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

Thursday, March 21, 2019

In Training

From the Tarot of the Cat People, the Page of Swords; from the Sacred Geometry Oracle, Alternation:
          Notice that the cat's eyes aren't on some threat on the horizon but on the sword the young man is swinging. The booklet calls him a 'novice warrior,' and indeed that is what he is. His biggest problem is that his mouth moves faster than his mind does. He may say something he thinks is witty only to discover others find it cruel or disrespectful. He often tells of conversations overheard instead of considering that what was said should remain private. He desperately needs a Yield sign between his thoughts and actions.
           Greer explains that alternation is a way of using ordinary numbers to deal with numerically inexpressible factors (such as the square root of 2). In geometric design, it is important to be able to approximate these factors in whole numbers. It is a dance of adjustment and restructuring to get to the final form. I imagine it to be like a stud finder that uses a magnet to find nails (and thus studs) hidden behind walls. Greer's words apply to this Page: "patience, persistence and the ability to learn from mistakes are all highlighted here."

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Making and Managing

From the Tarot of the Cat People, the King of Pentacles; from the Sacred Geometry Oracle, the Tetrahedron:
 Making money is hard enough, but managing money is infinitely more difficult. The skills and instincts necessary for one can actually hinder the other. ~J.E. Wilson Advisors

Kuykendall's King of Pentacles has whisker-like protrusions from his crown. In the same way that a cat's whiskers are a well-honed sensory tool, this King has his senses feeling out all parts of his kingdom - what is getting created, what is being sustained, and what is being used. The Tetrahedron is associated with the element of Fire and thus energy. Every fire needs fuel to sustain it, but the wise fire keeper knows that green wood won't burn well and cutting down all the trees will eventually deplete resources if others aren't planted. This King asks us to take a look at how we are managing, using and replacing our physical resources, whether that might be our time, health or finances. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Seeds of a New Problem

From the Tarot of the Cat People, the Devil; from the Sacred Geometry Oracle, the Golden Proportion:
          The cloaked Devil represents the shadowy parts of the mind, the parts that whisper to us when we are exhausted, overwhelmed and under severe stress. But rather than a self-compassionate solution, it offers a short-term, self-indulgent fix. Such indulgence can easily turn into a familiar pattern of behavior that adds to the weight of our suffering rather than reduces it. As Tommy Rosen explained, "The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken."
          The Golden Proportion can be found when we divide a line into two parts so that: the whole length divided by the long part is also equal to the long part divided by the short part. This mathematical ratio (approximately equal to 1.618) is commonly found in nature, and when used in design, it fosters organic and natural looking compositions that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The spiral of seeds in the head of a sunflower, the curves of a nautilus shell, and the lengths of the bones in our fingers are based on this ratio. The message of this card is "do the right thing at the right time in the right situation" in order to restore harmony. In the long haul, a walk in nature beats a pill or an unnecessary order from Amazon. As Wayne Muller reminds us, "In the soil of the quick fix is the seed of a new problem, because our quiet wisdom is unavailable."

Monday, March 18, 2019

Redrawing the Shape of Things

From the Tarot of the Cat People, Rejuvenation (Judgment); from the Sacred Geometry Oracle, the Point:
A woman breaks free from a cocoon while her cat begins its ninth life. We all have traumas, trials, and challenges that burn away everything extraneous; our life seems to become a crucible to refine what is important and beneficial. Such an experience can radically change our views and attitude, as Rabbi Harold Kushner explains: "We may not ever understand why we suffer or be able to control the forces that cause our suffering, but we can have a lot to say about what the suffering does to us, and what sort of people we become because of it. Pain makes some people bitter and envious. It makes others sensitive and compassionate." Here is where we begin again (the Point); we have the power to draw what our lives will look like. We choose the shape of our lives will take, not outwardly but inwardly. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Cuddling and Communicating

