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, September 30, 2013

The Cutting Truth

From the Shadowscapes Tarot, the Three of Swords:
As a bird lover, this image makes me heartsick, but that of course is what it is supposed to portray. It didn't surprise me much when this card turned up; I had been thinking about a relationship I've been tiptoeing around lately. It's one of those situations where you straddle a fence between what is real and what is pretend. The harm caused by the other party destroyed all my trust, and though I might forgive, I will not allow myself to be vulnerable again. Yet for a while now both of us have maintained this pretense where it appears we get along, perhaps so as not to upset other people to whom we are mutually connected. The cutting truth is this is a relationship beyond repair. The full moon in the background of this card suggests it is time to quit playing pretend and be honest, though it will cause pain to those who are innocent in this situation.

From the Cedar Runes comes "Mannaz:"
The joyous man is dear to his kinsmen;
yet every man is doomed to fail his fellow;
~ Anglo-Saxon poem
The Anglo-Saxon verse about Mannaz (Mann) is so appropriate for the situation above. No matter what I do, no matter how I try to fix what is broken, I am simply human. I will fail in some areas and disappoint other people. And though I do believe I should treat all people with as much compassion as possible, I am not responsible for another person's happiness, just as he or she is not responsible for mine.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Handling of Hickory Nuts

From the Shadowscapes Tarot, the Ace of Cups:
Fish and water beings swim in a current that emanates from a chalice. But I also notice rings of energy spreading from the bottom of the cup. There are people I come in contact with almost daily, and I can see the effects of my love on them, like the ocean creatures in the current. But then there are those strangers I stand in lines with or pass at the grocery store who I may offer a smile or give some encouraging words that I might never see again. I think small acts of compassion or kindness will have a ripple effect in some of these cases. I might not get to hear or see "the rest of the story" (as Paul Harvey used to say), but I believe loving attention is never wasted.

 From the Cedar Runes this morning comes "Eihwaz:"
The yew is a tree with rough bark,
hard and fast in the earth, supported by its roots,
a guardian of flame and a joy upon an estate.
~ Anglo-Saxon poem
Eihwaz / Eoh is associated with the yew tree that is long-lived yet contains highly poisonous alkaloids. The teaching behind this rune is a tough one, like the rough bark of the yew. It deals with initiation and transformation (the hard part), but it ends with joy if one perseveres. Combining this rune with the tarot card above, I am encouraged to love the unlovable, those who seem so crusty and resistant to acts of kindness. Like a hickory nut, sometimes that hard exterior hides a tenderness hidden deep inside.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Picked Clean

This week I'll be using the Shadowscapes Tarot, created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and published by Llewellyn (there is also a companion book written with the help of Barbara Moore). Today's draw is the Six of Swords:
An exhausted fellow escapes on the back of a swan, while five crows continue to caw. I had a flash of a cornfield picked clean when I saw this card. Whether the ideas I discuss deal with religion, politics, philosophy or ethics in general, I can begin to feel drained and "picked clean" when I talk with certain people. When everyone involved has their mind set in concrete, only debate and argument will ensue. I guess some people feel energized by such an exchange, but it only leaves me with a migraine and a resentment. I don't need to change these folks' minds, I need to move on and find some peace.

The oracle I'll be using this week is a set of cedar runes created by Alaska Laser Maid. This morning's rune is "Algiz:"
The Elk-sedge is mostly to be found in a marsh;
it grows in the water and makes a ghastly wound,
covering with blood every warrior who touches it.
~ Anglo-Saxon Poem
The Algiz rune is like a shield of protection; it doesn't actively attack anyone, but it does put up a barrier. It reminds me to respect other people's boundaries and to defend my own when necessary. In pairing it with the card above, I get the impression that there are some folks I don't need to have certain discussions with, no matter how many buttons they push. It is better to walk away unharmed while they snarl and foam at the mouth like rabid animals.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Life's Duct Tape

From the Tarot in de Herstelde Orde (Restored Order Tarot), the Hanged Man:
Falling leaves and coins and the figure "four" created by the man's legs suggest that nothing in the material world can help this man. He is both literally and metaphorically tied up, and has no power over the situation in which he has found himself. By acknowledging his powerlessness and surrendering to reality, he will find insight. The mushrooms on the ground indicate decomposition - the ego has lost its CEO chair and now becomes the secretary who observes and takes notes. The golden halo around his head and his peaceful expression suggest this man now sees with a new perspective. Sometimes it takes a lot of life's duct tape to make me realize I have no control over other people or external events. Right now it's best if I concentrate on my own attitude and actions.

