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

Friday, November 30, 2018

Road Markers

From the Cosmic Tarot, the Two of Swords; from the L'Oeil de Lotus, 'Betrayal:'
To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity. ~Douglas Adams

          When intellect and emotions become so intertwined that finding the truth is like being in a marsh at midnight, it's time to call a truce on decision-making. The Betrayal card is a warning that emotional beliefs can easily bend the truth until I'm convinced I'm speaking honestly and acting with integrity. Yet there are a few road markers to help me know if I'm traveling a path of integrity.
  • I keep my word and commitments.
  • I admit when I've made mistakes but don't enable unacceptable behavior in others.
  • I keep my focus and notice when I intentionally create distractions.
  • I don't pronounce something as true unless there is evidence of it.
  • I am sincere and respectful without people-pleasing; I act responsibly without getting caught in the 'shoulds.'
From an objective self-perspective, I take exit ramps from this road a lot without even thinking. So perhaps taking some time like this woman is doing to be aware of what's rattling around in my heart and mind is the best preventative.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Connection and Protection

From the Cosmic Tarot, the Lovers; from the L'Oeil de Lotus, 'Protection:'
Every negative emotion, every drama, comes down to one or more of the three most basic fears: the fear of losing safety and control, the fear of aloneness and disconnection, and the fear of unworthiness. Ezra Bayda 

          We seek connection (Lovers) because we want protection (iron nails and salt). What or who do you turn to when life seems frightening, overwhelming and too much to bear? A young me wanted to prove John Donne wrong, that I could be an island. A middle-aged me wanted to surround myself with people who would never leave me. An older me realizes the insanity of both views; nothing is perfect or permanent. Stuff will happen that will make me sad, fearful and angry. But I can find people or things such as Buddhist teachings and the natural world to ground me. I can use them as my touchstones. I may not be able to avoid the uncertainties and challenges of life, but I can find ways to endure it when it gets hard.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Pausing Mid-Pose

From the Cosmic Tarot, the Four of Wands; from the Lotus de L'Oeil, 'Summer:'
          A woman mirrors the bird above her, holding an arabesque ballet position. There are balance and stability reflected in this card, symbolizing a sturdy foundation. The toes that hold her rest on the beginning point of a spiral. Unlike a circle that ends up at the starting point, the spiral radiates outward, suggesting skills gained and knowledge learned as action was put behind inspiration. The Summer card shows a tree at the height of the growing season; its shade is enticing underneath its leafy branches. The fellow making his way towards the tree might be planning a break from the heat with a nap against its trunk. Both of these people - the dancer and the man - can't stay in one position for too long. Life is movement and change, and so they must eventually follow suit.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Relax the Mind, Relax the Body

From the Cosmic Tarot, the Seven of Pentacles; from the L'Oeil de Lotus, 'Illness:'
          The two cards drawn today emphasize the mind/body connection. Just as eating healthy food helps us to have a healthy body, what we feed the mind can affect the body as well. Research shows that mindfulness techniques, as well as other stress-reduction practices, are a good complement to medicine (but not necessarily as an alternative to it).  In the wise words of Sister Chan Khong, "Body and mind are two faces of one reality and they support each other. Because of the way we live and consume, stress accumulates in our body and erodes our sense of well-being. By taking care of our body and incorporating moments of deep relaxation into daily life, we reduce stress, anxiety, and irritation, and help balance body and mind. Sometimes our body needs to rest, but our mind still wants to do many things. Though we think we can overcome the needs of the body with the mind, this is not something we can continue doing forever. From time to time, we need to stop, bring our awareness back to our body, and relax."

