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

Monday, June 30, 2014

Fluid not Fixed

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Page of Cups; from the Earth Power Oracle, the "Valley of the Kings:"
Around the Page of Cups swim lobsters, crabs, dolphins, assorted fish and possibly a crocodile. These animals represent the variety of emotions he experiences. I've often heard that you should sit with your emotions, noticing the thoughts that come and the physical manifestations. The Page seems pretty serene to be surrounded by so many feelings; such an immersion scares the hell out of me. But Buddhist teachers suggest I'll see how my transient and fluid my emotions are. Like a thunderstorm, they may show up looking full of fury and force, but they eventually ebb and fade away.
The Valley of the Kings is located in a desert valley of Luxor, Egypt. Tombs of 63 kings and nobles have been uncovered here, including that of Tutankhamun. But what amazes me more than the mummified bodies are the things included to be used after death. Not just jewelry, treasures and sacred items but more mundane things like underwear, food and pets. I wonder how those pharaohs would feel about their boxers being displayed in a museum. Again I am reminded that everything changes and passes away; what I fear today probably won't even be a passing thought a year from now. Physical or emotional, it's all in flux.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Breathe, Relax and be Receptive

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Ten of Wands; from the Earth Power Oracle, "The Amazon:"
The key phrase for the Ten of Wands is "freedom from obsessions." All of us have plenty of tasks and responsibilities to keep us busy. But I get bogged down with the thoughts that accompany them: "How will I ever get finished? Will I ever resolve this problem? What if what I want to happen never happens?" It's not so much what I have to do that makes me feel overburdened and overwhelmed, it's my thoughts. If I just ignored the committee in my head and put one foot in front of the other, doing the next thing on my list, I'm sure I'd make headway. That tiger might be in the thick of the brush, but the bird can fly over and see that the finish line isn't as far away as my mind tells me it is.
The Amazonian rainforest is the largest in the world, covering an area about the size of the continental U.S. Well-known for its biodiversity of animals and plants, it is also called the lungs of the planet. The Amazon plays a huge role in absorbing carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) and producing oxygen. This card reminds me to breathe consciously and deeply to slow down my thoughts. The biodiversity suggests there are many more possibilities and solutions than what my uptight, negative mindset is churning out. Breathe, relax and be receptive.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Heart of a Lion

This week I'll be using the Roots of Asia Tarot, created by Amnart Klanprachar (artist) and Thaworn Boonyawan, and published by AG Mueller. The oracle deck I'll be using is Earth Power, created by Stacey Demarco and published by Blue Angel. I've severely trimmed this deck to get rid of all keywords. Today's draws are the Six of Wands and "Palenque:"
The booklet for the Roots of Asia describes the Six of Wands as "right perception." To understand that Buddhist concept, it might be helpful to know what it isn't. Cortland Dahl explains: "Impure perception is basically everything that we see, perceive, and label at the moment. It is not that something is wrong out there and that's why everything is impure. Instead, it is because, at the moment, whenever we perceive something, it is always filtered through our emotions, our desire, jealousy, pride, ignorance, and aggression." So basically, to successfully meet our challenges, we need to not let our emotions get the best of us. As the card's image suggests, the victor may have the heart of a lion, but he sits calmly in meditation.
The oracle card depicts the ancient Mayan site of Palenque in Mexico. Though it may look peaceful and deserted now, according to the paintings and bas reliefs in the temples, many human sacrifices took place here. It boggles my mind that people believed they needed to kill men, women, children and animals to please a deity. Obviously love and mercy weren't a part of their dogma. Palenque is a none too gentle reminder that being successful doesn't mean I have to throw someone else under the bus. I can be strong and objective without setting aside compassion. Besides, the other way didn't work out too well for the Mayans.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Canary in the Coal Mine

From the Jolanda Tarot, the Three of Wands; from the Bird Signs deck, the "Canary:"
The booklet that comes with the Jolanda speaks of practicality and compromise for the Three of Wands. The image makes me think of how much I loved to climb trees as a youngster. Now I would worry about breaking something if I were to try. The animals and older children have made it to the top of the posts, while the younger kids stay on the ground. I have nothing to prove, so instead of letting my pride get in the way, I can let those with the talents that are needed to use them.
The Canary is given the keyword "light," but my immediate connection was to the poor birds coal miners used to forewarn them of toxic gases. It was good for the miners, but not so good for the canaries. The combination of tarot and oracle cards remind me of a Demotivational poster (must be my weird sense of humor):
Do I want to be the canary in the coal mine for others? Not if I can help it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Washing Over Me

