WISDOM FROM A 350-YEAR-OLD TREE (AKA THE FUTURE OF THE NUMINOUS PART #3)

Ruby warrington

Last week I had the honor of an audience with a 350-year-old tree. Anchoring the island of Vieques to the ragged, rustic Puerto Rican coastline, the landmark Ceiba tree (or Tree of Life) stands solid as a rock, its elephantine grey trunk rooted as firmly into the earth as Everest. Since reading Richard Powers’ The Overstory, I’ve developed a newfound understanding of trees as living beings, possessing perhaps unsurpassed wisdom on what it means to sustain oneself over decades, if not centuries, of evolutionary change. And this majestic, great, great, great, great, great, great Grandmother Ceiba (below), is no exception.

It wasn’t like I came to her with a bunch of questions. Rather, sat in the circle of her presence, the gentle Caribbean trade-winds lapping at our skin, a few drops of rain curling my hair into salty tendrils in the cool, quiet shade of her branches, she took the lead and spoke to me. And this is what she said: “Slow down, my love, and look at me. This is how you do it. You focus on doing ONE THING and doing it really well.”

Wow. First of all, could she get any more Capricorn season?! It was as if the tree had looked the all-knowing part of my own being in the eye and delivered the one piece of advice I needed to wrap up what has been a year of intense anxiety, instability, procrastination, and self-doubt.

As I wrote here, 2019 was the year I crashed and burned, right where my type-A personality collided with an increasingly frantic media landscape, leading to me taking a four-month Numinous “sabbatical” over the summer. I followed up with this post, detailing what had been going on behind the scenes: writing, publishing, and promoting three books in as many years, launching two podcasts, coming to terms with my discomfort with being a “public figure,” while simultaneously trying, and failing, multiple times, to turn The Numinous into a sustainable (meaning rent-paying) business.

And what follows here—thanks to the wisdom of a 350-year-old tree, some Capricorn New Moon Eclipse clarity, and a dose of end-of-decade reflection—can be read as the culmination of what, it turns out, has been a year-long process of reconnecting with why I’m here.

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The last time I experienced this level of burnout—the kind that grabs you mid-stride, pins you to the wall, and forces you to drop everything you’re doing “or else”—was in 2007. Which, incidentally, was also the last time Jupiter was in Sagittarius and transiting my ascendant. I was working for a free daily newspaper at the time (these were the days before all media was free, more on which in a bit), and had four pages per day to fill with “copy” to balance out the ads. Since the paper relied solely on advertising for revenue, our journalistic integrity was also severely compromised—and soon I’d coined a new term for this constant churn of throwaway content: churnalism.

This was also the last time I threw my hands in the air, dramatically stated something along the lines of “I CAN’T FUCKING DO THIS ANY MORE!”, quit my job, and took a summer off (which this time also included taking a break from my marriage). I had no backup plan, no family money or savings to fall back on, and my decision defied all logic. But as it turned out, that was the point. My leap into the unknown led to the luckiest and least foreseeable opportunities of my career to date. Within months, I was being paid fat wads of cash to edit the coolest magazine in Ibiza—a gig which also led, in a roundabout way, to me landing a job as Features Editor at the UK Sunday Times Style magazine.

My disillusionment with writing for fashion magazines is well-documented in my first book, Material Girl, Mystical World. But what had not registered fully with me until this year, is that the vast majority of what we used to call journalism has, in fact, morphed into churnalism. Since all media outlets now operate primarily on the advertising-as-revenue model, including and in fact precipitated by the advent of social media, a constant stream of throwaway content is now required to balance out the ads. Enter the era of click-bait, listicles, and bait-and-switch newsletter subject lines, all of which are designed to grab your attention for long enough for somebody to sell you something.

Which has got what, exactly, to do with what the 350-year-old tree told me about reconnecting with my life purpose?

Here’s the thing. I went into journalism because I love to write. Meaning, writing gives me more satisfaction per minute of effort expended than anything else. But there’s a big difference between the kind of writing I love—the kind where I get to make meaning out of the world I see and, hopefully, provide insight and inspiration for others with my words—and … the constant churn of throwaway content that’s become a requirement of running an online platform. Which, if I am going to take the Ceiba tree’s advice, means focusing on writing going forward, and taking a step back from making content for content’s sake.