Monday, November 26, 2018

Love and Loss

From the Cosmic Tarot, Strength; from the L'Oeil de Lotus, 'Abundance:'

          A naked young woman holds a cloth with a lion on it in front of her. Her strength doesn't come from wealth, physical might or manipulation, but through compassion and courage. The oracle card explains the abundance it refers to comes from a spiritually based love, a love that puts all selfishness aside. It reminds me of the Bible verse in which Jesus tells his followers, "I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance." He wasn't talking about money, but acceptance, a sense of belonging, and kindness in action. My oldest kitty died this morning; I've been trying to make sure she was comfortable as possible these last forty-eight hours. If I thought she was suffering, I would have had her euthanized. But she hated the vet with an impressive passion, and so in her final hours I wanted her to be in a place she felt loved and safe. It was hard to keep my heart open and be present rather than close it to avoid the hurt. The abundance card surely reflects the love and loyalty pets bring to our lives. I'll miss my bedtime reading companion.
Ms. Streak (2003-2018)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Wages of Complacency

This week I'll be using the Cosmic Tarot, created by Norbert Losche and published by U.S. Games. I'll also be drawing from L'Oeil de Lotus (Eye of the Lotus), created by Colette and Gérard Lougarre and published by Vox Arkhana. Today's cards are the Prince (Knight) of Pentacles and 'Winter:'
          Unlike most Pentacle Knights who seem to be working diligently, this one is dressed in fine clothes and appears to hold his coin rather tightly. The booklet suggests that pleasures (Venus) may sometimes ensnare this Taurus fellow; his efforts then become about pleasing himself instead of hard work. He reminds me of a young man who goes off to college on his parents' dime but chooses to party and play rather than study. The Winter card shows a bare tree and an elderly man walking off into the sunset. There will be seasons of plenty, but they are generally followed by seasons of need. Maybe this young man will remember Aesop's story about the ants and the grasshopper and discover a purpose deeper than smug complacency.
You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.               — Jim Rohn

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Gratitude and Respect

From the Tarot of the Secret Forest, the King of Wands; from the Faeries' Oracle, the 'Collective of Pixies:'
          The companion booklet makes an interesting comment about this King of Wands: he respects everyone, even folks who some people might consider unimportant. He realizes everyone is valuable, regardless of their social class, education or wealth. We all have unique talents and skills that when are combined, keep our communities running smoothly. This King would likely agree with Robin Sharma: "Be a warrior when it comes to delivering on your ambitions. And a saint when it comes to treating people with respect, modeling generosity, and showing up with outright love." The Pixies have been assigned the tag 'joyful participation' because they do their work with a playful rather than resentful attitude. As the Bhagavad Gita encourages, they truly make everything an offering without expectation. I was delivered by two such pixies (in brawny form) when we discovered we had a serious water leak (40 thousand gallons) under the house the day before Thanksgiving. It happened when we were without water for three days after the storm; the rush of water when the city got things running again burst the pipes. We were unaware of it until the water bill showed how much water we had 'used.' These two young plumbers worked for six hours on a day they should have had off without complaint. I didn't care a whit about their social class, but I sure was grateful for their sunny dispositions and skills.
When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others. ~Dalai Lama

Friday, November 23, 2018

On the Joy Scale

From the Tarot of the Secret Forest, the Ace of Wands; from the Faeries' Oracle, 'Ekstasis:'
          The name 'salamander' comes from the Greek word for 'fire lizard.' The name for these moisture-loving amphibians came about when logs were thrown on a fire and salamanders were seen running out. The Ace of Wands represents energized inspiration; emotion (of which water is a symbol) can either fuel (with passion) or hinder (through fear) one's actions. Ekstasis is a surge of unmanufactured joy - a brief, orgasmic experience of life. Joy is a good way to assess if I'm on the right path taking the right actions, or if I'm simply being urged on by desperate hopes or fears. 
Most deeply, enjoy relating to the world and to your life not gripped at the throat by desire. Rick Hanson