From the Jolanda Tarot, the Six of Cups; from the Bird Signs deck, "Nutrition:"
I connected with the waterfall in this Six of Cups, because memories do seem to wash over me. Yesterday I was doing an online meditation with John Makransky called the Benefactor Moment, when I suddenly felt submerged. Makransky asked us to recall a connection "when someone was with you in a simple, loving way, taking joy in your being, wishing you well, any little moment of care, of joking together, play, laughter, a moment when someone was deeply listening to you, or you deeply listened to another, or someone was very present to you, as if you mattered a lot in that moment." I instantly thought of my grandmother; I lived with her as a preschool child. Every morning I would peek in her bedroom, crawl into bed with her, and listen to the stories she told me about her life. I have no grandparents, aunts or uncles now, and I miss that extended family connection. It was a bittersweet memory, but it did remind me of how much I felt loved by her.
The Nutrition card explains that birds need a lot of fuel for their bodies, just as we need to constantly keep our body, mind and spirit fueled too. Where do I find that kind of nurturing now? I would have to say my women friends, who will pause their busy days to spend time in deep conversation with me. It may not be the same as my grandmother's cozy bed, but the feelings of camaraderie come close to it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Crashing Complacency

From the Jolanda Tarot, the Tower; from the Bird Signs deck, the "Dove:"
This Tower card looks like a combination of every disaster movie ever made - a full eclipse of the sun, lightning and fires, and a woman that is half spider and half anaconda. "Get ready to have your complacency pulled from under your feet," the mutant woman tells me. What have I locked away (trying to protect) in that tower? It feels scary, but the woman assures me she is my liberator not an assassin.
The Dove card is comforting and gives me confidence that these changes are not the end of the world. But it does point to being receptive rather than fighting reality. It makes me think of the Serenity Prayer: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can't change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Eyes Open, Mouth Closed

From the Jolanda Tarot, the King of Cups; from the Bird Signs deck, the "Raven:"
When I first drew this king, I didn't have my glasses on and thought it was the Chariot. Those cards do have something in common; it takes a lot of self-will to be waist-deep in emotional drama and maintain your composure without getting pulled under. The king's peacock with its tail feathers spread are a not-so-subtle hint to keep my eyes open today, but my mouth closed. I am a bit "crabby" today due to not sleeping well, so I'll avoid sharing my opinion in order to prevent getting drawn into any chaos.
The Raven has been given the keyword "illusion" by the authors, because this bird is well known as a trickster in many mythologies. Raven's black feathers are a clue that I'm walking around in the dark. If I bump into something along the way, I'd best not make assumptions about what it is. I need to wait until I have the facts in hand. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Associative Pairing

From the Jolanda Tarot, the Lovers; from the Bird Signs deck, the "Waxwing:"
In the progression of the tarot majors, the Lovers isn't the first card that shows a relationship. The Hierophant also does, but in that card the alliance between people shows an imbalance of power. Here in the Lovers is a true partnership where neither person is more superior or given more respect than the other. And what develops from such a harmonious commitment? The egg between the two serpents suggests there is the potential for something wonderful to be created.
The creators of the Bird Signs give the keyword "curiosity" to the waxwing but don't explain it. One curious trait I've discovered about these birds is the wax-like red tips on the secondary feathers. The purpose of these scarlet-colored, extended feather shafts have been much debated. However research has shown that these tips provide visual markers for age (older birds have more red), and waxwings tend to mate with birds close to their own age. Added with the Lovers card, the Waxwing's message is an admonition to make sure there is a strong, common bond before making a commitment. Shared values and ethics would be the most important commonality for me.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Glue of Compassion

From the Jolanda Tarot, the Hanged Man; from the Bird Signs deck, the "Oriole:"
The big whale of an ego is flowing out of this man's head, but there are still remnants of the "committee" nearby. Their nonstop chatter sounds like this: "Don't you have better things to do? Why are you wasting your time? Do you think anyone really appreciates this sacrifice?" Sundays I spend with my mother-in-law, who has the beginning stages of dementia. Some days are better than others; yet there have been more than a few times I wanted to scream in frustration and run out the door. I have to constantly remind myself it is the disease that says and does those exasperating things, not the woman I once knew.
In our area, I only get to see Baltimore orioles briefly, as they migrate through our area. Females construct sock-like hanging nests, which tie in nicely with the Hanged Man. The creators of this deck associate this bird with compassion, probably because of its love for sweet things - ripe fruits and nectar. That word reminded me of a poem I wrote many years ago about the ferns we have on our front porch steps:
Masses of green fronds
Sprout from my brick steps.
It's a mystery,
How these ferns survive between the cracks.
What nurtures and sustains them?
Perhaps my love and gratitude
Encourage them to thrive.
I wonder what effect,
This same love and gratitude
Would have on a human?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Stick Together

