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

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

One Grain of Sand at a Time

From the Tarot of the Absurd, the Hermit; from the Post-psychedelic Cyberpunk, 'The Key:'

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” 
― Anne Lamott

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Natural Orientation

From the Tarot of the Absurd, the Ace of Coins; from the Post-psychedelic Cyberpunk, the 'Klein Bottle:'
          The Ace of Coins is a reminder of all the physical resources we have, beginning with the body we live in. Money is secondary to what we do with our primary assets. Where there are resources, there are projects and a sense of purpose. Yet these things must be used mindfully; not all of them are renewable or easily replaced. It's a good thing this fellow seems to be wisely considering how to use those in his possession before he begins.
          The Klein Bottle is similar to the Möbius strip in that they are both non-orientable. Basically, this means that if we travel on the surface, our natural orientation such as left and right or up and down get flipped around until they no longer have meaning. When that fellow quits meditating and decides to start using his resources, he might have a linear plan, but life rarely moves in a direct line. If he wants to continue, he will have to learn to adjust and adapt.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Taking a Seat

From the Tarot of the Absurd, Temperance; from the Post-psychedelic Cyberpunk, 'The Eye:'
          Two angelic figures create one fountain, suggesting a middle way rather than an extreme. Our society seems geared to force people to pick sides, choose this or that. It makes others uncomfortable when we don't because they can't figure out what box to put us in. If the law of impermanence applies to everything and everyone, there can be no permanent labeling.
          The Eye is described as 'unfiltered seeing,' meaning that there is an awareness of what is happening as it happens without judgmental labels applied. We all have this ability to connect to our inner, unbiased witness who can see with clarity. But it requires a consistent meditation practice; it's simple but not easy. Achaan Chah metaphorically described it this way:
Take the seat in the center of the room, open the doors and the windows, and see who comes to visit. You will witness all kinds of scenes and actors, all kinds of temptations and stories, everything imaginable. Your only job is to stay in your seat. You will see it all arise and pass, and out of this, wisdom and understanding will come.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

No Winners

This week I'll be using the Tarot of the Absurd, created and self-published by Jessica Rose Shanahan. I'll also be using another self-published deck, the Post-psychedelic Cyberpunk by Masha Falkov. The draws for today are the Devil and the Glass Bead Game:
          This person is in chains and twisted up like a pretzel. The horns from his head suggest a Pinocchio-like lesson about how our thoughts, words, and actions have consequences. Yet all of us get 'knotted up' by something, usually fear or anger. When that happens, our behavior is reactive and self-serving, designed to make us feel better. But often we end up adding fuel to the emotions that twisted our minds in the first place.
          The Glass Bead Game is an example of how we piece together information like a DJ mixing songs or a quilter combining fabrics. Word of mouth, social media, television and printed media all are in the bowl of beads we choose from. We may choose only what is positive, only what knots us up (the negative), or a combination of both. These two cards encourage us to be careful what we add to our mind when it is running full tilt toward a cliff's edge; there won't be any winner in that game.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Right Action

From the Anna K Tarot, the Five of Wands; from the Meditation Cards, 'Affective Influence:'
          Rather than aggression, this Five of Wands seems to be about clarification - proving that one stance is better than another. Several points of view will be battling it out, and the winner will be based on who has the strongest information and strategy. Yet the Affective (emotional) Influence card hints that our reasoning skills might get muddied:
In your path there is no thorn or weed, but yourself.~ Awhadoddin Kermani
How do we keep our emotions from affecting our decision-making skills? First, we must acknowledge the feeling and recognize it as such. Second, we would do well to follow Lao Tzu's advice:
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?

Friday, May 24, 2019

Seeing the Light, Taking Action

From the Anna K Tarot, Judgment; from the Meditation Cards, 'Self-reflection:'
          Judgment signifies rising from the dark into the light, not in a religious sense, but as a type of awakening. Yet it goes beyond personal insight; it motivates us to take this awareness out into the world in order to give support and expose injustices. Those without courage best stay in the dark. It doesn't mean we have to fix anything or anyone. As Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche explains, "We cannot eliminate all of the challenges or obstacles in life—our own or anyone else’s. We can only learn to rise to the occasion and face them."
          Self-reflection isn't merely self-indulgent contemplation but a look at where we are missing the mark, where we have failed to see from a wide perspective. The quote for this card comes from Dzigar Kongtrül:
Self-reflection is the key to marrying our intention to specific actions.
Checking our intentions is important. Are we simply acting because we are angry and want to be confrontational? Are we disguising help that is actually subtle manipulation to make things the way we want them to be? To create something beneficial with our actions, they need to be tethered to wisdom and compassion.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

