Alright, so lately I’ve been having some issues. Normally I do all astral stuff in dreams, but some shit has come up that requires more direct and consistent handling, the kind of shit where I shouldn’t just wait around for the random encounter or event during sleep. Problem is, I don’t really know what are good, safe ways to astral for beginners. I don’t have anyone who could consistently spot (Z works, and quite frankly I’m not sure how to explain what he’s supposed to be doing exactly) and I still share a house with other people and animals. I know that means I just work a schedule around them, but I’m not sure what are good avenues to start? My brain rambles a mile a minute when I meditate, and even if I could get entheogens, I wouldn’t want them and my physical and mental health problems make such endeavors unwise anyway. My plan is to ask Anpu for some suggestions, but I’d also like suggestions from my more experienced peers. How did you astral as a beginner?
So, I was having some thoughts about sound and song with my magic. It occurs to me that I suck at using sound on the astral. I’m not that kind of learner, that’s a type of focus and processing I need help with (which probably means I’d be better off with a data entry or non-phone customer service job, but that’s neither here nor there) so it’s not a viable option for the limited astral control I have. I figure that working on waking astral travel is the better bet, which hopefully will enable me to figure out my strengths, especially as a healer and for fighting.
As far as the strengths go, it seems likely that I’m some sort of line walker. That is, I can squish, split, crack and merge planes. I seem to be really good at working in two planes at once, with the possibility of being a soul diver like Devo. I was talking with Cloudi about that and, after suggesting I could probably merge soul pieces with the right training, I got the thought that Anubis works like that. He’s a soul fixer, mending ibs and bodies, using proxies (like scarab amulets and false parts) to create a complete body. He heals by binding and merging, he kills by rending and cracking. As a liminal deity he walks between worlds, able to operate on two or more planes at once because he is between them, because he has brought them together. If he was so inclined he could teach me more about all of these things.
Back to the physical world and my magic though. I’m still puzzling out the best way to handle things. Whatever has me jiggling and wiggling seriously impedes my magic. I had trouble before anyway, since everybody only ever seems to use earth energy and it just doesn’t agree with me. However, I feel like sigil work may be useful. It moves my body out of the equation by making something else (in this case a grid, matrix, circuit, or diagram) the main energy conduit. I’m also still looking into water magic but it’s slow going. The other day though, I was singing and decided to specifically focus on helping Dapper feel better and have some energy as well as strengthening the wards.
The results were noticeable. The focus itself helped a ton and I honestly wasn’t expecting to raise so much energy so fast. While we are talking rock music, a naturally powerful and high energy genre, and my favorite group, and the wards are programmed to absorb energy from music, the effects were so palpable that I was having a hard time singing! The wards also held the energy in so it got more concentrated, but it didn’t affect my body all that much and I was still able to direct it, though I will admit it was fairly wild.
This could potentially be a good avenue to pursue and explore, after all I adore singing and my control is present Here. It makes me ponder what I could do with different genres. I always sing rock and the band I love is a source of comfort, so as expected I was able to use the energy generated to soothe despite its fierceness, however I might be able to achieve greater effects with gentler songs and genres. At the very least it will be personally useful even if I don’t pursue it for wide-range magical purposes. What would happen if I raised energy in a circle and used it with sigils or a traditional spell? The wards can absorb any excess, the song energy isn’t inclined to do more than fall away once I stop singing. It could be useful.
Thoughts. Many thoughts.
So, I haven’t really shared my recent astral shenanigans on here. It’s mostly been fragmented and seemingly random stuff, not enough to write about anyway. There have been some larger things, but they didn’t seem connected to my previous shenans which included zombies and whatnot. What’s got me here though is the dream I had this morning. It connected a lot of the previous year’s craziness quite nicely, but also opened up a shit ton of questions. Last year when the zombie bs started, Devo suggested that it could be related to Dapper’s soul or something going on in him. I didn’t really see how it could be, since it seemed so random at the time, and there was just as often other people, including him, around. I imagine that not every zombie adventure was about him, in fact I know that to be true. Not every zombie adventure had to do with him or his soul, we were completing work that he was instructed to do. However, the dream I had this morning shows that places we’ve been to repeatedly that involved zombies (along with other events happening in the same places) were about him.
