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, April 29, 2017

Fill It Drop by Drop

From the Stone Tarot, the Ace of Wands; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, Dhammapada 9:122 :
          Since the poem for the Ace of Wands is short, I thought I would include it in its entirety:
Don't tell me pollution
makes these numinous
magentas, that a clean sky
never burns so bright.
I'm not listening,
I'm lost in
sun. My lit heart
hovers near the mountain.
Alison Stone, "Ordinary Magic"
Can't you just feel Stone's passion as she warns the reader that her flame won't easily be extinguished? The wand is in full bloom too, even though most people would assume a cut branch wouldn't do so. Such fiery inspiration gets us out of our easy chairs and into motion. It is an exciting time that naysayers rarely can dampen. The painting on the Buddhist Quote card shows a person deep in meditation with branches above her head and roots below her. The Dhammapada verse reads:
With dripping drops of water even a water jug is filled. 
The downside to all that enthusiasm is that it can make us impatient. Yet just putting one foot in front of the other, taking one action at a time, can lead us to the finish line. Staying grounded by applying my ideas in concrete ways will eventually fill my container to the brim.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Soaking Up the Sun

From the Stone Tarot, the Six of Wands; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, Dhammapada 1:5-6 :
          A group of wands point toward the light, as if they were solar batteries recharging in the sun. The Six of Wands suggests a victory after a challenge has been met. A verse from Stone's poem reads, "a steady striving through the water, suddenly spacious and yielding as sky." We are considered lucky if we have friends who are our comrades in such struggles; luckier still if we have a spiritual resource (religious or otherwise) from which to draw our strength. With the sun so prominently displayed on the tarot card, it is interesting that the oracle card has the Gayatri Mantra written on the front. The chant was originally addressed to the Sun, "giver of light and life," asking that the devotee be inspired in the right thoughts and deeds. The Dhammapada verses read:
Hatred never ends through hatred. By non-hate alone does it end. This is an ancient truth. 
Many do not realize that we here must die. For those who realize this, quarrels end.  
For those not familiar with Buddhist teachings, Buddha's words may be interpreted as a call to wear flowers in one's hair and avoid conflict and confrontation at all cost. But he is trying to convince us that anger is the real enemy, not something or someone external to us. Hatred affects our minds like having the flu affects our bodies; it complicates and exacerbates any problem rather than solves it. A centered, calm mind will be more beneficial in finding a peaceful place to stand in the sun.  

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Palindrome Thoughts

From the Stone Tarot, the Two of Swords; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, Dhammapada 18:239 :
          When I look at these swords through half-closed eyes, I can imagine two stubborn people standing with their arms folded. Those two 'people' are often in my mind - one firmly entrenched in one set of beliefs and the other with different ideas. For instance, I might tell myself to let go of a resentment, but another part insists on stirring the emotional waters to remind me why I should hate. Each side has a list of why I should or shouldn't adhere to certain thoughts, and I'm left feeling stuck. As a line in Stone's book of poetry explains, "Palindromes show us the truth: a thing turned backward stays itself." The Dhammapada verse reads:
As a smith does with silver, the wise person gradually, bit 
by bit, moment by moment, removes impurities from herself. 
One of the precepts I repeat each day is, "I vow not to harm, but to nurture all life." In my younger years I was a human bulldozer, oblivious to how my actions and words affected those around me. Now that I am trying to change the way I think and act, it is clear how easy it is to tear things down, but how long it takes to rebuild again. The Buddha's words remind me that this path requires mindfulness, but also patience and tenacity. It is no longer about what I'm going to get out of it, but what will bring less suffering and more joy to everyone.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Scrub Out the Pot

From the Stone Tarot, the Ten of Swords; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, Dhammapada 24:348 :
          Ten swords protrude from a mound against a dark background. I've been in this place before, trying to deal with a situation or problem that wouldn't budge. I've pulled out every bit of knowledge and applied every strategy to no avail. No matter how deeply I buried my swords, they failed to produce any positive effect. It left me feeling powerless and inept, yet it also softened my stance on handling things the way I believed they should be done. However, though I might be more open to hear suggestions from other people, I must be careful to pour them into a clean pot; a dirty one, crusted over with my opinions and beliefs, is really still a closed mind. The Dhammapada quote reads:
 Let go of the past, let go of the future, let go of the present.  
I would expect the Buddha to advise "stay in the present," but his teaching here is more about what we cling to. Whatever is pleasant and beneficial to us, we want to hold on to forever. When it changes, we suffer. Buddha advises enjoying what we have while embracing the knowledge that everything is transient. Even the ideas and beliefs that have served me well in the past may become ineffective. I can keep poking that mound or choose to be open to other concepts.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fluffy Flux

