The Self-Love Book Club Reads Red, Hot, and Holy // Our First Link-Up

red-hot-holy“The way Home isn’t just through Self Knowledge, but also through Self Love. The old adage is true; We cannot truly love another (or the God/dess of this Universe) until we love ourselves. And the Love we long to experience most above and beyond all else, is with our Selves. So this universe kindly sets us up for the Fall…and then, We are romanced into our own Remembrance. We are seduced by our own soul. We are serenaded (and okay, sometimes spanked) by our Divine Self until we come to realize that We are the ones we have been waiting for, searching for, praying for. In other words, You’ve been calling yourself back into your own arms from the moment you swallowed the belief that you’ve been separated.” – Sera Beak

I named this blog after an essay I read in university that had a profound impact on me: The Laugh of the Medusa by Hélène Cixous. In it she talks about a specifically feminine style of writing. She calls it “writing in white ink” – a writing ‘from the body’ that is visceral and true and utterly important for elevating the status of the feminine in Western society and also liberating the self. “Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time. Write yourself. Your body must be heard,” she says.

Red, Hot, and Holy is not quite like any text I’ve ever read before. In a lot of ways, I think Sera’s write embodies this écriture féminine that Cixous writes about. It’s a spiritual memoir that puts all of Sera’s ways of knowing and experiencing the world onto the page. It is at times academic, when she discusses the deities that she studied throughout university. At other times it’s poetic, when Sera speaks the “red” truths that seem to come through her from another realm of existence. Her story is woven with the wisdom of those who have shaped her spirituality and offered guidance on her path.

It is a deeply personal text. Unlike other “spiritual gurus,” Sera came to understand that being of service to the world lies not in creating a path or a movement for others to follow, but in authentically sharing her own journey and encouraging others to find their own way.


journal“If a tradition or teacher or practice feels in alignment with your soul, then trust it. All paths lead Home … eventually. Essentially, anything ‘true’ out there isn’t attempting to fill you up with more information or exercises or philosophies or paradigms or belief systems or techniques or ‘how-to’s'; it is actually pointing its metaphorical finger right back to you: What Do You Know?”

At times, I found Sera’s writing alienating. It is so intensely her and I couldn’t find my place within it. Yet I appreciate the honesty of her work and the underlying message at its core: follow your heart. Be true to yourself. Forge your own path. Tell your story.

I may not speak in red, as Sera does. My spiritual journey may not take me into the arms of a goddess. It may not be filled with radical visions or personal conversations with the divine. But reading Sera’s work has inspired me. To find the words that speak deep within me. To honour my own spiritual path, whatever that may look like, wherever it may lead me.

What was your experience of reading Red, Hot, and Holy? I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments or link-up your post below.







The Reading List // Strippers & Magic & Being a Twentysomething

flowers-booksI’ve been on a major non-fiction kick lately with a heavy emphasis on personal and business development. Books to inspire me. Books to refine my skills. Books to show me new ways of looking at the world. Books to peak my curiosity and exercise my sense of wonder.

Here’s what I’ve been reading…

book2Not In Kansas Anymore by Christine Wicker

I’d recommend this book to anyone who believes that there’s more to life than meets the eye. It’s a fascinating exploration of the prevalence of magical thinking and the many forms it takes.

Magic has stepped out of the movies, morphed from the pages of fairy tales, and is more present in America today than you might expect. Soccer moms get voodoo head washings in their backyards, young American soldiers send chants toward pagan gods of war, and a seemingly normal family determines that they are in fact elves. National bestselling author and award-winning religion reporter Christine Wicker leaves no talisman unturned in her hunt to find what’s authentic and what’s not in America’s burgeoning magical reality. From the voodoo temples of New Orleans to the witches’ covens of Salem to a graveyard in north Florida, Wicker probes the secrets of an underground society and teaches lessons she never dreamed could be taught. What she learns repels her, challenges her, and changes her in ways she never could have imagined. And if you let it, it might change you, too.

