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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Exercising Kindness

From the Ferret Tarot, Strength; from the Nature's Wisdom Oracle, the Snake:
          Weight-lifting might seem the wrong kind of power Strength generally implies, unless you think of the focus on breathing as it is done. Any kind of exercise (such as holding a yoga pose) creates intentional stress in the body; as the muscles tighten, it is easy to constrict or hold the breath. It takes a conscious effort to relax the diaphragm and let air flow through the lungs. Daily life is full of a similar type of stress that often contracts the body and breath. But remembering to breathe slowly and deeply can create space to think clearly rather than impulsively react. Snake's message of healing combined with the Strength card suggest compassion and kindness. Pema Chodron explained three steps of developing these traits:
1) The king or queen - the leader can't help the kingdom if his or her own life isn't in order. Practicing kindness towards oneself (rather than self-pity or self-indulgence) is a requirement if one is to be of benefit to others.
2) The ferryman - the ferryman has everyone in the same boat with him or her; the realization dawns that no matter how different we are, we all suffer. Everyone will experience pain and eventually death.
3) The shepherd - the shepherd puts the needs of the sheep ahead of his or her own wants. This isn't done out of expectation or obligation, but because he or she cares about the sheep.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Confrontation with Reality

From the Ferret Tarot, the Tower; from the Nature's Wisdom Oracle, Mushroom:
          The ferrets had their automatic feeder taken away, because the vet said they were becoming a little pudgy. Now they have scheduled feedings in measured amounts. Of course the fuzzy darlings thought they were starving with this new change, so they made a plan to dip into the bag of ferret chow while everyone was asleep. It seemed the perfect solution until one too many caused the bag to topple, sending kibble scattering noisily across the hardwood floor. I am convinced humans will believe just about anything if it appears to 'protect' them from uncertainty or whatever scares them. But the natural laws of life will eventually deconstruct any tower of belief we build. When it falls, we may often try to build another, more improved version, which is where Mushroom's message of caution steps in. Seeing the volva (bulb-like base) of the fungi makes me think these are likely from the Amanita family, which includes some of the most toxic and deadly mushrooms worldwide. Because they often closely resemble edible fungi, many people have been poisoned by them. Is it worth the energy to rebuild another Tower if it too will come crashing down at some point?
Each day presents a new confrontation with reality. I want to run; instead, I breathe. One breath—the freedom to choose my response in that moment. 
—Marilyn Buck  

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sussing Out the Truth

From the Ferret Tarot, the King of Swords; from the Nature's Wisdom Oracle, the Artichoke:
When the body is tired, fiction can strangely start to resemble nonfiction. When the heart aches, it can be easy to mistake fantasy for reality. And when one's passion is burning brightly, the end can readily be used to rationalize the means. No wonder this ferret judge looks so serious; he's got a heavy burden when it comes to sussing out the truth in tangled circumstances. Clarity and objectivity are his goal, as he cuts away the brambles to find the facts. I wonder just how bored or hungry the first person to consider that the artichoke might be edible was. Yet there is value in this vegetable for more than only a food. The pulp of the petal-like bracts contain the chemical cynarine, which inhibits taste receptors and makes water (and other foods and drinks) seem sweet. The artichoke also has one of the highest antioxidant contents of all vegetables. What is the purpose/value of finding the truth? Surely it involves more than just labeling actions right or wrong and punishing those who've caused damage. Perhaps it is so clarity can restructure the conditions that caused the spread of untruths and prevent future harm.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Heat is On

From the Ferret Tarot, the Eight of Wands; from the Nature's Wisdom Oracle, the Hawk:
The heat is on, on the street
Inside your head, on every beat
And the beat's so loud, deep inside
The pressure's high, just to stay alive
'Cause the heat is on.
I've got Glenn Frey's song playing in my head; the heat (a part of a race or competition) is on with the ferrets this morning. What are they racing toward? I have no idea, but it must be something good with all their enthusiasm and energy projected in the same direction. On the other hand, maybe they've spotted Hawk and are running for cover. Hawk has been given the keyword 'power' because of its ability to scope out an area from a height and then act with bullet-like speed to grasp its objective. Hawk reminds me not to get bogged down in details but to keep my view wide and alert. When it's time to act, I'll be ready.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

