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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Survive and Thrive

This week I'll be working with the Jolanda Tarot, created by Jolanda Den Tredjes with Hans Arnold and published by AGM Müller. I'll also be using the oracle set Bird Signs, created by G.G. Carbone with Mary Ruzicka and published by New World Library. The cards drawn today are the Three of Cups and Pheasant:
          Three cups rise like lotus blossoms from a pond; the central larger cup holds a winged horse with a butterfly above and a snake below. I have a friend who speaks of spending time with her "tribal group." I think most people have such associations, and often the parts that make up the whole are decidedly different in various ways. Yet such a "tribe" is held together by an affinity or common purpose. It blends diversity together in wonderful ways that offers a container for celebration and support.
          The pheasant was originally from Asia but was introduced elsewhere as an ornamental and game bird. Though capable of flying, they prefer to run along the ground with great bursts of speed if startled. Pheasants, like other hunted birds, form loose flocks outside the breeding season. The deck creators have given it the keyword "opportunity," suggesting such congregant behavior grants favorable circumstances. In the bird world, it offers protection; in the human world it can do the same. Yet shelter among people is not just a place to survive, but a place to learn and try new things - a vessel in which to thrive.    

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Refilling Dry Wells

From the Daniloff Tarot, the Two of Swords; from the Kuan Yin Sticks, Verse 25:
          A blindfolded woman hovers above rocky waters; the banner above the two crossed swords she holds is blank. When my adrenaline is pumping, it can feel like I need to make an important decision NOW. Yet if I am physically tired, emotionally drained or don't have enough information, I can make a disastrous choice. Michelle Obama, when asked about her husband being a possible assassination target replied, "You can't make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen." There are times when the best choice I can make is to wait before deciding anything. Otherwise, my mind will be tainted by anxious projections of the future. The waning crescent on the woman's shield suggests there is little light for seeing clearly at present. But if she's patient, that moon will shine brightly once more.
          The 25th Verse reads:
The crisis has passed. A broad mind can work out an effective solution, just as an old, dry well is once again replenished with spring water.
When my mind has been hijacked by emotion, whether anger, grief or fear, my world becomes very small. Possibilities, once as wide and spacious as the sky, get reduced to the size of a thimble. If I am aware this has happened, I can pause instead of react. Instead of writing story lines around what is, I can take the Two of Swords advice and wait until the stormy waters have calmed. Then my mind will become wide open again, able to see the potential in whatever situation is in front of me.
*Kuan Yin artwork created by Sue Halstenberg

Friday, January 29, 2016

Jumping the Gate

From the Daniloff Tarot, the Wheel of Fortune; from the Kuan Yin Sticks, Verse 20:

          In Daniloff's version, Fortuna stands on a sea dragon, suggesting she is immune to the moods, desires and aversions of humans. Her wheel is going to turn regardless, because it is the nature of the physical world to change and be impermanent. Yet within the hub is a symbol of the four elements - tools we have for adapting to and learning from the constant movement of life. I can be like the masks (bouncing back and forth between being ecstatic or miserable), or I can learn to play the hand I've been dealt with the resources I have.
          Verse 20 reads:
The long rain ends. The sky is clear - joy for all! The sun and the moon gradually become bright. Gone are the days of sadness; be happy and gay, with only one leap you'll clear the dragon gate.
In Buddhist and Hindu iconography, figures are often seen riding on or seated beside an animal. These animals represent their strengths because they have learned to become a master over rather than a servant to these attributes. Kuan Yin's verse suggests that things are looking up, yet there is still a "dragon gate" I need to jump over. After being in a situation that is unpleasant for an extended period, it can be tough to enjoy any good times without constantly worrying about when it will all go wrong. Yet that is the gate I must leap over; I can choose to appreciate good fortune while it is present rather than wasting my time being anxious. And when the wheel turns again, I can be patiently present knowing that I have the tools to make adjustments wherever necessary.
Life is not merely where we find ourselves. It is also what we bring to the moments where we find ourselves. ~ Omid Safi