River of Hope

From the Anna K Tarot, the Magician; from the Meditation Cards, the 'River of Humanity:'
          The Magician has the power to influence the course of his life using his knowledge and the competent use of his resources. His vision for change is followed by action rather than mentally blending and resorting ideas. He's looking for concrete results rather than a platform as a philosopher. The River of Humanity card is paired with a quote from Hazrat Ali:
Those who are controlled by their lower self must serve it;those who control the lower ego serve others.
What forms the root of the Magician's motivation? Is it to help himself and others, or just for his own benefit? There is nothing wrong with nourishing ourselves, but without spreading that care around we create a society of self-centeredness and separation. Reaching out to help creates hope, as Barack Obama elegantly explained:
The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Common Bonds

From the Anna K Tarot, the Nine of Cups; from the Meditation Cards, 'Compare and Contrast:'
          At first glance, this newly married couple might seem a strange choice for the Nine of Cups, a card that often means a temporary feeling of satisfaction. But married folks know what living with another person is like when the honeymoon wears off and irritations begin to creep in. If the relationship is going to last, we've got to do a lot of work. And that doesn't mean we have to figure out how to keep each other happy; it means discovering joy within ourselves that increases our ability to love each other.
          Compare and Contrast is paired with a quote from Judy Lief:
The habit of faultfinding is part of a larger pattern of insecurity in which we always feel the need to compare ourselves to other people. It is as though we need to convince ourselves that we are okay, which we can only do indirectly, in comparison to people who are less okay.
Using other people to measure our contentment is always a bad idea. It either leaves us feeling superior or inferior. We fail to see the faulty reasoning in comparing our insides with other people's outsides (which likely look just as insecure as ours do). We'd do better to remember our commonalities, as Rumi describes: "What is this competition we feel then, before we go, one at a time, through the same gate?"

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Picking Our Path

From the Anna K Tarot, the Two of Wands; from the Meditation Cards, 'Die Before You Die:'
           When we must choose whether to take the well-traveled path or follow a new one, we struggle. What is familiar is comfortable; we have some experience with what to expect. A new path is filled with the unknown, with results and challenges we have no idea about. It gives us a feeling of groundlessness and being untethered. Yet our feelings aren't always accurate guides to reality. We might miss out because of our fear of the future.
          The Sufi phrase 'die before you die' means that we learn to let go of whatever we're clinging to, whether it is a person, thing, or idea. Releasing gives us the space we need to see with clarity. The quote for this card comes from Stephen Levine:
We are so attached to how we appear in the world, in relationships... But when we do this practice of turning mindfully to the idea that we are going to die, we stop delaying our lives. We start catching up with ourselves.
These two cards are good reminders to look logically rather than fearfully at our choices. Or at least do as Mary Oliver states: "I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?"

Monday, May 20, 2019

Construction Process

From the Anna K Tarot, the Queen of Wands; from the Meditation Cards, 'Focused Listening:'
          This Queen is on the move; her advice is that if you want to create something concrete with your passions, take action. Too much intellectual activity will deplete the progress that can help your project grow. Even her sunflowers need rain and amendments to the soil. Perhaps we worry that things won't work out as planned, which is why we often get stuck in the thinking stage. She reminds us that if we do things differently, then the result will likely be different as well.
          Focused Listening is paired with a quote from Rumi:
The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. 
Any project or undertaking generally requires contact or cooperation with others. Communication problems are caused by selective listening rather than comprehensive listening. We pick out what interests us and discard the rest, ignoring a person's tone or body language. Or, we are so busy with what we are thinking about (often about what we want to say) that we fail to hear important information. Attentive hearing, the Queen would tell us, is part of the construction process. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Breakable Glass Jars

This week I'll be using the Anna K. Tarot, created and self-published by Anna Klaffinger (though now published by Llewellyn). Along with it, I'll be drawing from the Meditation Cards, a deck created and self-published by Asha Greer. All the keywords and quotes for these cards have been added by me. Today's draws are the Six of Swords and 'A Million Pieces:'
          Before we get to this place of leaving (one set of ideas and opinions for openness), we go through lots of anguish and turmoil. We desperately want our mind to find a solution, but we are like a bug inside a glass jar. We grasp for traction and find none, so we move in the circle of the bottom of that jar, over and over. Like Klaffinger's illustration, what lies before us is unfamiliar and quite foggy. But we'll get a better grasp on it when our emotions settle and our feet are on firm ground.
          A Million Pieces is paired with a quote from Roshi Joan Halifax:
The sorrow of great and small losses is a river that runs in the underground of all of our lives. When it breaks to the surface, we might feel as though only “I” know this pain. 
Sometimes we never realize how our beliefs and assumptions have become tightly woven into our identity until they are torn away. Who are we without the security of this label or category? It feels like a loss of something concrete, though the world is much more than the separate groups we create. Even so, it is likely that we'll look for and find a new jar to step into that brings us a feeling of certainty as soon as we find a new set of comfortable ideas.