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Watching Quietly

From the Tarot of the Secret Forest, the Nine of Wands; from the Faeries' Oracle, the 'Soul Shrinker:'
          Two animals - a large bird and a fox - seem to have made an alliance in order to ward off a common threat (probably a human). They've got each other's backs because something much dangerous needs their attention. What they are watching out for is the Soul Shrinker, a symbol of malicious words. Everyone is familiar with this guy who shows up on Facebook, Twitter or even around the holiday table. But the fox and bird offer sane advice - don't get pulled into a war of words in which no one will win and everyone will suffer losses. Watching does not mean engaging. Being able to stir up strife is this troll's victory; his defeat comes when no one takes the bait he dangles.
And yet, will we ever come to an end of discussion and talk if we think we must always reply to replies? For replies come from those who either cannot understand what is said to them, or are so stubborn and contentious that they refuse to give in even if they do understand. —St. Augustine of Hippo
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Stand Your Ground (When It Comes to Self-Care)

From the Tarot of the Secret Forest, the Five of Pentacles; from the Faeries' Oracle, 'The Singer of Connection:'
          "Water moccasin" and "cottonmouth" are common names for Agkistrodon piscivorus, a semiaquatic pit viper found in the southeastern U.S. These snakes have a reputation for standing their ground rather than fleeing. The appearance of such a water snake crawling up a thorny branch may be here to give the same advice. The holidays can take a toll on finances, health, energy and time, especially since we are constantly reminded 'tis the season to be generous and giving. Yet we also must be good stewards of our resources. The Singer of Connection represents balanced empathy. For instance, a friend having a hard time might appreciate an attentive ear more than buying her a steak dinner that we have to put on a nearly maxed out credit card. The Family Alliance for Caregivers offers some self-care suggestions that would benefit anyone during the holidays:

~Learn and use stress-reduction techniques, e.g. meditation, prayer, yoga, Tai Chi.
~Attend to your own healthcare needs.
~Get proper rest and nutrition.
~Exercise regularly, even if only for 10 minutes at a time.
~Take time off without feeling guilty.
~Participate in pleasant, nurturing activities, such as reading a good book, taking a warm bath.
~Seek and accept the support of others.
~Seek supportive counseling when you need it, or talk to a trusted counselor, friend, or pastor.
~Identify and acknowledge your feelings, you have a right to ALL of them.
~Change the negative ways you view situations.
~Set goals.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

From Where You're Standing

From the Tarot of the Secret Forest, the King of Swords; from the Faeries' Oracle, 'Mikle a' Muckle:'
          The booklet describes this King as someone who's learned to do the right thing. As he knows all too well, making the right choice is not always easy. His perch above his kingdom gives him an objective view and a wide perspective. Yet he also must step back from his own hopes and fears which might influence his decisions. It's easy to convince ourselves that we're following our intuition when really all we're doing is letting our personal desires make the choice for us. Being a leader means choosing for the greater good rather than self-benefit alone. Mikle a' Muckle means 'mixed blessing.' Isn't this the result of most choices? But the true test is whether we focus solely on what didn't work in our favor or whether we engage with the good and work on developing it.
What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are. C.S. Lewis

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Loving Life Again

This week I'll be using Tarot of the Secret Forest, created by Lucia Mattioli and published by Lo Scarabeo. I'll also be drawing from the Faeries' Oracle created by Brian Froud with text by Jessica Macbeth; it was published by Simon & Schuster. Today's cards are the Tower and 'The Pook:'
          When the Tower has burned and crumbled, grief comes. I listened yesterday to women in pain: one with a missing child, a new mother with an unexpected diagnosis, and those hurting from betrayals and losses. Ellen Bass ("The Thing Is") describes this crushing emotion in a visceral way:

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

When you can't breathe from the weight of such grief, it is hard to take hope in the last few lines of the poem. Yet Pook is a reminder of paradox; even in loss, there is also something found. It may be that we awaken to impermanence, not only as an intellectual idea but as a stark reality. We begin to grasp just how precious our trips around the sun are. Or perhaps we experience a sharpening of the senses or a widening of the heart, suddenly making it easier to see subtle goodness and beauty. May we all find a way to love life again.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Growing Season