*Kuan Yin artwork by http://www.brycewidom.com/

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Push It or Pause

From the Daniloff Tarot, the Ten of Wands; from the Kuan Yin Sticks, Verse 19:
          This fellow clutches an armload of branches while also carrying a load on his back. He looks exhausted but determined, because the goal is in sight. He's about to step through a vesica piscis, a shape formed by the intersection of two circles that symbolizes birth. In his situation, what he's been working so hard for is about to materialize. Yet Kuan Yin's Verse 19 offers a warning; the translation from Marina Lighthouse reads:
To set sail with the surf this wild, you truly have to be out of your mind. To survive the journey 
in one piece, wait until the waves subside.
I can't count the number of times I've been in a hurry to finish something, but instead of taking my time, I pushed through to the end. Artwork that started out well turned out looking like a rush job. Gardening tasks that I insisted on finishing ended with me in pain from an injury. In all such cases, a little voice told me to slow down and finish things later, but I refused to listen. Perhaps this time I'll relax, revel in having made tremendous progress, and continue when my mind and body is revitalized and strengthened.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Seeking Information

From the Daniloff Tarot, the Page of Swords; from the Kuan Yin Sticks, Verse 98:
          I went in search of the symbol of the raven with a ring in its beak and found the story of Matyas Corvinus. After several Hungarian kings died in succession, just one option was left - a young boy living in Prague. His mother sent a ring to him via a raven as a symbol that he was to become the new ruler. The bird and ring would later become a part of his crest. Matyas was a true Renaissance king who patronized the arts, but he was well-loved for his compassion and care of the common man. He would dress as a commoner and spy on the nobles to see how they treated his people (thus his comparison to the Page of Swords). I prefer this side of the Page, one who seeks out information for justice rather than personal gain.
          The 98th Verse reads:
Plans and ambitions will be delayed, and whining will only add to your cares. Like a bird that has flown straight into a trap, you await a benevolent one to release the snare.
Most of the tarot court cards are known for passionate or hasty behavior, with the exception of the Coins suit. Especially when a conflict exists or a wrong needs to be righted, there is a feeling that things need to be squared away as soon as possible. But uncovering the truth, at least all sides and perspectives, requires time and patience. Making a judgment call before all the evidence is in can put me in the same position as the snared bird.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cup of Contentment

From the Daniloff Tarot, the Seven of Cups; from the Kuan Yin Sticks, Verse 55:
          Daniloff's selection of cups is an interesting group. The cup with the face and the crescent seems to represent spiritual mysticism; the snake around the martini glass implies revenge; and the cornucopia suggests material abundance and good health. The stein in the shape of a castle symbolizes a home and family; the skull cup and wreath represent the honor given to heroes and martyrs; and the keg suggests a never-ending supply of pleasures in a variety of forms. In the center is a covered chalice (implying purity) circled by an ouroboros of serpent and dragon (indicating an eternal cycle). What is in that central cup that could be so untouched by ever-changing, external events? I would theorize it is the ability to be content, always seeing a glass half full, no matter what life serves up.
          Verse 55 reads:
As bamboo poles standing in a line lead to a large spring, generation after generation prospers and moves on. As long as a man remains gentle and virtuous, whatever he wishes will come to hand.
I was raised by a man full of rage, but I spent my earliest years with a grandfather who was kind and soft-spoken. During my teen years I embodied the anger of my step-father, but a decade later I realized that such aggression and hatred only creates more of the same. It begets a life filled with dissatisfaction and suffering. Yet when I consciously mirror my grandfather's behavior, I find in most cases the same tenderness and understanding reflected back to me. Contentment and happiness don't just show up on my doorstep; I mold them through my thoughts and actions.
If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts, suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox...If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts, happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow. ~ Dhammapada 1:1-2

Monday, January 25, 2016

Impatient Pushing

From the Daniloff Tarot, Force (Strength); from the Kuan Yin Sticks, Verse 38:
          I've seen house cats that look fiercer than this lion. But perhaps it is the constant awareness and attention of this lass that keeps him tame. In the arch above, a dragon appears on one side and a man with a club on the other. Those two figures seem to illustrate the "Might makes right" and the "Might maintains right" attitudes. Surely the world has been around long enough for folks to figure out that people with the most power or most weapons don't create peace, they only create enemies. This young lady represents the middle approach, the way of compassion and tolerance; she unleashes teeth and claws only when there are no options left.
          The 38th Verse reads:
You long for words from heaven to fall from the moonlit sky: Dim it is and darkened by the racing clouds. Let not your heart be burdened with sorrow and care: The clouds will pass and you will begin anew.
Dark nights of the soul can tempt me to give up hope or blame others for what has happened. I seek an aggressive, quick solution to the problem, sometimes directed at myself and sometimes toward others. The ingredient I most need then is patience to allow things to change at their own pace without any pushing or shoving from me. 
*Kuan Yin artwork is from https://twotwitchatale.wordpress.com

