Ten Things I Love: Oracular Wish List Edition

I already know that I’m going to be one of those people with 50 tarot decks or worse.  There are just SO MANY that are SO GORGEOUS and how on Earth are you supposed to just pick one?  Why should I, when there is such an astonishing variety of beautiful, meaningful, adorable, or just plain hilarious decks out there?  

Here are a bunch of decks that I would love to get my hands on for various reasons, as well as a couple of oracular accessories I’m in love with right now.

1 – The Monstarot 

This deck by Joanna Nelson is so utterly adorable I can’t even stand it.  It’s pretty much Rider-Waite-Smith, but with a playful, childlike twist.  Not every reading has to be Deathly Serious, and if you’re turned off by a lot of the heavy-handed JudeoChristian symbolism in the RWS you might have a lot more fun with a deck like this.  

2 – The Impressionist Tarot

This deck is one of the classical-artist-copycat type decks, and I mostly just love it for the art.  Each suit is inspired by the work of an Impressionist:  Wands are Manet, Cups are Monet, Swords are Van Gogh, and Pentacles are Degas.  (The Majors are a mix of all four.)

3 – The Last Unicorn Tarot

OMG I MUST HAVE THIS.  An officially licensed deck using the artwork and style of the animated adaptation of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, one of my favorite childhood books and movies.  At the moment I can’t quite justify spending nearly 80 dollars on a deck, but I’m hoping it will do well and be in print long enough that I can get my hands on one.

4 – The Ophidia Rosa Tarot

Every time I see someone post about getting this deck I feel a surge of painful envy that I suspect means I would love working with it myself.  It’s a botanical deck, which I wouldn’t have expected to swoon over, but something about the near-monochromatic illustrations and the beautiful snake backing draw me in over and over.

Here’s a video review of both the Ophidia Rosa and its sister oracle deck.  

5 – The Next World Tarot

There are many modernized Tarot decks, but few that manage to convey diversity, gritty reality, and the sense of hope underlying the Next World cards.  They are grounded in the human body and represent it in its full splendor, including all shapes, sizes, genders, abilities, races, ages, you name it.  As I understand it the cards are huge, which would probably prevent me from reading with them (I have wee little hands) but I want to touch them and gaze into them, meditate on their layers of meaning.

To quote the Little Red Tarot description of the deck, “The Fool’s Journey is about smashing systematic oppression, owning their truths, being accountable to the people and places that support them, and taking back a connection to their body that may have been lost through trauma or societal brainwashing. The NEXT WORLD TAROT is a visual spectacle of both the battle cry and the reconnection between outcasts and their criminalized identities.”

6 – Raven Tarot Bag

I am blessed with a roommate who sews beautifully, so in theory all I’d have to do is find fabric and ply her with cookies to get all the tarot bags I want, but still, I like supporting independent artists out there in the world who create beautiful things as well (or have access to materials it would be way more trouble to acquire or work with than I’d want to inflict on my Roombeest).  And one can never have too many pretty bags for Witchy and Mystical Goodness, right?

Isn’t this fabric amazing? The same shop has several other patterns I love.

7 – Tree of Life Zipper Bag

You know, it had never really occurred to me to try a zippy bag for my cards.  I guess my inner woo-woo-maven thinks that drawstring is more…magical?  I have no idea. But I’d never have to worry about the deck falling out of a zipped up bag.  Again, this shop has several alchemical and mystical patterns that would be perfect for cards, runes, or whatever items you need to have on the go.  

8 – Tarot Wraparound Pouch

These colors!  I do love a batik.  I like wraparound bags and cloths like this one – they feel secure but have more visual and textural interest than a regular old drawstring bag.

The shop also carries other patterns and additional magical goodies you might enjoy browsing through.  Just FYI.  

9 – Tree of Life Altar/Tarot Cloth

So pretty, nice soft rayon, 18×18″…I might have to snag this one given how affordable it is.

10 – Gothic Storage Box

This box is flat out gorgeous, and I’m sitting here doing a Homer!Gurgle just looking at it.  I’m also guessing that the Roombeest would be willing to fight me for it given her love of blue things.


