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, October 31, 2019

Challenging Assumptions

From the Hoi Polloi Tarot, the Three of Cups; from the I Ching Pack, Fire over Water (hexagram 64):

          "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with," Jim Rohn once stated. Does our group inspire, challenge, and encourage us? Or do they think just like we do, having the same opinions and beliefs about most things? There is an illusion of safety with sameness, but there is also stagnation. If adversity finds its way to our door, wouldn't it be better to have those around us who saw things a bit differently from us, and therefore might be able to add to our potential solutions? The Fire over Water hexagram is assigned the keyword 'transition.' It alludes to a time when things seem chaotic and confusing because we are dealing with something we haven't dealt with before. That eclectic bunch of friends could offer us support and a tether as we ride out the rapids. The churning waters won't last, but it's nice to know someone is keeping an eye on us.

Differences challenge assumptions.     
~Anne Wilson Schaef

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Wide Open

From the Hoi Polloi Tarot, Judgment; from the I Ching Pack, Earth over Earth (hexagram 2):
          We all live life inside our little box of assumptions, personal beliefs, and opinions. We feel some degree of control and smugness there, thinking we know what's what. But at some point, those boxes get pried open and we experience a 360-degree view of life very different than what we thought we knew. It's like the reporter who idealizes a soldier's life along the lines of Captain America until he goes into the war zone himself. As much as we'd like to crawl back into those cozy, complacent boxes, they just don't fit anymore. The Earth over Earth hexagram emphasizes receptivity, not in a defeatist way, but with an attitude of devotion and quiet, enduring strength. Seeing reality clearly without wanting to hide or explain it away is not always easy, but it's easier to deal with it when our eyes and minds are wide open.

Instead of getting better and better at avoiding, learn to accept the present moment as if you had invited it, and work with it instead of against it, and making it your ally rather than your enemy.
—Pema Chodron

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Allies Acknowledged

From the Hoi Polloi Tarot, the Six of Wands; from the I Ching Pack, Wood over Mountain (hexagram 53):
 This is the person you think is your antagonist, who ends up being your greatest ally: the person who pushes, criticizes, and challenges you to meet a standard of excellence you might not otherwise achieve. Bonnie Hammer

          It's nice to feel like we've accomplished something or successfully met a challenge. It's even nicer when we remember all the people who encouraged us and helped us along the way to get to this point. Those laurel wreaths belong to them as much as anyone else. Hexagram 53's key phrase is "Growing Slowly," which fits well with the elemental name of Wood over Mountain. A tree on a mountain gets the worst of all the weather; it needs some nurturing and protection to survive. That fellow riding triumphantly on his horse should show appreciation to his comrades and keep them close. What has been planted will need more than one person to help care for it as well as those with the knowledge and skill to do it. 

I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world. ― Fred Rogers

Monday, October 28, 2019

Celebrate with Intention

From the Hoi Polloi Tarot, the Four of Wands; from the I Ching Pack, Thunder over Fire (hexagram 55):

          It's been my experience that most every day has something to celebrate. Maybe not in a block party or rite of passage sort of way, but in the small joys and wonders that get hidden in the ordinary. But it requires intention and attention to discover these things in our day to day lives. Thunder over Fire (hexagram 55) represents abundance that is enjoyed and shared with others. There is an acknowledgment that there will be an ebb and flow, that this auspicious state won't last for eternity. Yet it doesn't matter - today is a day to celebrate what is.

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.
Tao Te Ching, chapter 44

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Juggling, Tap-dancing Mode

This week I'll be using the Hoi Polloi Tarot published by Hoi Polloi Inc. The oracle I'll also use is the I Ching Pack created by Richard Gill and Anthony Clark, and published by Thorsons. Today's cards are Two of Pentacles and 'Lake over Lake' (hexagram 58):

          There are times when I must juggle multiple tasks, but before I do, it might be best to ask whether guilt or approval-seeking is pushing me to take on some of them. I can handle a few obligations well, and many poorly. Quantity (how much I do) doesn't really matter when the quality of what I've done sucks. And when I'm in that frenzied, tap dancing and juggling mode, the one responsibility I often overlook is taking care of myself. As Michelle Obama put it, "We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list." Hexagram 58 (Lake over Lake) suggests unusual depth and clarity which describes "Truth and true friends - two joys that bring delight and success." Objective honesty that comes from those who love me can help me see past my juggling to what's actually important and necessary. That kind of clarity can generally whittle that 'to-do' list down to something much more manageable.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Let's Get Crackin'

