I use tarot and oracle cards as tools for reflection and contemplation. Rather than divining the future, they are a way for me to look more deeply at the "now."
"The goal isn't to arrive, but to meander, to saunter, to make your life a holy wandering." ~ Rami Shapiro

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Lightning Strikes and Rough Seas

From Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, the Lightning Tree (Tower); from the Saltwater Reading Cards, 'Rough Seas:'
          The Lightning Tree and Rough Seas cards fit well together. The tree spirit (having experienced an unexpected strike) seems to be intent on offering insights to those currently asea with storms swirling around them. I've been sharing some information with the women I mentor about dealing with tough times, as each of them has had difficult loads to bear of late. Ironically, I learned this week that it's much easier to talk about dealing with hurt and pain than practice what you preach when in the thick of it. The information was however beneficial for me (and helped me cultivate compassion for others), so I thought I would share it with you:

Retraining the Mind

We can easily get caught up in emotional thoughts that don’t always reflect reality accurately. The primitive part of our brain seeks out what keeps us comfortable; it is why we react so strongly to what is pleasant or unpleasant. But our nervous system can be trained to stay with an experience even when things get uncomfortable (I’m not talking here about an actual dangerous situation). For instance, if our boss reviews our work, we might hear some praise and some criticism. If we can stay present instead of getting hooked by our internal stories (“I can’t believe she had the nerve to say that after all the sacrifices I’ve made!”), we won’t end up reacting out of attachment, aversion or delusion. How do we do this?

a) Stay in the body – It is tempting to try to find refuge in the mind and think our way out of a situation, but our emotions will usually override our clarity and objectivity. Find the part of the body where you feel the emotion (it may feel constricted, hot, cold or heavy); don’t analyze it, just be present with the bodily sensation only (as if you would later describe symptoms to a nurse).
b) Don’t self-identify – Instead of telling yourself, “I’m so overwhelmed” or “I’m so angry,” remind yourself that this is passing not permanent by saying “This is a moment of suffering.” (Place a hand on your heart.) "Suffering is a natural part of life." (I'm not the only one.) "May I be tender with myself." (Don't judge, just be gentle.)When we identify with the emotion, it tends to stick in the mind as if it is a permanent part of us instead of something passing. As Jan Karon wrote, “We don’t have to define ourselves by our wounds.” [The three-part 'mantra' was adapted from the teachings of Kristin Neff.]
c) Choose mindfully - Ask yourself, what behavior pattern do I want to strengthen?


Friday, February 23, 2018

Walk the Plank

From Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, the Eight of Earth (Pentacles); from the Saltwater Reading Cards, 'Sea Anemones:'
          Palin calls this card 'the trap,' a snare not set by someone else but by our own oversight or short-sightedness. Unheeded wise advice, symptoms or signs brushed aside, and a failure to move with the natural rhythms of life tied those ropes. Come hell or high water, We had a plan or a project we were determined to complete. The ambush is of our own making, and now we have to learn to cultivate prudence and patience if we want to get back on track. The colorful, gracefully flowing arms of the Sea Anemones can deliver quite a sting, and for this reason, are assigned the meaning of boundaries. Most folks would hear that word and think of keeping others from crossing into their personal limits and space. But in considering the Eight of Earth, perhaps the pushy bully lives with our own mind. Instead of looking at ourselves through the lens of respect and kindness, we tell ourselves we're worthless without our accomplishments. We'd do ourselves a favor if we shoved those thoughts right off the plank.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Healthy Compromise

From Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, Inner Child (Temperance); from the Saltwater Reading Cards, 'Sea Snake:'
Lovingkindness is the antidote to hatred. That is why cultivating it is so beneficial. The practice is about your being able to access and cultivate the healthiest parts of yourself, without allowing anyone to obstruct that. —Andrew Olendzki 
          Temperance takes the middle path between extremes; it looks for something healthier that offers compromise and balance. It isn't about agreeing or disagreeing, aversion or attachment, but finding a way that works and is beneficial for all in the long run. When it involves two or more people, it helps to come to the table with an attitude of unconditional friendliness rather than seeing the other as the enemy. It requires looking for what is held in common, not just focusing on different opinions or perspectives. The Sea Snake lives far out in the ocean, and according to Bowen, must shed its skin more often than regular snakes to avoid parasites. For this reason, she has assigned it the keywords 'letting go.' It suggests that what could hinder finding middle ground is holding on to views that may be personally important but aren't pertinent to the whole or the current situation. In the above quote, Olendzki ends with the words "without allowing anyone to obstruct that." The irony is that the obstruction doesn't lie with another but within me.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Little Listening Goes a Long Way

From Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, the Four of Fire (Wands); from the Saltwater Reading Cards, 'Orcas - Communication:'
          The smith pours molten metal into a pre-shaped mold. The finished product isn't ready, but steps have been taken to reach that point. The orcas symbolize using effective communication; in vocalizations allow them to hunt together efficiently and successfully. I've dealt with two doctors and one nurse practitioner over the past few days. One doctor told me what he thought was wrong with me (without an examination) and ignored everything I told him. The other doctor and the nurse physically checked me over, asked questions and listened attentively. Can you guess which doctor I will return to if necessary? I am making slow progress in recovering my movement with less pain. Like the Four of Fire/Wands, it's not complete, but things are moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

More Than Just the Problem

From Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, the Fiddler (Devil); from the Saltwater Reading Cards, the 'Crocodile:'
          Wild Spirit shows up today, a trickster that brings unexpected chaos that can make the mind go into fear mode. I've been in near constant pain for two days, barely able to shuffle around. My mind has plenty to say about it, 99% of it untrue. When I focus on those thoughts, they become the Crocodile. This story from Pema Chodron illustrates the obstacles and danger it represents:

A student on a meditation retreat came to see the teacher in a tizzy. He said, "My back hurts, and I'm going to have to leave the retreat, and..." The teacher replied, "What I hear you saying is that your back hurts..." The student continued, "Yes it hurts, and I will have to leave and the people here will think I'm a big loser..." Teacher: "What I hear you saying is that your back hurts..." Student: "Yes, and the people here will think I'm a loser and my friends back home are going to say I wasted my money and..." Teacher: "What I'm hearing is your back hurts..."

When the mind starts spinning, I lose sight of the positive ways I can care for myself. Only when I stay in the moment can I find the spaciousness to see more than just the problem.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ebbing and Flowing of the Heart

From Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, the Nine of Water (Cups); from the Saltwater Reading Cards, 'Tides:'
          The Nine of Water/Cups generally implies a time of contentment and emotional well-being. The waterfall in this card suggests an active effort in keeping my 'cup' full rather than letting it go dry. It's much easier to get sucked into despair than to keep looking for the good in life. Mirabai's poem is a wonderful reminder:
I know a cure for sadness:
Let your hands touch something that
makes your eyes smile.
I bet there are a hundred objects close by
that can do that.
Look at
beauty’s gift to us–
her power is so great she enlivens
the earth, the sky, our
soul.
The Tides card represents cycles, both short (tides, sunrise/sunset) and long (moon phases, seasons). If I want to live peaceably, I must follow the natural cycles of life rather than attempt to rush them or slow them down. Yet if I take Mirabai's advice in keeping my heart full, I'll be better able to embrace whatever cycle may be waxing or waning.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Practice without an End Goal

This week I'll be using Poppy Palin's Waking the Wild Spirit tarot deck, published by Llewellyn. I'll also be using the 2nd edition of her companion book, Stories of the Wild Spirit, published by Slippery Jacks Press. I'll also be drawing from Saltwater Reading Cards, created by Laura Bowen and published by Rockpool Publishing. Today's cards are the Two of Water (Cups) and 'Whale:'
          Palin's keyword for this Two of Water/Cups is 'dream,' but not the random nighttime kind. This is an intentional mental picture that turns the mind toward what is healing and what brings reconciliation. Many people who meditate for the first time (or irregularly) feel like it uncorks a bottle of nonstop, arbitrary thoughts and feelings. What they don't realize is that this is the same indiscriminate thinking that flows in the background of their mind all day long; without attention, it isn't noticed. Tonglen and Metta meditation are good examples of working with conditioned patterns - both cultivate tenderness and compassion towards ourselves and others. Yet sometimes spiritual work can make us feel like a self-improvement project that never shows much progress. Here Whale appears, breaching through the surface of the ocean and reminding us to take a breath of air. Psychiatrist Mark Epstein emphasizes that the point of meditation is not supposed to be goal-oriented. Instead, it allows us to objectively watch our thoughts and emotions so that we see them as impermanent rather than solid; there's no need to react to them. We can open to the flow of spacious 'nowness' always available to us - a fresh breath of air.

Past and future preoccupy us because we are trying to control things, while being in the present necessitates openness to the unexpected...We surrender to impermanence when we meditate. Wherever it may lead. Mark Epstein