From the Mandala Astrological Tarot, the Eight of Wands; from the Sabian Symbols, 'Gemini 25:'
          The abundance of Jupiter meets with the expansion of Sagittarius, creating sudden growth and development. The two squares of the octagram represent integration; rather than chaos, this advancement is stable and balanced. This is not some random occurrence, but a goal that has been planned and worked toward. The Sabian Symbol describes a gardener pruning old, dead palm fronds, allowing nothing to detract from the beauty of the tree. The combination of this card draw and roll suggest cleaning out in order to make room for this growth, much like discarding outdated food in one's pantry. There are some things not worth holding on to.
Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize when something's time has passed and be able to move into the next season. Everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings. ~Henry Cloud


Friday, November 16, 2018

Anchor System

From the Mandala Astrological Tarot, the Three of Cups; from the Sabian Symbols, 'Taurus 9:'
          The transforming power of Pluto taps into the loving side of Cancer, creating an emotional balance that no longer feels like walking tightrope. I've lost count of how many times the kindness and sensitivity of friends have brought me back from the brink of despair or helped pry me from my warm mudhole of self-pity. It required an effort on their part, and it reminds me of what a difference a few close friends can make in someone's life. The Sabian Symbol describes a decorated Christmas tree glowing in the darkness. Its light is a symbol of guidance and hope. Allen Berger, in his book 12 Smart Things, encourages his readers to examine their 'network of support' - relationships that can anchor us in times of stress. We all have people in our lives who enjoy drama and chaos, but we also need folks (our anchors) who can stay sane and maintain common sense when life gets bumpy.
So, friends, let us stand next to one another, shoulder to shoulder, mirroring the good and the beautiful. Shine a light on the good. Applaud the good. Become an advocate of the good and the beautiful. Let us hang on to the faith that ultimately light overcomes darkness, and love conquers hate. It is the only thing that ever has, ever will, and does today. ~ Omid Safi

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Six of One

From the Mandela Astrological Tarot, the Two of Swords; from the Sabian Symbols, 'Scorpio 7:'
          Six of one, half a dozen of the other; between a rock and a hard place. These phrases describe the perfectly balanced opposition of ideas of the Two of Swords. Venus is the planet of love and relationships while Libra is a sign of peacemaking and a refusal to rock the boat. No wonder a decision can't be reached with all that people-pleasing hovering in the background. The Sabian Symbol describes deep-sea divers using special equipment to explore the depths of the ocean. It implies that a fresh, innovative mind needs to be employed in order to see reality objectively. Emily P. Freeman states, "We may call it 'people pleasing,' but it is entirely self-serving because it is really all about keeping myself comfortable." Discomfort is what it will cost to bring some creative thinking to the table.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

More To It

From the Mandala Astrological Tarot, the Lovers; from the Sabian Symbols, 'Gemini 30:'

          Being a mutable sign, Gemini likes to shake things up and enjoys change. But it also is an air sign, which means that change will likely come through collecting and dispersing knowledge. Add in Mercury, associated with expression and communication, and that seems like a match made in heaven. The Lovers card is not so much about romance as it is making a connection with something or someone, like two puzzle pieces that fit together. The heart might come along for the ride, but it's only because the mind has found a match. The Sabian Symbol describes a parade of bathing beauties walking in front of a beach crowd. It warns against judging someone by outward appearances only. While there's nothing wrong with using appearance to catch someone's attention, there needs to be more to the cake than just frosting. As Lord Chesterfield expressed, "You must look into people as well as at them."

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Is It Worth It?

From the Mandala Astrological Tarot, the Princess (Page) of Pentacles; from the Sabian Symbols, 'Leo 29:'
The invitation to open to our experience—whatever it is from moment to moment—is always there, no matter how many times we need to rediscover it.
—Aura Glaser 
          Mann assigns this Princess/Page the alchemical symbol and a mandala of the earth. Hers is a pure experience of physicality. She is an excellent student because she doesn't muddle up what she is experiencing through her senses - there is no like/dislike, only what is here now. She doesn't get stuck in mental calisthenics and miss what is happening, she is there to explore and learn. The Sabian Symbol describes a mermaid climbing atop a rocky shore where she waits for a prince to bring her immortality. How many times have smart, practical young women suddenly ditched everything they worked hard for and hitched their star to a male? Suddenly their integrity and self-worth become dependent on an outside source, not on their own inherent worth. That mermaid needs to get her tail back in that ocean and swim in the opposite direction.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Structural Maintenance