From the Kabbalah Oracle comes the letter "Zayin:"
artwork by Adam Rhine
Zayin had been said to represent a sword or a scepter - both symbols of power. Yet the letter is associated with the number seven, the day of Shabbos, or the Sabbath. It is a day of rest, but it is also a day to remember the importance of the spiritual. It reminds me to look deeper than the drama going on around me if I want to find the answers I seek.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Breath of Air

From the Tarot in de Herstelde Orde (Restored Order Tarot), the Ace of Swords:
Perhaps it's the romantic in me, but when I see a sword hoisted in the air I think of liberation. Yet what needs freeing is not my body but my mind; there are beliefs holding it hostage that need to be overthrown. On this particular card, the usual laurel and palm branches have been replaced with what appear to be red currant and oak branches. The red berries tell me the time is ripe for new ideas and solutions; the oak's tiny acorns promise that from this new start something much larger will grow. Several mountain peaks are below, but one falls beneath the hilt of the sword. It encourages me to climb one peak (challenge) at a time so I don't get distracted and lose my focus.

From the Oracle of Kabbalah comes the letter "Shin:"
artwork by Veronique Cheney
Shin has been compared to a glowing coal. When we go through hard times (the dark night of the soul), it seems the light has gone out of our lives. But Shin reminds us that fire lives in that ember, and it only takes a breath of fresh air to grow into a flame (enter the Ace of Swords). With this letter comes the promise that light and warmth are close at hand, even when appearances seem otherwise.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Unwrapped Gifts

From the Tarot in de Herstelde Orde (Restored Order Tarot), Juno:
This particular deck has two extra cards: Jupiter (as Truth) and Juno (as Intuition). I've never drawn either one in all the times I've used the deck until today. At first I wondered what was so different between the High Priestess and this card. But it immediately became obvious that Juno was about taking action. How many times have you had an intuitive flash or spiritual nudge and ignored it? It's easy to discount what wells up from within as just another crazy thought, but Juno advises me to do something with the wisdom I receive. Otherwise, it's like a gift I leave all wrapped up and never open.

From the Oracle of the Kabbalah comes "Aleph:"
artwork by Michoel Muchnik
Aleph is a bit of a paradox; it represents both unity and separateness, nothingness and form. Seidman suggests looking at this letter as a Hebrew form of the yin-yang. Rather than opposites, these two sides are complementary aspects. Jewish sages teach the shape of Aleph represents the yoke of an ox. The center line symbolizes the plowed field when these opposites are carried on our shoulders without clinging to one side or the other. I need to be able to move back and forth on the continuum to birth something new, just as Juno blends intuition and action. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

All Natural

From the Tarot in de Herstelde Orde (Restored Order Tarot), the Empress:
Perhaps it is the relaxed way this Empress rests against her chair that brought to mind the words of one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
The Empress tells me to do what it is natural for me to do: love and nurture, create and develop. She doesn't try to tell me how to do it; like the stream behind her, it must flow naturally. If I can love and create without coercion, it will produce something both beautiful and pleasurable.  And the seeds of that fruit can be used to plant even more.

From the Oracle of Kabbalah comes the letter "Tet:"
artwork by Anya D. Starr
Tet is the initial letter of the word tov, meaning "good," and thus has become associated with goodness. The Zohar states its expression might be concealed and not easily noticed: "its good is hidden within it." The number associated with Tet is nine, and thinking of the Empress above, it was natural to make the connection with nine months of pregnancy. Tet reminds me that nurturing what is good takes time and patience. It will eventually materialize if I don't try to rush things along.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Being Bored

From the Tarot in de Herstelde Orde (Restored Order Tarot), the Four of Cups:
As autumn leaves fall around him, a man sits under a tree with his arms and legs crossed. This guy's body language speaks clearly - his mind is as closed as a Campbell's soup can. The fallen leaves made me think of a project I recently completed. I was fired up about it, and all my free time went into finishing it. But now that it's over, I've got that "let-down" feeling. I was happy to see its completion, yet there seems to be a void where all the busyness was before. I'm vacillating between being bored and being tired. Yet I don't think the emptiness will last for long; my muse is trying to tempt me with another cup, so my rest period is likely to be up soon.