This week I'll be using the Jolanda Tarot, created by Hans Arnold and published by AG Muller. The oracle I'll use with it is Bird Signs, created by G.G. Carbone and Mary Ruzicka and published by New World Library. Today's draws are the Empress and "Quail:"
 Instead of a cross-bearing orb (a symbol of world domination), the Empress holds an orb sprouting a leaf. She speaks loudly and clearly: "Grow something for others. Grow something that will feed not only the body, but the spirit too. We've got enough people already who care only about their own interests, whose main concern is what they're going to get out of life. But the joke's on them; you only get joy when you give it away."
The quail is found in groups called coveys, which emphasizes the Empress' other-centered message. The creators of the deck associate this bird with trust, which I think means I don't have to be focused on looking out for "number one." I am part of the whole; what I do for other folks will also benefit me.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pour It In Me

From the Daniloff Tarot, the Four of Cups; from the Kwan Yin sticks, #73:
I've had  a lot of people I care deeply about dealing with some heavy stuff lately, and as usual, I've let their situations affect me. Like the guy in the card, I'm hanging on to let the tsunami wave pass. This fellow has joints like a puppet, suggesting that I've allowed myself to be controlled by my emotions rather than just experiencing them. Before I let go of that tree, I'm going to let that teapot pour some peace in my heart and mind to rejuvenate myself.
The verses for stick 73 read:
Sudden spring thunder wakes the insects and worms.
They sing together gaily and dance in a circle,
free from winter hibernation
deep in the earth.
I am often amazed at how tarot and other divination devices reflect real life. Yesterday evening, while the sun was still shining brightly, we had a sudden crack of thunder seemingly out of the blue. The lightning hit a substation, knocking out power for quite a long while. It pulled my family away from all our electronic devices, so we sat together, talked and laughed. Tonight, I'll be leading the meditation meeting, and the first type we'll be doing is a kirtan (singing as we sit in a circle). That teapot has already been pouring out its contents, but I'm just now realizing it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Generation after Generation

From the Daniloff Tarot, the King of Pentacles; from the Kwan Yin sticks, #55:
Looking at this king, I notice a tower on top of an elephant, on top of a tortoise shell, on top of an ox head. This guy's kingdom is built on animals that might not be fast, but they're sturdy and steady. They might not have the sharpest teeth, talons or claws, but they have the power and strength to endure. There is a sense this king knows he "stands on the shoulders" of others. He depends on the resources of the earth and the skills of his people, and he uses his talents to manage it all successfully. Taking care of these resources and people keeps his kingdom from being toppled. He reminds me to be a good steward of all that I have as well.
The Kwan Yin verses for stick 55 read:
A long row of bamboo stalks
joined together
reaches to a bubbling spring.
Generation after generation can draw on the water.
It's easy to think what I do or don't do doesn't have much of an affect on the world. But what if doing one unselfish thing could make all the difference for another? I can't see into the future, but I can look back and see how the generosity and kindness of others affected me. Though they are no longer alive, their actions live on in me.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tiny Dragons, Stormy Seas

From the Daniloff Tarot, the Ace of Wands; from the Kwan Yin sticks, #19:
The little dragon on top of the wand reminds me of Mushu from the movie Mulan. His heart may be fired up, but physically he doesn't have much going on. The serpent and carved head on the staff both face in the same direction, seeming to be enamored with some idea. I can get this way too - so full of visions and dreams, but nothing with any meat on it. The lion that supports it all holds a tablet with writing, suggesting that if I want something to manifest somewhere other than my head, I'm going to have to make a plan and take some action. Otherwise my little inner dragon isn't going to grow.
Stick 19 is associated with the following verses:
A ferry returns, tossing and turning
in the deep valleys of a storm.
We can't call this stable or calm!
The steersman can do nothing.
His boat careens without a guide.
This part of the poem gives me a feeling of not having any control over a situation to the point of being overwhelmed and choosing to do nothing. But it also suggests my emotions are trying to steer rather than logic, so no wonder the boat is getting bashed by the storm. Perhaps I can't do anything about the rough waves, but I can keep a cool head while I continue to steer in the right direction (protecting my little dragon). Besides, no storm lasts forever.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ripples in the Water