From the Mandala Astrological Tarot, the Three of Pentacles; from the Sabian Symbols, 'Taurus 18:'
          Mann states that the triangle formed by these pentacles represents equilibrium and balance. Venus (love and beauty) in Capricorn (climbing), suggests hard work aimed at what one is passionate about. This ongoing effort has had a steadying effect on things in the material/physical world. The Sabian Symbol describes a woman airing out an old bag (perhaps like a cloth shopping bag, traveling bag or purse). Rather than throw it out and buy something new, she simply takes care of it in a mindful way. Together, this card and dice imply that while things are pretty secure right now, there is a need to continue to pay attention to what has been built in order to maintain it.
A living cell requires energy not only for all its functions, but also for the maintenance of its structure. ~Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Sunday, November 11, 2018


This week I'll be using the Mandala Astrological Tarot set, created by A.T. Mann and published by HarperCollins. I'll also be exploring the Sabian Symbols with the help of Lynda Hill's book 360 Degrees of Wisdom, published by Plume. I've got a 30 sided die and an astrological die that I'll be rolling to choose the symbol. Today's draw and roll are the Six of Cups and 'Capricorn 24:'
          Six cups are arranged in a hexagram, a figure Mann describes as an integration of spirit and matter. Neptune represents hope and healing (though often unsubstantiated); Scorpio implies a deepening of perception. Adults, looking to overcome personal emotional handicaps, often point the finger at their childhood. Yet simply pointing to the past, whether remembered clearly or through a haze of hurt, won't change a thing. Our perception must move into the present if we want to heal. The Sabian Symbol describes a woman entering a convent, suggesting a time of inner reflection. When we acknowledge and own our behavior, then change and healing become possible.
We need to construct a personal crucible of self-confrontation. In this crucible, we stop avoiding ourselves and stop focusing on the faults of others. We confront our own personal issues and identify the ways we are contributing to our own unhappiness.
~ Allen Berger

Saturday, November 10, 2018

In This Together

From the Swietlistej Drogi, the Ten of Cups; from the Mirrors of the Heart, 'Cleansing:'
Obviously, the first thing to let go of is trying to “get” love, and instead to give it.
That’s the secret of the spiritual path. 
—Ayya Khema

          It's a wedding! Each of these individuals has matured emotionally enough to realize everything doesn't revolve around them. Their connection is formed on the basis of respect, compromise, and devotion. On such a joyful day, why would the Cleansing card show up? Expectations - the assumption that their relationship should always be filled with such happiness. No one is immune to the challenges and hardships of life. There will eventually come a day when the baby is crying nonstop, the dog chews up three pairs of shoes, and the toilet is overflowing. It won't be happiness that sees this couple through but remembering the love that brought them together. That bond can transform "My life sucks" into "We're all struggling; how can I best help and comfort all of us?"

Friday, November 9, 2018

Play Date

From the Swietlistej Drogi, the Knight of Pentacles; from the Mirrors of the Heart, 'Celebration:'
          The Knight of Pentacles is not content to sit atop his horse and supervise. He likes to have his boots on the ground, hands in the soil and eye on the accounting. Not much will slip by him unobserved that needs attention. And while he is great at his job - responsible, dependable and practical - he's not so great at remembering to take care of himself. The Celebration card suggests that hard work needs to be balanced with play. There is a time for effort and a time for ease. Neurologist Ralph Sacco explains, "One of the biggest things we know is that people who are stressed increase (their) blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also increase the risk of depression, and depression itself is related to an increase in stroke and heart disease." Hope you'll take time to play today for your health's sake.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Rare Gift

