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, February 29, 2016

Sticky Human Dilemmas

From the Victorian Fairy Tarot, the Hanging Fairy; from the Haindl Rune Oracle, Man (Mannaz):
          A young fairy has gotten caught in a spider web among a field of poppies. He seems to have ceased his struggle and appears to be listening intently. The opium poppies remind me of how tempting it is to numb myself to avoid thinking about what I can't control. But that will only make me miss the message. Pema Chodron wrote:
Maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. But what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. If we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. It just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.
          The painting for Man (Mannaz) gives me the impression of two trees saluting each other. This rune speaks of the human dilemma found in families and societies. We depend on each other for survival and a sense of belonging, yet we also have a tendency to rip each other apart because of our obsession with "I, me, and mine." Rarely does positive change happen when individuals are self-absorbed; as Gandhi suggested, such change starts within the individual. Reality is what it is, and while I may not be able to rewrite the script, I can choose whether I respond with an open or closed heart and mind. In the VF companion book Weatherstone writes, "Your spiritual growth demands a new vision. Release your hold on what you thought was true..." That just might be the solution for getting unstuck from that web.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Stings and Sweetness

This week I'll be using the Victorian Fairy Tarot, created by Lunaea Weatherstone with Gary A. Lippincott and published by Llewellyn. Paired with it will be the Haindl Rune Oracle, created by Hermann Haindl and published by U.S. Games. Today's cards are Fortitude (Strength) and Dorn (Thorn, Thurisaz):
          I've got a friend who's a beekeeper, and the one thing I've learned about bees from her is to stay calm around them (and don't wear black or brown because they may mistake you for a bear). Life is filled with honey-like sweetness as well as the stings of suffering; it's just a normal part of being a physical human being. If I can maintain a sense of equanimity no matter what comes, I'll enjoy the good times even more and weather the bad times without drama or self-pity. My contentment won't depend on the cycles of pleasure or displeasure that arrive, but the center of strength and peace of mind I maintain through all of it.
          Dorn (Thorn, Thurisaz) and has been translated as both "thorn" and "giant." It is a rune of power that can represent chaos and harm or protection. The rune's shape made me think of the body language of of a mom, hand on her hip with elbow jutting out, saying "I've had just about enough of this!" While I might have to deal with life's stings, I don't have to be a doormat or lose my common sense. I can use the power I have to erect and maintain boundaries instead of losing my cool.
There is a nobleness of mind that heals wounds beyond salves.
~ William Cartwright

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Stop Banging on the Door

From the Sun and Moon Tarot, the Four of Swords; from the Wisdom Keepers Oracle, Magnetism:
          I am a finisher, a closer, a "let's get this done ahead of schedule" kind of person. So as I look at the uncomfortable place this woman has found to rest, I understand that uneasy feeling of calling a truce instead of seeking a solution. Those swords are firmly planted in the ground, so it doesn't look like much is happening anyway. Might as well let the mind drift and do some cloud watching for now. The Magnetism card encourages behavior based on attraction rather than persuasion. The spiral in the center of this figure's forehead suggests centering oneself instead of running around like a madwoman. Added with the Four of Swords, it implies being receptive and allowing ideas to come instead of actively pursuing answers and resolution. When I'm narrowly focused on a certain strategy and outcome, the potential resources and options at hand are narrowed too. Yet if I relax my mind and let those thought clouds drift by, I might find a key to unlock the door I've been banging on.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Power of the Few

From the Sun and Moon Tarot, the Ten of Pentacles; from the Wisdom Keepers Oracle, Revolution:
          What can you grow when you're in a committed relationship with other people? I think of families, businesses, support groups, clubs, teams and other organizations. The Ten of Pentacles represents abundance and security on all levels. Hard work and loyalty can build and sustain just about anything (just as the opposites can tear them down). In the Revolution card, the Celtic symbols and keyhole tattooed on this woman's forehead reminded me of Boudica. Queen of the Iceni tribe, she was supposed to take over leadership when her husband was killed. But the Romans honored no such laws, especially for women; they flogged Boudica, raped her daughters and took the Iceni lands as Roman property. She led her tribe and others against the Roman Empire, not just to exact revenge, but to attain the respect and peace the Britons deserved. Though the uprising was initially successful (and caused Nero to consider removing forces from Britain), Boudica was eventually defeated. But she and her troops made a lasting impression. A bronze statue of her riding high in her chariot now stands on the Thames embankment next to the Houses of Parliament in the old Roman capital of Britain, Londinium (now known as London).
Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.
~ Margaret Mead