From the Oracle of the Kabbalah comes "Gimmel:"
artwork by Adam Rhine
The Talmud teaches the "foot" of Gimmel is running after the next letter (Dalet, which means "poor"). It indicates a need to move out of my self-absorption (as seen above) and reach out to someone with an act of kindness. Gimmel is associated with the number 3; like a three-legged stool, it brings balance where there was none before. In his companion book, Seidman writes, "Gimmel reminds me that the way to refreshment is action." In my case, it is an act of love directed toward another that will bring me out of my own blue funk.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Eye of the Needle

From the Tarot in de Herstelde Orde (Restored Order Tarot), the Queen of Cups:
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey
No wonder this Queen looks slightly anxious about taking the lid off that cup - walking the fine line of empathy can be tricky. Elementally, she's water of water (meaning water deep enough to drown in). Being supportive and caring can be a slippery slope, and I can find myself as overwhelmed as the friend I'm trying to help. The Queen of Cups reminds me to put on a life jacket before I wade out into deep water today.

From the Oracle of Kabbalah comes the letter "Kuf:"
artwork by Malka Helfman
In Aramic, Kuf means "eye of the needle." The eye of a needle is what makes it useful - it is what holds the thread needed to sew something. Yet the needle never becomes the thread, it just remains a holder for it like a cup that holds tea. Kuf is one of two letters in the Hebrew alphabet that has two separate parts. It reminds me that detachment is needed so I don't get entangled with the heavy emotions of other people. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Seek and Find

This week I'll be using Tarot in de Herstelde Orde (Restored Order Tarot) created by Rob Docters van Leeuwen & Onno Docters van Leeuwen and published by Servire. Today's draw is the Hermit:
Alone on a ledge, the Hermit looks out on the path he's traveled. This is a life review, a chance to look objectively at mistakes made, lessons learned and things he got right. He tallies up his assets (the sprouts on his staff) and his deficits, not to wallow in pride or self-pity, but so he can help others who will come after him. The hexagram in his lamp is a combination of the alchemical symbols for fire (upward triangle) and water (downward triangle). How can such opposites exist in harmony? How can a physical person lead a spiritual life here on earth? The answer is what illuminates the Hermit's lantern.

The other deck I'll be using this week is the Oracle of the Kabbalah created by Richard Seidman and published by St. Martin's Press. The letter drawn this morning is "Ayin:"
artwork by Veronique Cheney
Ayin literally means "eye" and is a symbol of perception and insight. In his companion book, Seidman notes how the shape of the letter resembles a dowsing rod for water. Ayin reminds me that like dowsing, I must seek understanding - it's not likely to spring up from the ground all on its own. The light of the Hermit is held in front of him but casts a shadow behind him; as I seek, I need to remember to look in those dark, dusty corners too.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Smart Enough to Feel Stupid

From the Sacred Sites Tarot, the Queen of Swords:
Here is the Sacred Walnut Tree of Benevento, Italy; like the hazelnut to the Celts, this tree and its nuts were thought to have magical powers. The stregas of Benevento were said to dance around it on their sacred days. Of course as soon as Christianity got a firm foothold, these pagan activities were labeled as demonic (not that they ever discussed this with the witches, they just made assumptions). The practice of all sorts of evil was imagined, so the bishop came and cut the tree down. I live a block away from a Baptist monstrosity; it is not a church, it is a big business. They recently cleared land near a holding pond to put in a huge parking lot. Though I tried to fight having all the trees removed and the habitat destroyed, I could find no one willing to listen. One of the few trees they left (surrounded by asphalt now) is a walnut, and it is dying. There is a line in an Eminem song that I think this queen would agree with: "Are you smart enough to feel stupid?" In other words, stop acting like you know everything, then maybe you will actually learn something.