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Efforts for a Firm Foundation

This week I'll be using the Daniloff Tarot, created and self-published by Alexander Daniloff. I'll also be using a set of Kuan Yin Sticks with the corresponding verses from www.kuanshihyin.net. Today's draws are the King of Coins and Verse 92:
          The Kings in the Daniloff have literally become the shields that protect their kingdoms. The King of Coins card shows three animals that symbolize the qualities that have made him into the man he is today. The shell of the tortoise suggests he is grounded, practical and patient. The elephant implies he is a man of strength and power, able to overcome challenges and obstacles. The bull represents a strong will that has resulted in his tenacity and confidence. The country is stable because of the foundation of qualities it has been built on. Yet the animals also suggest the ability to move in the interest of adaption and progress.
          The 92nd Verse of Kuan Yin reads:
Since youth he has been a merchant of many years and has earned his fortune under many kings. No one has helped him in his struggle up from a lowly commoner to a noble knight. A man has grown up from his boyhood and now stands firmly on his feet. His mind he keeps constantly alert, his reward is his present rank and honor.
This verse sounds like it was written for the King. It is a reminder that struggles can shape and mold me, providing the experiences I need to become strong, determined and capable. Can I see them in this light when I'm going through them? Likely not. But I can try to remember the words of Benjamin Hoff: "Without difficulties, life would be like a stream without rocks and curves – about as interesting as concrete. Without problems, there can be no personal growth, no group achievement, no progress of humanity. But what matters about problems is what one does with them."
*Photo of Kuan Yin from www.studiobridges.com

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Making Investments

From the Golden Tarot, the King of Coins; from the Yantra Deck, "Joy:"
          The fact that this King is busy at an office desk says a lot. He knows where his money is being spent, what's making a profit and what's not. He reminds me of the investors on the TV series "Shark Tank," which allows entrepreneurs to showcase their inventions in hopes of getting financial backing. He's willing to be generous and help someone else out, but first you're going to have to convince him that your idea is sound and you're not afraid of hard work. The King of Coins has slowly built what he has through his own efforts and ingenuity. He likes his comforts way too much to lose it all because of generosity that lacks discernment. Why does he bother helping others? The Joy Yantra suggests that even he realizes that the pleasure of things is temporary, but the feeling of joy is longer-lasting. Joy is one of those feelings that when you think back on the event, it can warm your heart all over again. As he ages and realizes death will be sooner rather than later, I imagine those are the kind of investments that are more meaningful and valuable.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Magpie Mentality

From the Golden Tarot, the Nine of Coins; from the Yantra Deck, "Simplicity:"
          It took me a few minutes to figure out why Black would have included the ewe in her card, but then I realized it balanced out the falcon. The falcon represents the assertive, disciplined side of the will; the sheep is the gentle, receptive side. This woman didn't get her financial security through corporate take-overs or hoodwinking her business partners and clients. She took the softer, kinder way (as shown in Strength) of honest and humane hard work. She has been blessed by her efforts with good health and financial stability; now is the time to enjoy life instead of simply adding to her larder.
          The Yantra of Simplicity is paired with a quote from Ernest Hemingway: "The man who has begun to live more seriously within begins to live more simply without." We humans try to ignore the inevitability of change and impermanence by using a smokescreen of accumulated stuff. Who can worry about death with a stack of boxes from Amazon to open? Yet as my body ages and more friends and family members die, this approach no longer works very well as a distraction. Life is transitory as the Buddha's words imply in the Diamond Sutra:
So you should view this fleeting world -
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightening in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
I've got plenty of people, experiences and beauty to enjoy right under my nose. I have no need to chase after the next bright, shiny object that crosses my field of vision. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Attention and Communication

