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, February 20, 2020

Self-Regulation

From the Ship of Fools Tarot, the King of Cups; from the Wisdom of the Four Winds, Limestone:

          The King of Cups always makes me think of emotional sobriety. When other people run around screaming that the sky is falling, he knows how to stay calm and respond skillfully. It's not that he's a naturally chill sort of guy; he's just aware of his emotions and how they can push him to respond in ways that aren't always helpful. We all have our patterns: aggressive (pushing back at what we don't want), submissive (going along while feeling resentful), and dispersive (staying busy so we can pretend ignorance). But the King would tell us none of these are particularly beneficial at solving or adapting to what is making us crazy. Limestone is a sedimentary rock that water frequently erodes over many years to form caves. Many fossils are found here as well. This stone can offer us sanctuary if we use it to see our emotional habits that condition our actions and then choose to begin the work of changing them. As the King offers his cup to the Fool, he reminds him that it's not easy but it's worth it.

The ability to self-regulate, to bring ourselves into balance, is key to emotional sobriety.
~Tian Dayton

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Penny Saved

From the Ship of Fools Tarot, the Four of Coins; from the Wisdom of the Four Winds, Sparrow:

          This card appears to show a scam artist who has shown up, looking to sell something not worth buying at an inflated price. Instead of being stingy, he could display wise money management by saying 'no' and closing the door, ignoring the hard sell. The house sparrow may not sport the bright colors of many birds, but like many people who live simply, he is resourceful. Nests might just as likely be built behind shop signs as in a bush. These birds may be found at backyard feeders or picking insects off the grills of cars in a parking lot. Both these cards advise the habit of saving (and being creative) rather than spending.

The habit of saving is itself an education; it fosters every virtue, teaches self-denial, cultivates the sense of order, trains to forethought, and so broadens the mind.
—T.T. Munger

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Changing Our Lens

From the Ship of Fools Tarot, the World; from the Wisdom of the Four Winds, Kiore (Rat):

          The Fool appears weighted down by the World on his shoulders, but it likely comes from a new perspective that gives him a more complete understanding. When we see others through the lens of separation and exclusivity, it is easy to feel superior and judge our ways and opinions as the right ones. But when we cease to view life this way and use the lens of inclusivity, we see that we are alike in many ways (our hopes, fears, etc.) and recognize our interconnection. That is a knee-bending epiphany if ever there was one. The Kiore/Rat card parallels this idea. The Maori didn't judge the rat for how it affected them but admired it for the way it took care of its relations - laying scent markers to food sources and joining bodies to cross a stream. We can focus on what we dislike or what is admirable in most anything, but only one of these views will help us see from a wider viewpoint.

We're smarter and more innovative when we're diverse.
~Julie Sweet

Monday, February 17, 2020

It's About Me

From the Ship of Fools Tarot, Judgment; from the Wisdom of the Four Winds, Water:
 Putting out of our minds the wrongs that others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened? Fear set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn't deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling? ~ AA basic text

          A plague of locusts and frogs descends on the Fool. Like most folks, he will complain that this is unfair and undeserved then immediately start pointing out the faults of others. I thought of our current President who is excellent at deflecting and distracting, but this too is simply a diversion for not looking at my own stuff. I can't change other people, but I can change my thoughts and actions and the misery they will inevitably cause. The Water card is associated with cleansing, and in relation to Judgment, it makes me think of forgiveness. As Gina Sharpe reminds me, "Forgiveness is really not about someone’s harmful behavior; it’s about our own relationship with our past. When we begin the work of forgiveness, it is primarily a practice for ourselves."

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Closer of Further

This week I'll be using the Ship of Fools Tarot created by Brian Williams and published by Llewellyn. Paired with it will be the Wisdom of the Four Winds created by Barry Brailsford, illustrated by Cecilie Okada and published by StonePrint Press. Today's draws are the Six of Cups and Pohutukawa:

          Could a Fool resist an invitation to play? No more than a fish could refuse to be in water. This Six of Cups is a reminder that having fun isn't just for children - adults need to remember how much it can help relieve stress and lighten one's outlook. The two cards in the Cups suit before the Six show burnout and sadness, and although time can help with both, a bit of play can help us remember the joy of living. The Pohutukawa, found on the windswept coasts of New Zealand, is sacred to the Maori people. On Cape Reinga, an ancient tree sits on a rocky outcrop that extends into the sea. The dead are said to move down its roots to make the journey to their ancestral home. "Begin again," the Pohutukawa might tell us when we feel we can't go on. And perhaps a little less seriousness can help us do that.