From the Haindl Rune Oracle comes "Not:"
The rune Not (Nauthiz) is associated with constraint and need. It is not meant to just be a hardship, but a way to help change one's focus and bring about transformation. An example would be an author with writer's block who suddenly decides to pen something new that ends up as a bestseller. This rune like the queen above reminds me to avoid "all or nothing" thinking. If doors are closed, start looking for an open window - it's time to embrace flexibility.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Challenges and Charity

From the Sacred Sites Tarot, the Chariot:
This particular Chariot card shows a pilgrim following the Way of St. James, a route that began at one's home and ended in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The many dangers and hardships a pilgrim faced on the journey was seen as a test of one's beliefs. The charioteer's struggle is similar to that of the pilgrim; his convictions are challenged as he tries to reach his goal. In order to reach his destination, he must develop a confidence that not only allows him to ignore all the external drama, but the pull of his own senses, emotions and instinctual desires as well. P. Gerson, editor of The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela, wrote: "Pilgrimage is like a rite of passage in that it thrusts the participant beyond the threshold of normal daily life into an altered spiritual state." Continuing confidently on the path, regardless of the conditions encountered, is the message of the Chariot.

From the Haindl Rune Oracle comes "Gebo:"
The Anglo Saxon poem (which calls this rune Gyfu) says: "Generosity brings credit and honor, which support one's dignity; it furnishes help and subsistence to all broken men who are devoid of aught else." The literal meaning of Gebo is "gift" and refers to both giving and receiving. It reminds me that as I struggle towards a goal, sometimes I need to be willing to take help offered - just as the traveling pilgrim accepted the hospitality of others.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Balanced Way of Action

From the Sacred Sites Tarot, Strength:
The location of this site is the Summer Palace in Beijing, China. The Chinese call it Yiheyuan, meaning Garden of Health and Harmony. The Chinese lion (often referred to by Westerners as a Foo Dog) is generally seen in pairs. The male lion has a ball underneath one paw, representing power and dominance, while the female lion (seen above) has a paw restraining a playful cub, symbolizing nurture and training. Both of these statues are guardians; the male guards with courage and perseverance while the female protects with an inner strength fueled by love and compassion. Strength reminds me to use my passionate energy in a balanced way, one that builds relationships instead of destroys them.

From the Haindl Rune Oracle comes "Sig:"
The Icelandic rune poem describes Sig as a "shining ray and destroyer of ice." In other words, it not only brings clarity, it also paves a smooth road over all the obstacles I've been fighting in an attempt to reach my goal. The rune's form resembles a lightning bolt, a fitting symbol for a breakthrough that leads to success. Yet the card above cautions me that it is not force that will cause this development, but a strength that originates from courage and compassion.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Balance and Benevolence

From the Sacred Sites Tarot, the Ten of Pentacles:
This card represents the mythical city of Cibola, a province known as the "Seven Cities of Gold." The Spaniards heard of a place overflowing with riches (in what is New Mexico today), so they organized a large military expedition to find and take possession of it. Obviously it didn't matter that this was the home of the Zuni people. When the Spaniards arrived, they discovered no gold or other treasures, only seven modest pueblos. If I were to write an Aesop-type fable about this place, I would say the wonderful city became ordinary to those whose hearts filled with greed. But perhaps to the Zuni people, their homes were full of riches - just not the kind the Spaniards desired. The Ten of Pentacles reminds me that a place of belonging with basic needs met can often be worth more than any city of gold.

From the Haindl Rune Oracle comes "Feo:"
It is interesting that the Anglo-Saxon rune poem declares wealth (Fe/Feo) "a comfort," but the Old Norse and Icelandic poems describe it as a "source of discord." I think having the "most toys" only makes others want what you have, and then you spend all your time defending your treasure instead of enjoying it. Feo encourages me to use and appreciate the resources available but not try to claim all of them for myself. Balance and benevolence will be my watchwords for the day.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Cup of Kindness

From the Sacred Sites Tarot, the Knight of Cups:
In India is the site of Sarnath (from Saranganath, meaning "Lord of the Deer"), known also as Deer Park. Buddhist legend tells of a bodhisattva (an enlightened being motivated by compassion) who took the shape of a deer and offered his life in return for a doe the king was about to kill. The king was so moved, he created a sanctuary for the deer, which today is Sarnath. It was in this place the Buddha first taught the Dharma, explaining the Four Noble Truths. These Truths defined the underlying dissatisfaction with life, the origin of this suffering, the possibility of release, and the path which would enable such freedom. This card reminds me that all beings suffer - I don't have a monopoly on it. When I realize this concept, it may be easier to offer the cup of kindness to those whom I might originally have thought didn't deserve it.