Think Like a Stripper by Erika Lyremarkbook3

I read this book cover to cover on a train ride home from Toronto and was impressed with Erika’s witty anecdotes and bite-sized business wisdom. It’s a great, light read for anyone looking for motivation and actionable advice to make their dreams come true.

As a former stripper, Erika Lyremark has seen it all. Nine years in the industry left her with no desire to ever return; but her experiences there—more than either of the college degrees her stripping career paid for—proved to be her real education. Think Like A Stripper is an insider’s pass into an infamous industry you’ll probably never be part of—but could stand to learn a lot from. Whether your goal is to build your business, increase your sales, or carry out your Red Carpet Dreams, Erika delivers the lessons you need to thrive as an entrepreneur, and the advice you’d never (ever, ever) learn in business school.

book4The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

A fascinating read for all self-love book clubbers and anyone who is interested in living a fuller, richer life.

Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we’d no longer feel inadequate. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, Ph.D., a leading expert on shame, authenticity and belonging, shares what she’s learned from a decade of research on the power of Wholehearted Living  a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.

In her ten guideposts, Brown engages our minds, hearts, and spirits as she explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough, And to go to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave. And, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.

The Defining Decade by Meg Jaybook5

I’d suggest this book to any twentysomething who finds herself floundering. This is the age when we have the most freedom to shape our lives and Meg Jay provides tools to do so in a way that is intentional and will yield the life you want to live.

Our “thirty-is-the-new-twenty” culture tells us the twentysomething years don’t matter. Some say they are a second adolescence. Others call them an emerging adulthood. Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, argues that twentysomethings have been caught in a swirl of hype and misinformation, much of which has trivialized what is actually the most defining decade of adulthood.

Drawing from a decade of work with hundreds of twentysomething clients and students, The Defining Decade weaves the latest science of the twentysomething years with behind-closed-doors stories from twentysomethings themselves. The result is a provocative read that provides the tools necessary to make the most of your twenties, and shows us how work, relationships, personality, social networks, identity, and even the brain can change more during this decade than at any other time in adulthood-if we use the time wisely.

book1Be Pretty on Rest Days by Muireann Carey-Campbell

I’m a big fan of Muireann’s blog and also enjoyed her 32-page ebook. It’s perfect for someone, like me, who fancies the idea of being a runner but doesn’t quite know where to get started. From stretching and gear, to sharing her own couch-to-marathon-runner journey, Muireann provides all of the motivation and know-how necessary to make running part of your life.

Looking to start running but don’t know where to begin? Or perhaps you run already and just need an extra kick up the backside? Then this is the book for you. Be Pretty On Rest Days guides you through those initial tentative steps from from the first time you lace up your trainers to fully kicking the pavement’s ass. The book will help you channel your inner badass and achieve your goals, both in running and in life, in no time.

I’ve got a growing collection on my Kindle to add to the list, but I think it’s time for a perfectly escapist piece of fiction. Any suggestions?





Header Image.

Tattoo Talk // Four Tattoo Books Worth Reading


We’ve chatted about tattoo magazines, and today I thought we could talk about our favourite (non-fiction) tattoo books. Unfortunately I find that, like magazines, many aren’t worth the cover price because they’re just full of unlicensed images without anything interesting to say about the history or current practices of tattooing. So, I thought I’d share the few gems I’ve stumbled upon, or that have been recommended to me by friends in the industry.

We’ve looked at Angelique’s amazing work before, and Tattoo Darling: The Art of Angelique Houtkamp gives an in-depth look at her creative process. Her tattoo flash is broken down into step-by-step frames for budding tattoo artists looking to hone their painting skills. But it’s also a great resource for any appreciators of Angelique’s tattoos or anyone who wants to gain more insight to her unique style through the essays included in the book.

I received Forever: The New Tattoo as a Christmas gift after spotting it in my favourite East London book. It impressed me so much, not just because of it’s beautiful design but because it tackles the interesting question of how tattoos evolved from sub-culture to mainstream, and many of the most interesting artists working today are featured on its pages.

