer everything from a blinking red light that hollers follow me to reminders for my to-do list.

While I’m not 100% sure of all the ins and outs of how synchronicity works, I am certain of two things.

Synchronicity requires being in the flow of life and recognizing that everything is interconnected.

The world only appears random. It actually operates in an order we can’t even begin to fathom. On the Mr. Don’t Bee side of things, don’t be so preoccupied or stressed that you can’t hear the universe tapping you on the back or it may have to hit you upside the head to get your attention. I have experienced everything from dramatic, life-changing interventions from synchronicities to comical Godwinks, as one Hallmark movie series calls them.

Dramatic: In the mid-1980s, I was minding my own business when the subject of adoption started popping up everywhere. I am adopted and had never felt drawn to finding my birth families. There was another adopted woman in my prayer breakfast group who was seeking to meet her birth father she had never known. Suddenly, a new magazine sprung up in the window of the local bookseller that was basically an ad exchange for adoptees and birth parents who were looking for each other. Back to prayer breakfast, another woman in the group began experiencing adoption-related issues in her family. By the time the third omen hit, I found myself crying in my eggs. “Alright already,” I told the Universe. I get it. I’m supposed to do that thing I never thought I wanted to do. I was stunned, but I could not ignore the obvious. Also, concurrently, I was having dreams about happy reunions.

There are many more stories I will save for the memoir I’m writing, but on the comic side, I have noticed that the Gods of Sync are getting ever more creative in how they ask me to be a message carrier. I belong to a Facebook group for people who want to learn more Yiddish, one of my favorite languages. A woman was looking for a name for her female dog that might have a nice Jewish ring to it. I kept hearing the name Sadie in my mind. I offered it, as did some others in the large group. When I went to Christmas dinner at the home of one of my nieces, I found out that her family had just gotten a dog. The pooch’s original name did not fit her, they felt, and they starting to call her Sadie. If they didn’t get the same cosmic message I would have brought it to them. They were astonished at the mind meld. (They are still getting used to some of my woo-woo ways.)

My favorite thing of late is how TV commercials and other day-to-day occurrences act as reminders to me. For example, a laundry detergent ad jogged my memory that I needed to order some. This is starting to happen a lot, which is a real blessing considering I’m of a certain age where I forget things more often. Today, out of the blue, my cousin sent me a photo she found online of my investment broker in New York. That reminded me I had some forms I had signed but had not yet sent to him.

When synchronicities heat up, I know I am in tune with the cosmos and the path I am being gently nudged to take. Once I can see and hear them, they are like breadcrumbs taking me to the next place I have to go. This is the report card aspect. The more I follow the bread trail with full faith, the more hints/markers I find. It’s like the stars we got on our foreheads when I was a kid for a good performance at school.

Boy, that memory makes me feel I old. I hope whenever my time comes, I go out in a blaze of breadcrumbs.



Photo Credit:  © Ganna Biletska





Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Astrology: How Deep?


Webb Telescope's First Deep Field Photos, Wikipedia

Post © 2023 by Joyce Mason

We all know them: people so fluent in astrology, we can barely believe that they aren’t doing readings or aren’t on the programs of astrology conferences. I am here to defend their right to refuse to go there. I have become one of them.

Astrology is a tool and a language. How much we use or talk shop about that tool depends on our circumstances and how much we’re drawn to do so. For many people, being a perpetual astrology student is a lot more comfortable than becoming a pro. Receiving money for astrological services requires a certain self-confidence that many people just can't conjure. It’s a field of ever expanding knowledge. It’s easy to feel like you don’t know enough. Even among those who leap that hurdle, it’s a growth curve for many to become comfortable with monetizing their guidance, even with the considerable cost of astrological education. Most people who have done it know that building a practice to the level of full-time income takes time and is often never achieved. The amount of astrological consulting many good astrologers can do depends on back-up resources and whether or not they have to earn that money themselves. There’s only so much time and energy.

Speaking of energy, consultations demand an abundance of it, especially for those who do it in an intuitive way. It can become overwhelming. And there’s the challenge of keeping firm boundaries and intentions. I never want to become responsible for someone’s decisions and karma. I only want to present what the stars have to say about what a certain time and cycle is good for-- and how it asks a person to learn and grow. Often clients don’t see it that way, and when I did readings professionally, I was sure to make my literature and discussions included the fact that I don’t do predictions. Each individual has the freedom to make choices within realm of astrological influences. I never want to take away or impede the growth that comes from exercising free will and feeling the personal power that comes from grappling with decisions. Yet there are still many people who think that predicting the future is the only reason to see an astrologer. I have been asked how many of my predictions come true. None because I don’t make them. The feedback I get runs along the lines of being on target about what people have to consider, face and/or have an opening to go for. My favorite compliment was, “You’re the real deal.”  Did I ever get it wrong? I’m sure. Everyone has off days.