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Weighed Down

From the Sun and Moon Tarot, Justice; from the Wisdom Keepers Oracle, Imagination:
          The Justice card is illustrated with the scales of Ma'at; the heart is weighed against the feather of truth and harmony. What would make my heart heavy to the point where honesty and objectivity took a backseat to my feelings? Resentment, that rancid, bitter memory of having been treated unfairly, can make mine heavy as lead. The rational choice would be to lighten up by letting go of my righteous indignation, to accept the reality of what has happened and find a way to live peacefully with it. But the card Imagination reminds me what can grow from a seed of anger. It's not only that an injustice happened (though there's no need to condone it), but that I continue to narrate mental stories about the event. I relive the situation over and over, making my emotional attachment even stronger. If I can drop my story line, the resentment has a chance to fade. I imagine those scales would even out a bit then.
“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.” 
― Pema Chödrön

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Inward Focus for Freshness

From the Sun and Moon Tarot, the High Priestess; from the Wisdom Keepers Oracle, Freshness:
          Real life imitates the cards today. We had supercell storms (and two tornado warnings) in the wee hours of darkness. This morning my house seems to be on an island surrounded by water, a product of the flash flooding that occurred. This woman, supported by the two pillars with water swirling around her, doesn't seem too concerned. She knows what's going on in the outer world can be a distraction - a veil - hiding what can be found within. The High Priestess is aware that circumstances change like the cycles of the moon. She sets aside the active, push-and-pull of life to allow for time for meditation and contemplation; such receptivity will unveil inner wisdom that will help her navigate the outer world mindfully.
          The daisy symbol on the Freshness card made me think of a meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh called the Four Qualities of Happiness.It is based on the idea that the seeds of happiness are already within us; they just require us to nurture them. Each of the four parts of TNH's meditation invites us to imagine ourselves as something in nature that reflects a quality of happiness. My own adaption for the first part (the flower) reads:
Picture a flower, covered with dew, opening its petals to the morning sun… This flower represents the ability to renew and nourish oneself with beauty and wonder. It is a symbol of vitality and playfulness. Now allow yourself to feel as if you are this flower… As you breathe in, say to yourself “flower;” as you breathe out, “refreshed.” Continue this for a few moments.
Both cards remind me that happiness is much easier to find within rather than pursuing it outside of myself.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Take a Deep Breath

From the Sun and Moon Tarot, the Moon; from the Wisdom Keepers Oracle, Transmutation:
          I can almost feel this woman's heart racing as she looks down at the churning ocean below. The Moon represents the unconscious, a repository of past experiences and memories that influences feelings, motives and decisions in the present. Psychology Today states it's "not some black hole of unacceptable impulses waiting to trip you up, but it can be the source of hidden beliefs, fears, and attitudes that interfere with everyday life." Add to that the two fish seen down below, a symbol of Pisces, perhaps the most sensitive of all the zodiac signs. This is a person who lives in two worlds, reality and non-reality, in order to avoid the emotional suffering inherent in physical life. Yet that crescent moon is going to continue to wane; Luna's sitter will have no choice but to jump or fall eventually.
          Transmutation means to transform one thing into something different. In alchemy, it is the conversion of base metals to gold or silver. This woman's cheeks are covered with phoenix tattoos (rebirth), and her forehead is decorated with what appears to be the Flower of Life (creation). How does this happen? The oracle's booklet ties this back in with the Moon: "Release all definitions of who you are, and what you're capable of. Get comfortable with fear. Willingly take the lid off Pandora's box. If you truly want to transcend your suffering, move deeply into it. Surrender." Sounds like it's time to take a deep breath and jump.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Survival Mindset