From the Stone Tarot, the Wheel of Fortune; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, Dhammapada 20:276 :
          "The more things change, the more they stay the same," is a translation of the words of French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. I suppose it was the fixed astrological signs on this card that made me think of it. But why, when we all live under the law of impermanence, would he say some things don't change? Though outer circumstances are constantly in flux, we often react to them in habitual ways which produce similar results. Yet Stone, in her poem for the Wheel, gives us a hint for getting out of the loop when she says "the Grail hides in your kitchen sink." The Dhammapada quote reads:
It is up to you to make strong effort; buddhas merely tell you how.  
It would be interesting to see a tally of all the spiritual books I have bought in my lifetime, as well as the classes and seminars I've taken. In a second column would be what I learned from each, and in a third, what I put into practice from that knowledge. I'm sure that third column would look a little empty. It is comparable to pouring water into a pot with a hole in the bottom. Now the ego loves learning this way; it doesn't have to change, but it can put lots of books and seminars on its spiritual resume (making it look very impressive). But as the Buddha states, the goal is to change my inner self, not chase after spiritual materialism (which changes nothing except my monthly credit card statement).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Personal Triumph

From the Stone Tarot, the Eight of Wands; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, the Dhammapada 19:258:
          The Eight of Wands symbolizes projects coming to a quick conclusion. Finally the end goal is in sight and about to be realized. Stone's poem speaks of superheroes, both from the imagination and real life. Yet no human is without flaw, regardless of their amazing talents (she points out Lance Armstrong). Likewise, completion rarely means perfection or an accomplishment that will never be surpassed. Perhaps just getting to the end - having the tenacity to see things through - is enough. The quote from the Dhammapada reads:
One is not wise only because one speaks a lot. One who is 
peaceful, without hate, and fearless is said to be wise.
Buddha's words teach that wisdom comes when we aren't self-preoccupied (and trying to gain attention). Without our ego in the way, we won't be agitated by fears of 'not good enough' or resentments that someone else exceeds our knowledge or skill. We can be happy for our abilities and personal triumphs without needing to compare them to prove our worth. The benefits of wisdom and peace will always beat the front page news.
[Note: Some translations of the Dhammapada provide only verse numbers without chapters, and some provide chapter numbers. I'm using chapter : full text verse; the translation is by Gil Fronsdal.]

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Corrupted or Clear Mind

This week I'll be using the Stone Tarot, a self-published deck by Alison Stone. I may also dip into her book of tarot poems (Ordinary Magic), although it wasn't written as a companion book. The oracle I'll be using is the Buddhist Quote Cards, painted and published by Diana Altenburg. Even though she has spiritual quotes (from John Lennon to Lao Tzu) on the back of the cards, I have decide to pair each card with a verse from the Dhammapada (a Buddhist text). Today's draws are the Two of Wands and Dhammapada 1:1:
           Two golden rods seem to be blocked behind a chair-like object. I was surprised to see the drab colors in this card; most of this deck is done in intense, jewel tones. But there is a method behind Stone's use of color in this Two of Wands. It can feel like looking through murky water when trying to make a decision about what to do and how to do it. Stone's poem for this card describes the choice of Hans Rey, a Jewish illustrator and author, who fled Paris before the Nazis arrived. He and his wife had to decide the best way to leave without detection; they finally managed to gather enough parts to make two bikes. One of the few things they took with them was a manuscript for the children's book Curious George. The verse for the Buddhist Quote Card reads:
 All experience is preceded by the mind, led by mind, made by mind. Speak or act with a corrupted mind, and suffering follows as the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox. 
The 'Law of Attraction' folks have twisted the words of the Buddha to mean 'positively think it - get it.' But this is not even close to the truth he points out. As Bodhipaksa explains, "The Buddha’s view on positive thinking was that if it violates reality, it’s worthless." Instead, Buddha taught that if we habitually respond to life with aversive or grasping thoughts and emotions (Ex: "This isn't fair - I can't live life this way!" or "I must have things this way to be happy!"), then suffering will follow us like a shadow. When presented with a choice, I must question my thoughts and emotions and see if they are based in facts or simply assumptions with no hard evidence to back them up. Then my actions will be responses rather than reactions.