From the Swietlistej Drogi, the Two of Wands; from Mirrors of the Heart, 'Grace:'
          A man bows low to a woman; his hat seems to pour out water just as he pours out his feelings. Here is a marriage proposal caught on paper. The young woman must decide where she wants to put her energy and passion. Does she maintain her independence and self-sufficient ways, or does she join with him and allow their combined passions to alter her course? The Grace card is a reminder of a phrase that often rankles me: "But for the grace of God, there go I." Does this mean some people are special snowflakes who get the undeserved gift? I prefer to think of grace as a moment of awareness and awakening, a moment that opens us to goodness even in dire circumstances and then transforms us through gratitude and compassion. Looking through that lens brings humility and a concern for someone other than myself. It may be what changes a person's idea about being an island unto themselves.

I believe we create it for ourselves, through persistence, awareness, and clear-eyed reflection. Grace comes from knowing that to be alive and conscious in this world is a rare gift.
~Katherine Ozment

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Convictions and Biases

From the Swietlistej Drogi Tarot, the Emperor; from Mirrors of the Heart, 'Night:'
          Looking at this Emperor's soldiers, I question whether he's more interested in protecting his people or in being 'Number One' among nations. While 75% of Americans consider themselves to be Christian, I wonder how many of them know the historical early stance on war taken by this faith?
St. Augustine (354–430), the most important theologian in the first thousand years of Christianity, developed “just war” theology—the conditions under which Christians may support war. The criteria fell into two categories: the justification for going to war and just conduct in war. For the former, the war had to be one of self-defense and last resort. Starting a war was prohibited. Just conduct in war meant acting as humanely as possible, including not deliberately harming noncombatants. (Convictions, Marcus Borg)
The Night card made me think of the wisdom often given to people struggling to make a decision: 'sleep on it.' Researchers are beginning to find that there is actual science behind this suggestion. As John M. Grohol explains, "The primary difference is that in unconscious thought, the usual biases that are a part of our conscious thinking are absent. In unconscious thought, we weigh the importance of the components that make up our decision more equally, leaving our preconceptions at the door of consciousness." Leaving out those biases is something that Emperor might want to work on.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Human Tabernacle

From the Swietlistej Drogi, the Six of Pentacles; from Mirrors of the Heart, 'Sanctuary:'
          This card brought back a lot of memories. I was raised from infancy mostly by my grandparents while my single mom went back to school and worked. It was a simple life, but I felt loved and had extended family next door (three girl cousins). Right before first grade, my mom married a man who had four children. We moved far away from my relatives and I found myself the odd duck in a new family, none of whom looked or thought like me. My youngest step-brother, who was only a few months younger than me, eventually became my friend. I had someone to play with and share my feelings with; I was no longer lonely. I'm convinced that relationship saved me. This particular Six of Pentacles reminded me that sharing resources can involve more than just money. Sanctuary can be defined as a sacred place that offers refuge. While it may be a physical place, it may also be within the heart of another person.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Find the Holes

From the Swietlistej Drogi, Death; from Mirrors of the Heart, 'Touch:'
          Against the backdrop of an eclipse, a woman breaks free of a body that seems to have been composed of dried clay. The ego death that Buddhism encourages is releasing the belief that our sense-of-self is a permanent, separate thing and understanding that it is simply a continually changing process. I'm struggling with this identification on the eve of the midterm elections. My opinions make me want to push others to vote as I do through whatever means I can. Yet Mark Epstein reminds me, "There are many things in life we can do nothing about—the circumstances of our childhoods; natural events in the outer world; the chaos and catastrophe of illness, accident, loss, and abuse—but there is one thing we can change. How we interact with our own egos is up to us." If I spew hatred and stir up fear, I'm no different than those I oppose. When I loosen my identity of who I think I am, it is easier to see my interconnection with all others. The Touch card seems to reinforce this loosening and makes me think of a quote from Sri Nisargadatta:
The real world is beyond our thoughts and ideas; we see it through the net of our desires, divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner and outer. To see the universe as it is, you must step beyond the net. It is not hard to do so, for the net is full of holes.