Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lazy Tarot

Photo by NikBoiv / CC BY 2.0 
“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” 

~Bill Gates

 Confession: I am a lazy tarot reader.   I don't do a lot of things commonly recommended.  I am not against these practices at all.  I don't do them because, for me, they are too much work and don't yield any tangible benefits. Mostly, too much work. For example, I don't:

  • Cleanse decks
  • Use a classic Significator 
  • Use astrological associations
  • Use Kaballah associations
  • Do anything about "energies" (no smudging here)
  • Use Reversals
  • Look at the "Shadow Card"
  • Ruminate on a reading
The first book I read on practicing tarot provided an elaborate simple ritual to perform before reading.  I tried it, thinking the author certainly knew more about this stuff than I did, and I didn't notice anything different after doing it so I stopped doing it.  I tried "cleansing" decks by the light of the moon and the only thing that happened was they became dew damp.  Then I read you can cleanse them by laying them all out on the floor and swishing them around.  I tried that but concluded it was just a version of 78-Card Pickup.

I'm not an astrologer and feel that trying to learn a whole 'nother vast metaphysical art to overlay tarot is just too much work.  If I wanted to learn astrology, I would, and maybe someday I will, but not today.  Kaballah, same.  I've tried using various stones and crystals and noticed nothing different, so whatever floats your boat is fine, no rocks in my boat.  I don't "ground" myself other than one deep sigh breath before beginning a reading.  Oh, maybe I do "smudge" -- I smoke a cigarette.

I don't turn the cards physically upside down to read "reversals," I generally get a sense by the position, the cards next to/around it, and the question asked whether the card's meaning is "reversed."  I forget to look at the bottom card in the deck, so the Shadow Card remains in the shadows.  Sometimes other tarot readers have said they will leave a reading out on a table for days to think about it, ruminate over it, journal it to go back to later.  I don't.  I have journaled specific readings but I always forgot to go back to them, so what was the point?

I do:

  • Shuffle, a lot
  • Use a Sort of Significator
  • Use symbolism: colors, numbers, elemental, suits, objects, etc.
  • Use history
  • Pay attention to patterns
  • Listen to random observations my mind blurts out
  • Use common sense
To completely randomize a deck of playing cards, dealers at casinos will shuffle a deck around 5-7 times.  This is assuming you're good at shuffling and not leaving whole chunks of the deck unshuffled.  Depending on the questions being asked, I might shuffle the deck between them, leaving the already-drawn cards on the table.  If I'm clarifying a card, I will shuffle.  I randomize those cards like nobody's business.

Most of the readings I do include a card that speaks to what the client is thinking, feeling, and/or how they are approaching the issue at hand.  This is a Sort of Significator, and I use it because it gives very useful information for the client to use when formulating a plan of action.  They can see whether their approach is helpful or not based on what the reading reveals about the other factors and influences.

For me, symbolism is absolutely key in interpreting tarot.  Symbols are the language of all humans in all of history.  Language itself is symbolism and vice versa.  Connected to this is my understanding of history, culture, and the human experience.  I notice patterns in the cards.  Numbers, suits, colors that appear repeatedly or in a progression or order mean something.  Sometimes my mind will say something really random, like an idiom or lyrics from a song and I've learned these random phrases are hugely significant to the reading.  I always use them. There was a time I ignored them and was routinely surprised when the client gave feedback that included that exact phrase! When I started speaking them I found my client's feedback often confirmed that phrase played a key role in the situation.

Finally, I use common sense.  When the Lovers card appears in a reading that has nothing whatsoever to do with romance, I do not imply the client will fall in love in the middle of updating her resume.  While it is possible she may meet a charming person at a job fair, it just isn't sensible to talk romance when she's trying to find out her best option to advance her career.  Not ruling it out, just saying, keep on topic.

The practice of tarot reading is so unique to each reader.  What works well for one is cumbersome for another.  I have been known to spend untold hours researching symbolism and cultural history in my pursuit to understand tarot card meanings.  Many readers would shake their head and say, "Ain't nobody got time for that!"   But I love it.  I love the research and the richness of history and how people lived in times before, how that relates to the images we see now, the connections, the gaps, all of it.  Others feel and experience a very tangible difference when using cleansing rituals or objects.  Some can't help but see the astrological or Kaballistic connections and feel they would be remiss if they didn't include them. Whatever you do or don't do in your reading process matters only to you.  