Saturday, May 18, 2019


From the World Spirit Tarot, the Hierophant; from the Mystic Glyphs, Sex:
 When you are surrounded by people who think you are godlike, and treat you that way, the danger is that after a while you will begin to agree with them. Of course, one would hope that spiritual teachers would not fall into that trap, but obviously some do. ~David Loy

          It used to be that people thought sexual abuse was a Catholic clergy thing. But thanks to social media and women who refused to be silenced and shamed, the world now sees it for the plague it is. It is rampant everywhere, not just in white folks' religion, but inside the indigenous world as well. It spreads beyond the spiritual sphere into the workplace, education and familial patriarchs. It is time to stop romanticizing our teachers and leaders and see them as the fallible humans they are. As Dr. Lobsang Rapgay explains about the offender, "When you’re perpetrating sexual or emotional abuse, you split off a sense of personal responsibility, morality, and empathy." Kick down the pedestals and see with clear eyes. While we need teachers and leaders, we also need to enforce accountability for those in such positions.

The Buddha's Four Reliances
Rely on the teaching, not on the person.
Rely on the meaning, not on the words.
Rely not on what’s cryptic, rely on what’s clear. 
Rely not on opinion, rely on wisdom.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Sensitive Detachment

From the World Spirit Tarot, the Seer (Page) of Cups; from the Mystic Glyphs, the Lizard:
          The Page of Cups, known for being sensitive, caring and intuitive, is based on Pamela Colman Smith (artist for the RWS deck). 'Pixie' often gave her art to causes such as the Suffrage Movement and the Red Cross. Her most famous work - the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot - was completed for very little money. She died penniless, and her drawings and paintings were sold to satisfy her debts. Being kind and generous are wonderful qualities, but people-pleasing to the point of not being adequately paid is something else entirely. The Page has to develop the ability to love without being anyone's doormat.
          The Lizard has a habit of detaching his tail when he's pinned down by a predator. It wiggles and distracts the other animal so it can get away. Likewise, deeply felt emotions can prevent us from what taking needed action unless we figure out how to detach from them. We must restore our sanity if we are to make wise decisions. As Sharon Salzberg explains, "Detachment is not about refusing to feel or not caring or turning away from those you love. Detachment is profoundly honest, grounded firmly in the truth of what is."

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Search

From the World Spirit Tarot, the Hermit; from the Mystic Origins, Sun:
          This Hermit holds a lantern of truth with one hand while extending her other palm upward in a gesture of receptiveness. The booklet encourages: "make room in your life for spiritual matters. Take time alone to reflect and look within." The Sun represents both energy (effort) and clarity and seems to be what lights the Hermit's search. When she uncovers what has been neglected or ignored, she can then take steps to correct her path. There is a little bunny hiding in the shadows at her feet that suggests something good will come from this time of spiritual inventory. Perhaps it is that she will have insights to offer anyone who is also in search of the light.

Spirituality creates willing people who let go of their need to be first, to be right, to be saved, to be superior, and to define themselves as better than other people. ~ Richard Rohr

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Love Like That

From the World Spirit Tarot, the Seeker (Knight) of Cups; from the Mystic Glyphs, Family:

Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, 'You owe me.'
Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky. ~Hafez

          This Knight of Cups reaches for his chalice; he knows love won't just fall in his lap without doing his part. Love as a verb would challenge us, as do Henri Nouwen's questions: "Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone's face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits..." The Family card (representing both blood and 'found' families) suggests that we put our petty differences aside because they are insignificant in the big scheme of things. In the words of Thomas Merton, "We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another."

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

With a Glad Heart

From the World Spirit Tarot, the Seeker (Knight) of Pentacles; from the Mystic Glyphs, Friends:

          This dependable young man is described as someone who "carries out his tasks without complaint and serves others with a glad heart." Adding his qualities to the 'Friends' card makes me contemplate whether I'm as dependable in growing and nurturing friendships. Do I:

  • Use friends as a crisis counselor or therapist primarily, or am I interested in their lives, celebrating their joys and accomplishments?
  • Make excuses for not following through on commitments, or am I loyal and trustworthy (including being able to keep a secret)?
  • Expect my friends to have ESP and know what I need, or do I communicate my feelings and ask for help?
  • Feel threatened when they make major changes in their lives, or do I support them?
  • Expect them to agree with all my opinions and perspectives, or do I still respect them and try to see and learn something from their viewpoint?
  • Talk more than I listen, or do I listen more than I talk?
  • Judge them for not meeting my standards, or do I forgive and consider my own mistakes?
  • Expect them to row the boat of this friendship, or do I take one oar as we make the effort together?