From the Wayfarer Tarot, the King of Fire (Wands); from the Curious Oracle, Green Woman (Nature):

          "Let's get crackin', this is happening, and no one's napping until we're done." This King, standing on a hill as he supervises his latest project, likes to create and construct. His favorite part of the process is seeing the completion of his vision - he believes in having a timetable and doesn't approve of slackers. He'd heartily agree with Pearl Buck: "I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that." Yet the Green Woman card is an admonition for moving at the pace of Nature. Humans aren't machines and projects rarely get finished without a few snafus along the way. People need time for rest and play to be productive, which will also give their minds a chance to unwind and come up with some solutions without being hampered by stress.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Nurturers

From the Wayfarer Tarot, the Empress; from the Curious Oracle, Apple Blossom (Renewal):
 I vow not to harm but to nurture all life.
~Buddhist precept

          A verse from Matthew 6:21 popped into my head this morning with today's cards: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." It's easy to tell what people value by what they nurture and spend time with. It may be other people, animals, plants or the earth itself. This world needs those unconditional nurturers - their care and compassion renews the spirit and reminds us all to be kind. As many wise people have said, others may forget what you said or did, but they won't forget how you made them feel.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Fertilizer Check

From the Wayfarer Tarot, the Seven of Earth; from the Curious Oracle, Dragon (Prosperity):
          This fellow seems to be taking stock of his garden. At first glance, it appears to be growing well as the plants are so tall. But the root system is too small for such a large plant. He needs to do a fertilizer check. Nitrogen is essential for the protein that makes up plant tissue and produces lush leaves (check). Phosphorus is used by a plant to help with photosynthesis, increase fruit development and to produce a strong root system. (Might need to add that.) Potassium strengthens a plant's ability to resist disease, protects the plant when the weather is cold or dry, and strengthens its root system. (Another he might need to add.) Just because things look whole and hearty on the outside, doesn't necessarily mean they are below the surface. A good assessment will consider more than just appearances. The Dragon might suggest a quote from Aristotle: "Learning is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age." While we might be willing to put forth an effort, we need reliable information to guide us in the right direction.


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Every Life a Legacy

From the Wayfarer Tarot, the Ace of Water (Cups); from the Curious Oracle, Gull (Journey):
          A crack opens in the dry earth, sending up a stream of water and a rose. We've had drought conditions here for months, but a recent rain lasting several days brought the precipitation we needed to avoid the death of many plants, trees, and shrubs. Similarly, a small act of love can nourish and sustain others. It can be hard to reach out and offer unconditional kindness and compassion - it makes us vulnerable if our love is rejected or when the recipient eventually dies. But the welling up of joy that comes from being willing to offer love is worth the cost; this is what produces emotional fulfillment in our lives. The Gull represents a journey, and like most journeys, relationships of any kind never move in a straight, unerring line. Unlike the gull, relationships have no destination to be reached but daily aspirations to guide us. Oprah once told Maya Angelou that the school she built for girls in Africa would be her legacy. Maya replied that her legacy would be every life she touched - it had nothing to do with buildings or institutions.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Cooperative Collaboration

From the Wayfarer Tarot, the Three of Earth; from the Curious Oracle, Mask:
          The Three of Earth shows three panes of glass fitted beautifully into one window. Teamwork requires people who know that they depend on others to help them do their work. There is no room for puffed-up egos when there are tasks that need to be completed and done well. The Mask suggests that the jealousy and resentment of self-centeredness can often be hidden until it comes out in snarky remarks or passive-aggressive behavior. Those behaviors and attitudes can tank any cooperation, no matter how skilled or knowledgeable the individual members of a group. Better to hammer out the opposing views before picking up a hammer to do any work.

Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is
to overcome our need for invulnerability. – Patrick Lencioni

Monday, October 21, 2019

Little Things Do Matter

From the Wayfarer Tarot, Justice; from the Curious Oracle, Gargoyle (Guardian):

Every Little Thing

if every little thing that you did
made a difference
would you do things
a little different?

if every thing that you said
built the world
would you be the sacred keeper
of your word?

would you believe me
if I told you
you’re the reason
we are here?

would there be meaning
to your breathing
if your exhale
made the air?