From the Haindl Rune Oracle comes "Bar/Berkano:"
Bar is associated with the birch tree, a pioneer species, and thus a symbol of growth and renewal. Pioneer species are tough plants that are the first to colonize a disturbed or damaged ecosystem. In combining this idea with the Knight of Cups, there is a sense of healing through kindness.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Path of Compassion

From the Sacred Sites Tarot, the Hierophant:
This image depicts the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Until 1959, it was the residence of the Dalai Lama. On the Dalai Lama's official website, he lists three commitments that his life is guided by: promoting basic ethical values, fostering inter-religious harmony and the preservation of the peaceful Tibetan Buddhist culture. There's nothing about converting the world and saving souls from eternal damnation. His teachings are offered with an open palm rather than a closed fist. The present Dalai Lama teaches, "If you have a particular faith or religion, that is good. But you can survive without it. We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection." He and this Hierophant remind me that kindness can be my religion; it needs no other label.

From the Haindl Rune Oracle comes "Is:"
This rune is likened to ice, and in the Anglo-Saxon poem it describes it as "very cold and immeasurably slippery." Is/Ice is an obstacle over which I have no personal control; I must take great care that I don't harm myself or others reacting to it. This card and the one above indicates I should handle my obstacles with compassion instead of allowing anger or pride to trip me up. Tibet was invaded and taken over by China in 1951, and the Dalai Lama fled to India to escape becoming a political prisoner. Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, has spoken out against China and continues to be an advocate for the Tibetan people. Yet he chooses the path of nonviolence to deal with this obstacle, a path that has probably kept many of the Tibetan people safe while they are subjected to the occupation of the Chinese.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sacred Trust

This week I'll be using the Sacred Sites Tarot, created by Massimiliano Filadoro and illustrated by Federico Penco; it was published by Lo Scarabeo. This morning's draw is the Ace of Pentacles:
This is an image of Machu Picchu ("old peak"), an estate in Peru built for the Incan emperor Pachacuti about 1450. It was abandoned during the Spanish Conquest a century later and remained hidden except to the locals. American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to international attention in 1911; he also took home hundreds of artifacts from the site. It has taken until November of 2012 for Yale University to return the last of the artifacts taken. Although earthquakes and weather systems threaten the sacred site, the biggest danger to Machu Picchu is the thousands of tourists who visit. In an effort to protect its natural and cultural significance, UNESCO has made it a World Heritage Site. The Ace of Pentacles reminds me I have a sacred duty to take care of the resources I've been entrusted with, whether my health, finances or this lovely earth that is my home.

The other deck I'll be using this week is the Haindl Rune Oracle created by Hermann Haindl and published by U.S. Games. Today's draw is "Yr:"
The Old Norse Rune Poem associates this rune with the yew, a tree known for its longevity. The Icelandic Rune Poem connects it with a bent bow and arrow - a sign of protection. Like the Machu Picchu site above, if I want something to last I must take care of it. And sometimes that means laying down some firm boundaries to protect those things.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

From the Art of Life Tarot comes the Page of Wands (detail from The New Armor by Franz Meyerheim):
It’s never too late to be what you might have become. ~ attributed to George Eliot but actually from Dinah Mulock Craik

I wonder who is teaching whom – perhaps the page knows more about this new-fangled armor than the knight does. But can you teach an old dog new tricks? In the television show Mythbusters, Jamie and Adam took two 7 year old Alaskan malamutes who didn’t know any tricks to test this theory. Although these dogs are known for their stubborn streak, after four days of training both dogs could heel, sit, lie down, stay and shake upon command. I think learning to reinvent yourself probably has more to do with attitude than anything else. If I’m determined to do something new, I probably have a good shot at doing so.

From the Tao Oracle comes the card “The Attraction of Opposites:”
My husband and I are good examples of opposites when it comes to how we do things, yet our values and ethics are very similar. Still, even the simplest things (how to prepare for a trip for instance) underscore our differences. But we’ve remained married all these years because we each understand how we can balance each other out – one’s weakness is the other’s strength. But every now and then, one of us will be convinced of being right while the other is wrong. In combining these two cards, I am encouraged to be flexible in my thinking – a trait that will serve me well if I am learning something new

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Turning Down the Volume

From the Art of Life Tarot, the Empress (detail of Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Raphael):
Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things. ~ Denis Diderot

The Empress has a passion for creation, but also a fierce devotion toward nurturing and protecting what she loves. There is no logic or limits to her feelings, and they will motivate her to do both courageous and crazy things. Every thought that precedes action is channeled through her heart rather than her head. The phrase "no greater love" defines her well. But such a passion can gently water a garden just as easily as it can flood a valley. There is no off/on switch, and there is no volume control to be found.