This week I'll be using the Tarot of the Cat People, created by Karen Kuykendall and published by U.S. Games. I'll also be drawing from the Sacred Geometry Oracle, a deck and book set created by John Michael Greer and published by Llewellyn. Today's cards are the Lovers and the Dodecagram:
These two lovers are wrapped together in a warm covering; it is a symbol for what holds them together even as they are independent of each other. The Lovers are associated with Gemini (Twins), an Air sign. While passion might bring them together, it is not enough to make them stay that way. They need communication - intellectual foreplay and dynamic dialogue. The meeting of the minds is the comforting blanket that makes their relationship a fulfilling one. The Dodecagram is a twelve-pointed star that can be said to represent the twelve astrology signs. It suggests that things are approaching completion and wholeness. On a personal note, my husband and I have been tag-teaming as we support my daughter who is dealing with a kidney stone. It is hard to sit with the excruciating pain of someone you love while being powerless to fix it. My husband and I will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary on the 19th, and this is one of the many challenges we have faced over the years. I'm grateful for the cuddling and the communicating.

Saturday, March 16, 2019


From the Vision Quest, Justice; from the Bird Cards, the Finch:
Thoth-based decks refer to Justice as Adjustment; it emphasizes the need for assessment and then, based on what was found, action. It involves focusing on our actions and attitudes rather than blaming others. We shape our present and future based on our current actions and thoughts. We might not be able to control other people or situations, but we can choose how we react or respond. There is never one finch at a feeder; they move in groups (or during the nesting season in pairs). Finch reminds us that we are a precious part of the greater whole. What we do or fail to do can have ramifications that ripple out to other precious parts of the whole. Perhaps the adjustment needed is to catch ourselves in self-orbit, realize our effect on that whole, and then change our focus.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Wise Waiting

From the Vision Quest Tarot, the Two of Air (Swords); from the Bird Cards, the Owl:
For this Thoth-based deck, the Two of Swords is the beginning of analysis. But to do this skillfully, we need to get beyond the emotional tides that pull us back and forth and keep us from making a decision. Once we get some perspective, we'll be able to make a choice and act on it, which will bring us some peace. Owl, a symbol of wisdom, stands over an egg, suggesting that we give ourselves some time to let logic and reasoning incubate. The light we seek will come, just as the crescent moon (in the tarot card) will grow into a full moon (the oracle card). Waiting can feel uncomfortable, but it will give us a chance to see a clearer picture of the situation.
When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun by nettles.
~Horace Walpole

Thursday, March 14, 2019

No Diplomas

From the Vision Quest Tarot, the Big Medicine Wheel (the World); from the Bird Cards, the Parrot:
In the World card, the Fool becomes the Mystic; the wisdom of experience and competency replace naivety and inexperience, yet the capacity for awe and wonder remain. This competency is not simply about a certain skill, but being able to move through life with equanimity and openness. The snake in the center of this Medicine Wheel alludes to the ever-changing nature of the physical world, yet interconnection remains. The Fool/Mystic recognizes this interplay of causes and conditions, how they shape us, and how they make us interdependent. He or she would agree with the words of Carl Sagan, "If we are to survive, our loyalties must be broadened ... to include the whole human community, the entire planet Earth." Parrot is a noisy bird, and thus its meaning is to pay attention and sharpen our focus. It's easy to be filled with new knowledge and understanding and think we've now gotten our Diploma of Life. Parrot's squawk reminds us that there is always more to learn.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

New Moves

From the Vision Quest Tarot, Integration (Temperance); from the Bird Cards, the Penguin:
But when you open to the whole of your experience, you have more information and can make better decisions. You perceive more fully, seeing the big picture, putting things in perspective. 
—Rick Hanson 
There have been times in my early life when I lived in survival mode. It became necessary to wall off other parts of my life in order to deal with pressing matters. Unfortunately, when I'm under stress and tired, it's easy to slip back into this old habit. I segregate and bury certain emotions so I can keep marching forward. But as Hanson explains, I lose my perspective when this becomes an ongoing behavior. The Integration/Temperance card shows a woman weaving threads that come together to create a tapestry - the big picture that represents the whole of life. The Penguin is a flightless bird that moves in a waddle on land but is agile elegance in the water. Its message is to use my unique skills and abilities (rather than attempt to replicate what others do) to navigate my life. Trying to use the same guidelines of another will only keep me repeating old patterns. Time to try out some new moves. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Letter or Spirit