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When I launched The Numinous in 2012, it was because I wanted my own “magazine” where I could write about the things I really cared about.

My readership grew organically, and somewhere along the way (possibly during my brief friendship with Gabby Bernstein) I absorbed the idea that I should start sending out a regular newsletter as this would become my “most valuable audience” (meaning, the readers most likely to buy stuff from me). Instagram also took off, and I learned that posting “the kind of content your readers love” (note: this is not the same as “the content I love making”) a minimum of three times per day was how I’d grow my following there. The implication this time being that these “followers” would make my platform more appealing to advertisers, who would then pay for whatever scraps of your attention I could use my words to wangle their way.

Not that I ever capitalized on these audiences (meaning: your attention) in a meaningful way, as it turns out that I have absolutely zero interest in or aptitude for what is essentially network marketing (as detailed, again, here). Granted, the content-for-content’s sake has been part of the “platform building” that helped me land my first and subsequent book deals (oh, I also have many thoughts on the fact that you have to have a platform to get a book deal these days, too. I’ll expand on them another time). But in terms of actual “capital” (i.e. rent money) we were wayyyy off the fabled and much lauded “six-figure salary” promised by the digital marketing gurus.

And in the meantime, it turns out I only have so many words in me per day. Which meant all the words I now found myself churning out for the newsletter and the socials, were eating into the supply I needed to write about the things I really cared about. To the point, right before my sabbatical, where every time I sat down to write a post or a caption or an event description or even an email, it felt like I was scraping the dregs of my soul. Like I was literally spent, done, ALL THE FUCK OUT, when it came to words.

For somebody who has always written for a living, this was devastating. Maybe I wasn’t really a writer after all; or was just a dried-up old ink-well who couldn’t keep the pace with changes in digital media. Maybe I’d simply reached the bottom of my “good ideas” barrel, and it was time to reconsider the second career as an author I’d thought was only just taking off.

Or … perhaps it was time to LISTEN TO THE TREE and apply the age-old (for a good fucking reason) adage of quality over quantity, take a long hard look at all the places I was leaking my writerly energy, and make some adjustments accordingly. I’m going to go with the latter.

350-year-old tree ceiba vieques

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Sadly, in the first instance, this means cancelling the Numinous subscription I launched JUST LAST MONTH. Oh man, I’m so embarrassed about this! The idea was that I’d get enough subscribers to cover paying a social media manager, freeing me up to focus on … writing. But just 45 (beautiful, generous) humans signed up (and if you were one of these 45, know that I praised the Goddess and sent multiple blessings of thanks to each and every subscriber)—roughly one fifth of the number I needed to make it work.

Which is where I could beat myself up, again, for my lack of marketing savvy, and let my self-esteem get eaten away by doubts about my “likeability,” and the quality of my content. But what this experiment has actually shown / confirmed for me, is that … running an online business is … just not for me! Is NOT the “one thing” the Ceiba tree was telling me to focus on, and to focus on doing really well, if I want to create lasting security for myself going forward.

Because that one thing is writing. And not just any writing, but the kind of writing that requires lengthy periods of contemplation. That is is the result of weeks, if not months, of reading and research, and the assimilation of multiple ideas, instinctual hits, and incidental discoveries. The kind that keeps me semi-awake at night, searching my subconscious for just the right sentences to make sense of whatever Big Idea is currently romancing me. None of which is possible when I am churning out words to keep algorithms, and advertisers, and subscribers, happy.

For example, this post took me a good six hours to write. Plus editing time. Six hours which have also been preceded by several weeks, if not months, of reading, thinking, noticing, and mental-note-taking on the subject of “why the fuck am I so burned out.”