From the Tao Oracle comes "The Taming of the Small:"
Padma explains that this card refers to times when our sphere of influence is small. Like the spider who weaves her web and then blends in to her surroundings, sometimes I need to attend to details of the small stuff without trying to change the world. As Padma clarifies, there are times to "work with what is, even when it feels as though all the excitement is happening somewhere else." Repairing the small may not seem like much, but it may have a huge impact later down the line.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where's the Steering Wheel on this Thing?

From the Art of Life Tarot, the Chariot (detail from The Balloon by Pal Szinyei Merse):
Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 

The hot air balloon is not the most practical vehicle to use, because there is no steering mechanism - it only travels at the speed and in the direction the wind blows. The only controls are the burner, which heats the air in the balloon and causes it to rise, and the vent at the top of the balloon that allows air to escape in order to descend. Like the balloon's burner, it's possible to control my inner desires and urges (for instance bypassing the frosty at Wendy's when I purchase a berry salad). Yet what I can't control (like the wind) is the actions and opinions of other people. If I don't want to use up all my "heat" and crash, I need some type of vent like the balloon. The air in this craft reminds me that it is the intellect that can act as a vent and keep me afloat and moving.

From the Tao Oracle comes the card "Opposition:"
I'm a member of a book club that discusses theological books. The group is an eclectic one with people who've each had a wide variety of life experiences. So it's no surprise that there are disagreements when we have discussions. But the interesting thing is no one is promoting a particular opinion, they're just sharing the knowledge they have. Such respectful exchanges help us to see the strengths and weaknesses of any argument. This card reminds me, like the one above, to stick to the evidence and facts if I want to continue to make progress.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Joy of Doing

From the Art of Life Tarot, the Three of Pentacles (detail from Tightrope Walker by August Mack):
The reward of a thing well done is to have done it. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The fellow on the tightrope didn't just hop up there one day and do it perfectly. I'm sure he had people and tools to help him: a mentor to teach him, a pole to help him balance, special shoes to wear, and a net to catch him if he fell. And though he may be a master of the rope now, some of those resources he continues to use to perform his act. Yet it is more than just a job and a paycheck; I'm sure the thrill of accomplishment and the awe of the crowds encourage him too. As Emerson reminds me, loving what you do and being able to do it is the true reward. And I can't think of a better way to thank those who help me do what I love by doing it joyfully.  

From the Tao Oracle comes the card "Conflict:"
Two robot-like beings struggle with each other, creating steam above their heads from the water they stand in. The bricks and stones that make up their bodies make me think the conflict is one between the two different beliefs of institutions and individuals. I feel this card indicates an internal struggle for me between the "shoulds" of society and what my heart wants to do. Money is necessary, but it sure can't buy happiness. If I look for where the greater benefit will be found, the choice is easy. If I'm doing what I love, then that joy will spill over to other people too. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Shake-up That's a Wake-up

From the Art of Life Tarot, the Page of Swords (detail of Paul Writing by Camille Pissarro):
When the student is ready, the master will appear. ~ Often attributed to Buddha but actually a Theosophical saying.

This kid is probably writing down everything he heard and saw during his day, and I can guarantee it was a lot. He's like a sponge soaking in everything, even stuff that most people would never notice. But does he make any connections in his outer world to his inner one? In a way, I can relate to this Page; I'm always stashing bits of trivia about random things in my brain. But every now and then, some of what I hear or see is like getting doused with a bucket of icy, cold water. It changes from something trivial to something important, because I see its relevance in my life. The "master" can appear in all sorts of guises - human and otherwise - and hopefully I'll recognize its worth when it does. 