It started with me apparently setting a soul on fire. I was in a house, and I was lighting everything up and crying about it. I have no idea why, apart from what I said; something like “I can’t let him die” and “this has to be done, this has to go” and “I don’t like this, I have to get rid of it, I have to get it out.” These words imply this may have been Dapper’s soul because the place was familiar. Like, I’ve been in this “house” before and there may have been zombies last time. Anyway, I was inside this soul and set a part of it on fire because something was wrong with it and freaking me the fuck out. I’m not sure what happened next, but I do know I was now in a different house I’ve been to before with Dapper and Z.
In this new house (not really that new, nor was the neighborhood, been here before, during and after zombies) we were talking about something. It involved plane traveling and killing shit. There was a lot of weird stuff about this house, like the fact there was a portal in the basement, and it was the type that is at the bottom of an “adventure” level, if you get my drift. The last time we were in this neighborhood, I only partly remember what we were doing there and it had to do with zombies and the other part was about hiding from cops after I killed a creeper. Anyway, we’re back and forth out of this house, interacting with the neighbors and kids on the street, while secretly trying to find some item in the basement and killing off gremlins and other unsavory things. Dapper isn’t…hmmm…it was more like a kid version of himself, a young teen or tween, which, I guess if we’re inside his soul, makes sense. It’s happened before. I’ve often been an observer when these scenes of him as a youngster happen, but sometimes I get involved with what’s happening. I’m fairly certain they’re at least partial memories.
We’re helping the neighborhood with their problems as well, so we’re very busy and are able to get some help getting this “item.” It’s like, something like clock gears, yet also like an alchemy circle, and it’s guarded by a giant spider I’ve seen before. The last time I saw this spider though, I had been dropped into a room with it. I still don’t know why I was fighting it, but that particular dream started with a mystery woman giving me some kind of poppet and that poppet made the spider back off. I don’t know why the spider didn’t like it, but it wasn’t a weapon and couldn’t hurt it, and the spider didn’t stop trying to attack, it just didn’t want to get close to me to do it. Anyway, we have to go through a half-portal I guess? The basement isn’t on its own plane but it isn’t on the same plane either, and that’s very important because it makes shit complicated and makes revival weird and difficult. I can’t explain it, I just know that it was important to not fall into any of the traps or die if we could help it. The last time I was in this house though, the basement was normal.
Anyway, now that we’ve made friends in the neighborhood, we have extra help getting this item, and we need it because the basement is a mess. There is no floor, it’s a cave-tunnel, almost straight down and there are wooden beams crossing the space like a spider web. There’s also sand everywhere, it’s moving and flowing as well. The spider didn’t antagonize us too much, it wasn’t really happy, but I can’t say it attacked us either. It simply covered the item, snatched it away and dumped it closer to where the sand had pooled and was flowing down in a slow vortex. It didn’t help us get it either. We had to try getting this thing several times. Our new friends tried first, but one died from a trap and backed out when we revived them, another got swarmed by gremlins and also backed out. In the end it was me, Zolfyer, and one friend while I carried kid Dapper on my back. Two more people showed up, they were trap keepers and, although we got the item, they knocked us into the sand vortex and watched as we all got sucked down and passed out. Weird conversation was had about the sand and the weird death from the one friend who helped. I feel like I know him, I could be mistaken, but it might’ve been Caleb, my sister’s dragon, because of his appearance. The vortex made me think of being stuck in a giant hourglass.
So, we fall through the vortex and the two trap keepers are waiting for us on the other side. Now we’re on a tree and all of us are thoroughly confused. The trap keepers say some weird shit that explains nothing and leave us on our way. Caleb seems to half-understand, but even he’s confused. We break into groups to explore, and I’m fairly certain we end up smack dab in a memory, because suddenly it’s nighttime when I get to the bottom of a hill and all of us are together again. There are soldiers with gas masks on and they’re not friendly, they try and trap Dapper and me, probably because he’s a kid and I’m a kid-looking girl. Cue running for cover, and Z and Caleb distract. They also manage to get away, but we’re all scrambling right now.
We’re in a parking lot, and we’re trying to hide. Kid Dapper is at least in enough control to use stealth magic (his magic always is extremely limited when he’s in a younger form, boo random insertion of logic and rationality) but these soldiers know what they’re doing. He almost gets caught, so he casts stealth on me and books it around the cars to distract them while I creep around in the shadows trying to find a way to safety, or at least to Z and Caleb who now have guns. A random passerby notices me and offers to help and Dapper sprints back, but before I can decide what to do, of course I wake up because I’m getting a phone call.