Which means this post is also the result of applying the insights of Jaron Lanier’s 10 Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now to my own life; of finding, and reading, Gail Sheehey’s 1992 book on menopause, the emphasis being on pause, on the beach in Vieques; of listening to Lisa Taddeo describe the 8-year process of writing her book Three Women on Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail podcast; of an hour-long phone-call discussing the kind of careers we want by the time we’re in our seventies with Alexandra Roxo; of the lasting imprint of a passing comment from a coaching client on how “not everybody who wants to be an entrepreneur also wants to run a business”; of noticing the panic / disgust I felt on discovering Gary Vee’s post on How to Create 64 Pieces of Content in A Day; and of paying actual attention to the teeny nips of tension that grip my shoulders each time I sit down to compile another newsletter or Instagram post.

The kind of focus it takes to put all of that into a post like this, is the kind of focus I think the Ceiba tree was talking about. It’s the kind of focus it takes to write books (and to help other people write theirs with my “book doula” work). The kind of focus that digital media is the thief of, and which it takes practice and patience and quiet and resistance to cultivate.

Alllll of which is to say, I will still be creating “content” on The Numinous … just maybe 3 or 4 times a year. And that this content will look more like books, and promo for books, mine and other peoples, as THIS is the one thing I’ll be focussing on going forward. Turns out my 2020 intention is to be more like the tree (and Lisa Taddeo), in the name of my own majesty, and ultimate sustainability.

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For more information about my book doula work and publishing with The Numinous contact [email protected]

THE TRUTH ABOUT RUNNING A (SPIRITUAL) ONLINE BUSINESS

What’s next for The Numinous, and the long-winded, behind-the-scenes, real-deal process of how I arrived at this decision (plus some thoughts on running a spiritual online business in the Now Age and the future, or not, of capitalism)

Ruby Warrington The Numinous founder author
Photo: Ruvan Wijesooriya

Warning: this post is long, messy, and rambling. A bit like my decision-making process for what’s next with The Numinous. I hesitated about posting it, but in the end I needed to write it for me—and, if you’re running an online business, are a spiritual solopreneur, or are overall just sick of selling and being sold to, I suspect there will also be plenty in here for YOU …

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In the weeks leading up to my Numinous sabbatical I’d been gearing up for exactly the opposite: I was preparing to launch The Numinous Astrology School (a.k.a. NAS—kinda like NASA, but without the Astronauts part. Lol). But as I went about putting all the pieces together, the anxiety knitting my shoulders to the back of my skull was a signal that something was off.

On the one hand, I was nervous about the financial investment. Between the artwork, tech build, marketing funnels, and promo materials, it would cost me at least $10K to get it off the ground. That’s not factoring in the countless hours of my own time spent on content creation. And while I’d seen some of my peers make a mint with their digital products, I knew others who’d been burned when the supposedly magical “launch formula” peddled by the likes of Marie Forleo, didn’t work out so magic for them.

It was after I spent $1600 on a 3-minute promo video that looked like something a 5-year-old could have made on an iPhone, that the house of cards came tumbling down, scenes of past launch “failures” flashing before my third eye.

The time I spent thousands on the Numinous sweatshirt line my readers had been so excited for … which only a handful of people actually bought (it took two years to just about break even, and I wound up donating the leftover sweats to the Bowery Mission two Thanksgivings ago). The digital Numiversity courses I created with my then-resident astrologers Bess Matassa and Sandy Sitron, of which we sold about 30 for a total of less than $1K. Divided three ways, my split didn’t even cover one month’s medical insurance.

Why should this time would be any different? I was banking on at least 1000 sign-ups to cover my costs and (finally) generate a sustainable income to offset the hours (years) I have put into building this platform. To foot the bill of maintaining this platform going forward. This represented just 1% of my Instagram following. But based on past experience and given my miserably low IG engagement at the time (due partly, no doubt, to my growing resentment at IG for stealing our attention and creativity to profit an increasingly ethically challenged Zuckerberg empire), even this moderate goal suddenly seemed totally pie in the sky.

And so I quit. Not only did I not proceed with launching the course, I decided to press pause on everything Numinous while I took a big old breath. Created some space for myself to feel into what exactly did want to come next.