From the Golden Tarot, the Knight of Coins; from the Yantra Deck, "Communication:"
          Here's the guy that's going to get things done. But before he does, he'll check the lay of the land, make notes about resources, and draw up some detailed plans. Only then will the Knight of Coins get started; he doesn't like to rush because he doesn't like mistakes. Black describes him as "responsible, reliable and pragmatic." He's definitely more like the tortoise than the hare - slow but doggedly persistent. The Yantra paired with him is Communication and the words of Don Miguel Ruiz : "Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity." To be impeccable means to be precise, which does seem to describe this fellow. Unfortunately, he may get so caught up in his precise planning and doing, he forgets to communicate with the people he's doing the work for or with. Sure it's wonderful he got the whole exterior of the house painted and saved money on the paint, but they might not have wanted it to be a deep shade of purple. Communication can save time and avoid blunders just like paying attention to all those details.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Empty Bowls, Filled

From the Golden Tarot, the Queen of Coins; from the Yantra Deck, "Generosity:"
          Black describes this Queen as richly attired but with a modest demeanor. She is sensible, hard-working and philanthropic. The Queen of Coins is a perfect pairing for the Generosity Yantra. Even a simple life can be richly lived without a feeling of lack. And that lifestyle in turn cultivates the inclination to give. Today I am attending an event hosted here by the SOWEGA Council on Aging and the Albany Area Arts Council called "Empty Bowls." Local artists create ceramic or pottery bowls and donate them in an effort help the hungry in the community. For only $20, ticket buyers get to choose a handcrafted bowl and enjoy a variety of soups. The donations collected will fund the "Meals on Wheels" program as well as a portion going to the Arts Council. My giving was done the easy way, just by donating money. The artists, the event coordinators, and the cooks who've been busy preparing for this event gave something even more valuable - their time and energy. I imagine such a charitable affair would be something this Queen would smile about.
Generosity takes many forms—we may give our time, our energy, our material possessions, our love. All are expressions of caring, of compassion, of connection, and of renunciation—the ability to let go. ~ Joseph Goldstein

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Brain Freeze

From the Golden Tarot, the Eight of Swords; from the Yantra Deck, "Freedom:"
          Life can feel wintry and desolate when I feel overwhelmed by circumstances, just as I'm sure this lady is experiencing. When I feel beaten down with limited options, its easy to think that no one else has to deal with such pain and mental anguish. As soon as I've adopted such a mindset, the world does feel like a very cold place. My mind becomes so rigid in its beliefs, that I might as well be wearing a blindfold and have my hands tied. One of the truths I've learned about being in such a dark, desolate place is that isolation doesn't help. I need the warmth and support of other people. They don't have to magically fix anything; just having someone to listen and bounce ideas off of can help my brain thaw out. I'll eventually realize I have more alternatives than I previously thought.
          How did my mind become so restricted, my bowl of possibilities shrunk down to the size of a thimble? I'm sure some of those limitations came from what I was taught growing up - a load of "shoulds" I adopted. Perhaps the greatest contractions have come from the hard knocks of life. After I've accumulated a collection of bumps and bruises, it's easy to make assumptions and project that everything will be exactly like the past. Nothing will change; I should expect more of the same. The Freedom Yantra reminds me that even when I'm between a rock and a hard place, I don't have to let my mind work against me. There's no need to waste time screaming that life is unfair and shouldn't be this way. That's akin to stabbing myself in the heart when I already have an arrow in my chest. Instead, I can focus on how to best deal with that arrow.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Open to Exhale

From the Golden Tarot, the Empress; from the Yantra Deck, "Exhale:"
           The Empress is the perfect counterweight to her husband the Emperor. While he likes rigid structure, logic and behavioral boundaries, she embodies the freedom of creativity, unbridled emotion and abundant giving. Like all the tarot queens, she is a nurturer who embodies their compassionate qualities. Why does she have such an open heart and hand in contrast to her husband's control? Where he sees separation, she see's interrelation. She would agree with John Muir: "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." The Empress knows we need to care for and support the earth and all its inhabitants, because they in turn support us. We might be individuals, but we are not truly independent. Of course many Westerners would disagree; they prefer to believe as Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz does: "Give me a horse and a gun and an open plain, and we can conquer the world."
          Find someone who is fearful or angry, and I bet you will find someone for whom it impossible to take slow, relaxed breaths. The booklet's quote given for the Exhale Yantra is by May Sarton: "I think of the trees and how simply they let go, let fall the riches of a season, how without grief (it seems) they can let go and go deep into their roots for renewal and sleep.... Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go." Openness cannot exist where there is fear or anger about something that might be lost. But here's the kicker: those grasping, tightly closed fists don't have any room for receiving either.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Let's See the Evidence