From the Sun and Moon Tarot, the Emperor; from the Wisdom Keepers Oracle, Inspiration:
          It's daybreak, and though this Emperor looks very relaxed, he's already has his bee platoon reporting in about what's happened in the overnight hours. The lamb by his feet suggests that he is a lover of peace, but the shield leaning on this chair shows he'd go to battle in an instant to protect his kingdom. The phoenix on the shield implies he's no stranger to having to rebuild and start over. Perhaps it's not that he's up so early, but that he didn't sleep at all. Feeling responsible for the safety and welfare of others can put one in a survival mindset. That kind of pressure and worry is a heavy weight to bear.
          The woman drawn for Inspiration appears to have a woven, wide-brimmed hat hanging from her neck. Her forehead has a mountain of lotus petals on a background that resembles basket weaving. The booklet states that she can "dismantle your thinking," which could fit with the basketry idea. Fibers taken (dismantled) from various sources - pine needles, tree bark, rushes, vines, animal hide, etc. - are collected for making containers of all sizes. An important factor for selection is that the fibers must be pliable in order to be used. Looking at the Emperor, I'm not so sure flexibility is in his skill set. But what if he could break down what he's learned while eliminating what's no longer beneficial (pliable)? He might find room for adding new ideas (fibers) to weave into a sturdy container, possibly including a splash of color. Inspiration may help him realize structure is only good if it doesn't put a stranglehold on the spaciousness of joy.
I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.
~ Noam Chomsky

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Full Colander?

This week I'll be using the Sun and Moon Tarot, created by Vanessa Decort and published by U.S. Games. I'll also be drawing from the Wisdom Keepers Oracle, created by Rosy Aronson and published by Seal Pup Press. Today's draws are the Ten of Cups and Precision:
          Since this is a Thoth-based deck, the Ten of Cups has been given the keyword "satiety," meaning full and satisfied. This sweet couple under the full moon and starry skies makes me think of a tagline from the 1980s by Old Milwaukee beer: "It doesn't get any better than this." I'm sure I've had many such moments of contentment, but I don't remember most of them. Why? Because while part of me enjoyed the moment, another part of me was already wondering what was next. I want to tell this couple to focus on all the sensations and feelings surrounding them right now. Don't be in a hurry to move life along.
          The Precision card shows a fellow with a tattooed lotus and yoga pose (tree) on his forehead. The lotus is a symbol of being awake and the asana is one that requires balance. Both fit well with the keyword for this wisdom keeper. But even if I'm focused and accurate, I can still bypass the emotional element. I can technically do all the right things as a daughter, wife, mother or friend and yet leave the person I'm with feeling like something is missing. The reason may be my actions stem from my head and not my heart. I'm doing my duty without a loving motive underneath. That kind of behavior can wreck any relationship over time. But if I am fully present, I can perhaps short-circuit that kind of attitude and action with simple awareness.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bullies Do Prosper

From the Hoi Polloi Tarot, the King of Pentacles; from the I Ching Pack, Hexagram 6:
          The first thing I noticed about this version of the King of Pentacles is all the red he wears rather than green. Red is a color I associate with passion, energy and aggressiveness. It appears this King goes after whatever will increase his holdings with gusto; the bulls on this throne suggest a stubborn forcefulness. He may even be a bit of a bully, if he doesn't immediately get what he wants. There's one person (whose antics saturate the media) that such a description fits to a tee: Donald Trump. The I Ching card is titled "conflict" and represents Dragon over a Chasm. I imagine the peasants watching the incoming boats with dread, wondering what these people will try to take from them. According to the book, there will be no winners. It suggests "stop, calm down and compromise." The problem with people like Trump is they know money gives them power, and they have no worries about stomping on people's rights to get what they want. I recently watched a documentary about Donald Trump who took protected land in Scotland to build a golf course on that perfectly illustrated this mindset. So what's the moral of this story and daily draw? Bullies might be prosperous, but they have few real friends (and a whole posse full of enemies).

Friday, February 19, 2016

Where's Your Head?