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I’m sharing these details because I know I’m not alone in my attempts and my failures to “successfully” launch. Meaning, to create an income from my work that at least covers my rent and basic living costs (in NYC, this totals roughly an eye-watering $7K a month). In the age of side hustles and spiritual solopreneurship, “how to monetize my passion project / healing gifts” has got to be one of the crunchiest conundrums of the Now Age; we want to create a business and a life that serves others as it serves us … and the capitalist systems we are expected to fall into line with in order to do this are often totally at odds with who we are as creators, and what we believe as spiritual beings. Not to mention the basic root of all inequality and exploitation on the planet.

The “create a digital course” model is typically pitched as a way to generate a “passive income,” leaving you free to pursue what you really came here to do—but not only does it often entail subtle manipulation of your intended customer base, it seems more to me like it becomes your full-time job. And what if posting the recommended 25-30 IG stories per day, managing assistants and affiliates, and writing copy for marketing funnels, feels about as far removed as it gets from what your soul incarnated to contribute to the collective in this one wild and precious life?

Which is not to say there aren’t some beautiful, soulful, and generous digital courses out there. If you’ve created a course and / or a library of digital products that deeply serves you and others, fantastic! Some of us have an innate gift for community building that translates perfectly to authentic and heartfelt network marketing.

If anything, my “failure” to turn The Numinous into a one-stop online astrology shop (what well-meaning advisors have been telling me to do with this platform since before it even launched) has forced me to look more deeply at why this hasn’t worked FOR ME. To consider the value of what I actually DO feel called to create—and of MY unique gifts. And, in doing so, to trust fall back into walking my own messy, intuitive, utterly un-formulaic patchwork of a path.

-This has meant looking at what has worked, what space I was creating from when it did, and working out how I can do more of that.

-It’s meant reminding myself, as a writer in a world where “content” often only exists to sell a product, that my words have value in and of themselves. That my words are my product.

-It’s meant a deeper dive into my own lack of worthiness, the ancestral roots of this, and a look at what we value as a society (where we literally put our $$$) and why.

This is a process that remains ongoing, which is pretty much forming the basis of my next book (how to earn a living, or not, as an author: whole other subject!), and which has resulted in me creating a suite of personal services—from book doula’ing, to personal brand consulting, to astrology coaching 1-2-1s—that I’ll be offering going forward. You can learn more about them HERE.

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But what of The Numinous? If you’re reading this, I hope it’s because you’ve found value in this platform over the years. Maybe you’ve missed our mystical missives, and you’re wondering when we’ll be back. And well the truth is, The Numinous cannot continue to exist until it can earn its own keep.

When I launched the site, it was because I’d always wanted my own magazine. My own space to create and commission content that meant something to me, and that I felt contributed something of value in the wider world. And off I went. I didn’t charge a subscription fee (who paid for online media?), and as well as my own writing, I relied on unpaid contributions from writers keen to promote their own offerings to fill in the gaps.

Within two years, in late 2014, I’d been approached by HarperCollins about doing a book, for which I received a $50K advance. Result! This felt like payment for the work I’d put into the platform to date. Five years down the line, I have yet to earn any royalties from Material Girl, Mystical World (and given that only 30% of authors “earn out” their book advances, it’s unlikely that I will)—and I’ve had to find revenue from other streams to support the site and its growth.

Freelance journalism, hosting events and retreats, the occasional paid partnership. More books, some affiliate sales of other people’s digital courses. There were also my Moon Club earnings, the biz I co-founded with Alexandra Roxo, which I exited in Jan this year. I scraped a decent living keeping these plates spinning, until I hit a wall. Here I was, age 43, super “accomplished” by any external measure, and working all the hours—yet eaten up with constant anxiety about where my next rent check was coming from.

The other reason I “quit” The Numinous this summer? Having finally hired a book-keeper, there was no more ignoring the fact that the majority of my earnings were going straight back into this platform—despite it not actually generating any revenue. Sure, it was what had led to my book deals, and what supported the income streams listed above, etc. But when I weighed the time and energy that was going into maintaining it against what I was getting out of it, the scales were waaaaaaay off.