At any moment, you have a choice, that either leads you closer to your spirit or further away from it. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Common Bonds

From the Margarete Petersen Tarot, the Three of Cups; from the roll of the Elemental Dice, Tornado (Air + Darkness):
There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other. 
~J. K. Rowling

          Whether through something we've endured, a challenge met together, or a love shared, we find common bonds and develop friendships. Tribes help us honor what is lost or celebrate what has been gained; they help open our hearts and minds to multiple viewpoints. These groups can provide a sense of well-being as long as they remain inclusive, considerate and compassionate. Yet the Tornado pairing suggests that these priceless friendships can easily be destroyed. Past grievances, petty irritations, and unreasonable expectations can be just as destructive as the winds of this storm. These mindsets only destroy and never nourish or sustain.

Thoughts of “we” connect us, reminding us of our common humanity. Our individual sufferings are seen as being shared by others, and as being part of the difficulties we all have in being human. Our sufferings are not a sign of us being broken, but of us belonging to a greater whole. Our sufferings connect us with others, rather than pushing us into a sense of separateness.
—Bodhipaksa

Friday, February 14, 2020

A Third Option

From the Margarate Petersen Tarot, the Two of Flames (Wands); from the roll of the Elemental Dice, Lightning (Air + Fire):

          Between a Moon and a Sun, two figures embrace. The Twos are about choice; in this card, we choose the alliances and purpose that spur us to action. Will we be receptive like the Moon, or assertive like the Sun? Will we serve our own desires or consider those of others? In which direction will our drive and determination be steered? The Lightning roll implies an epiphany or inspiration - rather than either/or, it offers a third option.  In Buddhism, prajna (wisdom) is perceiving the true nature of reality. It's like looking everywhere for our glasses, then suddenly realizing they are on the top of our head. Such discernment helps eliminate the pull of emotions, opinions, and attachments in order to see what is needed.

Once we perceive, we habitually jump to thoughts and feelings about what is being perceived. These thoughts and feelings, rooted in past experiences and conditioning, then influence the mood of our mind. When perception, thoughts, and feelings are repeated or imprinted through experiences, they solidify into view or belief. Ruth King

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Ripples of Grief

From the Margarete Petersen Tarot, the Five of Cups; from the roll of the Elemental Dice, Earthquake (Darkness + Earth):

          Grief ripples out, like the drops of water in the lake. No matter where we are, what we are doing, or who we are with, we are constantly reminded of the person we loved and lost. Those ripples seem to go on infinitely, but eventually, we may notice the good memories outweigh the heaviness of the hurt. Compassion comes when we realize our drops are a part of a huge body of pain shared by all humanity. Earthquake speaks of a shake-up, something that gets our attention. What gets your attention when your heart is heavy? What helps you to see beyond the hurt?

Grief is a sign that we loved something more than ourselves. . . . Grief makes us worthy to suffer with the rest of the world. ~Joan Chittister

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Seed Sowing Time

This week I'll be using the Margarete Petersen Tarot, created by M. Petersen and published by Königs Furt. The oracle I'll be using is the Elemental Dice, an idea developed by my good friend Carole Beasley. Today's card and dice roll are the Ace of Coins and Land (Earth + Earth):

          In the center of this card lies a seed surrounded by a serpent. The seed represents the potential inherent in this earthy, physical suit and the coiled snake implies the energy and effort required to plant it and nourish it. As if to back up this push to action, Land suggests being grounded in reality followed by a concrete response rather than simply dreaming and planning. The possibilities of this particular seed will eventually dry up if it isn't cultivated. But it would be wise to heed the words of Gandhi as we work the soil:

It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there will be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.
~ Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Spaciousness

From the Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, Soaring (Nine of Air/Swords); from the Saltwater Reading Cards, Coral:
          The traditional Nine of Swords shows a woman in a bed waking up from a nightmare (or being unable to sleep because of worries). It illustrates how our emotions and thoughts can create disturbing stories that appear to be real. But Palin's card shows the solution - to rise above those thoughts and seek a spacious, wider perspective. There are many more possibilities than what I create with my limited thinking. Coral are marine animals that secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton. Not only does this hard structure help protect them, it also acts as a refuge for other ocean animals. Its ability to create its own stronghold reminds me that I too have an inner source I can tap into when I need to ground and center myself.