But seriously, lazy is good.  Keeping what works efficiently and either re-working or tossing out what doesn't makes sense in everything we do.  Time and effort are both valuable resources.  Be lazy and enjoy what you do.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Worrisome Worry

I should never leave a health-issue-related blog post for months without a follow up as several people have written to be sure I haven't succumbed to whatever-it-was.  Sorry about that.  I tend to withdraw from social interaction when I'm dealing with stuff, like cats hide when they're hurting or sick, me too.  UPDATE:  Nerve compression is all but gone.  I am left with some lingering muscle spasms and twitches but no pain.  (Yay!) I'm still working on another issue that will need some outpatient surgery in about a month and that has me worried, still, about finances.  All the tests and doctor visits at the end of last year took all of the HSA money and I still owe hundreds of dollars, not counting the upcoming procedure, which I expect will be a few thousand.  I am genuinely worried how to fund necessary health care.

Worry is something I'm very good at.  If medals were given I'd have a trophy wall dedicated to worry.  Logically I know that worry is harmful and doesn't solve anything.  I have much improved in the area of worry-control and find I can tame it faster, but I think it's just a natural by-product of my over-thinking mind. Also, worry has actually served me well at times so it's hard to let go of it.

I read this and completely related:

You have mixed feelings about your worries. On one hand, your worries are bothering you—you can't sleep, and you can't get these pessimistic thoughts out of your head. But there is a way that these worries make sense to you. For example, you think:
  • Maybe I'll find a solution.
  • I don't want to overlook anything.
  • If I keep thinking a little longer, maybe I'll figure it out.
  • I don't want to be surprised.
  • I want to be responsible.
You have a hard time giving up on your worries because, in a sense, your worries have been working for you.
The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You by Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D.

 I have found solutions to problems this way.  I have come up with plans to deal with unknown outcomes, if they happen.  I have figured stuff out this way.  So it's hard to completely let go of worry because it has worked for me.  And since one of the most common reasons someone requests a tarot reading is due to worry, I bet I have plenty of company in this problem area.

One suggestion I've read is to postpone your worries to a set "worry time."    This one doesn't work for me but it may work for others.  I do a different but similar thing: I distract myself by telling myself I can't spend time on the worry-of-the-moment right now and I'll deal with it later.  So while I don't set aside a certain time, I do push it away for "later."

"If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry.  If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying.  There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever." -- Dalai Lama XIV
One really helpful step to do is to parse out whether the worry thing is  actually solveable. If it's an imaginary "what-if?" it's probably not worth your time.  Unfortunately, these are precisely the kinds of worries that so many dwell on.  If you are able to take action on your problem right away, then it is probably a productive worry.  If not, then it's unproductive.  Recognizing the difference helps because action on a problem reduces or eliminates worry and for the ones you cannot act on, such as "What if my child is in a terrible accident someday?" you can more easily let go.

Worrying itself feels productive but it isn't.  When we are worrying our emotions are somewhat suspended because the worry keeps us in our heads and distracts us from feeling. While we are thinking about how to solve the problem (or so we tell ourselves that's what we're doing) we're avoiding the underlying emotions. Who wouldn't want to avoid feeling anxious, sad, or other negative emotions?  However, suppressed emotions don't go away and tend to fuel even more anxiety to the point that we end up worrying about why we're feeling what we're feeling!  Crazy.  It can be helpful to tell yourself to just feel whatever it is you're feeling, then cry, get angry, feel sad, have a brief pity party.  This one is hard for me, but I'm working on it.  

For the solvable worries, brainstorming possible solutions and/or doing a tarot reading can help tremendously.  The problem you're worrying about is often real and the steps toward a solution are very real and actionable, too.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Doctor Google & Tarot

MaricorMaricar Studio

I've been really out of sorts for a few months.  This blog and many other things have taken a back seat to some sudden onset health issues I've been dealing with.  It has been stressful but I'm finally taking action and I'm finally starting to feel more like myself again.