Scott Campbell: If You Don’t Belong, Don’t be Long was the book of choice when I gave my boyfriend a gift certificate to said East London book store for his birthday. He’s a tattoo artist, so while I haven’t read it myself yet, I do trust his judgment on the matter. If you haven’t checked it out yourself yet, Campbell’s work artfully blends “new antiquarian” style, nineteenth-century hand-lettering, kitsch, and classic tattoo “flash”. And he’s as talented with painting and sculpture as he is with skin. Known as a tattoo artist to celebrities like Heath Ledger and Marc Jacobs, this book explores how his fine art and his tattoos are inspired by one another.

The hefty price tag has prevented be from purchasing my own copy of Ladies & Ink: Female Tattooists, but I have had a chance to get a few sneak peaks and it’s an absolutely beautiful book. The photographs are absolutely beautiful and it features profiles of more than 100 lady tattooers from around the world.

Do you have a favourite tattoo book to recommend? Perhaps I’ll have to start reading some fiction in which tattoos feature prominently for a future roundup.



Introducing The Self-Love Book Club

SLBCThere’s an interesting story about one of the Dalai Lama’s first visits to the United States. After one of his lectures, a member of the audience put up her hand and asked for his advice on dealing with self-hatred. Apparently it took quite a lot of discussion between this woman and the Dalai Lama’s translator before he understood the question. Eventually he replied: “How could they feel that way about themselves when everybody has Buddha nature? I thought I had a very good acquaintance with the mind, but now I feel quite ignorant. I find this very, very strange.”

Although it’s not talked about often, I think most people I know struggle with self-hatred on some level. Comedian Amy Schumer recently released a tongue-in-cheek videos about how notoriously difficult it is for women to accept compliments and rely own their strengths. It’s a hilarious sketch but the underlying reality it riffs off of is utterly tragic. Self-loathing is an epidemic.

Whether it’s hating the way our thighs look in shorts or a deep seated belief that we’re not genuinely worthy of love, we’re literally driving ourselves insane. But the crux of the Dalai Lama story is that this is optional. There is another way.

Over the past few years I’ve been following the work of radical self-love revolutionaries, like Gala Darling and Marie Forleo, and writing my own love story with myself. Most days, it feels like an uphill battle. Dismantling limiting beliefs and negative thought patterns you’ve held on to for your entire life is anything but easy. But being a happier, vibrant, more authentic version of myself is always worth it.

artjournalYet it’s something that, up till now, I rarely talk about. Probably because the whole concept of “self-love” smacks of being too ‘New Agey’ (read: flakey). But why is that? It’s probably telling that in the thesaurus self-love is lumped in with other words for “narcissism.” We live in a society that tells us loving ourselves is wrong. And I’m calling shenanigans.

But as I create more content about my journey to fall more and more in love with myself, I want to create a space to talk with kindred spirits who are going on their own vision quests of self-actualization. I want to connect with the urban pixies becoming their own darlings, the dynamo rockstars that show how bad ass self-love really is, and the renegade sprites whose audacious choices are acts of rebellion in a society that tells them to play small. That’s where the idea of a virtual book club came to mind.

Delving into some of this work can be daunting, especially when it makes some people in your life roll their eyes. So, let’s start our own tribe of self-love warriors, supporting one another across the Internet.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

We’ll read one book each month that is somehow closely related to the theme of self-love. As the host, I’ll make the final decision as to what to read but I’d really love and welcome any suggestions. You’ll have a month to get your hands on the book (ie. the September book is announced today, August 1) and we can chat about the book via Twitter and Facebook as we go. At the end of the month, everyone who participates can blog about their own reading experience – whether it’s a review or some personal revelation, and we’ll have a link-up. If you don’t have your own blog, you can always participate in the comments.

So, what do you think? Do you want to take the plunge and read along with us?

redhotandholyFor the first month (September) I’ve chosen a book that I’m really excited about. As a former atheist who’s come to have a more complicated view of spirituality, I love the way this book seems to weave divinity and self-love together.