~Climbing PoeTree

I believe firmly that every human has rights, but more importantly, we have responsibilities. I must guard and protect the Earth and its inhabitants in whatever way I can. Though I am limited in power, it makes no sense to give up the little I do have in despair because I don't have more. I can vote; I can speak up when I hear the truth twisted and present the facts (even if that might not change minds), and I can interrupt people who spout hate-filled philosophy as if I agree with them and explain why I don't. Little things do matter.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Communicating with My Inner Beast

This week I'll be using the self-published Wayfarer Tarot, created by Stacy Salpietro-Babb with Margaret Shipman. I'll also be drawing from A Curious Oracle, self-published and created by Holly DeFount. Today's draws are Strength and Memento Mori:
          I love the fearlessness and childlike wonder shown in this Strength card. I am convinced that when we have this kind of relationship with our instincts, we relate better to the world around us. I must learn to pay attention to the subtle physical clues in my body and the undercurrent in my mind, which is how my 'lion' communicates. Then I will recognize when I'm letting someone cross my boundaries, when I'm taking myself too seriously, or when I've mistakenly assumed I'm entitled to a smooth life with no problems or challenges. If I don't, the raging beast will make itself known so that I can't help but notice what I've been ignoring. The Memento Mori ('remember death') card is a reminder of the impermanence of life, that endings come for all beings. All around me on a daily basis is a reminder that things change, from the turn of the seasons to the gray hairs multiplying on my head. My lion would ask me to pause, notice, and appreciate; to make amends, forgive, and practice gratitude. Without these, grief unleashed can be a harder beast to tame.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Incomparable

From the Spirit Within Tarot, the Page of Cups; from the Answer Deck, Jealousy:
Jealousy is the tie that binds, and binds, and binds. 
~Helen Rowland

The Page of Cups is ruled by his heart rather than his head, which is probably why he tends to pay attention to his intuition. By using the unconscious information stored in his body and mind, he can make quick decisions without analytical thought. One day he'll be the go-to guy when the company needs a brainstorming session to work out some solutions, but for now, he has to manage all those hormones and emotional surges as best he can. Does he ever get jealous of his cousins who are guided by their passion, intellect or practical natures? The Jealousy card would implore him to save his energy on comparing himself to others. He might not have their talents, but he is unique in his own abilities even though he'll have to grow into them. 

At bottom every man knows well enough that he is a unique being, only once on this earth; and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvelously picturesque piece of diversity in unity as he is, ever be put together a second time.     
~Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, October 18, 2019

Note to Self

From the Spirit Within Tarot, the Fool; from the Answer Deck, Strength:
To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.
~Soren Kierkegaard 

          The Fool brings great potential and a multitude of possibilities to the fore. He has such an inner urge to try a new path that his adrenaline rush does not produce fear but excitement. His instincts (the dog), based on all the old conditioned ways of doing things, watches but does not interfere. The Fool may experience a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, but his life will be fuller and he'll gain a larger, more complete perspective by taking this chance. Strength in the form of Atlas shows up to give the Fool a boost. The kind of strength he'll need is resilience - persistence that is also flexible and adaptable.

Note to self: every time you were convinced you couldn’t go on, you did.
― Unknown

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Mastery Through Adaption

From the Spirit Within Tarot, the Three of Pentacles; from the Answer Deck, Bad News:
          The Three of Pentacles is about the combination of skills, knowledge, and resources that can create a well-respected team. Each person has a part to play, and while they each may offer suggestions, they stay in their own lane rather than tell someone else how to do their job. The end result is something they all will have had a hand in accomplishing. Yet Bad News shows up on the doorstep. Is there any project that sails through without any bumps or unforeseen problems? Very rarely, I would imagine. I can pitch a hissy fit or sit down and sob, but neither of those will help to solve the issue. It's time to take a beat, breathe and get grounded. Clear, calm thinking will come up with some alternatives.