From the Tao Oracle comes the card "The Arousing:"
Padma calls this image "a shake-up that's a wake-up." It made me remember an incident when I first started driving on my own as a teenager. I was on a curvy, country road going too fast when I ran slightly off the road. I instinctively jerked the wheel to get back on the pavement, and the car tried to flip. I was in a heavy, old Chevy Impala, so instead of flipping, I rode on two wheels a ways before the car eventually rolled down on all four wheels. I was so scared, I don't think I took a breath the whole time. But the experience did teach me a valuable driving lesson. Like the Page above, I need to pay attention and apply what I've been taught so I don't have to learn all my lessons the hard way.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Married to Amazement

From the Art of Life Tarot, Death (detail of Death and Life by Gustav Klimt):
Death twitches in my ear, "Live," he says "I am coming." ~ Virgil

I don't know what caused it, perhaps the deaths of my father and father-in-law, but years ago I started reading the daily obituaries in the paper to see if I knew any of the people listed there. Death has become a part of what I think about and plan for now, with Living Wills and cremation requests. As I look at Klimt's painting, I notice all the crosses on Death's robe and wonder if religion has fueled our fear of endings. I was brought up in a fundamental church that believed sinners would live in anguish for eternity in the bowels of hell; emphasis was definitely placed on the hereafter instead of the now. Although I don't subscribe to that man-made belief anymore and haven't a clue what comes afterward, I refuse to believe it is something gruesome. What I do feel is important is appreciating the present moment in front of me instead of worrying about the future. When my ending comes, I want to be able to say (in the words of Mary Oliver), "I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms."

From the Tao Oracle comes the card "Keeping Still:"
In Padma's book, she explains that many traditions use the mountain to symbolize the stillness of our Buddha nature. Just as the mountain rises above the valley below it, meditation can shift our attention away from the busyness of the mind and give us an objective overview. In this state, we can look without attachment to the comings and goings of life. Such detachment doesn't mean we attempt to distance ourselves from life; rather it gives us a chance to enjoy and appreciate it without trying to strangle it with our likes and dislikes. There will be happy endings and sad ones; either way training my mind to be still will help me deal with them.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Magic of Gentle Love

This week I'll be using the Art of Life Tarot created by Charlene Livingstone and published by U.S. Games. Today's draw is the Queen of Cups (from a detail of Mary Cassatt's painting Breakfast in Bed):
"Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another." ~ George Eliot

Put a sleepy adult in a comfy bed, and it automatically becomes a magnet for kids and pets. This image reminds me of growing up with my grandmother. Every morning I would rise at some ungodly hour and pad into her bedroom to see if she was awake. Of course she would play "possum" as long as she could, but eventually she would gather me into her bed. We would snuggle together while she told me stories about her own childhood. That memory of feeling so close and loved by another human being is still fresh in my mind many years later. Eliot had it right - the unconditional love one person can have for another can truly work magic.

The other deck I'll be using this week is the Tao Oracle created by Ma Deva Padma and published by St. Martin's Press. This morning's draw is "The Gentle:"
This painting looks soft and fuzzy, like seeing it through sleepy eyes. In our society, not much could be described as gentle. We expect people and situations to act or change quickly, as if they were a car with the gas pedal pushed to the floor. But it is an impossibility in many cases, and this card encourages me to take the opposite approach. Just as a gentle stream can polish the rocks it flows past over time, I need to commit to the long haul of taking the path of least resistance. Circumstances might not change overnight, but following the way of kindness and tenderness can leave relationships intact instead of broken.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Complete Focus with Claws Extended

From the Druidcraft Tarot, the Eight of Pentacles:
There's nothing like working with molten metal to help keep your focus. This fellow has had to learn innumerable skills to get to this point: the amount of each metal to use, how to carve a mold, the temperature needed to melt the metal, how to pour it into the mold and how to file and smooth the figure once it comes out. Without distractions, he can practice and perfect his knowledge and craft. I've had a project I've been working on, but the daily unexpected stuff I've had to deal with has kept me from making too much progress. It's hard to keep plugging along when it seems you're moving inches instead of miles toward the goal. Today promises to be a day that I'll have time to devote to my work, which would be a welcome gift.

From the Druid Animal Oracle comes the Scottish wildcat ("Cat"):
This animal is my ancestral clan's symbol, so it is doubly important to me. The wildcat is no domestic cat; it is both fierce and cautious. It will watch with detachment to see if the object of its attention is prey, predator or a something that it doesn't need to be concerned about before it takes any action. But if they feel threatened, they can be a force to be reckoned with - rangers and others who have tried to capture them are quite aware of their ability to bite clean through protective gloves and hands. This cat suggests I guard my work and share it only with those I trust. Plagiarists lurk everywhere, particularly on the internet.