For a larger personal context, I am embarrassed to admit that I actually verbalized as a young college student my desire to save the world. How naïve. I was taught that if you have gifts, you share them. I never considered that I had any say as to what degree.

I started learning astrology to know myself and others. To understand my own dilemmas and tendencies, especially those which seemed to be repetitive cycles that left me going in circles, getting nowhere. Seeing clients broadened my experience. Ironically, my trademark was “going deep.” I see the heart of situations. People open up to me.

I never became a full-time astrologer because I had an excellent government job with benefits that people nowadays can only dream of. It was a no-brainer to stay the course until retirement. Many days I would have rather been writing or doing astrology. (I figured out a way to do as much as possible at my “regular” job. I always gravitated toward jobs that involved my writing skills, and once people know you’re an astrologer, the star talk is frequent.) I stuck it out. It was the best decision I ever made. I just had inklings back then but the medical benefits and pension would turn out to be lifesavers.

When my husband’s muscular dystrophy advanced to the stage where he lost his mobility and I became his caregiver, I willingly gave up many things I had held dear up to that point, including my astrology practice. The full stop was like using Mercury Retrograde for one of its high-yield activities—pausing to reconsider.

I am a very mental person often to my own detriment. I was about to be thrown into extremely physical work left little time to look at charts in my mind or on my devices, much less to do the mental gymnastics of interpreting their geometry. Full-time caregiving is taxing beyond belief, especially when help is expensive and resources are limited—and when a small woman is caring for a full-size man. Frankly, I was in survival mode for the next four years until my husband passed, wondering every day how I’d just get through it. At one time, astrology and analyzing my life, thoughts and feelings according to astrological cycles fed me. In this new situation, it did nothing for me. I sometimes wondered how I could go from living and breathing astrology to setting it aside.

As someone with a lot of Libra in my chart, I finally came to the conclusion that like anything else, many people’s relationship with astrology goes through periods of changing balance. It has seasons. I no longer like to analyze every little thing through a figurative telescope. I like to look at bigger cycles and to check in on my chart, or that of my loved ones, when it feels like it would be helpful. I started using other tools more, just because they felt timely. Many of my friends who know less astrology often know more about what’s going on in the sky than I do.

I never wanted to climb the ladder in my government career either. The thought of being a manager made me cringe. I was on a business trip with a male colleague and friend. We were having lunch at a restaurant one day about the time the manager test had been announced. He was encouraging me to apply. When I said I wasn’t interested, he balked. “But you’d be so good at it.” I told him, perhaps a little too loudly, “Just because I’m good at sex doesn’t mean I want to be a prostitute.” We laughed about that one-liner for years and how blurting it out turned some heads at the café. Obviously I gave myself permission to limit myself to what felt right in one of my careers. A big consideration was that I couldn’t write or do astrology if I had more responsibility on my day job. It took me years to understand that I did not owe all of my life’s blood to any of my work—and giving my all in my marriage so completely showed me the consequences. Finally I got to the place where I started saving myself first. What a concept!

Now I only feel like using astrology for myself and my close friends and family—or writing about it when the spirit moves. I just want to share what I have learned about life, which the stars often illustrate so eloquently. I don't want to predict or control my life, just to understand how to get the best out of what I've got. I relish the role of being an elder in my family. I learned much just living life and vicariously with my clients. Now I like to share those insights with those dear when the opportunity comes up. When it comes to astrological information, they usually seek it from me. I seldom offer.

The irony? My favorite class as an astrology student was Family Astrology. We compared charts of close relatives and the patterns were astonishing. This is one of the earliest classes I ever took circa 1982. Now I have come full circle.

“Family astrology” is still my favorite class. Maybe this was all deeper than I realized. Maybe part of my life’s purpose was simply to get to this point where astrology is not an active pursuit but a part of me that pops out to help heal my tribe as needed.



Sunday, January 8, 2023

Mercury Retrograde: Disappearing Acts, Mistakes and Misperceptions


Article © 2023 by Joyce Mason


There’s one thing I like a lot about Mercury Retrograde. I affectionately call the goof reveal factor. It’s a time where I uncover mistakes in my checking account, errors in thinking, or out-and-out misperceptions.

Yesterday’s reveal cracked me up. A couple of months ago, a favorite restaurant at a strip mall I frequent disappeared and was replaced by an AT&T store. No warning. No explanation. Nothing. I texted my niece Dawn to commiserate. She also loves this place. We ate there together often.

What was really weird about it? When I went to Trader Joe’s a about a month later, the restaurant was back. Huh?

To me nothing was odder than a store closing and reopening in the same place or the disappearance of a popular electronics store virtually overnight. I contemplated the possibilities and almost thought it to death before I finally let it go.