What is malleable is always superior
to that which is immovable.
This is the principle of controlling things
by going along with them,
of mastery through adaptation.
~ Lao-Tzu

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Rock Bottom

From the Spirit Within Tarot, the Tower; from the Answer Deck, Vulnerable:
You can't build a great building on a weak foundation. 
~Gordon B. Hinckley

          We can become very myopic when we fear something, and so we find a thing or person that we think will protect us from it. The safeguard we choose becomes the bricks and cement of the tower we build. It might be education, a relationship, a career, religion, therapy or a certain mindset. But pinning all of our hopes on this one thing creates an imbalanced foundation for our lives; time changes everything, even that tower of protection we worked so hard to build. When it crumbles, it doesn't mean our choice was wrong, just our expectation of it. The Vulnerable card, however, alerts us to a danger when we find ourselves flattened by a turn of life. We may seek out the first 'sure cure' we can find and buy,  be it a prayer cloth, a magical quartz crystal, or the advice of someone who can talk to angels. Yet this behavior is simply a way to rebuild our wall; we'd do better to use what happened as a way to expand our perspective and awareness. In the words of J.K. Rowling, "Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Box Full of Darkness

From the Spirit Within Tarot, the Three of Swords; from the Answer Deck, Wisdom:
Wisdom has to do with seeing clearly, seeing things as they are, that is, coming to terms with the way things are. —Larry Rosenberg

          There's no way around experiencing some deeply felt hurts of the heart for humans. The event itself can be crushing, but then we relive it over and over in the mind, adding immense suffering to that strange mix of anger and grief. Yet the Wisdom card suggests a way to deal with our hurt, beginning with acceptance rather than suppression or revenge. We are relational beings, and so we must find a healthy way to relate to this reality we don't want. We can't change other people, but we can look at our own choices and see if we can make better ones. Surely the rest of our life doesn't need to revolve around this sorrow and resentment. We can make better use of our minds by acknowledging the pain but realizing it is actually a small part of the whole of our life, even though it may feel huge at the moment. 

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift. – Pema Chödrön

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Building Cycle

From the Spirit Within Tarot, the Four of Wands; from the Answer Deck, Destruction:

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.      
~Pablo Picasso

          In the Four of Wands, a firm foundation has been built - a new beginning that is worthy of celebration. But, as Picasso states, the ground must be cleared first. If we are planting a crop, we must clear the field. We go to therapy to help us heal our old wounds and unskillful behavior patterns in order to build healthy relationships. No foundation will be stable otherwise, yet it is still subject to change.

Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.
~John Muir

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Yard Therapy

This week I'll be using the Spirit Within Tarot, created by Steven Bright and published by Schiffer. I'll also be drawing from the Answer Deck, created by Nicky Zann and published by Running Press. Today's draws are the Ace of Wands and Communication:
          Like the symbol of the blazing sun on the horizon, the Ace of Wands is the seed of energy that inspires and motivates us to take action. It reminds me of the handles of all the yard tools I've been wielding lately, trying to repair my yard from the damage it endured. I'm trying not to be overly enthusiastic though, or I'll be repairing my body instead. I'm just focusing on one small section at a time. The Communication card suggests that no matter how independent I might like to think I am, I still require the skills and help of others when I'm working on something. Today I have a date with a machete to clear the brush from where the HVAC presently is and from where it will be moved after the ductwork gets replaced in the attic (which starts tomorrow). But I will keep in mind my limits and ask for any assistance I might need.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Live and Let Live

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Eight of Cups; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, Scholar:
          The RoA companion booklet suggests this card means we need to "learn how to move freely within and between the seasons that come to us." In other words, enjoy where we are but realize things will change. Relationships are a good example of impermanence; dear friends and lovers don't always continue as such. The tricky part of such change is learning to accept and adapt without dragging a suitcase full of blame and resentment with us. The Scholar is based on Confucius who believed that while common sense was good, study and practice should be a part of everyone's life. This sage once wrote: "The courses of the seasons, and of the sun and moon, are pursued without any collision among them." Even if our beliefs and opinions diverge, we need to live and let live without causing harm to each other.