This week I'll be using the Golden Tarot, created by Kat Black and published by U.S. Games. Along with it, I'll be drawing from the Yantra Deck, created by Karl Schaffner and Maya Deva Adjani. It was published by Vayu Publishing. Today's cards are the King of Swords and "Abundance:"
          I've always seen this King as a judge - intelligent and wise with a love of logic and justice. I imagine him as a mix between King Solomon: "Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding" (Proverbs 3:13) with a dash of Judge Judy thrown in: "I love the truth. If you don't tell me the truth, you're gonna be eating your shoes." There's not a lot of warm fuzziness to this guy, but he's the guide I need if I'm trying to make a decision while avoiding getting tangled up emotionally. Which is why it's interesting to see the Abundance card show up, a concept I'd be more likely to associate with the Empress or Pentacles suit. The design is modeled on the hexagrams of the I Ching, a philosophy based on a dynamic balance of opposites and the inevitability of change. This Yantra reminds me that while there are losses, there will also be gains. The King of Swords would scoff at any "love and light" account of abundance, and demand that I list physical evidence of my gratitude. Now that could be a life-long inventory.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Flowing Down, Climbing Up

From the Tarot de St. Croix, the Eight of Cups; from the Archetype Cards, "Hero/Heroine:"
           I had a sleepless night last night, filled with dreams that I couldn't remember but that left me sobbing. I have no event to connect to such a night; I led the evening meditation group in gentle yoga followed by a relaxation period, then came home to a cup of chamomile tea before bed. When I finally dragged myself from under the covers this morning, I was in a mood (maybe I should put that in capital letters - MOOD). Moods can have the effect of a hallucinogenic drug on me; nothing appears in my fuzzy brain as it actually is in reality. Small things look insurmountable, people seem to intentionally irritate me, and I think I need to comfort myself with things like shopping on Amazon. But if I can be patient, avoiding any rash decisions or impulsive actions, my mood will pass. I can literally watch it fade and move downstream.
          The Hero/Heroine card reminds me that some of my greatest challenges are not in the outer world, but right between my two ears. I can make any mountain higher by imagining the worst, or I can simply pull on my boots and put one foot in front of the other. As Pema Chodron emphasizes, "My moods are continuously shifting like the weather." No need for my mental aerobics to give them hurricane strength.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Price for Everything

From the Tarot de St. Croix, the Five of Pentacles; from the Archetype Cards, the "Guide:"
          On a cold, snowy day, men looking for work stand in a line as Our Lady of Guadalupe watches over them. On the older side of town in the city where I live, we have the Dray Line, a place where men gather to (hopefully) be chosen as a day laborer. Some of these men are homeless or down on their luck; many of them have a hard time maintaining a full time job because of disabilities, mental health problems or addiction issues. I remember several years ago reading in the newspaper about a woman who people called Mother Davis. For more than two decades, she would show up at the Dray Line on Fridays with a hot breakfast of eggs, grits, sausage, ham, bread, and juice for them. Her "Hope for the Hopeless" ministry doled out a gospel of encouragement rather than shame.
          In contrast, I knew a woman who had just gotten out of an abusive relationship and was struggling with health and financial issues. She went to talk to a friend in hopes of finding some guidance and reassurance. This lady considered herself a "life coach" and ended up billing her friend for the time she spent with her (at a hefty price). A pastor who was also a trained psychotherapist had a couple who were members of his church come for marriage counseling. He saw them once for "free," then told them they would have to make an appointment at his office for any subsequent visits (and pay his going rate). As I consider the Five of Pentacles and Guide today, I wonder if even compassion and kindness has had a price tag put on it.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


From the Tarot de Croix, the Seven of Swords; from the Archetype Cards, the "Alchemist:"
          Whenever I draw a Seven card, I think of coming to the end of a road that divides into multiple other roads. They all lead somewhere different, and I have to decide which avenue to travel. This Seven of Swords shows a person dressed in the same outfit as the Fool, which automatically makes me think of a foolish choice. He's arranging swords in the air much like someone would balance a bucket on the top of a door to fall on someone when they walk through it. Of course the trickster never thinks ahead to the stitches or concussion that might result. And that's the problem when it comes to these "solo" strategies. Even if it is something I think is good - an intervention for a drug rehab or a surprise birthday party - it's always beneficial to have at least one other person to look objectively at my plans to make sure I'm not rationalizing what I'm about to do. Otherwise the head those swords fall on might be my own.
          The Alchemist's goal is to transform base metals into gold; in spiritual language, it involves changing corrupt, self-serving motives into a purpose that is serves others as well as myself. As much as I would like to think I can easily detect my true intentions, that is not always the case. If I close my eyes and attempt to create a mental picture of myself, I might come up with a close but not entirely accurate image. Yet if I look in a mirror, I have a more objective view. Other people act as my mirror, helping me be accountable and responsible for my words and ideas that will lead to action.    

