2023 the year we learn to listen to life
Week 47--in which we look back at the books we read in 2023 and follow their breadcrumbs
Friends, soul writers, mystics, witches, and lovers of prayer,
In the first week of The Lotus and the Lily prayer intensive, we looked back at all that happened in 2023 month by month. In the second gathering last Tuesday, we carried all eleven monthly stories onto a finger 11-circuit medieval labyrinth, mirroring the one in Chartres Cathedral.
If you’ve ever walked a labyrinth of any kind, you know that when you get to the center, you don’t do anything. You stay still and silent. Open but not anxious. Receptive without expectation.
In that delicious liminal suspended state, what wants to be heard is heard. What wants to be known arrives. What wants to be seen hovers in your inner eye. The labyrinth is a magical field.
As we walked the 11-circuit labyrinth together, what wanted to be seen and heard and known was the harvest of 2023. Can a full year be encapsulated into just a sentence or two? We’ve explored this question every year since we started walking an 11-circuit labyrinth in 2020 to try to capture the wild wisdom of that first Covid year. Thus far, the answer is always yes. But the harvest itself is always a surprise. A big surprise. It’s funny how we can walk day after day through a year overflowing with all the mystery—joys and sorrows—that life can hold, and miss the meaning if we don’t take the time to stop, pause, take a deep breath and look back.
To help us with our looking back, we get out journals, moon calendars, solar calendars—anything that can help us remember what happened. One thing I track all year long is the books I’m reading and what they meant to me. I do this by simply jotting down what I’m reading on my moon calendar.
As I looked back at the wild ride of 2023, I made note of the books that opened me up in some radical way.
There were many. We writers are massive readers, after all. And in addition to being a writer, I had a radio show for six years in which I interviewed an author or a spiritual book every Thursday. You do the math. I read a lot of books! And publishers noticed that my listeners bought books so they sent books, boxes of books!
I don’t count how many books I read each year, but at any given moment there are probably five or six library books on my reading table. And a week rarely goes by without a book or two arriving at the front door. When I add up my book expenditures at tax time, well, let’s just say my accountant stopped being horrified years ago.
This year was no exception. But as I lingered over the massive adventures of my witch spirit this year, there were five books that stepped forward to be acknowledged for their power and beauty. So here are the most important books of my life in 2023. My list is always idiosyncratic, perhaps even weird. By sharing it, I hope to inspire you to look back at the books that made a difference to you this year and perhaps share them with your communities.
Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.
January—the year began reading James Nestor’s Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.
We know that breath is the essential ingredient of life and shows up in the spiritual practices of all traditions. But I didn’t know anything about this book and if someone important hadn’t recommended it, I’d never have read it.
Amy Isaman, who built a whole new website for me when prayer artist arrived and took over my life, sent a note to stop what I was doing and read Breath because, she said, it’s about prayer. Prayer? What? That was such a surprise that I immediately purchased it. And guess what, it’s about prayer! Or rather, what our ancient ancestors knew about the connection between breath and prayer.
Then in February, I was preparing The A.R.T. of Becoming a Witch: How to Awaken, Remember, and Trust Your Body’s Natural Intuitive Senses. At the time, my collaborators and I had no idea we were stepping onto a 7-circuit labyrinth and would end up creating The Witch Sequence to receive all seven of our original sacramental gifts.
So in February, I was only focused on our senses and intuition. I read dozens of books, and loved them all, but the one that cracked me wide open was Becoming Animal by David Abram. The animal he slowly becomes is a raven. And raven showed up later as Mystos, Our Lady Queen of Magician’s familiar and the mascot for all the intensives in Mystica InnerVersity. Mystos the Raven isn’t an idea. He’s a powerful presence. I know because he woke me up one night SCREAMING his name. I think I have David Abram to thank for opening my heart to Raven.
Labyrinths: Ancient Myths and Modern Uses
In March, as we approached the end of what we now know was the first of seven intensives, I began to sense in some strange, instinctive, irrational way, that we were on a 7-circuit labyrinth, the oldest and most mystical of them all. I couldn’t explain why I knew that; I just did. (Guess you can blame my five intuitive senses that had exploded open!)