From the Hoi Polloi Tarot, Death; from the I Ching Pack, Hexagram 62:
          It is particularly attention-worthy to me that I've drawn Death the day after my birthday. Yet it doesn't seem ominous (even with all the red), but more like a stop sign reminding me that life isn't found in the past or the future but the present moment. Dwelling on nostalgic memories won't turn back the clock; neither will lingering on resentments or past hurts change history. Focusing solely on the future with concrete expectations (which are likely never to appear) may make me miss what's going on right under my nose. Which leads directly into Hexagram 62, Thunder over Mountain. That crane is looking downward, not ahead or behind. Shelter is needed now, and he'd best be looking for a place to lie low until the storm passes. Both of these cards almost seem to shout, "Get your head out of the clouds!"
Clearly, all fear has an element of resistance and a leaning away from the moment. Its dynamic is not unlike that of strong desire except that fear leans backward into the last safe moment while desire leans forward toward the next possibility of satisfaction. Each lacks presence.
― Stephen Levine (1937 – 2016)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Receive without Bias

From the Hoi Polloi Tarot, the Four of Swords; from the I Ching Pack, Hexagram 8:
          The element of Air (assigned to Swords) is rarely still. Even walking and breathing can move it. But in this card there is complete stillness. I personally read this suit as having to do with thoughts and communication. What do they look like in a receptive state? It means I am listening instead of talking; I put a hold on planning, looking for creative solutions and constructing strategies. My mind and ears are open but at rest, allowing me to recharge and receive inspiration without actively seeking it. No need to process anything at the moment, just welcome what comes without bias.
          The keywords given to Hexagram 8 are mutual help, a sense of community and united action. I know from experience that nothing gets done in a group if everyone is so busy asserting their wants that no one is listening. Actual needs and good ideas can get trampled over in the rush to have opinions voiced. Being quiet and attentive in the melee can be a plus. I can gather all the suggestions and spread them out, seeing the advantages and disadvantages of each view. Eventually people will wind down and be tired of making no progress, and I'll have a spreadsheet of ideas ready for them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Refilling Station

From the Hoi Polloi Tarot, the Ten of Cups; from the  I Ching Pack, Hexagram 38:
          I suppose it's my biblical upbringing, but when I see a rainbow I think of a promise made. The Ten of Cups is a fulfilled commitment of love among families and friends. Whether the best of times or the worst of times, there is emotional security when you know someone has your back . But regardless of such pledges, no one can draw from an empty well. Hexagram 38 has been given the keyword "estrangement" with the card's image of fledglings being sent off on their own. The past few days have been rather grueling for me in dealing with the emotional situations of of those I care about. Sometimes the best way to recharge my battery is to separate myself briefly. This is not some sort of passive-aggressive punishment, but a chance for me to rest, laugh and heal. I can refill my own cup so that I have plenty to share again. The book speaks of taking small steps toward the warmth and joy of reconciliation, and I think such a break might be what will help me successfully accomplish that.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Finishing and Waiting

From the Hoi Polloi Tarot, the World; from the I Ching Pack, Hexagram 5:
          The four heads in the corners of this card can alternately depict the fixed astrological signs or four of the apostles of Jesus. The fixed signs represent someone who is determined, persistent, confident and has the ability to maintain focus. Such a person has the ability to move patiently and steadily toward the goal; it makes sense that they would reach the wreath of completion. The four apostles (at least in Albrecht Dürer's painting), symbolize four temperaments or personality types: sanguine (optimistic and social), choleric (short-tempered or irritable), melancholic (analytical and quiet), and phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful). I liken them to the suits of tarot; I usually need to call on each of them at some time or another to make progress.
          Hexagram 5 is made up of the two trigrams that represent Water over Dragon. The image they suggest is of a sleeping dragon waiting for the storm to break. The book cautions that this is a time for "resolute patience, conservation of energy and avoidance of all precipitate action." Now I admit, I have trouble in those gaps between finishing one project and starting another. I don't like to be bored. Often I jump into action before thinking and wind up in the middle of something I regret later. For a brief moment, I imagined the World's lass as a drummer in a clothes-optional band. Perhaps waiting patiently and calmly would be the better option.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Complete Evaluation