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An Honest Inventory

From the Tarot de St. Croix, the Hermit; from the Archetype Cards, "Angel:"
          Alone in a windswept canyon, a woman emerges from a cave with an aspen staff in her hands. The quaking aspen is known for its fluttering leaves, resembling hundreds of waving hands, as if trying to get someone's attention. This is the reason the woman is alone - to intentionally contemplate her life and see what wisdom reveals itself. When my life feels like it is sagging or falling apart, the Hermit calls out to me. Instead of pointing the finger of blame at others, she encourages me to look at my own choices, motives and assumptions. The goal is to do this with gentle honesty and attention; derogatory condemnations won't be beneficial in making lasting changes.
          The Angel archetype can show immediately whether the Hermit's self-inventory has been sincere or not. My attempt to feel better about myself by "helping" others is simply a distraction of busyness - a way to cover up the emotional mess I am on the inside. My efforts at performing a kindness then becomes self-centered instead of other-centered; I use them to feel better about me. The "giver's glow" that the researchers talk about will remain elusive. My brain can't be fooled and won't send out dopamine and oxytocin if my intentions aren't altruistic. If I want that kind of peace and joy, I better go back to the Hermit's cave and try again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Beg and Bargain

From the Tarot de St. Croix, the Chariot; from the Archetype Cards, "Beggar:"
          These two cards fit together perfectly for the story of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita begins with the story of two families - the Kauravas who have illegally taken control of the kingdom and the Pandavas who fight to take back their power. Yet the archer Arjuna (whose charioteer is Krishna) can't bring himself to kill his family and friends. He sobs and rants, throws down his weapons and refuses to fight. Krishna then commences to explain to him why he must do his duty; he must live the life that is unfolding in front of him rather than hide from it. In Chapter 6:34-35, Arjuna complains that the mind is strong and obstinate, even the wind is easier to restrain. Krishna replies that although the agitated mind is difficult to bridle, through the practice of meditation and the use of objectivity it can be mastered. The Beggar card (with wheels that reflect the Chariot) is that Arjuna moment when I throw up my hands and say, "I can't do this. I won't do this." I demand that someone else take responsibility and and make the choices, not me. But the great cosmic joke is that I only have this present life, and no one can live it for me. Whether I act and put forth an effort or not is all on me.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Luna's Parade

From the Tarot de St. Croix, the Fool; from the Archetype Cards, "Don Juan:"
          The full moon (Luna), the coyote/wolf head (howling at the moon) and the Fool making shadow puppets all made me think of acting loony. I'm so task oriented and focused on "herding cats," that I often forget to let loose and have fun with the folks I'm around. Life can quickly become a grind for me as well as my companions if the only goal I have is getting from "here" to "there" without any enjoyment along the way. The deck's booklet encourages me to live life with a "playful sense of adventure" - wise words from a Fool.
          The Don Juan card made me laugh; at my age, I don't think of myself as a seductress. But if I expand this card's meaning, I can look at the ways I try to entice people to get what I want. It's easy enough to do if you know what motivates them, but it's not necessarily the honorable way to go about doing things. There is a 12 Step phrase that says "attraction rather than promotion," which means seeing visible results speaks more eloquently and persuasively than a sales pitch. If I want people to participate in my parade, I should take the Fool's advice and have fun while I'm marching along.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Turn on the Love Light