I picked up a book that Emma Kupu Mitchell had recommended four years ago, Labyrinths: Ancient Myths and Modern Uses by Sig Lonegren. I’ve read lots of books about labyrinths, but nothing, nothing, touches the mystery and magic in this book. When I got to page 4, I couldn’t turn the page. I kept staring and staring and staring at a pin dot, almost cartoon-like, image of a 7-circuit labyrinth. This is it, I told my mystic-artist collaborator, Cathy Stevens Pratt. This is it. I don’t know why, but this is it. And it was. Everything that is now coming alive in The Witch Sequence of seven intensives is right there, hiding mysteriously in graffiti someone scratched onto an Egyptian tomb centuries ago.
Once we saw that there were seven sacramental gifts each unfolding on one of the seven circuits of this most ancient feminine womb labyrinth, I began to create the second intensive, The A.R.T. of Becoming a Witch: How to Awaken Remember and Trust Your Innate Ability to Cross the Threshold Between Worlds. Ah! Now this is my playground: the mystical theta brain wave state. I had the time of my life creating this intensive.
The Creative Act: A Way of Being
One of the 5 learning gatherings was about creativity. Now I am a wildly creative soul, but I’ve never found a book on creativity that mirrored what I know to be true about living a creative life.
That is until I read The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin. Luckily, I had no idea who Rick Rubin is. I may be the only person on the planet who didn’t. I couldn’t understand why there’s no author bio, no bibliography, no acknowledgments…no nothing. He just dives straight into 78 short profound “chapters” or ideas. Who is this guy? Finally, googled him. Surprise, he’s an uber famous hip hop record producer. What? If I’d known that in advance, I might have prejudged the book and decided I didn’t need to read it. But that would have been a colossal mistake, because no one knows more about the creative life than musicians. No one.
The Gospel of the Beloved Companion
In July, Dr Neil Douglas-Klotz, the great translator of Jesus from the Aramaic, sent an announcement that he’d be on The Scientific and Medical Network talking about his latest book, The Aramaic Jesus. I have it and love it. So I signed up. So did over 200 other people. The moderator said it was the largest turnout they’d ever had. In the course of the talk, someone asked Neil if he thought The Gospel of the Beloved Companion was authentic. He said it certainly sounded like it was written by a first century Aramaic Jewish thinker.
I ordered the book before Neil finished answering the question! The author, or more accurately, the woman who is allowing this precious document to be translated and published, Jehanne De Quillan, doesn’t debate the gospel’s authenticity. She asks the readers to decide for themselves.
Well, I did exactly that. As I finished the gospel, signed by “Miryam, called the Migdalah, the Beloved Companion,” my heart almost burst out of my chest. There is no doubt that this gospel is written by a woman. A woman who is intimately connected with and equal to Yeshua.
I’m so enraptured by this gospel, that I’m going to host a Gospel of the Beloved Companion rosary circle next year, in which we take turns reading one verse, no commentary, and then praying a decade of the ancient Goddess rosary. Watch for news about that in January.
Currently Reading - Mary Magdalene Unveiled: Hidden Sources Restore Her Broken Image
In September, The Scientific and Medical Network hosted a talk on Mary Magdalen by a Dutch theological researcher, Annine van der Meer. I never heard of her, but if she’s going to talk about the Magdalene, I’m in! And oh, am I grateful, I listened to my intuition.
Before Annine had finished talking, I ordered her 564-page tome, Mary Magdalene Unveiled: Hidden Sources Restore Her Broken Image. I’m only a third of the way in and every page is a revelation. Suddenly Yeshua makes sense. He and the Magdalen fit perfectly within a sacred Nazarene Essene tradition (one of 3 Essene traditions) that harkens back to the first temple when Shekinah, the Divine Feminine was revered.
These five books (along with a few dozen others!) fed me and formed me this year. They led me to a rich and delicious harvest. And I am so grateful.
What books fed and formed you this year?
PS: Registration closes at the end of November. This event will NOT be offered OnDemand. So, if you’d like to harvest 2023 and welcome the life that wants to be lived in and through and as you in 2024, register now. You'll have access to the Resource Page with all the recordings and bonuses all year long.
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