 Mind’s nature has two qualities: a sense of spaciousness, expansiveness, or totality, and a vivid, wakeful awareness. —Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Friday, February 7, 2020

Changing Tides

From the Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, Visionary Spirit (Hermit); from the Saltwater Reading Cards, Tides:
Your problems won’t change; only you can change. That’s the point.
—Gento Steve Krieger 

          This young lady looks perturbed, yet she is doing what most of us forget to do when we feel like life is closing in on us. She sits in stillness; the key she holds is what she will discover when her mind and body pause. Lately, it has felt as if everyone required too much of her, offering little help to handle all of the obligations. But in the calmness, she might see that on some level, she enjoys people depending on her as it boosts her self-worth and gives her a feeling of purpose. She may have given the impression (verbally or through omission) that she can deal with it all while ignoring her own needs. As the muddy water settles, it becomes clear that she has had a hand in creating this situation. She is no Wonder Woman. The Tides card is a reminder that life ebbs and flows. There will be times when we are required to carry more than our usual load, but it will not always be so. It takes practice, but when life slows, we should too. Neurotic busyness is an easy habit to make but not so easy to break.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Repairing Nets

From the Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, Sensitive Spirit/Mother Two Moons (Moon); from the Saltwater Reading Cards, Oyster:
          It doesn't take much to trigger a mood or an emotion when something awakens what has been stored away in the unconscious. We are under a Red Alert warning today, meaning a threat of severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash flooding, and straight-line winds. Having been battered in succession by straight-line winds, a tornado, a hurricane, and flooding over the past couple of years, the folks in my area can easily slide from precaution into fear and paranoia. Yet Oyster is a reminder that we all must deal with some grit as no one is excluded from unwelcome news or events. But I have a choice to let that grit rub me raw or to create a pearl by making the best of a bad situation.

When fishermen cannot go to sea, they repair nets.
― Nabil Sabio Azadi

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Do You Hear What You're Saying?

From Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, the Trickster/Page of Air (Wands); from the Saltwater Reading Cards, Turtle:
          The trickster side of the Page of Air is not meant to trick us as a form of punishment, but to help us learn to think before we speak, be succinct, and spend more time listening. This Page is aware that people often react rather than respond and seldom take the time to use discernment in what they say. The Page will then reflect back the words to us, showing how we lacked mindfulness of speech. When my toddler was able to reach doorknobs, I would be afraid she would pinch her fingers opening and closing the doors. I would say "watch your fingers" and she would stop what she was doing and literally look at her fingers. Instinct, shown by the newly hatched sea turtles racing towards the water, emphasizes that sometimes we don't have a lot of time to think out what we say - we must respond bluntly and assertively. We don't explain or excuse, we simply speak our truth firmly and plainly.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Appreciation Rather Than Appropriation

From the Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, the Shapeshifter/Page of Fire (Wands); from the Saltwater Reading Cards, Sea Anemones:
          Using an older person as a Page is unusual, but having a desire to explore life in new and different ways doesn't have an age stamp on it. And a shapeshifter would have the opportunity to experience life through the bodies of various animals, seeing and feeling as they do. While this option isn't available for the vast majority, we can enjoy learning about and visiting other cultures and places. Yet the sting of Sea Anemones implies we may want to respect the boundaries and beliefs of others. In the book Holy Envy, Barbara Brown Taylor suggests looking but not poaching. And though she speaks of appropriation from a religious viewpoint, it applies to cultural pilfering as well: "I have learned that possessing an artifact is not the same as possessing the spiritual reality it represents. The things I envy have their own terroir [unique environment], their own long histories of weather and fertilization. They do not exist to serve me, improve me, or profit me. They have their own dominion." Cultural sensitivity means respectful appreciation - avoiding stereotypes, acknowledging origins and refusing to use sacred artifacts for accessories.

Monday, February 3, 2020

A Star Among Stars

From the Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, the Five of Fire (Wands)/Blaze; from the Saltwater Reading Cards, Manta Ray:
          Americans seem to be trained from an early age to make an effort to shine brighter than anyone else. We grow to hate having our way of doing things questioned, much less replaced by something new. So it's no wonder that we resist the brightness of others when it means we might be in the shadows. The Manta Ray has been given a bad rep because of its size (up to 23 ft. in width) and the shape of its body (giving it the nickname 'devilfish'). But these creatures of the deep are actually curious and friendly, not dangerous. The misinformation about them is similar to the training of young minds who are warned to eschew humility and cooperation for being number one. But competition isn't all that's advertised; anyone who's lived this lifestyle and mindset knows that it's only a matter of time before one's pedestal is knocked over. On the other hand, a multitude of stars will create much more light than just one. 