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Sylvan Points at Stuff – 10 Things That Weren’t Absolute Crap in 2017

Let’s be honest here:  2017 sucked.  If your year was awesome, well, chances are you’re either a millionaire, you are oblivious to the outside world, or you are Taylor Swift (which means you are a millionaire and oblivious to the outside world).  

This is not to say nothing good happened.  Of course it did!  Through the smoke of the gigantic dumpster fire of 2017 you could catch glimpses of beauty and truth.  I hope that your personal life involved at least a few lovely things, and that here at the tail end of the year you’re able to look back and see those lovely things no matter how much of the world’s bullshit wound up burning in a bag on your porch.  Let those be the things that warm you as we head into what is likely to be another difficult year for those of us with a social conscience and a lot to lose.

As for me, I feel an immense relief that the year is over even though I have no real reason to imagine 2018 will be less of a turd soufflé.  And rather than analyze it all to death, I’m just going to bury it in the litter box and try to be done with it – I need my strength for the year ahead.  

But here are ten small-to-medium things about 2017 that I did love, in no particular order.

1 – I did kind of publish another book.  That’s pretty cool.  

Incidentally it’d be really awesome if you read Shadow Rising and would be kind enough to leave a review or rating on Amazon.  I don’t read reviews (no, not even good ones) because they’re bad for my mental health, but every writer needs them to help encourage people to try out their work.  

2 – Wonder Woman. 

Even though DC has misfired dreadfully on 90% of its superhero movies, this one was like a breath of fresh air and optimism in an unrelentingly dreary year.  At long last a movie with a female superhero character who wasn’t constantly framed for the male gaze – no long shots down her cleavage, no posing with her butt positioned toward the camera in defiance of anatomy and logic.  Was it a perfect movie?  Oh gods no.  It turned into a giant CGI brainless brawl at the end, and I still can’t get past Ares’ porn stache, but if you didn’t see a bit of yourself – of our collective soul and sanity – in the No Man’s Land scene, standing up and resisting, refusing to be moved – well, you should probably watch it again:

3 – Hamilton.

Late to the party as usual, but listening to the soundtrack on a whim one night led to my falling head over heels in love with this weird hip-hop retelling of the founding of America and, by extension, its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who I think might be an actual unicorn.  If you want someone on your Twitter feed who’s positive, hilarious, and full of heart (and who writes sonnets on a whim just to say good morning), follow him, you won’t regret it.  I think when the purge of horrible men in Hollywood is done it’ll be just him, Chris Evans, and Patrick Stewart left standing.  I’m totally okay with that.

Enjoy, here, the Tony Awards performance of Hamilton’s original cast, introduced by the Obamas.  Notice that the “battle” involves no guns – the props were removed for the performance because that was the day of the mass shooting in Orlando.  

4 – Lucifer.

And now for something completely different.  I don’t quite remember what made me start watching Lucifer, or what inspired me to slog past the first few ridiculous episodes, but by the time the first season was halfway over I was HOOKED.  Aside from the gorgeous and talented cast, the show is way better than it has any right to be – the characters, especially Lucifer, Amenadiel, Mazikeen, Doctor Linda, Chloe, and the Goddess of Creation, are so emotionally compelling.  Based on the characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series of graphic novels, basically the idea is that the devil leaves hell to live in Los Angeles, run a night club, and eventually fight crime.  Yeah, it’s as dumb as it sounds, but it’s also amazing, due in no small part to Tom Ellis’s performance as Luci.  

I tried to find a clip to show you, but the really good stuff depends on context, so just take my word for it and go watch the show.  

5 –  My new Tarot deck.

After a long, long dry spell in the mystical department, I’ve gotten back into Tarot.  Rather than trying to work with oracles that aren’t really talking to me anymore, I decided to try something brand new, and have embarked on learning actual Tarot (my preferred oracles have been, as you may know, the Runes of the Elder Futhark and the Brian Froud Faeries Oracle).  Inspired by YouTubers like Katey Flowers, and the fact that I’ve always been a sucker for a beautiful deck, I re-bought the Tarot of the Hidden Realm, and am currently studying it along with a more traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck and my Shadowscapes deck by Stephanie Law.  

And lord, does the Hidden Realm deck talk to me!  For the moment I’m concentrating on using the cards for myself, but I’ll probably start reading for other people once I’m more comfortable with them.  I have something of a divinatory spark, and it always wants to catch others on fire.

