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

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Part of the Herd

From the Tarot de St. Croix, the Tower; from the Archetype Cards, Detective:
We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. ~ Marcel Proust

          The Tower could easily be called the 'walls that ego built.' It is designed to separate us from the herd of humanity, making us think we are above the rest. It can be heard in statements like, "I'll never suffer from depression because I put my faith in Jesus." "I'll never have heart problems or diabetes or cancer because I eat healthy foods and exercise." "I'll never be poor because I invest my money wisely." The list could go on and on. In this card, the Hindu god Shiva ('the destroyer') has blown the top off the tower and evicted its occupant. The nakedness of the woman on the back of the bird indicates how quickly life can take a drastic turn and tear away our illusions. No matter how thick or high the walls we build, we've got no control over conditions and external agents that can radically alter our lives. Our uniqueness gets blown to bits, and we find out we're a part of the herd after all. The Detective card suggests we look at some hard truths before we start building another protective wall. Being vulnerable may feel scary, but it can help us develop compassion for ourselves and others. Acknowledging our common bonds can give us more comfort and strength than concrete.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Benevolence and Restoration

From the Tarot de St. Croix, the Six of Pentacles; from the Archetype Cards, the Healer:

          The two entwined figures of the Buddhist yab-yum is not related to sexual practices but instead depicts the union of dual forces. The male symbolizes compassion and skillful means while the female represents insight and wisdom. We all have something to share - time, energy, skills, knowledge - even if we're not financially well off. When we combine our assets and resources with others, we create a healthier whole. The Healer archetype is one that serves others by helping alleviate and transform their pain. We don't necessarily have to know Reiki to do this; sometimes simply listening deeply to another can help. The themes of benevolence and restoration remind me of a poem by Danusha Laméris called "Small Kindnesses:"

 I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk 
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs 
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you” 
when someone sneezes, a leftover 
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying. 
And sometimes, when you spill lemons 
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you 
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, 
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile 
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress 
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, 
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far 
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. 
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these 
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”

Sunday, September 15, 2019

In the Looking

This week I'll be using the Tarot de St. Croix, created and self-published by Lisa de St. Croix. Along with it, I'll be drawing from the Archetype Cards, created by Caroline Myss and published by Hay House. Today's cards are Death and God:

I can recall that even as a small child I had allergic reactions to certain forms of reality.
"Distilled Spirits," AA Grapevine, December 1997

          Humans are biologically wired to look for stability and security in order to survive. We don't particularly like change (unless it's pleasant) and we fear anything that upends our life. Like the quote above, we seem to have an allergy to the impermanent nature of reality. When there are endings, we struggle to accept and adapt. Yet the dancing skeleton seems to have realized that there is the potential for good even in the midst of having what we were attached to ripped from our grasp. The God archetype represents a power that aids us and protects us when we feel powerless. In a physical world constantly in flux, is there any surprise that so many gods have been created by mankind? It is normal to want to feel grounded when we feel lost and in limbo. Perhaps for some, God might simply mean being willing to look beyond our ego's preferences, seeing for the first time the wonders and benevolence in our world that we've overlooked.

God is not findable for me. Not like car keys. Maybe God is that which can’t be found. That’s okay, because God is in the looking. —Susan Moon

Saturday, September 14, 2019

What Fires Together, Wires Together

From the Urban Tarot, the Hermit; from the Principles to Live By, Contentment:

I think instead [of happiness] we should be working for contentment... an inner sense of fulfillment that's relatively independent of external circumstances. – Andrew Weil 

          Scott's Hermit is shown in the belly of the subway; the spirit form of Cerberus (the three-headed hound from Hell) lurks in the background. The Hermit has come to confront his demons - his habitual thoughts and behavior patterns. Unlike the Hierophant, who is eager to tell you how to act and what to think, the Hermit's assessment is based on an honest personal inventory of his motives and choices. He reminds me of Buddha, who after spending years studying with ascetics, decided to sit and look at his own mind. There he discovered the root of his suffering grew within himself. The good news was that since this was an internal rather than external issue, something could be done about it. Contentment is an inner wealth found in the small joys, wonders, and beauties of each moment, not in some future time and place. Without it, we find ourselves restless, irritable, and filled with an insatiable feeling of deficiency. Yet as Buddha discovered, what fires together, wires together. We can change our thinking by practicing gratitude - not the grocery list of what we're supposed to be grateful for, but what we can touch and see all around us if we pay close attention. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Muddy Water

From the Urban Tarot, the Eight of Swords; from the Principles to Live By, Patience:
Yet it should be obvious that action without wisdom, without clear awareness of the world as it really is, can never improve anything. Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone. 
– Alan Watts  

          Scott's Eight of Swords (given the keyword 'interference') shows a snowy TV screen with swords running through it. The RWS version usually shows a blindfolded person surrounded by swords stuck in the ground. The sad truth is, we are the ones who drove those swords in and caused the problem. It starts when we have a plan and a strategy to get us to our goal. The problem is that there is no wiggle room for unforeseen circumstances or obstacles that meet us on the path. We can't see with clarity because we're stuck on how we envisioned things would be rather than the plate of reality we've been served. Yet Patience reminds us that with calm endurance things often change on their own. But even if the situation changes at a snail's pace, that quiet stillness can often help us see beyond our original plans. As Watts writes: "it could be argued that those who sit quietly and do nothing are making one of the best possible contributions to a world in turmoil." Why? Because making space for ideas beyond our own gives us many more possibilities from which to choose.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

First Things First

From the Urban Tarot, the Ten of Wands; from the Principles to Live By, Service:
          At some point, we were fired up about making changes, creating a new way of doing things, or moving toward a goal. But now that enthusiasm has waned with the heavy load of responsibility; our day-to-day actions feel like a slow trudge through knee-deep mud. Because we have set things into motion through the choices we've made, it may feel as if we are handcuffed and imprisoned by the situation. The Service tile (the symbol for the Alzheimer's Association), may seem like a strange companion for this card. Yet before we can successfully ease someone else's suffering, we must learn to tend to our own. It requires us to consider, "What do I need right now?" When we develop genuine compassion for ourselves and learn to practice self-care, we naturally open our heart to the challenges of others. The paradox of selfless service with no expectations is that such service can take us out of our self-orbit and create within us a sense of joy.

By giving ourselves unconditional kindness and comfort while embracing the human experience, difficult as it is, we avoid destructive patterns of fear, negativity, and isolation.
― Kristin Neff

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Passion + Discernment

From the Urban Tarot, the Prince (Knight) of Wands; from the Principles to Live By, Discernment:
          This Prince/Knight likes to create a stir, and he has enough energy and enthusiasm to keep it going. Scott's version (a TV journalist) is a bit of a trickster and based on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Like the jester of the court, you might have some laughs but there is a lot of hard truths in the mix too. It reminds me of Stewart's impassioned plea to Congress for health benefits for the 9/11 first responders who were exposed to so much toxic dust in their efforts to help. He may be a comedian, but he also knows how to get things done. Discernment is the ability to see with clarity, recognizing truth without it being blocked by personal opinion, wishes or emotion. Like this Prince, we all have causes we are passionate about. The hard part is balancing our compassion with the wisdom of discernment so that we can be effective.

A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices. ~William James

In memory of the innocent and brave lives lost.