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

Friday, February 12, 2016

Development and Refinement

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Page of Pentacles; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, the Orchid:
          This Page gazes down at a seed within the soil; his hair resembles the canopy of a tree. The booklet offers the instruction to "regard life as a perfect seed, placed in good soil and given the nourishment to grow." If he is to grow in knowledge and skill, he will not only need to put for the effort, but place himself in an environment which will encourage his growth. I've had times in my life where the atmosphere wasn't very conducive to my development, yet there were small pockets of people with whom I could connect and receive "nourishment" from in the form of support. They were the fertilizer for my depleted soil.
          I've tried unsuccessfully to grow orchids before; their needs were just too specialized for the time I had to give them. It's no wonder that the meaning assigned to the Orchid is refinement and a continual striving for higher standards. I've been in that place of having developed a few skills while feeling like I was more experienced and knowledgeable than I actually was. My ego stokes this kind of thinking, and it can quickly lead to complacency. I once read a quote by Steve Jobs that said getting fired by Apple was one of the best things that could have happened, because it allowed him to be a creative beginner again. As Shunryu Suzuki explains, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fiery Influence

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Queen of Wands; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, Tortoise:
          With the tiger amid the flames of this Queen's lotus scepter, there's no doubt she holds both passion and power. She is known as the encourager, one who helps feed the fires of other people so that their interests can blossom too. Yet the gorilla-like masks beside her throne are a concern. Is she helping others so they will be indebted to her? Or perhaps she is trying to create miniature copies of herself. She can wield her influence in such a heavy-handed way, she may extinguish their spark of enthusiasm altogether. The booklet cautions against aiding others for self-serving purposes. As the Dalai Lama teaches, "Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."
          The Tortoise usually implies a slow and steady pace, yet it is also associated with longevity. Long life is often considered to be a byproduct of those who are wise and experienced. The Tortoise attempts to warn the Queen to look at the long-term consequences of what she is doing. The downside to training people while hiding a selfish motive is that they may learn more than what was intended. Full to overflowing with self-concern, they can turn on the person who taught them. Keeping the harness loose might be a better way to allow authentic creativity to flourish.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Clogged or Free Flowing

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Five of Swords; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, Bamboo:
          The screeching, diving birds in this card resemble what is happening now in my area. Even though the night temperatures are freezing, the feathered ones have chosen mates and are beginning to build nests. As a result, they've become very territorial about the sites they've selected. I can be the same way about my opinions and beliefs, wanting to preserve them as if my survival depended on them. I'm convinced we all have our personal dogmas that we guard and defend, even sometimes at the expense of our relationship with others. The booklet uses the phrase "benefiting from others' depleted energy," which implies taking advantage of another person's weakness. That makes me feel so icky, I want to go take a shower.
          Bamboo stems have been used for paint brushes and writing pens, which is why the plant is associated with communication, learning and knowledge. But thinking that I've learned and know it all is precisely what can cause a Five of Swords confrontation. Yet a cross section of the bamboo stem is usually hollow, suggesting a free flowing of ideas. Now my self-absorbed ego would likely agree with Terry Pratchett: "The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it." However, that open mind will also allow me to see from new perspectives that can open up a wide, new range of possibilities.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Waters of Illusion

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Moon; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, Heaven:
Whoever moves from carelessness to vigilance,
Lights up the world like the moon that emerges from a cloud.
~ Dhammapada
          The Roots of Asia booklet describes this card as the waters of illusion and suggests a need for mindfulness. The Buddha referred to mindfulness as a gatekeeper, an objective tool that can help in recognizing and removing unskillful mind states. It allows me to see reality as it is rather than what my imagination creates. Hopeful expectations, apprehensive fears or simple denial are just alternative labels for craving, aversion and ignorance. These are the dark waters that keep me from seeing with clarity; they offer no protection from what is actually there. The rocks in the water appear to be alligators, but if viewed directly, they'll be seen for what they are. The Mah Jongg Heaven card indicates the end of a natural cycle that will be followed by the beginning of another. The organizer in me loves to finish a project or task, making sure to tie up loose ends. I experience a brief feeling of joyful accomplishment quickly followed by thoughts such as: "What do I do now? Will this last? How can I ever follow this up?" My mind is quick to lead me into shark-infested waters churning with emotion. Even though the danger feels real, mindfulness assures me it isn't. Might as well relax and float until I bump into something more concrete.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Thousand Hands