I’ll have a full post about my Tarot explorations soon.

6 – My Funko Pops! collection.

My desk at my day job is like a toy store at this point, and my Funko Pops! are the stars.  My favorites so far are General Leia and Bob Ross, who are front and center (along with a vastly amused black cat figurine):

My other favorite, of course, is Dorothy Zbornak, a gift from m’bestie; here she is having none of Stephen Strange’s nonsense, while Patty from Ghostbusters stands guard nearby.

7 – Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl”

I wasn’t as thrilled with Ed’s newest album as I was with the last one, but it does have some great songs, and the two that are Irish-inspired are probably my favorites.  This one for some reason just always makes me smile and bounce.  Smiles and bounces are important.

8 – Contouring 101.

If you haven’t seen this video…I don’t even know how to describe it to you.  It’s…a parody?  It’s bizarre and hilarious and I’m STILL laughing about it.  My roommate and I quote it constantly, specifically “…NOSTRILS” and “IF THE MEN FIND OUT WE CAN SHAPESHIFT, THEY’RE GOING TO TELL THE CHURCH.”

9 – Coffee.

Life continues to bamboozle and explode.  Coffee is always there for us.  Coffee understands.  My drink of 2017 was a raspberry soy mocha.  Trust me, the combination of flavors is exquisite.  I even had my birthday cake, which was DELICIOUS and gorgeous and made by local vegan bakery Capital City Bakery, made in mocha and raspberry.  

Actually my 40th birthday party should be on this list anyway, as it was a fabulous time with some of my favorite people, and I got delightfully squiffy on Moscow Mules (my favorite form of squiff-ening beverage).

10 –  My new pendant.

Speaking of my birthday, I had my eye on this piece for an entire year before I finally ordered it.  I’ve long worn a pewter compass that says “Trust Your Journey,” but as my 40th loomed I felt it was time for a new “me” necklace.  The pendant below bears the calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my all-time favorite spiritual writers and a true inspiration; it’s one of several pieces in the series, and is a sentiment I try to be mindful of every day:  No mud, no lotus.


11 – (Special Bonus Round!)  All of you.

I know, it’s cheesy, but all my readers and Patrons and friends and Twitter followers and Facebook peeps helped immeasurably to keep 2017 from being a total misery-orgy.  I’ve never been good at communicating with actual people – I’m awful at returning emails and comments, not because I don’t read them or want to reply, but because…I don’t know, exactly.  It might be the same thing that makes it so impossible for me to make phone calls.  I absolutely blow at reaching out.  But I know you’re there, and i adore every one of you.  I hope that my infrequent blog posts, occasional novels, and sporadic attendance at my own social media are at least worth sticking around for.  I hope to have a new book for you this year – probably not Book 8 (although who knows?), but something new (I hope I hope I hope), and I really want to offer more Shadow World Extras and, gods willing, more of the Agency.  But none of this would be possible without all of you staying with me through my silly seasons and sad storms, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

Let’s all have a solidly good 2018.  It seems a bit laughable to ask for awesome, given the state of the world, but let’s all do what we can to make it better – for ourselves, for each other, for everyone.

Everyone hold hands…take a breath…and…jump!

I’ll be back soon with posts on my new bullet journal/planner situation, a wrap-up of last year’s favorite planner spreads, some musings on divination, and my goals for 2018.

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Sylvan Points at Stuff: Favorite YouTube Channels

Been a while since I pointed at anything, so let’s have some videos!  

I am a woman of odd enthusiasms, as are, I imagine, many of my readers.  Looking at the channels I subscribe to on YouTube or the Instagrams I follow would be pretty instructive to those trying to figure me out – just, um, don’t read too much into my Tumblr, I’m really not *that* into gay porn.

I think the entire internet just gave me this face:

While Instagram for me is mostly pretty things and food, however, I actually use my YouTube for some practical purposes, including getting the hell to sleep.  I follow a number of meditation music channels and ASMR-related channels to help my anxiety and help me sleep, so they make up a significant chunk of what you’d see on my feed.  I also have several art-related folk I follow, particularly devoted to art journaling and the like, and remarkably few planner-related bloggers, although I used to follow a bunch. A lot of planner-related channels pay way more attention to things like dieting than I really want to hear about, not to mention some of the ones I used to really enjoy have stopped updating (the eternal YouTube struggle).