Yes, soul traveling! It’s all the rage! The frustrating part is that this isn’t even everything because little details and dialogue always gets lost and it’s so annoying! But I did realize that a lot of shit I’ve seen seems to be connected to these same places and houses, and also coincides with Dapper being a little kid or young teen. The house itself was connected to two other houses I visit frequently. Those houses also have had zombie problems and were in zombie neighborhoods, but they also had other stuff happen in them that were zombie-free. So, a lot of things I’ve been puzzling about at least got connected all at once, and certain things make more sense right now, however I’m still missing so much information.
For example, what the hell was freaking me out so much that I was willing to set a piece of soul on fire to kill it? That and I knew, I knew that if I didn’t set it on fire, that Dapper could die or otherwise be seriously fucked up if I didn’t? Why now anyway? Why are all these houses connected, and why are zombies such a prolific and important symbol? The fuck does that shit even mean? Not to mention, they aren’t always there. Sometimes they’re overrunning everything and at other times you’d never know they’d ever been there. I also figure that the arrangement and appearance of these houses and neighborhoods has something to do with me and the influence my brain has on the surroundings and the fact that my presence probably changes the way some things are gonna go down, because they all resemble or are amalgamations of places I actually know Here, as well as places I’ve never been and don’t recognize. Who knows, maybe this is actually my soul, or something, or some cross over between us, because these things always involve Dapper in some fashion and he tends to be the center of the craziest shit.
Then there’s why the basement was now some cracked half-plane when before it was just a normal basement. What the fuck is with the spider, and what is the item we retrieved? Why are we getting it now? What’s it for, why is it available to be retrieved now? Why did we get tossed through that trap, and why did we end up on a giant tree and then in the middle of a firefight? What do any of these things have to do with each other? While many things are now connected, a lot of the events still are unexplained. Like, why did I see the spider twice, what’s with the mystery witch giving me a poppet the first time I saw the spider. Why do I keep getting in these fights, because this is now the third time I’ve been shot at, and the fifth time I’ve had to fight and try and kill something by myself in the last couple of months. Further, these almost all happen when Dapper is compromised in some way. He’s a kid so can’t access all his power, he’s injured from some other issue, he simply can’t fight for whatever reason, or bam learning experience time for me. Like, what the fuck.
I can speculate about the spider, if it’s some part of him then of course he can’t fight it. Fighting yourself is hard as shit. Makes me wonder why I can fight it though, or why I’m even the preferred fighter here. Anytime he’s a kid or otherwise can’t fight, I’m choice one to take over. I’m not much of a fighter, and he’s got people he’s known much longer and who are stronger and better trained, but I get shoved down the hole. I’m willing to do it, obviously, because half the time I’m leaping in first, but I don’t know why dream me never questions this shit or the efficacy of it. I guess this was why it was important for me to kill my stalker in my last astral visit. More training, I guess, probably made easier by a sigil my sister made for me a little while ago. Or it could be because I’m much more vicious and willing to fight to protect others even Here, much less Over There. The other interesting thing is that Z has been in these dreams increasingly often. Astral him and Dapper get along really well (Z also gives him food and talks to him here) and lately, as crazy shit happens more Z is showing up more. Z often is the one keeping an eye on things, backing me up or protecting kid Dapper while I’m off destroying the universe. Pretty grateful for that, even though he doesn’t know he’s helping me half the time.
This also makes me wonder about a previous dream I had where a little kid who looks a lot like Dapper, but probably isn’t was trying to get into a terrorist group to overthrow the oppressive government he has a lot of privilege in. I totally knew the kid, but I also know it wouldn’t be the first time I knew a kid because I’d saved them (usually with Dapper) somewhere on a zombie infected plane. I mean, there were kids in Dapper’s soul, so WHO KNOWS.
Either way, a bunch of shit made a whole lot of sense after this dream, and then promptly stopped making sense because it opened up a shit ton of new questions, like why am I in this wolf’s soul messing around anyway? I’ve obviously been in here for quite a while, but I don’t know what I’m doing in there or how I got in there in the first place. Nor do I know how or why or when I got into that part of his soul that I set on fire. Yeah, so astral stuff, commentary and speculation welcome.