We have no handle on truth. The same sun that shines for all people casts its light on me. That which you have drawn from it to give you life takes nothing away from my life.
~Grapevine, August 1983

Friday, October 11, 2019

Spiritual Abundance

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Six of Pentacles; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, Mushroom:

          The RoA booklet calls the Six of Pentacles 'Spiritual Abundance.' If we feel we have all that we need and more, then it is much easier to be generous. Yet this is actually a state of mind, cultivated by gratitude, not possessions. We may have enough resources to be comfortable, but if this is unacknowledged, we're unlikely to want to share anything. The Mushroom was seen as something bizarre and out of the ordinary, so it represented being unconventional. In the atmosphere of today's world, we've been led to believe people should be worthy before we dole out our time, money or energy. But maybe it's time to take a nontraditional tack when it comes to being generous.

This is a day to practice compassion, opening the heart.
This is a day to practice kindness, benefitting all.
This is a day to practice attention, welcoming what comes.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Afflictive Emotions

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, Strength; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, Pine:

Recognizing and transforming destructive emotions is the heart of spiritual practice. 
~Daniel Goleman

          In the Buddhist view, destructive emotions are those that disturb one’s internal equilibrium, while healthy ones foster equilibrium of the mind. Afflictive emotions (like hatred, greed, fear, etc.) arise unintended (and without our control) and then get attached to the stories we tell about them. These stories make things worse, never better. But research shows that we can use mindfulness meditation to change the familiar paths our mind takes to something different, thanks to neuroplasticity. Instead of altered states (temporary bliss), we get altered traits (insights that help stabilize those emotions). Pine, because it is able to withstand storms, symbolizes resoluteness - the ability to set one's purpose and follow through with determination. Retraining the brain requires systematic, repeated experiences (just as if we were learning a skill). Scientists are learning that long-term meditation practice makes enduring, positive changes in the brain. Nothing worth having comes without effort, right?                                                 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Conditional Gifts

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Seven of Pentacles; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, North:
 Corn is, as farmers say, a greedy plant, requiring more nitrogen fertilizer than any other crop—nitrogen that runs off the fields into the water and has created a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that is now the size of New Jersey. It also requires more pesticides, so all that corn we’re growing is polluting the environment. ~Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma

           Though the Seven of Pentacles is usually an assessment of how things are developing, it is also a warning about patience and mindfulness. Cutting corners may get you to the goal faster, but the quality of what is being created can be affected. So perhaps it is also an evaluation of the means we are using to get to our end. The North card is associated with cold winds and thus implies a drain on resources. In our effort to get what we want, what will be the ultimate cost?

There are no sacred and unsacred places; there are only sacred and desecrated places. My belief is that the world and our life in it are conditional gifts. ~Wendell Berry

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Soup of Bowls

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Seven of Cups; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, Commence:
          There are a lot of faces and fish swimming around in this soup of bowls. Our imagination can come up with any number of possibilities for happiness, but what will be emotionally fulfilling in the long run?  It is easy to fall under the spell of the values that our society and the media proclaim rather than taking the time to determine our own core values. At some point, we'll get uncomfortable enough to choose something and hope for the best. The Commence card suggests movement in the real world rather than just shuffling ideas around. If we've made a wrong choice, we can acknowledge it and deal with it. Then we begin the process of choosing again, hopefully with a little hindsight.

The measure of choosing well, is, whether a man likes and finds good in what he has chosen.
~Charles Lamb


Monday, October 7, 2019

Tossing Overboard

From the Roots of Asia Tarot, the Six of Swords; from the Mah Jongg Oracle, Orchid:

          Sometimes it's not what we think about that makes us so miserable, it's how we think about it. Here are six patterns of thinking (our swords) we might consider tossing overboard:
  1. Confirmation bias means we filter out anything that we don’t expect to find and focus on any small detail that seems to back up our assumptions.
  2. Black and white thinking causes us to rigidly categorize people or situations as all good or all bad with nothing in between.
  3. Overgeneralization happens when we take one bad experience and paint similar people and situations with the same brush even though we have no evidence they are actually the same.
  4. ‘Awfulizing’ makes us inflate small incidents into something huge, imagining the worst-case scenario.
  5. Mind-reading occurs when we presume to have information about someone without asking for clarification.
  6. Superstitious thinking means we mistakenly attribute connections between events or things where none exist – a normal incident becomes an omen for something good or bad.
The Orchid represents refinement - the process of removing impurities or unwanted elements. In connection with the Six of Swords, it is a reminder not to believe everything we think without looking for factual evidence, examining all sides of a situation, and asking for clarification