Here then are some of my favorite YouTube channels, in no particular order.  I’m not listing some of the more obvious ones, like Maru – I wanted to point out YouTubers you might not have heard of.

ASMR Rooms

This channel is brilliant – the creator has built a variety of “rooms” that are basically soundscapes, combining nature sounds, ambient sounds, occasionally voices, and the background noise of a particular location.  In this example she’s captured the Ravenclaw Common Room at Hogwarts, but she’s done rooms from Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, The Hobbit, and others.  They’re all incredibly soothing and evocative.

Peaceful Cuisine

Another ASMR-ish sort of channel, this one combines lovely cooking noises with vegan recipes.  There are usually two versions of each recipe, one with music and one just with the cooking sounds so you can listen as you watch.  I’ve always found cooking sounds – like dicing, pouring, and stirring – really soothing, and the videos are beautifully shot.  The creator is Japanese and occasionally appears on camera but the emphasis is always on the food and the process of prep and cooking.

YellowBrick Cinema – Relaxing Music

A prolific channel for meditation and relaxation music.  They post at least once a day.  Some of their posts are classical music, some acoustic, some ambient, and they range from 15 minutes to 6 hours in length.  There are also videos meant to help soothe babies to sleep, and music for reiki and healing practices.

Vicky Papaioannou

Vicky is one of my favorite art/craft YouTubers, partly because of her wonderful Greek accent, partly because I enjoy the bright exuberance of her style, and partly because her cat Ginger makes periodic appearances walking around on her work table.  I’m not into making handmade cards, but I enjoy watching her try new techniques and show off new supplies, and her art journals are a totally different style from what I originally found online.  It’s obvious how much she loves doing what she does.  

Yoga With Adriene

Adriene is from right here in ATX, which was my impetus for clicking on her “beginners’ yoga” video when I was tooling around YouTube looking for videos to start playing with.  I loved her almost immediately – her teaching style is a good combination of woo-woo and pragmatic, asking students to meet themselves where they are and “find what feels good.”

She’s definitely not a plus-sized yogini, and there are a couple of weight loss videos on her channel, but she typically doesn’t bring up that sort of thing unless that’s the subject of the video.  Since that’s not what I’m there for, I just steer clear of those and stick with what inspires me.  She has videos that focus on all sorts of needs, from yoga for your back and shoulders, to yoga for swimmers or cyclists, yoga for migraines, anger management, yoga for those in wheelchairs, you name it.  There are also meditations and some videos that focus on getting deeper into a particular pose.

I also love her dog Benji.  You know you’re watching an Austin yoga video when the teacher’s dog is in it.

Molly Roberts: HerSpeak

A relative newcomer to my lineup, I happened across Molly when looking for meditations, and I don’t know if it’s her voice, her enthusiasm, or just her flat out adorableness, but I was hooked.  I’m planning to go back to the beginning of her channel and watch anything that sounds appealing.

Molly’s a Pagan YouTuber, and does videos on magick, ritual, and some of my favorite subjects:  BoS/Grimoirekeeping and altar building.  To be perfectly honest it had never occurred to me to look for BoS tours and altar show-and-tell the way I’ve watched planner-walkthrough videos, and how could I have been so blind?!?  Those were always some of my favorite aspects of the Craft, and if I had a remotely video-friendly bone in my body I’d do a walkthrough of my old, hand-drawn BoS just to show how much work and love went into it way back when.

Anyway, thanks to Molly I have a whole new YouTube rabbit hole to fall down, and I’m looking forward to it.  But in the meantime I just love listening to her talk (her voice is an ASMR trigger at times, which only makes it that much more awesome) and love her ideas.  Not to mention she combines magick with something else I love hearing about:  Bullet Journaling.

Incidentally, do you have any mystical or spiritual YouTubers you love?  Pretty much any tradition, as long as it’s non-conservative.  I’m a soul-slut, as you know.  What I’d really love to see are more Pagan planners, bullet journalers, or BoS-keepers.  Recommend away in comments, on Facebook, or Twitter.  