It started in June, more or less.  I'd had a pinched nerve in my upper back a few years ago and it went away on its own.  It took six weeks but when it was gone, it was gone. Until a few months ago. This time it didn't go away.  Instead, after four weeks it changed.  It became much sharper and sent more than a dull ache down my right arm.  Shocks of nerve pain were constantly traveling up into my neck, down my arm and to my fingers.  Walking hurt. Working hurt. Cooking hurt. Cleaning hurt. Driving hurt. I lived on anti-inflammatory meds and rest.

I delayed going to the doctor because insurance. I have it, but it's not affordable. High Deductible Plan with only $500 in my Health Savings Account.  I know that nerves cannot be seen on lower cost x-rays and that I would need a pricey MRI.  I didn't know what kinds of medications I would need to pay for out of pocket.  I also have to pay for non-preventive doctor visits out of pocket and I also have another pressing health issue I must see a doctor for which will likely lead to more imaging tests and lab work that, again, I must pay for out of pocket.  My pocket is not that deep.  My rent is being raised $50 a month starting next month and I still don't know how that will be adjusted for in my no-wiggle-room budget.  In addition to the pain and ongoing symptoms and concern for my health, I was also very concerned about my finances.

And then of course, there's Doctor Google.  I was pretty sure I was dying of cancer by the time I had researched my symptoms.  Possibly three or four types of cancer.  And maybe a rare genetic disorder, I'm not sure.

Driven by pain and worry I scheduled my appointments and said fuck it to the finances.  About a week before my appointment, the pain subsided a lot.  The nerve shocks still occur when triggered, but the unrelenting pain is gone.  Sweet relief! The doctor prescribed predisone which gave me heart attacks indigestion, and x-rays that ruled out fractures and tumors and referred me to a neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon said I don't need an MRI  yet because the treatment for nerve compression is focused on pain management and I seem to be progressing.  I have another appointment with another kind of doctor in a week for something entirely unrelated, so I'm still concerned about Doctor Google's diagnosis about that, but at least my overall hypochondria health worries have been reduced.

The Thinker in the Dark - A5 by
Hartwig HKD Creative Commons License

This is why I don't read tarot for health issues: Anxiety.  I may have pulled a few cards for my situation over the last few months but the swords cards always made me think I was going to have surgery and the pentacles cards made me think I would have to pay a lot of money.  I pulled one before my visit to the neurosurgeon and it was the King of Swords, which cracked me up because that's a surgeon card if there ever was one.  It was like tarot saying, "Just go see the doctor."  Which is probably what I'll tell you if you ask me for a health reading.

Pamela A. tarot

I will read about how you can make the most productive use of your time while you are dealing with health issues.  I will ask tarot for advice how you can focus on self-care.  But the advice will be general to your health issue and specific to you.  I will not attempt to, nor should I, diagnose your issue.  We may discover, for example, that stress is contributing to your issue, but stress will not be the issue.  If the Death card appears, I will tell you that something will end, hopefully your health issue, and you will need to adjust to something new in the way of living life after that -- and we'll draw a card to see how to navigate that.  I will not tell you that Death means death in a health related tarot reading.  I will not give you a prognosis because how foolish and irresponsible would that be?  The last thing anyone needs is a reading that echoes Doctor Google.  I will interpret the cards in light of what you can do today, tomorrow, in your present and immediate future to aid in your recovery and wholeness and this is often how tarot readings work anyway.  It approaches your situation from a holistic view.

There really are very, very few things I won't read tarot about.  Sometimes I will tell a client that the proposed reading is a waste of their time and money and allow them to reconsider, but I will usually read on whatever my clients ask. They know their pressing questions far better than I.  Health issues, both physical and mental, are different because they usually need the attention of a professional trained in that discipline.  I am a tarot professional not a health professional and that is where the line is drawn.  Besides, more often than not when health issues have played a part in the reading the cards recommend seeing a physician or mental health professional.  I often see Kings, Queens, Hierophants, and Hermits in those readings.  Kings and Queens often represent professionals, Hierophants often symbolize established institutions such as traditional medicine, and Hermits can be counselors and therapists.  So if you ask me about a worrisome health issue I will tell you to see a doctor and we'll read about how to cope in the meantime. 