It's an Illusion

This week I'll be using the Ferret Tarot, created and self-published by Elaine Moertl. Along with it, I'll be drawing from Nature's Wisdom Oracle, created by Mindy Lighthipe and published by Schiffer Books. The cards for today are the Two of Coins and Bat:
The body posture of this little ferret says a lot. His head is up, reminding me of the phrase 'heads-up,' which suggests being being aware of what is happening around you. His paws are outstretched, implying a willingness to catch and deal with what comes around. But the most telling is that both of his feet are firmly planted on the ground. Staying grounded rather than only in my head can keep me healthy and whole when I've got a lot to juggle. Most of my gardening injuries have occurred when I was focused on the next task instead of the one I was currently doing. Bat symbolizes what is beneficial because it consumes insects (a brown bat can eat 1000 mosquitoes in an hour) and because they are pollinators (300 species of fruit depend on them). This keyword reminds me of how absolutely horrible I am at multitasking. I will make fewer mistakes and do a better job when I concentrate on one objective at a time and then move on to the next priority on my list.
Juggling is an illusion. ... In reality, the balls are being independently caught and thrown in rapid succession. ... It is actually task switching. ― Gary Keller


Friday, August 11, 2017

A Square Foot or an Acre

From the Sasuraibito Tarot, the Fool; from the Soul Cards, Talking Heads:
If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few.
― Shunryu Suzuki 

'Sasuraibito' means 'wanderer' in Japanese, and in this Fool's card we see a wizened one. He isn't focused on his age and aches; he dances and laughs instead as he moves through his day. Is he crazy? Maybe, but I bet he enjoys life a lot more than most. When I wake up in the morning, my mind is like a dog sniffing at every bush and tree in the park. I think of what I need or want to do in the day ahead, and who I will be seeing. These thoughts, unfortunately, always have emotional opinions attached to them. Like the Soul Card image, the 'talking heads' - assumptions, preferences and prejudices - in my mind give their opinion about everything. Suddenly the wide-open park has been reduced to a square foot of grass. There is no spaciousness here nor any possibilities either. Yet I have a choice to believe the stories the talking heads are writing, or go play in acres and acres of green park. I know what that Fool would choose.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Self-Worth

From the Sasuraibito Tarot, the King of Wands; from the Soul Cards, Shame:
"The queen and I are starting a replanting program to replace some of the trees lost in the storm. Do you have a spot where you could plant one?" "Of course!" I answer, unable to resist his sweet smile (and anyone who walks around with a sapling tucked in his robe). As I take the little tree he reminds me just how much attention and care will be required, especially the first year. He is after all, the king of follow-through. But suddenly, my good feeling begins to evaporate as old tapes play in my head. I hear the voices of the past tell me I am worthless, that I can't do anything right. One voice in particular tells me that this tree will never thrive under my care. I begin to physically and mentally curl up, as if to hide. The king notices my body language and says, "We are all vulnerable to making wrong choices. Yet no single mistake, no matter how big, should be a global assessment of one's worth as a person. Life gives each of us a chance to learn as we live each day." He points out the beautiful autumn colors of the maple I planted years ago, and reminds me of the good I have grown. I take a deep breath, emerge from my mental shell and hold my hand out for the sapling.
 [Compassion] calls for acknowledging that it is easy to beat yourself with hindsight over the limited awareness you may have had in your past. ~ Bernard Golden