From the Hoi Polloi Tarot, the Page of Pentacles; from the I Ching Pack, Hexagram 47:
And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far into the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
― Rainer Maria Rilke
          I can relate to this young man, not just because he loves learning, but because he learns by doing. I might acquire information, but I never actually embody it until I practice it. I also embrace the Buddha's teaching not to simply accept wisdom that comes from an elder, a teacher or a sacred book. As he encourages, I test and see if what has been stated as truth is true for me. I talked to a woman recently who told me meditation didn't work for her. "I tried it once," she said. Now to me that is like taking a couple of antibiotics rather than the whole prescription and then telling the doctor the pills don't work. I need to sufficiently evaluate something before I decide it's of no use.
          Hexagram 47 represents Lake over Chasm; its image is that of a body of water that has been drained when a crack opens beneath it. Both these cards together remind me of my spiritual search conducted over a period of many years. Each philosophy I studied seemed a perfect fit at first, but it was drained dry as soon as I bumped into ill-fitting doctrine. It seemed I would never find what I was looking for, until I realized I was tossing out something valuable along with the dogma. The tree in the drawing still bears fruit even though the lake is empty; there are nutrients in the soil that are useful even though the lake is gone.
As I go through all kinds of feelings and experiences in my journey through life — delight, surprise, chagrin, dismay — I hold this question as a guiding light: 'What do I really need right now to be happy?' What I come to over and over again is that only qualities as vast and deep as love, connection, and kindness will really make me happy in any sort of enduring way.
― Sharon Salzberg

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Responsibilities before Recreation

This week I'll be using the Hoi Polloi Tarot, published by Reiss Games. Paired with it will be the I Ching Pack, a deck and book set created by Richard Gill with Anthony Clark and published by Aquarian Press. Today's draws are the Emperor and Hexagram 37:
          There are no scented candles burning or fresh cut flowers in the starkness of the Emperor's world. He doesn't have time for such niceties, as he has a kingdom to run. He's crunching numbers to make sure people will be fed, clothed and sheltered and making sure his troops are prepared to defend. Any rabble-rousers are quickly punished so that law and order reigns. He really isn't a curmudgeon; he's just got a lot of things and people to take care of with no vacation days on the books.
          Gill gives this hexagram the title "Family Concerns" and adds: "Patience and loyalty at home will bring advantage to all members of the family." The two trigrams combine to create wood over fire, a symbol that suggest the warmth and security of a home's hearth. Both these cards remind me that as long as I have group commitments (whether family or otherwise), there will be duties that take precedence over fun at times. Today (Valentine's Day) is a good example, as I will be sitting with my MIL who has dementia, then coming home to do payroll. But that's okay; we've learned to squeeze in the pleasures among the obligations wherever we can; we don't need a special day for them.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Four of Swords; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, South:
          While one wing cradles the resting woman, another seems to conceal her from the outer world. When I need peace and calmness, I often find it necessary  to disconnect from phones, computers, televisions and door bells. It takes enough effort for me to quiet my mind without being constantly bombarded by external distractions. But when life is chaotic and there are choices to make, my thoughts will often try and convince me that I am in the midst of a battle; there is no time to rest. Yet these are just the occasions when I most desperately need a time out. Otherwise all of my observations, plans and decisions will be tainted by exhaustion and stress.
          South is the direction of the life-giving Sun, and therefore a direction of growth and success. It makes me think of long walks on a sandy beach. Being in no rush and letting life slow down to its natural pace makes more sense than trying to charge around like a mad woman. No longer in a race, my brain can clear out unneeded rubbish and make room for fresh ideas to come without pressure. On the left side of the Four of Swords card is a free floating feather. It represents the solution or creative idea that can come when I take a break and relax.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Development and Refinement

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Page of Pentacles; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, the Orchid:
          This Page gazes down at a seed within the soil; his hair resembles the canopy of a tree. The booklet offers the instruction to "regard life as a perfect seed, placed in good soil and given the nourishment to grow." If he is to grow in knowledge and skill, he will not only need to put for the effort, but place himself in an environment which will encourage his growth. I've had times in my life where the atmosphere wasn't very conducive to my development, yet there were small pockets of people with whom I could connect and receive "nourishment" from in the form of support. They were the fertilizer for my depleted soil.
          I've tried unsuccessfully to grow orchids before; their needs were just too specialized for the time I had to give them. It's no wonder that the meaning assigned to the Orchid is refinement and a continual striving for higher standards. I've been in that place of having developed a few skills while feeling like I was more experienced and knowledgeable than I actually was. My ego stokes this kind of thinking, and it can quickly lead to complacency. I once read a quote by Steve Jobs that said getting fired by Apple was one of the best things that could have happened, because it allowed him to be a creative beginner again. As Shunryu Suzuki explains, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fiery Influence