Monday, May 13, 2019

Finish Line

From the World Spirit Tarot, the Sage (King) of Wands; from the Mystic Glyphs, Life:
          This King loves nothing better than a good challenge; it gives him a chance to strategize, form creative solutions and lead a team to victory. A drought of instant successes won't deter him. He's in it for the long haul and is determined to make it to the finish line. His enthusiasm never wanes, which makes him a charismatic guide for those who follow. Yet the Life card might make him pause. It suggests a door letting in fresh air or a mouth taking in a breath. No triumph is ever achieved in a straight line with no rest breaks. And as Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, "It is not the length of life, but depth of life." It's hard to dig deep when you're racing to the finish line.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Recognizing My Limits

This week I'll be using the World Spirit Tarot, published by Llewellyn and created by Jessica Godino and Lauren O'Leary. The oracle deck I'll be pairing with it is the Mystic Glyphs; it was published by Red Wheel and created by Barb Rogers. Today's draws are the Five of Swords and Happiness:

The combination of these two cards remind me of the expression, "Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?" Along these lines, here are some things I'm beginning to recognize:

  • Discussion nurtures relationships but debate can damage them.
  • Being liberal-minded is not the same thing as being open-minded.
  • Sometimes people just want to be heard.
  • Curiosity opens doors while certainty can keep them shut.
  • Disagreeing with someone doesn't mean disliking or hating them.
  • Fixing people is not my job.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Precious Resource

From Tarot Lukumi, the Six of Wands; from the Diloggun Cards, Edi (seven mouths):

          A warrior returns home with a deer that will provide food and hide for his family. There will be no head stuffed to put on a wall, but likely there will be thanks for the resources the deer provided. Heartfelt accolades for a victory come when there is an acknowledgment of the effort and sacrifice made for more than just self-aggrandizement. The ethic and proverb for Edi read:
Ifa: It is a grave tragedy to die young so we pray, “May we be sufficiently ripe before we are eaten up by death; we seek to attain a long life.”
Proverb: Always being in a hurry does not prevent death, neither does going slowly prevent living.
These sayings are a reminder of the precious life we have, whether we are celebrating or grieving. Mary Oliver questions us: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" And the Dalai Lama answers: "Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it, I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others.."

Friday, May 10, 2019

Whipping Post

From the Tarot Lukumi, the Ten of Wands; from the Diloggun Cards, Oshe (5 mouths):
 Sometimes I feel
Like I've been tied
To the whipping post.
~ Allman Brothers

          The booklet describes this card as an altar of sacrifices. Whether we're working toward a goal or simply working toward a better life, we may feel like the Allman Brothers' song. But sometimes challenges help us grow. What may get sacrificed are character liabilities such as arrogance, closed-mindedness, selfishness or laziness. In this case, pushing ourselves beyond our normal comfort zone can help produce character assets.
          The cowrie throw of Oshe (five shells up) is associated with the following ethic and proverb:
Ifa: Unless we resort to caution and discretion, we will miss the blessings of prosperity.
Proverb: Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet.
Oshe suggests that what might get lost as we work are things of value - relationships with family and friends, hobbies, financial stability, common sense or ethical principles. Hard work is not the problem, but it needs to be undertaken with discernment.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Making Space

From Tarot Lukumi, the Queen of Wands; from the Diloggun Cards, Osa (9 mouths):
          The Queen of Wands is symbolized by Oya, described as sensual, beautiful and dreadfully strong. This Orisha is the patron of the marketplace and the cemetery gates, but what she is most known for is controlling the winds - from breezes to cyclones. She is passionate and at the center of change; her warrior nature has no problem prodding or bulldozing when it comes to getting things (or people) moving so that growth can occur.
          The ethic and proverb for Osa (nine shells up) read:
Ifa: One must cease leading themselves to misfortune. One must cease bringing harm upon themselves.
Proverb: Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.
While the Queen would tell us to get in motion, she would also advise that doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is insanity. We should find the root of reactive patterns that create our suffering and dig it up, then plant something new.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Prudence and Preparation