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
– Booker T. Washington

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Interrelated Structure

This week I'll be using Poppy Palin's Waking the Wild Spirit Tarot, published by Llewellyn, along with the 2nd edition of her companion book, Stories of the Wild Spirit, published by Slippery Jacks Press. I'll also be drawing from the Saltwater Reading Cards, created by Laura Bowen and published by Rockpool Publishing. Today's cards are the Dance of Life/Web of Fate (Wheel of Fortune) and Rockpool:

          Palin's description of the Wheel as being web-like points out that we do not move through our seasons in this world without altering what is around us. That interconnection is why it is so important for me to consider not just how my response to the changes and challenges of life will affect me as time passes, but the effect it will have on my web-mates as well. It also reminds me of karma, not the Hindu definition of it, but as Andrew Olendzki describes it: "It is common to think of karma as a sort of fate to which we are subjected, but it is more central to the Buddha’s message that karma is the opportunity we have each moment to choose what sort of person we are to become next." The habits I reinforce or change today will determine who I become in the not-too-distant future, and those patterns will either benefit or harm those around me. Rockpool, carved out over many years by the ocean's waves, provides a place of refuge from the pounding of the surf for organisms such as clams, mussels, and starfish. This card asks me to consider what I'm weaving with my life: a barrier to protect only myself and those I care about or a place of healing and nurturing for all.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Tea Time

From the Idiosyncradeck, the Seven of Cups; from the Mixed Emotions Cards, Confident:

          Black tea, green tea, chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint... the list of available teas seems to be limitless. The Seven of Cups is that moment of decision when we consider what will fulfill us and then pursue it. It may seem simple until we have to make that choice ourselves, then we may be plagued with 'buts' and 'what ifs.' The words of Bill Wilson offer some wisdom:

Wise men and women rightly give a top rating to the virtue of prudence. They know that without this all-important attribute little wisdom is to be had. Mere ‘looking before we leap’ is not enough. If our looking is charged with fear, suspicion, or anger, we had better not have looked or acted at all.

But once we decide, with discernment and a sense of peace, we should take that leap as the Confident card illustrates. But what if we later find we still made the wrong decision? Bill again offers some advice:

We lose the fear of making decisions, great and small, as we realize that should our choice prove wrong we can, if we will, learn from the experience.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Secret Histories

From the Idiosyncradeck, the Six of Cups; from the Mixed Emotions Cards, Jealous:

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

          The Six of Cups shows a table set for a tea party, perhaps nostalgic for some but not for me. I definitely didn't have that kind of childhood. However, that doesn't mean I don't have any good memories of growing up. My good times involved being outside in wide-open spaces or learning to create with scraps and discarded items. I won't say that I didn't envy the lives of other children; I remember desperately wanting to be adopted by my best friend's family in elementary school. But age and working with others has given me a wider perspective. Those lives that look so perfect on the outside, with big houses and fancy cars, often hide a lot of fear, misery, and grief on the inside.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Outlook Murky

From the Idiosyncradeck, the Moon; from the Mixed Emotions Cards, Exhausted:
          A full moon rises over an undefined landscape; even at its brightest, it fails to clearly illuminate what lies below it. My mind does not care for vague boundaries, ambiguous instructions or blurry obligations. It responds by setting up a structure of expectations that are often rigid and perfectionistic with a timer counting down the remaining minutes and hours. My mind then drives my body until I am stressed and overwhelmed (Exhausted). The lesson here is that my mind is not always reliable or trustworthy. There's no need to put on that yoke and if there's no real wagon to pull.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Blinkered Focus

From the Idiosyncradeck, the Five of Cups; from the Mixed Emotions Cards, Happy:
          A once full teacup lies shattered on the floor. It is a good description of the sudden end of a relationship, whether it comes from betrayal, a cold shoulder, or physical loss. At that moment, my world shrinks down to that event, blocking out the rest of the world. It is all my mind thinks about, as if everything else has been frozen. But the Happy card suggests that I don't have to identify my life with this singular event. Yes, I will grieve the relationship, but I don't have to self-identify with it as if it was the only thing that made my life worthwhile.