From the Daniloff Tarot, the Ten of Swords; from the Kwan Yin sticks, #54:
Here's a great example of what happens when we become so full of opinions, we don't even recognize common sense when it stares us in the face. In working with the Lojong slogans, I find myself pushing back with what I believe to be true. But what if I were to let go of all those ideas that I worship as truth and allow an open spaciousness? Do I fear the "me" will disappear? The  vesica piscis shape behind the figure in the Ten of Swords indicates a gateway to a new understanding once I willingly stop advocating for my opinions. The verses associated with stick 54 of the Kwan Yin poem are:
Trees and bushes
reflected in the running water.
Their image shifts and changes
creating confusion in the mind.
Often when I don't have all the answers, I am uncomfortable to the point where my ego says, "Just pick one!" Of course this would be like taking one picture frame from a 2 hour film and declaring it to be the whole movie. Patience is needed; the discomfort won't kill me while I wait for the ripples in the water to smooth out.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Wait for the Thaw

From the Daniloff Tarot, the Knight of Swords; from the Kwan Yin sticks, #49:
On the shield of this knight, two people are in the middle, indicating this man can be eloquent when sharing his ideas and beliefs. The upraised sword on the right side suggests striving for truth and justice. However the hawk/falcon on the left shows this knight's shadow side. When a hawk attacks, sharp talons and a ripping beak can tear apart whatever it lands on in seconds. The Knight of Swords has a quick mind and tongue that can be just as destructive. The frozen Kwan Yin statue is linked with these verses:
The chilly waters turn to ice
when the year gets colder.
One day the ice
will turn to flowing water again.
Have you ever heard of writer's block? I think we can also experience our hearts being locked down, a place where we feel stuck, as if we're dead inside. Without the heart balancing my head, this can be a dangerous place for me. There is no compassionate pause to stop me from using my words and ideas to slice and dice others. With such a disconnect from my emotions, my thoughts can encourage this kind of behavior . I've been to this place before, so I know just because I think something doesn't mean it's true. I don't have to speak or act in ways that my brain tells me will help, that I know from experience will only harm. "TC" is my motto for now: "things change." I've just to give it time to happen on its own.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Relax the Fist

From the Daniloff Tarot, the Knight of Coins; from the Kwan Yin sticks, #36:
The shield of this knight shows a wild bear (or cat?) and a woman, indicating his fierce loyalty to those he has promised to protect and serve. Not only only does he defend, he also takes care of their physical needs - food, clothing and shelter. I've always held this knight in high regard, so the monkey poem was a little disconcerting:
The mighty, clever Monkey has been imprisoned.
He throws off his golden chains
and returns to his mountain home,
joyous and free once more.
I am reminded of the teaching tale about the monkey who reaches his hand in a small hole to grab something he wants. But when he holds the object, his fist won't fit back through the hole and he is trapped. The only way to be free is to let go of the object of his desire. I can see a similarity in the stubbornness of the knight as he tries to serve and protect. Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I can't insulate those I love from pain. But I can be compassionately receptive to them and their suffering as they deal with the hand life has dealt them.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Head and Heart

This week I'll be using the Daniloff Tarot, created and self-published by Alexander Daniloff. The oracle I'll be using is a set of Kwan Yin Sticks - numbered sticks that correspond to 100 verses of poetry that is attributed to the Bodhisattva. Today's card is the Chariot, and the stick chosen is #69:
This chariot is drawn by two mythological creatures, but it is the charioteer that is most interesting. He seems to be missing both arms (though his left hand holds a staff). What is most prominent is his head and torso - the seats of the mind and heart. The movement and success associated with this card is not likely to come from actual "doing," but from a disciplined mindset and emotional strength and equilibrium. The verse for stick 69 reads:
 A plum tree grows alone on the top of a hill.
Its leaves fall and its branches are heavy with frost.
When spring returns to warm the earth
it will regain its beauty and its kingdom.
The poem indicates a time of loneliness and heaviness of heart. But this does not mean I should give up; instead it means I should have the patience and perseverance to hang on. I need to dig my roots in deep, because things will eventually change for the better. As the charioteer implies, this will be a test of my strength of will and heart.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Reality Plus a Spoonful of Sugar

From the Golden Tarot, the Queen of Swords; from the Yantra Deck, "Devotion:"
This queen's sword serves a second purpose as a BS detector. Bring on the victims, the blamers and the manipulators. She'll shred their illusions and delusions in seconds. Her right hand touching the stone makes me think of the Buddha's "earth touching" mudra. While this hand gesture represented his moment of enlightenment, it also symbolized the union of practice with wisdom. Who cares how much knowledge you have if it can't be applied in the real world? Insights aren't for intellectual rumination only, they're to be put to use. With the Queen of Swords' habit of being blunt, it's not surprising that the Devotion card showed up. A dose of affection or compassion might help her message be better received. As Mary Poppins would say, "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