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Queen of Wands; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, Tortoise:
          With the tiger amid the flames of this Queen's lotus scepter, there's no doubt she holds both passion and power. She is known as the encourager, one who helps feed the fires of other people so that their interests can blossom too. Yet the gorilla-like masks beside her throne are a concern. Is she helping others so they will be indebted to her? Or perhaps she is trying to create miniature copies of herself. She can wield her influence in such a heavy-handed way, she may extinguish their spark of enthusiasm altogether. The booklet cautions against aiding others for self-serving purposes. As the Dalai Lama teaches, "Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."
          The Tortoise usually implies a slow and steady pace, yet it is also associated with longevity. Long life is often considered to be a byproduct of those who are wise and experienced. The Tortoise attempts to warn the Queen to look at the long-term consequences of what she is doing. The downside to training people while hiding a selfish motive is that they may learn more than what was intended. Full to overflowing with self-concern, they can turn on the person who taught them. Keeping the harness loose might be a better way to allow authentic creativity to flourish.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Clogged or Free Flowing

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Five of Swords; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, Bamboo:
          The screeching, diving birds in this card resemble what is happening now in my area. Even though the night temperatures are freezing, the feathered ones have chosen mates and are beginning to build nests. As a result, they've become very territorial about the sites they've selected. I can be the same way about my opinions and beliefs, wanting to preserve them as if my survival depended on them. I'm convinced we all have our personal dogmas that we guard and defend, even sometimes at the expense of our relationship with others. The booklet uses the phrase "benefiting from others' depleted energy," which implies taking advantage of another person's weakness. That makes me feel so icky, I want to go take a shower.
          Bamboo stems have been used for paint brushes and writing pens, which is why the plant is associated with communication, learning and knowledge. But thinking that I've learned and know it all is precisely what can cause a Five of Swords confrontation. Yet a cross section of the bamboo stem is usually hollow, suggesting a free flowing of ideas. Now my self-absorbed ego would likely agree with Terry Pratchett: "The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it." However, that open mind will also allow me to see from new perspectives that can open up a wide, new range of possibilities.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Waters of Illusion

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Moon; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, Heaven:
Whoever moves from carelessness to vigilance,
Lights up the world like the moon that emerges from a cloud.
~ Dhammapada
          The Roots of Asia booklet describes this card as the waters of illusion and suggests a need for mindfulness. The Buddha referred to mindfulness as a gatekeeper, an objective tool that can help in recognizing and removing unskillful mind states. It allows me to see reality as it is rather than what my imagination creates. Hopeful expectations, apprehensive fears or simple denial are just alternative labels for craving, aversion and ignorance. These are the dark waters that keep me from seeing with clarity; they offer no protection from what is actually there. The rocks in the water appear to be alligators, but if viewed directly, they'll be seen for what they are. The Mah Jongg Heaven card indicates the end of a natural cycle that will be followed by the beginning of another. The organizer in me loves to finish a project or task, making sure to tie up loose ends. I experience a brief feeling of joyful accomplishment quickly followed by thoughts such as: "What do I do now? Will this last? How can I ever follow this up?" My mind is quick to lead me into shark-infested waters churning with emotion. Even though the danger feels real, mindfulness assures me it isn't. Might as well relax and float until I bump into something more concrete.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Thousand Hands

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Ten of Cups; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, North:
          The Buddhist approach to the Ten of Cups is not that we got lucky and landed in the lap of love that overflows happiness. Instead, it requires that we work to develop what is known as the Ten Virtues. Three of these ten actions deal with the body: instead of killing, we should value and cherish life; instead of stealing, we should give freely of what we can to help others; and instead of sexual misconduct, we should respect our partner's feelings. Four actions concern speech: instead of lying, we should speak the truth; instead of causing disharmony by slandering others, we should speak about their good qualities; instead of speaking harshly and sharply, our words should be soft, gentle and loving; and instead of conversing meaninglessly (gossip), we should engage in meaningful activities. The last three of the ten actions concern the mind: we should replace attachment with non-attachment; ill-will towards others with feelings of love and compassion; and incorrect beliefs with realistic attitudes.
          Since the North is an area rarely visited by the Sun, it is seen as an inauspicious direction. It represents the cold wind of discomfort and a physical and emotional drain. Why would such a harsh card show up with such a happy one? I have friends who try to live by the Ten Virtues, and when they go through hard times, those they have helped come to their aid and support them. Looking out for the benefit of others instead of living selfishly sows the seeds of happiness. It reminds me of the words of Zhang Jigang (choreographer for the "Thousand Hand Guan Yin" in which all the dancers are deaf):
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart,
A thousand hands will naturally come to your aid.
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart,
You will reach out with a thousand hands to help others.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