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Re-framing

From the Sasuraibito Tarot, the Six of Cups; from the Soul Cards, New Beginning:
Clinical psychologist Rick Hanson wrote, "In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That shades 'implicit memory' – your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood – in an increasingly negative direction." He suggests purposefully reliving joyful, gratitude-inducing events in the mind using sense memory to make up for this tendency. This is what I see the young man doing in the Six of Cups. Does doing this mean I will forget the lessons learned from the traumas and pain of the past? No, it's simply a way to balance out the darkness with more light. The vesica pisces shape seen behind the woman in the Soul Card is created when two circles with the same diameter overlap at each center point. The resulting almond-shaped figure has been seen as a symbol of birth and new beginnings - a doorway to a new frame of mind. Such a re-framing of how I think can change my habitual reactions to more skillful responses.
The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change;
  the realist adjusts the sails.  ~ William Arthur Ward


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cracked Coverings

From the Sasuraibito Tarot, the Tower; from the Soul Cards, Surrender:
Most people in my area have had a tree struck by lightning on their property at one time or another. None of the trees that took a direct strike survived the massive jolt of electrical current. In the same way, the Tower reflects a moment when one of the ego's mental constructs comes crashing down. The 'protective' delusion it created might have lulled us into feeling safe and secure, but it actually served to keep us separated from reality. When the shock and numbness wear off, we may feel grief, anger or fear. We demand our old life back, now. We may blame, manipulate and try to control the situation, but this tends to have the same effect as banging our head on a tree trunk. Imagine a person prostrating themselves in the leafy litter under that struck tree, with forehead and palms pressed to the ground. If one took a picture from beneath the earth, this Soul Card image is what it might look like. While a prostration might show reverence or respect, it is also the physical embodiment of surrendering the ego. It is a way to acknowledge that like it or not, we all live according to the natural laws of life. Yet as the quote Burrington includes for the Tower card suggests, surrender can also bring a certain kind of freedom and growth:
For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely
undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes.
To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete
destruction. ~ Cynthia Occelli 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Helping, Helping Oneself

From the Sasuraibito Tarot, the King of Cups; from the Soul Cards, Take Shelter:
I get the feeling that if I hadn't just stopped by for coffee, this King of Cups would be about to put his pontoon boat in the water and cast a line. That weathered face looks like he's got plenty of stories to tell, but he's happy to hear to mine. Whatever I say, he will listen intently without getting caught in the net of emotional drama. He lets the words float through him as if on water; the drama will get washed out to sea, but the important information will sink to the bottom. This is what he will scoop up and attend to - the underlying issue. Take Shelter applies to all the helpers who offer aid in a variety of forms. In the card, a big wind is blowing things around. A woman has taken shelter in the hollow formed by the earth and tree roots. The deer tries to tempt her to come out, but she knows she needs this time for herself. Working with others is rewarding, but it also requires boundaries. No matter how big a person's heart, the body and mind still need some down time.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

I've Got You

This week I'll be working with the Sasuraibito Tarot, self-published by Stasia Burrington. I'll also be using Soul Cards 1 & 2, created by Deborah Koff-Chapin and published through her company, Center for Touch Drawing. The Soul Cards have no titles, so the ones given here are my own. Today's draws are the Three of Cups and Creative Support:
What a lovely card for the Three of Cups. Whether a community of like-minded people or a few close friends, we all need a self-chosen tribe to celebrate our accomplishments and milestones with. Burrington writes in the companion booklet that no matter what kind of group it is, the positive feelings are the same: "feeling like you belong; feeling loved, secure, supported and cherished." The hard part is that we generally have to seek and reach out to these people, yet the deep trust found in these friendships is worth any effort. In the Soul Card, I see a guardian with one arm protecting a child as the child reaches upward. Here again is another reason to have a tribe - support. Whether we are stretching our creative talents or moving on from a loss, it is comforting and encouraging to have a cheering section. Instead of "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine," this is the unconditional statement, "I've got your back."