Yesterday I went to the strip mall from a different direction than usual and saw the AT&T sign from a distance. (Wait. It’s back?) That was my first clue that I had perhaps been “seeing things.” Driving into the mall with new eyes, I realized that the AT&T store is by Michael’s craft store and Zupas, the restaurant, is in the next nook over across from Trader Joe’s. I must have been at Michael’s thinking it was the site of Zupas when I perceived it as having disappeared. It never left. I just had the wrong location in my mind. I laughed at myself.

I was almost afraid to tell Dawn for fear she’d put me in a “home.” She mercifully reminded me that the two little cul-de-sacs housing both of those anchor stores look almost identical, not to mention being next to each other off the main access road.  Add the fact that I have lived back in Chicago less than two years and am still becoming familiar with my suburban area. While I felt a little less crazy from my niece’s reassurance that I had made a mistake that was easy to make, it made me contemplate how much we might miss in life or hurt ourselves by misperceptions. This was a little one that had virtually no effect but to send me to another restaurant on a couple of occasions. That turned out to be a great detour and gave me another good choice for lunch while shopping in that area.

However, we build our lives and attitudes on how we perceive things. Sometimes we are just off. For instance, almost every personal conflict I have had with a significant other is based on misunderstanding and/or misperception. So what could be more important?

One of the reasons people resist change so much is that our lives are built on ideas formed by our perceptions. Pulling out a key perception can make a whole stack of our life’s building blocks tumble like the tower in a game of Jenga.  We may have built our life on that structure, and the thought of starting from Square or Block 1 is overwhelming. Not to mention feeling foolish for never seeing the error of our ways.

Consider using Mercury Retro’s goof reveal factor to your advantage. If you have important finances, decisions or relationships that feel like they might need going over with a fine tooth comb, use the retrograde cycle to review and relook--and where ever possible, view it from a different angle. Also, just be aware that this is a time where such revelations may occur spontaneously like the missing restaurant did for me. Watch for them.


Photo Credit: Photo 101961894 / Magician Hat Rabbit © Gearstd |


Saturday, December 31, 2022

For the Love of Cusps: New Year’s Eve 2022



Post © 2022 by Joyce Mason

I love cusps. I know I have mentioned before that my parents and I were born on three cusps in a row: Leo/Virgo (Dad, August 23); Virgo/Libra (Me, September 22; and Libra/Scorpio (Mom, October 23). I joke that we are a tricuspid family. We were each born on the last degree of our Sun signs.

Perhaps this fact of life and birth makes me even more sensitive to endbeginnings, a wonderful term I learned in a Yoga Journal article many years ago. There are so many in our lives. As a celebrant of the solstices and equinoxes since 1988, I have discovered just how sacred life is on the edge of change. As winter wanes and waxes into spring, spring into summer and so on, there is a kind of comfort and amazement at these markers. Life keeps going on and we just keep learning more about love and living. Cusps help us look back and review our progress.

Burning Bowl Plus

In my Solsisters ritual group, which I co-facilitate, we do the ever popular Burning Bowl ritual at Winter Solstice where you write down what you want to get rid of on your life, whether it’s weight, a certain fear, a communication pattern that does not serve—whatever causes your life not run optimally. Our papers can be burned in a fireplace, buried, trashed or whatever form of letting go suits you.

After doing this for a number of years, I realized we were missing a complementary ritual. I call it the Ceremony of Recognition. Yes, there are things we all want to release. But what accomplishments do we want to recognizes ourselves for? We need to pat ourselves on the back but most of all, to see how far we have come since we last did this a year ago.

Those accomplishments and evidence of growth are our keepers. These are the things we want to carry forward and weave into the next phase of life. We do this ritual first, before the burning bowl.

Why not try it? As I am posting this past midday on New Year’s Eve, I should mention that it doesn’t matter if you do it today, tomorrow or next week. It’s within the zone of an endbeginning and the sacred time of reevaluations.

Twenty twenty-two was a difficult year for many of us. May you carry forward all you learned and your best keepers. May 2023 bring your more personal recognitions and fewer things to burn. Happy New Year!


 Photo Credit: © Tatiana Sviridova |

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Night Light

 A Winter Solstice Poem

© 2022 by Joyce Mason

We are light:
universal energy
flickering Godstuff
illuminating the Path to Love.

Ink sky reflects light:
the cusp of winter
the Darkest Night.

Against this backdrop
light pops: the irony of contrasts,
the Yin and Yang of Life.

“You are the Light,”
said Jesus and other wise men.
Once we grasp this, we are Magi.

All the winter celebrations
full of candles, strung with lights:
love spelled out in carols, votives, menorahs,
the Christmas Star and in the Light of Laughter.

When the circuit connects
at the socket of the heart
joined flames have the power to heal
even at the speed of light.


Photo Credit: ©