It’s my MO really. I get that line a lot, because I’m an insomniac and walk around the house looking for something to do or some way to sleep. Well, really the phrase I get is “stop wandering around like a lost soul” but I like mine better. Lost puppies get free food, water and hugs when somebody finds them. Lost souls tend to get shooed away, if they get noticed at all. I need some free food and hugs right now.
So, I know you all saw my last post, about figuring out what to do to get out of this spiritual rut I’m in. I did the one thing I know will always help. I asked my sister for advice. We’re twins, you see, but she was born first and we have a much more big sis-little sis relationship than one might expect for people born two minutes apart. We wanted it that way from the beginning (no lie, ask our parents) and it serves us well. Even so, we still also display the typical closeness you expect from twins, though we are very much our own people. The point being, there’s been very few times that asking for my sister’s advice has ever gone wrong, and it’s usually related to getting caught drawing on the wall with crayons or touching our dad’s speakers when we know we’re not supposed to.
I’m very lucky to have her, and she didn’t let me down with this advice either. So, I asked her to do some readings for me (she’s my go-to diviner) and they were kinda weird but they made sense after I thought about them. She also gave me her big-sis intuition advice which was basically, she doesn’t think Anup has an issue with it (my own divination on the matter implies the same) and that I should approach Kali before I lose the opportunity. I’m probably gonna do it. I’m still gonna take my time, and not rush headlong into anything, because I have to keep up whatever I start, and rushing into a really excited fervor ended up being unsustainable and is part of the reason I’m where I’m at now. That was something the reading she did for me mentioned, to be careful how much effort, excitedness and whatnot I put into my endeavors, because I’m going to have to maintain that once my initial excitement and energy is gone in order to maintain whatever I gain. It’s not an invitation to be lazy, but just to be aware of what I can reasonably sustain long term.
Ironically, I also ran into two posts by friends today (thanks dashomancy) that kinda help. Neither of them were about me, obviously, but they were really coincidental. One about working with a chaotic god and learning how to be passive and how to be aggressive, how to surrender and how to push forward (I am both really good and really bad at being aggressive and pushing forward, not so good at the surrendering part) and I think I know where I’m at and what Anpu is trying to accomplish here. I could be wrong, but what I’ve got makes sense. Right after I see my other friend’s post, and well it reminds me that I’m always feeling like I’m wandering, and I’ve always been the house wanderer. IRONY, COINCIDENCE, I HAS IT.
So, off to research, and we’ll see what goes from there I guess?
(I feel I should point out, that I’m scared shitless. Kali scares me, for reasons I’ve outlined before. She’s much more forward than Anpu, much less gentle. She reminds me very much of Sekhmet, and though I’m not terrified in the sense of a bunny before a tiger, I am scared. I’m afraid of what will happen next, of not knowing, of going down a new path, of fucking up. I’m scared of not being able to go back at all. I’m ok with going back changed, I guess, but I’d like to still come back to that supremely patient Jackal with gold eyes and a stern face that sighs and pats my head. I don’t like new things with no backstory, no warning. I don’t like not having a preface or an outline or even just a goal or expectation. I’m not good at making decisions, or thinking ahead and I freeze in the moment. I’m so anxious and foggy-headed all the time. This is scary, but I guess change always is. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I don’t want to be a disappointment.)
So, when I first got into this pagan thing I glossed over something. Literally as soon as I dropped searching for an alternative christian path and pursued paganism, Kali showed up everywhere. Actually, she was there even when I was looking at alternative christian paths. She was on my Facebook every day, she showed up on my deviantart, I probably would’ve seen her on tumblr if I had one when I started. The people posting pictures of her weren’t even devotees, even my future kemetic friends had some. It was crazy.
I ignored it all. I was scared of her, she’s gorgeous and terrifying. Seriously, she had tusks and a demon head in her hand and loads of people (all white and non-devotees now that it think of it) made sure to paint her as super dangerous and frightening and basically said she would eat me. I’m fairly certain at least one person did literally say she would eat me. So, I ran away and pursued kemeticism and Anpu. Do I regret starting kemeticism? Not at all. Do I regret not approaching Kali? Yeah, I do. Thing is, I still can’t get over my fear. I also don’t know what I really want out of my religious life anymore.