From Tarot Lukumi, Temperance; from the Diloggun Cards, 'Ika' (13 mouths):
          Temperance is illustrated with an ancient Orisha - Olokun, revered as the ruler of all bodies of water. It seems appropriate that the ruler of the oceans would be in this card, as the times when most of us are intemperate are probably when we are under the weight of our emotions. We may be stressed with worry, angry about things we can't control, sad about a great loss or fearful of what lies in the future. It's easy to go to extremes when our emotions have us by the nape of the neck.
          The Diloggun Cards produced Ika (13 shells up):
Ifa: Ifa divination is to be performed so that the forces in one’s life be understood and controlled.
Proverb: Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.
It is interesting that these verses hint that divination is not to resolve us of responsibility in decision-making but to be used as a tool to see our blind spots, become more informed and make better choices. In the words of Benebell Wen, divination "helps us look within ourselves to understand our emotions, the reasoning behind our words and conduct, and the source of our conflicts." 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

This is Your Life

This week I'll be using the Tarot Lukumi, a deck created by Caelum Rainieri, Ivory Andersen and Raphael Montoliu. It is published by Dal Negro and the artwork was done by Luigi Scapini. The oracle deck I'll be using this week is the Diloggun Cards, a digital set created through the use of art by Mase Lobe. Each card is associated with an Ifa ethic as well as a proverb, with information from a book by Ifa Karade called The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts. Today's draws are the Wheel of Fortune and Oyeku (two mouths):
          This card shows the Tablet of Ifa, a divination tool of Orunmila (the spirit of wisdom)that uses nuts. The horse tail whip (iruke) was used to chase away bad energies while the deer antler was associated with Ochosi, the Orisha of justice. It is thought that through sacrifice, bad energies could be changed into good energies. This Wheel of Fortune feels a bit like walking onto the stage of This is Your Life, but with an intervention twist. Life is not all about the luck of the draw; a lot has to do with my attitudes and actions as I navigate the world.
          Oyeku (a throw with two cowrie shells up) is associated with the following ethic and proverb:
Ifa: The prevalence of temper outbursts and cursing are the causes of difficulty in one’s life.
Proverb: Ashes fly back in the face of he who throws them.
Blame, self-justification and rationalization are easily employed when life isn't progressing as I'd like. But the bottom line is that the thoughts I focus on, how I communicate, and my behavior has a lot to do with how the scales are weighted. 

Pure awareness transcends thinking. It allows you to step outside the chattering negative self-talk and your reactive impulses and emotions. It allows you to look at the world once again with open eyes. And when you do so, a sense of wonder and quiet contentment begins to reappear in your life.
~Mark Williams and Danny Penman
Our area had an internet outage for the past four days in case anyone wondered where I've been. :)

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Checking the Compass

From the Wild Unknown Tarot, the Hermit; from the Pictish Oracle, 'Tongs:'
All men should strive
to learn before they die
what they are running from, and to, and why.
~James Thurber
          While the Hermit does represent a time of solitude, it's not about rest and relaxation. Instead, it is a deep dive into our motives and behavior, the patterns we uncover and those we want to change. This self-inventory is not meant for self-denigration nor is its purpose to fertilize the ego. As Pema Chodron explains, "The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently."
          The Tongs symbol was often found on the stones that also had hammer and anvil incisions. This tool allowed the smith to safely grip red-hot metal in a forge and to move and rotate it while it was shaped. Its meaning has to do with detachment - being able to be objective and open-minded rather than getting 'burned' by preferences and prejudices. It takes some practice to be able to do look at oneself objectively and compare it to our personal spiritual compass. But the results are worth it. We may one day make the same discovery as Douglas Adams: "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be."

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

In Living Color

From the Wild Unknown Tarot, the Three of Wands; from the Pictish Oracle, the Eagle:
          The Three of Wands represents an expansion, whether with a career or how someone moves through the world as a whole. It requires an investment, possibly of money and time, but definitely of emotion and effort. The three sticks suggest tying together diverse talents or knowledge to create something sturdy. Now life has gone from black and white to color - it is an exciting experience to see the changes that are beginning to happen.
          The Eagle made ten appearances on class I stones of the Picts. Another name for the eagle was ‘fireun,’ from an Irish root word meaning truth, integrity, or a just man. James Ricklef's words pull together this card and tile: "Every once in a while you need to step back from the details and take a good look at the big picture." It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and not see all the cargo our ship is bringing in. Just as the industrial revolution brought progress in some areas, it also brought pollution and grim working conditions for many of the poor. An honest, objective view with an eye toward what benefits everyone is an idea worth implementing.