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Shit … is this coming off as some privileged white girl sob story?! I am mega aware that having a publishing deal land in my lap, for example, is a HUGE opportunity, for which I am extremely grateful. I also acknowledge that my previous career in journalism has opened many doors for me. That being straight and white and thin, it has been easier to risk “using my voice” without underlying fears for my safety. And that having husband who (until this summer) brought home a corporate salary also provided a financial buffer over the years.

And I also I know that my story mirrors many of our stories, regardless of our identities and external circumstances. Whether you’re creating a personal brand or are in any way pursuing a more creative career, the sheer volume of work that has to happen behind the scenes to generate even a moderate income, can be overwhelming. And if you don’t have a natural aptitude for IG stories, it can be even more draining. If this is you, I FEEL YOU. (And, going forward, I also want this to be a space for us to talk about the reality of running a digital business in the Now Age.)

Of course, the “smart” thing to do, as may others have advised me over the years, would be to seek VC investment. Use it to hire a team. Build an app. MAKE A FUCKING COURSE ALREADY. Put a bunch of money into Facebook ads, and get with the 21ST century!

But … that just doesn’t feel (as if you couldn’t guess by now) very “me.” It’s also playing by those same old capitalist rules again, and honestly, isn’t it time for something better? Elizabeth Warren might be promising to “remake capitalism” as part of her 2020 election manifesto, but I am leery of Big Politics ability to affect real change (given its affiliation with Big Business).

For now, here we are, lots of little, individual, human-run businesses, just making it up as we go along. And so long as the rules for how to make it work are still being written, here are some ideas that get a vote from me (*lifted pretty much verbatim from my proposal for book #3):

-We measure the “success” of a business by the positive impact it has on others.

-We buy less “stuff” and we invest more in each other.

-We revalue feelings, ideas, and relationships as our most valuable “assets.”

-We enact a more “matriarchal” business model, by pooling and sharing our resources equally.

-We embrace rest, resourcefulness, and wanting less, as vital elements of our planetary healing process.

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… which is a very, very, long-winded of way of informing you that, going forward, The Numinous will be switching to a subscription model. I’ll still be posting select astro content and lengthy rants on Instagram. You’ll find the odd missive from a guest writer on this site. There will still be one free newsletter per month with info about upcoming events and retreats, details of any other stuff I’m promoting, and the astro mantras you love so much.

But the JUICE. The really GOOD STUFF. The writings and the teachings that reflect the contents of my heart, the ponderings of my mind, and the yearnings of my soul. These will be delivered as a monthly content drop to subscribers via my new Patreon page—which is still in the process of being set up, and which I’ll be sharing links to in the coming weeks.

So, there you have it. The full story and the real, behind-the-scenes deal. If you have any thoughts, feedback, or feelings about this post to share, I’d love to hear from you at [email protected] <3

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: MANIFESTING ABUNDANCE IN 2018

Some spell-crafting and cosmic intervention sure—but manifesting abundance in 2018 for me mainly means getting real, says Ruby Warrington

Numinous Founder Ruby Warrington manifesting abundance in 2018
Photo: Caitlin Mitchell

Like a lot of us, I have high hopes for 2018—meaning it can’t be any worse than 2017. Mind you, I also had high expectations last year: it was the year my book came out, after all. And while that has opened all kinds of doors and bought a ton of blessings, it was also the hardest, most vulnerable, and most humbling experience of my life.

Add a backdrop of total political fuckery, a raging tech / iPhone addiction, family health issues, and a steady stream of natural disasters in the news, and I ended last year with a nervous system that felt shot to pieces. Um, anyone?

2017 was the first year I naturally lost weight due to stress (having taken matters into my own hands and starved myself during my traumatic teens). It was the first year I got fillers, as it felt like I began aging on fast forward. It was the year I made my first actual enemies (one of them a celebrity, who got so mad about something I didn’t even do, she sent me emails threatening to ruin my career).

There was plenty more, too, but this post isn’t about how shit last year was—because two weeks in to 2018, and I’m already feeling a MASSIVE shift. Maybe it’s because Saturn has gotten the fuck off my ascendant (moving from Sagittarius into Capricorn in December last year), or that all the all the planets are currently in direct motion (!!!), but things have just been … going my way.