No Whining, Just Doing

From the Golden Tarot, the King of Wands; from the Yantra Deck, "Communication:"
Hmmm... This king doesn't look too happy. He probably just had some employee show up who was making excuses for why he can't finish a project on time. I always think of the King of Wands as "The Closer." He has charisma and energy, but he uses these traits to get things completed. The Communication card reminds me of The Four Agreements written by Don Miguel Ruiz who said, "Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean." In combining these two draws, I am reminded of the promises I have made to friends and family over the past few days. I have no doubt that life will get busy, and I may regret some of those commitments. But the King would tell me I'm only as good as my word, so I should stop whining and get moving.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Don't Jump Yet

From the Golden Tarot, the Two of Wands; from the Yantra Deck, "Bliss:"
In the Two of Wands, a man holds one staff while another is firmly planted in stone. The "stand alone" rod is the successful project or challenge he has completed. But the rod he holds represents his "I have a dream" vision. I can readily relate to his restlessness in having finished one task and looking forward to the next endeavor. But then the card Bliss comes along and throws a wrench in the plans. In the booklet, the authors state: "Giving ourselves moments of stillness nurtures our ability to remain in a state of gratitude and appreciation in our everyday life." Okay, so maybe I don't need to jump into another project quite yet, but pause and ponder what I have already. But how do I get to that state of blissfulness? Deepak Chopra suggests getting beyond the ego's influence: "Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge." Geez, no wonder I don't need to start another activity right away - I've got plenty on my plate to work on already.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

No Lock on the Mind

From the Golden Tarot, Temperance; from the Yantra Deck "Freedom:"
Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. ~ Virginia Woolf
Watched over by a saint from above, an angel mixes liquid in two cups. Black speaks of equilibrium in her booklet, the ability to avoid extremes and imbalances. I've noticed here in the States that it makes people uncomfortable if you aren't at one end of the spectrum or the other: Christian or not Christian, Republican or Democrat, etc. When there is no label, there's no easy way to categorize a person into "like" or "dislike." How small we make our world when we build it only on labels! The Freedom yantra reminds me that if I want to live in a spacious world, I need to avoid defining people and situations as one thing or another. If I have multiple layers and facets, surely others do too.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Keeping It Simple

This week I'll be using the Golden Tarot, created by Kat Black and published by U.S. Games. The oracle I'll be using is the Yantra Deck, created by Karl Schaffner with Maya Deva Adjani and published by Vayu Publishing. Today's cards are the Knight of Coins and "Simplicity:"
The man who has begun to live more seriously within begins to live more seriously without. ~ Ernest Hemingway
The knight looks out at the lay of the land before rushing into any endeavor. He is patient and methodical, rather than impulsive and haphazard. His dog (his instincts) has a muzzle on it as if to remind him to be careful not to bite off a large chunk of anything quite yet. The Simplicity yantra is fairly self-explanatory, suggesting I need to be fully present with what is under my nose rather than what is behind me or way ahead of me. Having just gotten home from my trip, my inclination is to try to catch up on the chores and what I've missed since I've been gone. Yet the only thing I absolutely must do is go grocery shopping. I'll opt for food, rest and sanity today.
My mom and I

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Emotional Time-out

From the Tarot de St. Croix, the Four of Cups, and from the Archetype Cards, the Rescuer:
Often the Four of Cups represents apathy or burnout, but the cormorants on the shore drying their wings make me think otherwise. These aquatic birds don't float like ducks, but sink into the water with just their necks sticking out. Without waterproof feathers, they must spend time drying out. Which is why this card feels like "too much of a good thing" - this guy needs an emotional time-out. Adding the Rescuer card to the mix gives the Four card an interesting twist. Have you ever put yourself out there for someone else, but then received no thanks for your effort? Even if we say we don't expect it (especially from some folks), it still stings like salt in a cut. No need to get in a self-righteous snit though; I just need to get out of the water and dry off.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Forget the Soapbox

From the Tarot de St. Croix, the Magician, and from the Archetype Cards, the Rebel:
Lisa de St. Croix uses Rumi, the Sufi mystic, to represent the Magician. What a fantastic choice; here's a man whose poetry was written through his intense connection to the Divine. The Magician uses the resources at hand and his will (focused energy) to manifest his goals. This involves way more than wishing or positive affirmations, it involves action too. He reminds me that I have a huge role in the web that I weave which is my life. The Rebel is most likely a nudge for me to mind my manners while I'm with my extended family. Very few of them will share the same ideas I do about politics, religion, etc. I need to remember why I am here - to celebrate a family member - not to get on my soapbox. I have a choice of creating a wonderful weekend or a conflict-filled one.