I thought I knew, and then I realized I don’t. I thought I knew what gods I wanted to hang out with and thankfully he wasn’t mean or nasty to the dipshit running in circles. I don’t know what I’m doing (I’m so bad without frameworks) and I’m lazy and don’t have the energy or concentration I used to on top of it. I’ve been spinning my wheels for a long while and I’ve no clue how to get out of this rut.
Well, the scary blue/black lady who slays demons pops into my head again. She’s good at the rut stuff, at breaking them up. She’s a lot like Sekhmet, now that I think of it. A super scary, destructive goddess who is also a loving mother and will whomp you to get up and dry your tears and pat your hair. Buuuut, you don’t see me waltzing over to Sekhmet cavalierly either. *sigh*
well, here’s my question to the gods then. Anpu, what’s your opinion? What should I do here? How do I get out of this rut? What would you like? Do you mind? Kali, depending on the jackal’s answers, I don’t promise anything, but what do you think? Are you still open to me? And please, both of you, be clue-by-four to the face obvious.
To the humans, I am totally open to advice, opinion, conversation and whatnot.
This is hardly the first time this will be mentioned, nor will it be the last. I’m hardheaded and stubborn, so naturally I didn’t really take the advice seriously to use passwords in my practice. I didn’t think I would need one. Little me doing spirit work or flouncing around on the astral? No chance.
Oh naïve me, you’re a dumbass.
I’ve seen a bunch of great posts on passwords in a practice, but something bothered me. There didn’t seem to be anything reminding people that they don’t have to be actual words.
Maybe I’m just blind and forgetful. What I mean is, it can be several words, it can be a phrase, it can be a sound, sight, smell, touch. A memory. It can be an idea or subject, it can be a specific use of magic or illusion, or manifesting a particular thing in a particular way. A literal secret handshake even.
All these thoughts came to me while trying to make up my own password. I don’t know what other beings see when they look at me, so I had to be cautious not to pick anything too obvious or that could be easily guessed just by looking at my energy or companions. I worship a Jackal and I bangs with wolves Over There (for those of you unfamiliar with AAVE, “bangs with” means friends with, chills with, greatly enjoys, has great affection for, hangs out with, etc). At this point I’m practically part of a pack. However, because of how brains work I now could only think of pretty straightforward stuff, like wolves or jackals, and I even tossed out anything that had to do with kids or healing. Can’t do water or scorpions, snakes or anything like that either.
Since I didn’t want it to be too difficult or too much effort, I left it off for a moment and one of my songs started playing on my phone and I had my answer. I have several favorite songs, but I don’t sing in the astral (would be interesting though). My “password” is to sing a favorite song. Since I sing those songs IRL for fun, as offerings, to power my wards, to entertain, and to soothe myself, Z and Dapper, it seems like a good deal. They know at least three each, so there isn’t a reason they can’t sing one. Since there’s more than one, if I’m still suspicious I can just ask for another.
All in all, don’t be a stubborn dummy like me. Passwords don’t have to be actual words, and they can be helpful even in the event of shenanigans on this plane. Use your imagination, play on your strengths as well, keep your practice safe.
So, I’ve been thinking extensively about magic recently. I’ve always been interested in magic and witchcraft, but so far I haven’t really found a system that works for me. Some of it is laziness. I don’t want to remember all these words, or gather all these materials, and perform all this ritual (don’t get me wrong, I love ritual, but I’m not inclined to do it for spellwork). It’s also expensive (and yes, I know there are plenty of inexpensive substitutes for things, but it still costs me money and pulls from household resources that have to be replaced). All the pomp and prettiness is actually fairly distracting, and it often puts me off wanting to do it at all. Questions of effectiveness pop up as well. Further, I have a cat and boyfriend to worry about, and nothing is more distracting than other creatures wondering what you’re doing and is it possible for you to make a snack. (I kid, Z is actually really good about that stuff, especially if I warn him beforehand. Though, he has been known to be mega distracting if he’s very bored and/or hungry.) So, doing more “traditional” spellwork is difficult, because getting the stuff and doing the ritual is tricky. Not to mention, keeping all of that stuff out of the way where my stupid kitten can’t hurt herself on it or injure it. I had to move my feather representing ma’at because she played with it when I wasn’t in the room.