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Projects are popping, my Numinous and Moon Club communities feel supportive and vibrant (I love you guys!), and I’m about to begin work on book #2. My nervous system feels healed, my actions calm, directed, and SOLID. So why the rapid turnaround?

Cosmic omens aside, here are three ways I’ve been actively manifesting a killer 2018:

// I DID A WISHCRAFT SESSION
At the end of last year, amazing hypnotherapist Shauna Cummins suggested I try her Wishcraft experience—which is kind of like a witchy, uber-directed intention-setting ceremony.

During the session, Shauna had myself and Numi assistant editor Bess (SUCH a great exercise to do with a colleague or friend) write out 10 things we love about ourselves / life in general, to get us in the mindset of abundance. Then 10 things we wanted for ourselves in 2018. Then five things we love about The Numinous, and five things we wanted for this platform.

We then did a guided hypnosis where we journeyed to the END of 2018, and envisioned ourselves celebrating the year just gone. The purpose of this was to trick our subconscious minds into believing these things had already come to pass—increasing the chance of them actually happening.

Using these ideal future outcomes, we identified three words or concepts to summarize our core desires for the year ahead. We infused these into candles to be lit again each day over the holidays, to plant our intentions deeper. Two weeks into the year, I’m already seeing results. Shaunacummins.com

Shauna Cummins Wishcraft the Numinous manifesting abundance

// I’M MAKING SPACE FOR WHAT’S “MINE”
Meaning I am literally removing anything from my diary, my work, and my personal life, that is not 100% aligned with my intentions for my Self and my mission. This was something that came up a lot with me and various members of the Numi crew last year—how the more things we said “no” to, the faster the things that were a big “yes” for us showed up.

Which is easier said than done. Already I can hear you going “what about my resonsibilities to my family / friends / job?” Or, “How is doing less going to pay my credit card debt?”

But it was spending a week with no WiFi or cell reception over the holidays, that I was able to really see how being available and in “respond” mode all the time—thanks to email, text, DM, FB messenger, ETC.—leaves very little space for manifesting abundance when it comes to what YOU want and need.

In my book, I talk about how to cultivate healthy “higher selfishness”—something that is counter to everything we’ve been taught about how things work. We’ve learned: push / work hard to get what you want. Give to others before you serve yourself. Be accommodating if you want to be accepted. Ugh, the GUILT of putting ourselves first!

But the fact is, our bodies, brains and consciousness weren’t designed for the sheer volume of “other people’s needs” (family, friends, boss, AND refugees, disaster victims, etc.) that we interact with daily in the Now Age. It’s on us to be discerning about who and what truly deserve our time and energy, and to get okay with closing the door on the rest.

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//I’M GETTING REAL
A large part of why 2017 felt so harsh for so many of us, is that the veil was well and truly lifted. On a personal, a political and a global level, situations stacked up to remind us that NO, everything will not turn out okay if we just keep preaching “love and light!” That it’s on us to pro-actively co-create our desired reality with literally every choice we make and every word we speak.

In 2018, with Saturn coming home to its own sign of Capricorn, it’s like we’re experiencing a collective “Saturn Return”—a.k.a. the mother of all reality checks. Which means no more blind eyes and heads in the sand. Unsettling? Maybe. But this is also our moment to “grow up”, take responsibility, and face the facts head on.

In my daily life, this already looks like picking up the phone more often to check the facts, versus trying to read between the lines. It means being a lot less “nice”, and knowing it’s okay if not everybody likes me. It means telling people what’s really going on for me (the people who actually need to know, anyway). And it means asking for what I’m worth, and not settling for less because I’m scared it’s all I’ll get.

None of it comfortable or easy. But if 2017 taught me anything, it’s that comfort and ease are earned by our willingness to get real, confront our demons, and actually ASK for the support we need.

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“My Mystical Life” is returning as a weekly column, after I had to take a time-out to deal with the overall overwhelm of 2017. It’s good to be back. Here’s to manifesting abundance in 2018 and beyond!