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Sylvan Points at Stuff: Shaking My (Glittery) Fist at Fate

I know these days it seems extra trivial to care about little happy things…but right now for a lot of people (myself included) little happy things are the only things preventing meltdown. The world has become pretty awful pretty quickly (okay, let’s be precise: the awfulness that minorities and the marginalized already knew was there now has license to show itself and has thrown a mirror up at the collective batshit insane nastiness of large swaths of our country, and even without petrifying fear of the future that realization is a hell of a thing) and by damn if a bottle of pretty nail polish helps me smile enough to keep showing up and not bury my head in the sand, it’s a worthy enterprise.  

I am desperately trying to balance knowing what’s going on – not allowing it to be acceptable – and staying at least marginally sane, which was already a loaded proposition for me.  Part of me wants so badly to shut down social media and stop reading Tweets, but I refuse to allow myself that privilege.  There are people being hurt and a lot more who will be, and even if I can’t fix it, I won’t turn a blind eye.  (You hear that, you tangerine dickbag?  I will not go back to sleep.)

That said…even social justice warriors need their pleasures.  These for example:

1. Zoya “Olivera” nail polish

At the risk of sounding like someone who’s into fashion and such, Zoya is one of my go-to brands. They sell vegan nail polish (and also lipstick, which is fairly new) in about a zillion colors.  This winter they debuted a shade so gorgeous I nearly sprained my finger clicking “buy.”

It’s called Olivera, and they describe it as “a spellbinding color-flip metallic with an indigo base and a green and purple shift“  Basically that means it looks dark, dark blue in some lights, peacock green in others, gold-flecked and a little purple in others.  Zoya’s dark polishes are nearly single-coat, they’re so smooth and rich.  I’m also very fond of their polish remover, which has lots of conditioners and such in it and comes in a neat bottle.

2. Califia Farms Caramel Pecan coffee creamer

Califia Farms is one of the best brands of nondairy milk to debut in recent years – as if their cool-ass bottles weren’t enough, their products are top notch.  I’ve had a devil of a time finding a coffee creamer that I really loved, and this one’s amazing

Califia’s cold brew iced coffee is also a thing of beauty – their mocha, which is blended with their amazing almond milk, just needs a bit of vanilla syrup to sweeten it up and bam! Instant deliciousness without having to wait overnight and strain and strain and strain to make my own cold brew.  I’ve heard their holiday nogs are great too, but I haven’t tried them yet.

3. Funko Pops

Yep, I gave in.  I’d been puzzling over these weird little toys for months trying to figure out the appeal, and then I started seeing them for characters I loved…and I was doomed.  I’m trying to stick only to the few that represent my true favorites, but I suspect soon my desk at work will amass a small, giant-headed army.  Right now I only have three:

That’s Dorothy Zbornak, Patty Tolan from Ghostbusters, and Dr. Stephen Strange, hanging out on my printer. 

I’ve even got a separate Amazon wish list just of Funko Pops.  Doomed, I tell you. Doomed.

4. Mad Lib Theater – Jimmy Fallon and Benedict Cumberbatch

I posted this one on Facebook right after it aired, but I think it deserves another showing – I still cannot watch this without laughing my ass off, especially the parts where they both break “character” and barely get the lines out. 

There’s just something so fantastic about seeing actors lose their shit in the middle of a scene.  Those were always my favorite moments on shows like The Colbert Report – this one in particular gets me every time:

5. Supergirl’s Coming-Out Plotline

(SPOILERS, OBVIOUSLY)  When I first started watching Supergirl last year, at my roommate’s behest, I thought it was cute but pretty cheesy.  Melissa Benoist’s portrayal of Kara won me over, as did – miracle of miracles – Calista Flockhart’s performance as her mentor/antagonist Cat Grant.  Sure, it had plenty of goopy saccharine plot points (they beat the bad guys with the power of hope? Seriously?), but the upbeat tone and its refusal to become another dark and dreary DC show like Arrow (don’t get me wrong, I love Arrow too, but all the superhero shows seem to use the same dull color palette and the same brooding antihero emotional palette as well) somehow made it even more appealing to my little Scorpio heart.  Go figure.

This season with its move to the CW, the show has been damn near brilliant in a lot of ways, and one of the best is the storyline in which Kara’s adoptive sister realizes she’s gay and slowly accepts it about herself – and her loved ones do the same.  Alex’s confusion and her slowly growing pride, and her family’s support, are perfectly in keeping with the hopeful world Supergirl shows us in which our better selves can, and will, prevail.