From the Vision Quest Tarot, Grand Father (Emperor); from the Bird Cards, Wagtail:
What is the difference between a dictator-like Emperor and one who protects and nurtures? The first follows the letter of the law (obeying the literal interpretation) while the other follows the spirit of the law (acts in accordance with the intention of the law and its spiritual principles). It's like the biblical explanation of a sheep being in a ditch on the Sabbath; a good person would work to get the sheep out (even though legally it is a day of rest) because it's the right and kind thing to do. The Wagtail card illuminates how an Emperor can keep from getting caught up in his own importance. Motacilla sp. has a habit of bobbing its tail, much like a happy child bounces on his or her toes. It thus represents being able to see joy and grace in any circumstance, instead of falling into the rigidity of seeing everything as good or bad.
 The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
~ William Shakespeare, from "The Merchant of Venice" 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Soil and Harvest

From the Vision Quest Tarot, the Medicine Woman (High Priestess); from the Bird Cards, the Cuckoo:
In Buddhism, there is what is known as Threefold Training - training in morals/ethics, concentration, and intuitive insight. We must behave in a way that does not harm ourselves or others and learn concentration through meditation. These two prepare us for intuitive insight, which is not rational thinking (relying on our own ideas). The Buddha once said that when the mind is concentrated, it is in a position to see all things as they really are (intuitive insight). In other words, we see past our attachments and aversions to what is true; once past the ego's desires, we see other options and answers. The Cuckoo card represents the beginning of a new cycle, just as the cuckoo's song heralds Spring. It's wonderful to have access to intuitive insight, but it must be used if it is to be useful.

What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.
~Meister Eckhart

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Collapse and Renewal

This week I'll be using the Vision Quest Tarot, a deck created by Gayle Silvie Winter and Jo Dose (Illustrator); it was published by AGM Müller. I'll also be using Bird Cards, a deck and book set by Jane Toerien (Author) and Joyce van Dobben (Illustrator); it was published by Altamira-Becht. Today's draws are the Seven of Air (Swords) and the Phoenix:
The Seven of Air's keyword is 'futility' and illustrates this with a broken spearhead. What is it that we keep doing over and over, thinking this time the result will be different? We all have familiar behavior patterns that we tend to fall into when we are stressed or exhausted. It just seems easier to do what we know. Yet it is futile to repeat behavior (no matter how comfortable) that won't help us solve anything. The Phoenix is a mythical bird that suggests the collapse of the old so the new can arise. If we can let go of our attachment to how things are usually done, we may discover a new perspective and a solution.
The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings. —Kakuzō Okakura

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Old Dogs, New Tricks

From the Stone Tarot, the Ten of Swords; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, Dhammapada 3:42 :
Even some stoked fires fail.
~ Alison Stone

After defiantly and stubbornly insisting that "There is no better way than my way," we hit rock bottom. No eloquent words or intellectual maneuvers can get us out of the hole we've dug for ourselves. The beauty of this card is that we ask, "What now?" And that openness means we may be willing to listen to ideas other than our own. The Dhammapada quote reads:
Whatever an enemy may do to an enemy,
or haters, one to another,
far worse is the harm from one's own wrongly directed mind.
The verse suggests that our own mind can be our own worst enemy, especially when we don't question our thoughts or investigate to see if they match reality. The good news is that modern research has found that adult brains have the ability to change - they have neuroplasticity. In the words of Dr. Daniel Siegel, "the simple truth is that how we focus our attention, how we intentionally direct the flow of energy and information through our neural circuits, can directly alter the brain's activity and its structure." It appears old dogs can learn new tricks.  