Both wisdom and compassion shift our sense of identity away from ourselves toward the wider human, biotic, and cosmic community to which we belong.
—Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi 


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Mistakes Aren't Failures

From the Idiosyncradeck, the Six of Arrows (Wands); from the Mixed Emotions Cards, Inspired:
          Only four of the arrows are visible in this card; two went wide, two fell short and two hit the bullseye. My generation seems to be caught in the expectation of perfection. Yet in the real world, mistakes are made and adjustments are taken. Those arrows that missed weren't failures, they were simply steps on the way to achieving the goal. The pairing of the Six of Wands with the Inspired card suggests that even when I lack confidence, I can look to others who kept trying until they succeeded. I can have faith that if others have climbed their mountains, with effort and perseverance, I can find my way too. 

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
~Dale Carnegie


Monday, January 27, 2020

Boundaries and Integrity

From the Idiosyncradeck, the Seven of Arrows (Wands); from the Mixed Emotions Cards, Fulfilled:
          A high wall protects against an onslaught of arrows. It represents maintaining our boundaries and holding our ground as we face passive-aggressive humor, those who judge without facts, and people who like to feel superior to others. Yes, there are those who have wisdom we should heed, but in this case, it is simply about guarding ourselves against those who don't have our best interests at heart. The Fulfillment card reminds me there is a big difference between self-esteem and 'other-esteem,' which has a way of shaping our thoughts and behaviors. As Mel Schwartz explains, "Authentic self-esteem is not dependent upon others or things external to us. Such self-esteem is a manifestation of our relationship with ourselves." Do my actions flow from integrity, guided by ethics? Fulfillment comes when I can look in the mirror and see a face I respect.

Happiness is not a goal. It’s a by-product of a life well-lived.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Don't Feed It

This week I'll be using the Idiosyncradeck Tarot, created and self-published by Jessica Bott. Along with it, I'll be drawing from the Mixed Emotions Cards, created by Petra Martin with Kris Wiltse (Illustrator) and published by Heron Lake Press. Today's draws are the Four of Cups and Comforted:

          On a cupboard sits one lonely teacup. It represents that feeling of being unmotivated and out of sync with the rest of the world. I can recognize this mood in myself after I've had several days of adrenaline-pumping, feet-flying, mind-zooming activity. When I'm back to normal, I feel lost, exhausted and uninspired. If I spend to much time worrying about how I feel, I'll convince myself that I've lost my zest for living. But it's only a temporary mood and will fade unless I feed it. Comforted reminds me of how much our society needs to teach people how to self-comfort. The media suggests that we buy, eat, drink or take a pill to make ourselves feel better, but this is no remedy. However, there are healthier alternatives that can help ground us until we feel better:

  • Gentle movement like stretching or taking a short, slow walk.
  • Visualization of a real or imaginary place that brings you joy.
  • Music (upbeat or relaxing).
  • Personal contact with someone you trust.
  • Time spent with a pet.
  • Warm baths or showers, scented candles or incense, bird watching - things that will feed your senses in a wholesome way.
  • Zooming out to see the bigger picture.
  • Conscious breathing, such as the three-part-breath (relax the abdomen and let it expand as you slowly inhale, following the rise of your chest and shoulders, then observe the reverse process as you exhale).


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Full Value

From the Light Seer's Tarot, the Nine of Cups; from the Celtic Lenormand, Birds (Songbirds):
          The 'Wish' card appears today, showing a woman who must have been in need of a financial windfall. I have a friend who says, "Money can't bring happiness, but it sure can making living a little easier." Having lived hand-to-mouth in past years, I have to agree. But sitting on a stack of money doesn't bring nearly as much fulfillment as having someone to enjoy it with. This is the third Birds card I've drawn this week (this deck has three); all deal with communication and information, but in different ways. The chickens represent that which nourishes the body, the owls symbolize that which can engage the mind, and the songbirds serve as that which fulfills the spirit. The songbirds encourage me to be generous in sharing any good fortune that finds me. As Mark Twain instructs, "To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with."

Friday, January 24, 2020

Center Line

From the Light Seer's Tarot, Temperance; from the Celtic Lenormand, Birds (Owls):

          A young man swirls the cool, rocky moon's energies with those of the fiery sun. His message is to walk the middle way, enjoying and employing both while avoiding extremes. Buddhist wisdom is divided into 'absolute' (insights about reality) and 'relative' (what is grounded in the physical world) truths. The absolute is the essence of reality that can't be put in a labeled box, while the relative involves our daily experiences in the concrete world. To separate these two would be impossible - we can't live a spiritual life without being grounded in reality. The Birds/Owls are a reminder that sometimes I need to listen to the wisdom of others in order to see a fuller truth rather than my personal slice of it.