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Resource Responsibility

From the Ellis Deck, the King of Pentacles; from the Brownies Oracle, Temptation:
There is still a lot of the hardworking Knight in this King (notice the new tree sprout he is nurturing in one hand). The boar that was his trusted steed in younger years has passed away, and the King (who wastes nothing) now uses its hide as a cloak to honor it. Having known what it is like to be in need, he is a benevolent man. Yet he wants to see what has been given used wisely, or no more resources will be handed out. To him, these resources aren't just 'things,' but part of the kingdom he protects. The Brownies have their noses pressed up against the toy shop window, planning what they will buy (or steal). It makes me think of the phrase about money 'burning a hole in one's pocket.' Just because we have it, doesn't mean we need to spend it all. But watch what happens when someone receives a tax refund, gets a winning lotto ticket or a new credit card. Self-indulgence is more often the result rather than fiscal accountability. The King would suggest enjoying a few of the fruits but taking care of debts and saving some for later.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Burn Baby, Burn

From the Ellis Deck, the Queen of Rods; from the Brownies Oracle, Inspiration:
With all the flowers and greenery, I might guess this woman was the Empress. But those glowing eyes reveal her fiery passion inside. She's probably an environmental warrior, wildlife conservationist or chairperson of the garden club. Whatever her cause, this queen will be avid about it.  And she'll have the enthusiasm and charisma to get others to join too. I could use a jolt of her energy and zeal; I still have a Four of Cups hangover this morning. Looks like the Brownies are working on that though, with their community bonfire. The root of 'Inspiration' means to breathe into, first as the breath of life (in a religious sense) and later as a way to inflame one's passion. No matter what strong interest inspires us, it can give us a sense of purpose and a reason to get up in the morning.
The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for. 
Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Controlling Burn-out

From the Ellis Deck, the Four of Cups; from the Brownies Oracle, Control:
Applied Psychologist Paula D. Laack defines burn-out as: "the chronic state of being out of sync with one or more aspects of your life," with the result being "a loss of energy, enthusiasm, and confidence." Researchers have found six common elements:
  1. Lack of control (due to a chaotic environment or having no input in decision-making)
  2. Values conflict (between your core values vs. what is expected of you)
  3. Insufficient reward (feeling taking for granted or under-compensated)
  4. Work overload (too much, too complex, or too urgent)
  5. Unfairness (favoritism and discussions that keep others out of the loop)
  6. Breakdown of community (patronizing colleagues, no mechanism for conflict resolution, and non-existent feedback)
The Brownies bring up number one on the list: control. I've actually seen someone ride an ostrich, but he more or less hung on rather than directed it. My go-to for clarity in these circumstances is the Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Learning Diversity

From the Ellis Deck, the Eight of Pentacles; from the Brownies Oracle, Diversity:
A lone person hangs banners on a bridge. When we are trying to bridge the place between where we are and where we want to be, markers help. It might be grades received or certification granted. For others it may be lab work or steps on a Fitbit. Sometimes it could be ribbons won at an art show or cooking contest. These banners allow us to see how we're progressing and what still needs work. Yet once we get across the bridge, we must keep widening the circle around our focus instead of churning out the same thing or doing it the same way over and over. The Brownies suggest diversity - not just the inclusion of different elements, but the in the way we think about them. Creativity shouldn't just be kept in a jar with the lid on, but poured in a variety of containers.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ego Protection

From the Ellis Deck, the Five of Swords; from the Brownies Oracle, Surrender:
Birdman is the one left holding the swords after this battle, but he is left standing alone. Those piles of feathers beneath his feet represent just how cutting and damaging his words were. I don't see him doing a victory dance, probably because the reality of what he lost in order to win is sinking in. Ellis suggests learning from our mistakes when we find ourselves in this situation. Being right might feel good in the moment, but the fallout sucks. Surrender is something people in recovery know well, mostly because of the struggle we put up beforehand. We blame, we justify and we rationalize - anything to prevent us from admitting the truth. The longer we play this mental game with ourselves, the more prolonged and intense is the suffering that follows. Many prefer to die rather than admit their wrongs and ask for guidance from another. Is protecting the ego worth all that?
Change only happens when the pain of holding on is greater than the fear of letting go.
~ Anonymous