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 the Ace of Cups and "Liberator:"
          With the temperatures plummeting here, my tropical nature saw this card and instantly wished to be on a warm beach. Warmth of the body is a basic need to survive, but so is the warmth of the heart. Numerous studies have shown the necessity of feeling loved in order to thrive. In this Ace, the full heart is represented by the brimming flute and round moon. St. Croix writes that it represents a surge of love, gratitude, hope and joy. These emotions are what warm me from the inside out, and what can help warm another person too.
           Myss says the Liberator's purpose is to free oneself from self-inflicted negative patterns and beliefs without replacing them with more dogmatic "shoulds." In the realm of emotion, it's easy to think love will fix everything. And while on some level I believe that, I think it needs to be paired with the Liberator's clarity of vision. Love isn't going to cure my loneliness or financial insecurity just because I've found a partner. Love isn't going to magically provide all those who are living in poverty with the basic necessities of life. Love is like the torch the Liberator holds; it guides me in the direction to go with its bright, warm light, but it can't do the work for me.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Shared Love, Shared Pain

From the Urban Tarot, the Ten of Cups; from the Principles to Live By, "Compassion:"
          Scott writes that this card stretches that moment of happiness in the Nine of Cups forward into the future with the dream of a home and family. The couple in this card are two friends of Scott who were finally able to become legally wedded with the Supreme Court's decision in 2015. I'm sure the dream of happiness others pursue and find is different from what I have at home with my husband. Different doesn't imply something misguided or immoral. I've got friends who are happy being single with a circle of friends as companions, and others who are content with pets instead of spouses. Does it matter how we love as long as everyone is happy and healthy? I don't think so.
          The disc of two hearts represents Compassion; to be compassionate means to turn toward a person who is suffering with a desire to relieve their pain. This is not an intellectual understanding of someone's suffering, but a moment when I remove the armor around my heart and feel the pain with them. Joanna Macy wrote, "Compassion literally means to feel with, to suffer with. Everyone is capable of compassion, and yet everyone tends to avoid it because it's uncomfortable." Yet this willingness to connect my heart to another is what reminds me of what we have in common. It gives me the chance to realize I'm not the only one who feels incredible pain or joy. No matter how different we may look on the outside, we share quite a lot on the inside.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Persistently Protective

From the Urban Tarot, the Queen of Disks; from the Principles to Live By, "Persistence:"
          Scott calls her Queen of Disks "the Matriarch," and here shows a grandmother celebrating the Passover Seder with her family. This woman nurtures in physical, practical ways. She is both generous and resourceful; her love is manifested through form. This Queen's home always feels like a safe, comfortable cocoon where people can lay down their burdens and relax. But don't mistake her for a mousy pushover, as she is fiercely protective of the people and things she loves. The checked boxes on the Principles disc represent Persistence; to be persistent means I am not easily distracted or discouraged. Neither is the Queen of Pentacles. She may not be as outspoken or in the public eye as the Queen Swords or the Queen of Wands, but there will be no doubt where she thinks change is needed. Scott (in the companion book) slyly suggests investigating what the orange means on the Seder plate (a recent addition to some dinners). I was touched to find out about the story, and how it began with Dr. Susannah Heschel. It's symbolism was meant to include those marginalized from Jewish life - originally the gay community, but eventually all others who feel the sting of ostracism and prejudice. As the writer of the article states, "There are many beautiful colors in our community, and the orange reminds us to keep our hearts and hands open." I think this Queen would heartily agree.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Passionate Giving

From the Urban Tarot, the Queen of Wands; from the Principles to Live By Oracle, "Generosity:"
          Scott modeled her Queen of Wands on a defense attorney who she saw in action (and was much impressed by). She sits in front of a sculpture known as the Triumph of the Human Spirit, a design that pays tribute to 427 slaves (as well as some Native Americans and early immigrants) buried near the site. Scott describes this woman as a master of persuasion in the context of passion and idealism. The leopard sitting next to her briefcase (no doubt full of persuasive strategies) emphasizes the power this woman has. And what could she be trying to cajole and encourage me to do?
          The sliced pie disc represents Generosity; to be generous means to willingly share my resources, including my time, energy and attention. In Buddhism, one of the paramitas is generosity, which includes four ways we can give: material goods, knowledge, protection and "active love" (under which would fall time, attention and energy). It is the fourth category that is the hardest for me to be generous with, as I often think I have so little time. But as author Henry Taylor wrote, "He who gives what he would as readily throw away gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self-sacrifice." True generosity is in giving what I am most attached to, not what has little meaning for me.
Beverly King's Principles to Live By Meditation Tiles
Alaska Laser Maid is now selling the wood-burned tiles of the Principles to Live By Oracle, if anyone is interested. It comes with a key to the tiles, a reflection on what they mean, and five quotes for each principle from eclectic sources.