This complicated relationship with more traditional, physical magic has made me consider how to make my own shit up. I was pretty successful with the last couple batches of heka, but I still feel like doing more. I’m still working on heka usage and how to make it work even better, especially because I do still need some physical component. I know, I’m difficult. The other thing is I’m still not really sure what will actually be useful to me. For example, the popular visualization of connecting with roots to the earth and drawing up earth energy, as well as popular grounding techniques, don’t work for me. Earth energy leaves me feeling wired and sick and I can’t get rid of it, no matter what I do to ground. I simply have to wait for it to dissipate, which can take a couple of days. This is also my problem with heka, I somehow manage to draw up too much energy and then can’t get rid of it all. Maybe that’s more about the common heka practice of identifying oneself with a god and commanding from their authority, but it’s still an issue. Another issue is that, since my hospitalization last year, my body has a lower tolerance for anything woo or magical. Most magical systems don’t/can’t take this into account, and often don’t have suggestions for those who find themselves incompatible with the energy used or getting sick from trying to use it.
And now I realize that I’m complaining about ableism in magic and paganism. Hmm. So, I’ve been trying to think of ways to overcome these obstacles and figure out magic that will work for me. I’m very much a physical and intuitive touch person. Especially in the astral, I will know you more by your energy and other incorporeal sensation than by your face or voice. I have excellent visualization skills, but even that ties into my sense of touch (feeling my visualizations gives more clarity). I also know that this quirk does mean I need something physical to help focus and such, but I don’t know what to use yet. Also still puzzling that out, but it does make crochet magic fairly viable. There’s limitations even to that though, because not all crochet projects can be done in one sitting, and it’s tough to maintain focus for extended lengths, especially if you’re using words. On top, distraction also plays a role here, because cats and yarn, and because humans need/want stuff and crochet can be put down mid-stitch. This can all serve to derail crochet magic in progress, especially if it’s a larger or more complex project.
I was thinking of doing more research into elemental magic (it works well for me, but earth magic isn’t compatible with me), especially because plants are very helpful beings and I have plants. However, finding info is hard and it often still requires more physical objects and ingredients than I might like. I also want to learn more about healing, on this plane and in the astral. Recently though, someone brought up some different ideas. False doors (a common thing in ancient egypt) and mirrors. Now, I don’t know much about mirror magic but it’s an interesting thought. I do know a little about false doors. Mirrors so far seem to be excellent for traveling and trancing, protection (mentioned specifically for warding a false door) as are knives. I don’t know how to safely do anything much with knives, it was just a thought that came in handy during an astral trip and I stabbed the shit out of a vampire. Obviously knives are also excellent for protection.
The other thing is I was thinking of poppets more. I mentioned a little while ago, probably on my tumblr, that I really liked someone’s suggestion of using stuffed animals as guardians and familiars. I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, mainly about what I’d want the animal to be and what I’d want them to do. I also recently thought of using poppets and sympathetic magic more. Something I definitely need to learn more about, but it’s a start.
The problem, as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, is finding something I can do with low energy and difficulty concentrating. The fact that my body does not react favorably to magic (or at least what I’ve been trying) and astral traveling or such while awake is a major roadblock. I can’t get through as much of a book or focus on research in one sitting as I used to. Having the eternal struggle of rpg, video games and fiction coming up in search results makes it even harder to effectively utilize when I do have energy and focus. The fact that the vast majority of magic information resources don’t consider those who are chronically ill, fatigued or otherwise lacking in mental or physical stability and ability, if they don’t outright tell us to go away until we get better. Yeah, yeah, I’m not mentally stable, my low energy and asthma and pain and whatever causes this twitching and shaking makes me mildly disabled, but I’m not going to not do magic. It’s seriously ableist and a major dick move to tell sick people they can’t do cool, interesting, and fun things simply because they aren’t healthy. To tell someone who is chronically ill and will probably never 100% recover, if they ever started in “optimal” health to begin with, that they aren’t allowed to do something and will be refused knowledge, is an asshole thing to do. Give us warnings, teach us how to be safe and utilize our limits, don’t just shun us. Unfortunately, even in magic and paganism, neurodivergence, chronic illness and disability is still shunned and ignored. Hence my problem.
So, what say any of you? Any ideas for me to try? Books or other resources to recommend?