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Ten of Cups; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, North:
          The Buddhist approach to the Ten of Cups is not that we got lucky and landed in the lap of love that overflows happiness. Instead, it requires that we work to develop what is known as the Ten Virtues. Three of these ten actions deal with the body: instead of killing, we should value and cherish life; instead of stealing, we should give freely of what we can to help others; and instead of sexual misconduct, we should respect our partner's feelings. Four actions concern speech: instead of lying, we should speak the truth; instead of causing disharmony by slandering others, we should speak about their good qualities; instead of speaking harshly and sharply, our words should be soft, gentle and loving; and instead of conversing meaninglessly (gossip), we should engage in meaningful activities. The last three of the ten actions concern the mind: we should replace attachment with non-attachment; ill-will towards others with feelings of love and compassion; and incorrect beliefs with realistic attitudes.
          Since the North is an area rarely visited by the Sun, it is seen as an inauspicious direction. It represents the cold wind of discomfort and a physical and emotional drain. Why would such a harsh card show up with such a happy one? I have friends who try to live by the Ten Virtues, and when they go through hard times, those they have helped come to their aid and support them. Looking out for the benefit of others instead of living selfishly sows the seeds of happiness. It reminds me of the words of Zhang Jigang (choreographer for the "Thousand Hand Guan Yin" in which all the dancers are deaf):
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart,
A thousand hands will naturally come to your aid.
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart,
You will reach out with a thousand hands to help others.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


This week I'll be using the Roots of Asia Tarot, created by Amnart Klanprachar with Thaworn Boonyawan and published by AGM Müller. I'll also be using the Mah Jongg Oracle, created by Derek Walters and published by Thunder Bay Press. Today's cards are the Hanged Man and House:
          This fellow doesn't hang over solid ground, but an abyss. That is exactly how I feel when life has pulled the rug from underneath me, and I discover I can't control a situation. There is a sensation of being in limbo, with nothing to grab onto that is solid. Yet as the head he hangs from implies, the problem is not with external changing events (which is natural), but with my acceptance of them. The House, on the other hand, represents what is solid and tangible. It is a reminder of all the people, places and things that I use to define and identify the "me" that resides inside this flesh and bones. But because everything is impermanent, my roles and identifications can suddenly dissolve. What happens when a child leaves home, a spouse or parent dies, a job is terminated, a group disbands or the body begins to wear out? My "me" can go into panic mode, struggling to find firm footing where there is none. Buddhists use the term "no-self" as a way to let go; it allows me to recognize there is nothing permanent which I can call a self. Awareness can help me hang over the abyss without struggling.
After more than a century of looking for it, brain researchers have long since concluded that there is no conceivable place for a self to be located in the physical brain, and that it simply does not exist. – TIME Magazine

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Right Timing, Right Motive

From the Jolanda Tarot, the Knight of Pentacles; from the deck Bird Signs, Swan:
          While this Knight likes to plan things down to the smallest detail, there comes a time when he must put his plan into motion. Looks like he's finally gotten the ox hitched, the field plowed and is now sowing star seeds. The geese flying overhead remind me of the Migration card I drew the other day and made me think of right timing. Often I get caught up in wanting to dive into something without much investigation or work first; other times I'm so obsessed about one thing, other important things slip by without my notice. I must have an equal dose of patience and attentiveness to know when to act. As Willie Nelson once said, "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."
          Swan has been assigned the keyword "beauty" as this bird moves in the water with such grace. I must admit that I think of swans in a similar way as the A-list girl clique in the movie Mean Girls - beautiful, but not nice. I've noticed some folks locally have resorted to using swan decoys to keep the Canada geese out of their ponds and lakes. The Knight and Swan together suggest that actions should take into account the effect on others instead of just myself. In the words of Sayyidina Ali, "Beautiful people are not always good, but good people are always beautiful."