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Foremost Happiness

From the Stone Tarot, the Five of Cups; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, Dhammapada 15:204 :
Though we might be enjoying a lovely day, let five minutes of inconvenience or irritation intrude, and that five minutes is likely where our focus will be aimed for the rest of the day. Just as the full upright cups are in the shadows and the spilled cups are up front and evident, so we humans have a tendency to fixate on what's wrong or unpleasant in life while ignoring what is good and beautiful. This mental track that our mind habitually follows can be changed with mindfulness and patient effort, but it takes a lot of practice. The Dhammapada verse reads:
Health is the foremost possession,
contentment the foremost wealth,
trust the foremost kinship,
and release the foremost happiness.
No one would deny the importance of health, the ability to be content, and trustworthy relationships. But to be truly happy, we must also learn to let go of trying to manipulate reality until it fits our ideas of what it should look like. As the Five of Cups card alludes to, such a delusion will only keep us from seeing what is good and beautiful around us.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

New Guidelines

From the Stone Tarot, the Universe; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, Dhammapada 8:100 :
illusions shatter
like dropped cups.
~ Alison Stone

Stone includes the planets of our solar system in her painting of the Universe. It was a reminder of the stunning discovery that the Earth was not the center of everything, but the Sun. Years later, astronomers would again shake things up when they declared our galaxy was just one of many in the Universe. From a spiritual point of view, this card does the same thing - expanding our minds and hearts in a way that we can no longer perceive things as we did before. The verse from the Dhammapada reads:
Better than a thousand meaningless statements
is one meaningful word, which, 
having been heard, brings peace.
The noise from words seems to never stop, whether from people talking, television or social media. How many of them create fear, stir up anger or cause sadness rather than bringing comfort, healing and encouragement? When the mind and heart open, we can no longer ignore the impact of what we say, post or write. We realize we need to be a part of the solution rather than the problem, which can begin simply with the way we communicate.

As we move through this beautiful and troubled world, may we vow to be a 
beacon of peace, a fearless carrier of respect and lovingkindness for all life, a 
teller of truth, a voice for justice, a protector of those who are vulnerable or 
targeted. May the power of wisdom, integrity and compassion be our guide.
~Jack Kornfield

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

No One Is Coming

From the Stone Tarot, the Eight of Swords; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, Dhammapada 20:276 :
We need not be limited by our stories.
—Mark Epstein 

Last year, I wanted to plant zinnia seeds in three large terra cotta pots. Unfortunately, the army of gray squirrels in my yard will dig up anything I plant in pots. I ended up stretching chicken wire over the tops of the pots with a wire around the rims to hold it in place. The seeds, once planted and watered, grew through the holes of the wire without a problem. The Eight of Swords card is like the wire we think is trapping us. We get caught up in how things are supposed to be or not supposed to be, and we forget to look past our stories. There's a lot of open space there to grow in if we'll see beyond our mental ruminations. The Dhammapada quote reads:
It is up to you to make strong effort;
buddhas merely tell you how.
No matter how many seminars I attend, what teacher I study with, or the number of books I read, nothing changes unless I make the effort to change how I think and act. As Henrik Edberg explained it, "...in the end, if you are an adult then no one is coming. No one is coming to save you. You have to take responsibility for your own life and what happens in it." The first thing I need to change is the stories I tell myself.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Planting Manual

From the Stone Tarot, the Ace of Pentacles; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, Dhammapada 13:176 :
 Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. — Nido Qubein

This particular Ace resembles the seed head of a dandelion, full of possibilities. Those seeds are ready to be planted and grow if we'll give them a chance. Yet like the lowly dandelion, opportunities are often disguised as the ordinary. When we use the resources available (rather than waiting on something that looks more exceptional or extraordinary), we take advantage of the moment and the probability that some of the seeds we plant will sprout. The Dhammapada selection reads:
For people who speak falsely,
who transgress in this one way,
and who reject the world beyond,
there is no evil they won't do.
People who lie often want everything they touch to turn to gold. And with such ambitions, little untruths can lead to greater transgressions. Just a few drops of dishonesty can poison the water that is supposed to nourish the seeds. Better to grow seeds of humility than lose our integrity and the respect of others.
The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means. 
— Georges Bernanos