This week I'll be using the Roots of Asia Tarot, created by Amnart Klanprachar with Thaworn Boonyawan and published by AGM Müller. I'll also be using the Mah Jongg Oracle, created by Derek Walters and published by Thunder Bay Press. Today's cards are the Hanged Man and House:
          This fellow doesn't hang over solid ground, but an abyss. That is exactly how I feel when life has pulled the rug from underneath me, and I discover I can't control a situation. There is a sensation of being in limbo, with nothing to grab onto that is solid. Yet as the head he hangs from implies, the problem is not with external changing events (which is natural), but with my acceptance of them. The House, on the other hand, represents what is solid and tangible. It is a reminder of all the people, places and things that I use to define and identify the "me" that resides inside this flesh and bones. But because everything is impermanent, my roles and identifications can suddenly dissolve. What happens when a child leaves home, a spouse or parent dies, a job is terminated, a group disbands or the body begins to wear out? My "me" can go into panic mode, struggling to find firm footing where there is none. Buddhists use the term "no-self" as a way to let go; it allows me to recognize there is nothing permanent which I can call a self. Awareness can help me hang over the abyss without struggling.
After more than a century of looking for it, brain researchers have long since concluded that there is no conceivable place for a self to be located in the physical brain, and that it simply does not exist. – TIME Magazine

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Right Timing, Right Motive

From the Jolanda Tarot, the Knight of Pentacles; from the deck Bird Signs, Swan:
          While this Knight likes to plan things down to the smallest detail, there comes a time when he must put his plan into motion. Looks like he's finally gotten the ox hitched, the field plowed and is now sowing star seeds. The geese flying overhead remind me of the Migration card I drew the other day and made me think of right timing. Often I get caught up in wanting to dive into something without much investigation or work first; other times I'm so obsessed about one thing, other important things slip by without my notice. I must have an equal dose of patience and attentiveness to know when to act. As Willie Nelson once said, "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."
          Swan has been assigned the keyword "beauty" as this bird moves in the water with such grace. I must admit that I think of swans in a similar way as the A-list girl clique in the movie Mean Girls - beautiful, but not nice. I've noticed some folks locally have resorted to using swan decoys to keep the Canada geese out of their ponds and lakes. The Knight and Swan together suggest that actions should take into account the effect on others instead of just myself. In the words of Sayyidina Ali, "Beautiful people are not always good, but good people are always beautiful."        

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Mix of Clarity and Compassion

From the Jolanda Tarot, the Sun; from Bird Signs, Oriole:
          In this delightful version of the Sun, a moose holds up the great light. The word "moose" is derived from the Algonquin term moosu, meaning "he strips off" (likely a description of its velvety antler covering). It seems to parallel the meaning behind this card, that of uncovering reality by brightly shining light in the darkness. The roosters add to this card's "bright-eyed and wide-awake" message. The cockerels brought to mind the Buddhist term bodhicitta; bodhi means both awake and open, and citta refers to both heart and mind. It is not enough just to be open - one must have the clear seeing that goes along with it.
          The bright orange of Oriole pairs well with the Sun and has been given the keyword "compassion." Bodhicitta exists on two levels, unconditional and relative. Unconditional bodhicitta means without opinions attached; it is the clarity of perception. The second, relative bodhicitta, means I don't shut down or run away when I encounter suffering (my own or another person's). This is the softness and tenderness of genuine compassion. Compassion allows me to be present with pain, while clarity shows me the universality of it. Pema Chodron teaches that bodhicitta pushes us to answer the question, "Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly or do I choose to live and die in fear?"