That kind of positive visibility is so important, and there’s no better illustration than this story from Twitter about a woman working at a comics shop and a young LGBT woman who, thanks to Alex’s storyline, was able to find a measure of acceptance for herself.  I’m so glad that Chyler Leigh, who plays Alex, heard about the story too.  I’d post the whole thing here but it’s pretty long, so go have a read on my Tumblr – I hope it makes you feel the kind of hope I did.

That’s all for now – you might have noticed this wasn’t a Planner Friday post, but that’s because I didn’t do a damn thing to my planner this week.  I just wasn’t feeling it, and by the time I realized looking at those empty pages made me sad, it was so late in the week I decided screw it, I’ll just make next week awesome.  Stay tuned.

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Sylvan Points at Stuff: Meditation Tools for the Addled and Dorky

Oddly enough, lately I’ve been doing a lot of meditating.  For most of my life I’ve tried to do it almost out of a sense of duty – as a “spiritual” person I was obligated, right?  Well, as you can guess, that went over like a turd soufflé with my psyche, who is essentially a cosmic six-year-old:  if you tell her she has to do something, she’ll stomp her foot and give you the finger.

Still, the more the world seems to be skipping merrily to hell, the more necessary I find it to seek some sort of inner equanimity or peace, so I keep trying.

Then about a month ago I found this book:


Meditation for the Love of It by Sally Kempton.  This book offers a different way of looking at meditation:  rather than spiritual drudgery, it’s an exciting and fun way to delve into both your own awareness and through that into the Universe itself.  A quote:

In the end it is the direct, naked encounter with our own awareness that shifts our understanding of who we are, and gives us the power to stand firmly in the center of our being. No one else can do this for us. Only meditation unlocks those doors.

Kempton writes from a Tantric tradition (though her ideas and exercises are useful for most any tradition), meaning there’s no “eliminating” thoughts or trying to transcend reality, at least not with the goal of eradicating the Self – she wants to befriend and enjoy the Self, while understanding its limits, and treats thoughts as mere energy that can be transformed or used instead of pushed away. Her tone is knowledgable but enthusiastic – and it’s contagious.  I found myself wanting to put the book down and try out her exercises, and amazingly, every one I tried yielded results at one level or another.  It’s a long book, but worth every minute.


I rediscovered a fantastic tool I had forgotten about:  MyNoise.net.  MyNoise is a sound generating website, but it’s so much more than just rain and random flutes.  It offers nature sounds, meditation sounds, voices, industrial background noise, you name it – including the usual white noise generators.  You can customize nearly every sound by moving sliders, so if you’re listening to a forest generator and want more birds, you can hear more birds.

You can also calibrate the site to your own hearing range, which according to users is amazing for tinnitus and other hearing issues, and there are brainwave-type sounds like isochronic tones that are apparently good for migraines and other issues.

You can animate the sounds so that they constantly shift, making them more realistic and immersive.  And you can stack generators on top of each other, so if you want the sound of chanting monks along with the sound of an airplane cabin and a cat purring, bam! you’ve got it.  There are even RPG sound generators you can play in the background of your games.

I seriously love this site.  The “Healing Water” soundscape has helped me sleep better, and the “Sleeping Dragon” is fantastic for meditation.  The site owner tells stories of when and where the sounds were recorded, how they were created, and what they can be used for, and each one has several precalibrated variations to play with.  I’ve never seen a sound-generating site with so many options.  You can create a meditative garden with birds and wind chimes and a pond full of frogs – or you can create the Starship Enterprise and practice Kolinahr, whatever gets you there.

And it’s free!  If you donate a few dollars you unlock the really complicated generators, but 90% of the site is totally free.  I kicked in a bit just as a thank-you for all the work that went into the site.

My favorite generators include:

Healing Water
Sleeping Dragon
Rain on a Tent
Tibetan Spirit
ASMR Whisper
Fish Tank
African Trance (basically build your own drum circle)
Fairy Pond (so many frogs!)

Even if all you need is some background noise to help you concentrate, do yourself a favor and check out MyNoise.net.  It also has a free iOS app.

(I was not paid to say any of this, I just love it that much.)


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