Monday, March 4, 2019


From the Stone Tarot, the Four of Swords; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, Dhammapada 23:331 :
 I have to let go; I opened my hands. Free
in this dark land, I drift, memories
unwinding like thread.
~Alison Stone

We had supercell storms with multiple tornadoes in the Southeast late yesterday. After the hurricane and flooding we endured, I have a case of PTSD; the emergency weather sirens and alerts going off every quarter hour for hours on end made me feel like I was becoming unmoored. I finally shut off the TV and muted my phone and meditated. It wasn't so much a spiritual practice as it was an attempt to slow down and quiet the tornado in my mind. In the words of Joan D. Oliver, "Beyond the internal mess is clear space, a clear mind." The quote from the Dhammapada reads:
Happiness is having friends when need arises.
Happiness is contentment with whatever there is.
Two blessings of life are having friends (knowing we are cared for gives us strength) and the ability to be content in any circumstance. The second requires inner work. Contentment only comes when I stay present in the moment, and when I am able to "cherish neither for nor against" so I don't have to suffer the "disease of the mind" (as Seng T'san wrote). It seems a paradox, but resting the mind can take some effort.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

What Scares You More?

This week I'll be using the Stone Tarot, a self-published deck by Alison Stone. I may also dip into her book of tarot poems (Ordinary Magic), although it wasn't written as a companion book. The oracle I'll be using is the Buddhist Quote Cards, painted and published by Diana Altenburg. Even though she has spiritual quotes (from John Lennon to Lao Tzu) on the back of the cards, I have decided to pair each card with a verse from the Dhammapada. Today's draws are Justice and Dhammapada 4:53:
Stone's first keyword that she lists for the Justice card is 'understanding' before following it up with more traditional words like fairness. Who would want to stand before a judge who saw everything in black and white while refusing to look at the circumstances that surrounded the event? The opening and closing lines of Stone's poem for Justice reads:
I am not blind
you are blind -
Which scares you more,
to believe that life is unfair
or to believe that life is fair?
For me personally, to label life as unfair or fair is to fall into that black or white thinking. Reality doesn't pick and choose, it just naturally unfolds. The verses from the Dhammapada encourage this practical way of understanding:
Just as from a heap of flowers
many garlands can be made,
so you, with your mortal life,
should do many skillful things.
No person's heap of blooms (life) include only the pretty, sweet-smelling flowers. We all get a mix. The true test is in the skillful way we use what we have been given.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

What Can I Control?

From the Badgers Forest Tarot, the Chariot; from the Gemstone Oracle, Picasso Jasper:
It is not possible
To control all external events
But, if I simply control my mind,
What need is there to control other things?

I thought it insane that the artist would use the aggressive swan and a rat (known to eat bird eggs and baby birds) together for the Chariot. But when we're trying to move forward, it can feel just as crazy - as if everything outside of us is working at opposite purposes. Yet the words of Shantideva encourage us to train the mind rather than trying to control external situations. My thoughts are what will cause me to give up prematurely way before any outside thing brings me to a complete halt. Picasso Jasper represents conflict and the desire for resolution. If I go into a situation thinking that my opinion is the only right one and no one else brings any wisdom to the table, there won't be much accomplished. Dale Partridge puts this in perspective: "Remember, confrontation is about reconciliation and awareness, not judgment or anger." If I want things to move forward, I need to be openminded enough to realize I don't know everything and that perhaps there are those who can fill in my gaps.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Grow the Good

From the Badgers Forest Tarot, the Hermit; from the Gemstone Oracle, Sunstone:

Nakisha uses an opossum for her Hermit and describes this card as a time of solitude for soul searching. I personally think a spiritual inventory is a good idea; I can use my own past as a yardstick to see if I've grown or stagnated. If I take an honest look at my behavior and thinking and compare them to the principles I want to live by, I will discover when I've gone off track and when I've maintained my course. The phrases assigned to the Sunstone are 'playfulness,' 'seeing the joy and beauty inherent in life,' and 'not taking things so seriously.' This stone's quote comes from Michael Dolan: "Anticipate the day as if it was your birthday, and you are turning six again." Any spiritual inventory would be unbalanced (and probably lead to self-indulgent pity or morosity) if it didn't include the beneficial things I've done. This is not an exercise in self-flagellation, but a way to grow the good in me.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Inner Obstacle

From the Badgers Forest Tarot, the Ten of Cups (Foxes); from the Gemstone Oracle, Rhodochrosite:
This Ten of Cups card is often seen as emotional fulfillment, and indeed it is. But it isn't like winning the lottery and getting the perfect family or the perfect group of friends and acquaintances. It comes about because of our own emotional maturity. Individual demands are replaced with what would benefit the group as a whole. Rhodochrosite's key phrase is 'unconditional love,' and its quote comes from Stephen Kendrick: "The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love." Such deep, sincere love means we are willing to be open-minded and admit when we are wrong; it means being willing to forgive and work on becoming less self-centered (whether that comes in the form of being the center of the universe or a doormat). If we find ourselves searching for emotional fulfillment and never reaching it, we may need to heed the words of Les Brown, "You are the only real obstacle in your path to a fulfilling life."

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Clear Seeing

From the Badgers Forest Tarot, the King of Cups (Foxes); from the Gemstone Oracle, Quartz:
This King of Cups knows how to stay composed even when action is required. His equanimity comes because even though he realizes emotions are very real and powerful, he knows they don't always represent reality. He pauses in this card to watch each moment as it unfolds in the forest, keeping his mind where his feet are planted. Quartz symbolizes clear thinking, something not always employed when emotional chaos is at hand. The quote for this stone comes from Rebecca Solnit: "The coolness of Buddhism isn't indifference but the distance one gains from emotions, the quiet place from which to regard the turbulence. From far away you see the pattern, the connections, and the thing as a whole..." This King's ability to maintain compassion while seeing the whole with clarity is one of his greatest assets.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Spring is in the Air

From the Badgers Forest Tarot, the Page of Wands (Kit of Rabbits); from the Gemstone Oracle, Aquamarine:
It's easy to see this kit is full of energy and looking for some excitement. His mom would probably like a child safety switch and a surge protector attached to him. Yet even those of us who aren't so young can relate to this mindset as Spring begins to arrive and we feel the pull to get outside and enjoy the warmer temperatures. This time of year such enthusiasm can cause me to overdo things, especially when it comes to gardening and yard work. Aquamarine's message involves common sense and preparation. Its quote comes from Abraham Lincoln: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax." Planning, mindfulness, and a sane pace can help me enjoy the work while allowing me to be able to get out of bed the next morning.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Perfect Day

From the Badgers Forest Tarot, the Nine of Cups (Foxes); from the Gemstone Oracle, Turquoise:
What would your perfect day look like? As the sun rises, I imagine this fox's day of contentment would include an easy meal, no hunters, pleasant weather, and something interesting to investigate. This fox would remind me to put my worries about the future aside and enjoy the good that's right under my feet here and now. The 'wish card' of satisfaction is of course temporary. But Turquoise, with its key phrase "lasting inner peace," offers me a way to extend things. This stone's quote comes from Miguel Ruiz: "There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally." Equanimity is rooted in insight, realizing that everything changes and that everyone has to deal with challenges. It's not personal, it's just life.

One of the central teachings of all the world’s wisdom traditions is this – anything that changes is not a reliable place to find lasting fulfilment. Fulfilment is cultivated from within...