Red Hot and Holy is described as a “a provocative and intimate view of what it means to get up close and personal with the divine in modern times.”

“With a rare combination of audacious wit, scholarly acumen, and tender vulnerability—vibrantly mixed with red wine, rock songs, tattoos, and erotic encounters—Sera candidly chronicles the highs and lows of her mystical journey. From the innocence of her childhood crush on God; through a whirlwind of torrid liaisons and bitter break-ups with Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism, and the New Age; and finally into committed monogamy with her own Red Hot and Holy Goddess, Sera shares transformative insights, encouraging us all to trust our unique path and ignite our own spiritual love affair.

Sera Beak’s luscious writing and renegade spiritual wisdom that slices through religious and new age dogma made her debut book The Red Book a breakout success. With Red Hot and Holy she offers a far more personal book—an illuminating, hilarious, and above all utterly honest portrait of the heart-opening process of mystical realization. This hot and holy book invites you to embrace your soul, unleash your true Self, and burn, baby, burn with divine love.”

I mean, I’m hooked already – how about you?

And Sounds True Publishing has generously offered to give one lucky reader a copy of the book. The giveaway will run for one week and you can enter daily to win. But if you aren’t the one who’s chosen, or you just can’t wait to get your hands on the book, you can grab a Kindle copy for less than $9.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’m really excited about this project and I hope you’ll join in!





P.S. I’d love to co-host with a different blogstress each month, so if you’re interested in getting in at the ground floor, drop me a line.

And, if you’re thinking of joining the book club, why not slap a button on your blog and spread the love?

The Laughing Medusa // The Self-Love Book Club
<div align="center"><a href="/the_self_love_book_club/index.html" title="The Laughing Medusa // The Self-Love Book Club" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="The Laughing Medusa // The Self-Love Book Club" style="border:none;" /></a></div>


Tattoo Talk // 3 Tattoo Mags That are Worth Reading

(my magazine haul from London – my suitcase was a teeny bit overweight)
I’ll confess, I’m a complete magazine addict. And perhaps it’s no wonder, I made my first magazine when I was 8-years old (a celebrity gossip rag for third graders) and my first “real” job was as the editor-in-chief of a Toronto women’s magazine. But I have to admit, I’m not often impressed by the mainstream tattoo magazines that have crossed my path. Sure, they’re alright for flicking through while you’re waiting for a tattoo appointment and from time-to-time they offer decent flash and inspiration for new ideas, but generally I find them poorly curated and badly written. So, when I find one that’s got it all – good typography, an appealing layout, beautiful photography, talented featured artists, and genuinely interesting articles – I take note and now I’m going to share my top three with you. If you’re looking for top quality tattoo magazines, read on…

The creators of Things & Ink describe their publication as “a new tattoo magazine that embraces female tattoo culture, for artists, collectors and those yet to go under the needle.” Their premier issue launched in London while I was living there and I was excited to pick up a copy from a local studio. Each glossy page features beautiful full-colour photos and articles on interesting topics – from interviews with world-renowned artists to a debate on having visible tattoos on your wedding day. Even with their female focus, I know that this magazine will appeal to tattoo lovers of both genders. If you live outside of the UK, you can always order a copy online.

Sang Bleu is the brain child of renowned tattoo artist Maxime Buchi, so while each issue features not only tattoos but art, cultural studies, and fashion as well, their coverage of tattoo culture is always top notch. I’ll admit, their new, advertising-free format comes with a hefty price tag. But as my partner-in-crime is their former intern and avid reader, I’ve had the pleasure of perusing a few copies and seeing for myself the quality of each issue. If you can’t fork over the $100 for the 700-page tome, their blog is always worth checking out.

Tattoo Culture is a new online magazine created by professional tattooists and it just debuted this week. I downloaded a copy right away and was impressed by the amount of work that must have gone into it. The features are incredibly informative – including tips on evaluating an artist’s portfolio – and the interviews are in-depth and thought-provoking.

Is there a top notch tattoo magazine I’ve failed to mention? Leave a comment; I’d love to discover a new read!

xx S.