As for me, I'm firing Doctor Google and seeing real ones. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Tarot Bones

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Tarot cards do not mean anything and everything you think they might mean. There is a foundational framework of symbolism that has been collectively accepted and agreed upon by human culture over space, time, and history.

There seems to be a certain hesitancy in social tarot groups to tell someone they goofed, they got it wrong, they missed something when they state their take on a particular card.  While there is a whole wide area of wiggle room within the confines of that framework, there is a framework.  They are the bones of tarot over which everything else rests, is connected to, grows and moves.  If you remove the bones you are left with a blob of inert, gloopy stuff that doesn't hold together very well.

So don't tell me the Ace of Swords is about passion without logic, or that the 2 of Cups is about taking a gym class with a friend.  No.  Just no.  While the Ace does contain energetic passion and the 2 is about duality and togetherness, the suit characteristics were mixed up.  Wrong.

The problem arises when someone has the cajones to say, "Hey, I don't think that's quite accurate," and are met with predictable nonsense about how tarot card meanings are not "set in stone" and can mean anything to anybody and we all see things differently but equally valid. Nope. If your interpretation isn't tied by even the finest thread to the bones of tarot, your interpretation is invalid.

The bones of the Minor Arcana are the suit and the number or member of court. That isn't too hard or restrictive.  Hard, cold steel of the Swords does not equate to illogical, firey passion of a burning brand (Wand) but to precise facts.  Flowing liquid in Cups cannot be held in one's hand like a Pentacle.  These are the basics and the basis of tarot interpretation and just make sense. 

HOWEVER --- (disclaimer time) --- There are people who read cards in just this formless, boneless way and they read beautifully.  I am not negating this style of divination.  The cool thing about this style is one doesn't even need a tarot deck.  Any image or collection of images will work.  Oracle decks are wonderfully suited for this sort of reading. There are no rules, there is no framework, one simply allows intuition to guide and bubble up meaningful connections and phrases and ideas and so forth.  It's a tremendously useful way to strengthen one's intuition and learn to trust it and hone it.

But if you're setting about reading tarot then read tarot and don't try and serve up some oracular mishmash and claim it's because the meanings are not "set in stone" and "that's the beauty of tarot."  Yes, there are some meanings set in stone and no, pulling something contradictory to those foundational meanings is not beautiful, it's tripe.  See, if a singular tarot card can mean anything to anyone then there is no way you can teach what you know about tarot.  Because you don't know anything until you are faced with a question and a card that has changed its meaning based on the situation.  You can certainly coach others to use this same talent, to draw meaning from images relevant to the client's situation, but you aren't teaching tarot.  You are helping them develop their intuitive skill.  Different.

If one does not assign meaning to any particular card, suit, number, court, etc. then fine, but that's not tarot reading.  That's divining with a tarot deck, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I'm drawing this line for reasons of clarity because I'm tired, so tired, of the argument among tarot readers that the cards can mean anything to anyone at any time.  I think maybe we confuse our intuitive flashes with reading tarot because they happen often while reading tarot.  Those flashes are cool and often strikingly accurate but they don't change the foundational meaning of the card for the next reading.  The bones are the starting point and the body that each reader fleshes out from the bones to the outer layer of skin will fluctuate and change depending on the conditions, but the bones don't change.  Your understanding of them will deepen as you learn, but they will always be what they are and placed where they belong or the tarot reading will not run, walk, or move.

Sometimes we'll get stumped on a card because what we know about a situation (the flesh) or what we are getting intuitively (also flesh) does not appear to fit well over the bones. Good tarot readers don't discard the bones because the flesh doesn't seem to fit.  A good tarot reader digs deeper to see how the flesh connects, finds the sinews, ligaments and muscle fibers that latch to the bone.

Get digging.  Find the connective tissue. That's tarot reading.


Saturday, March 08, 2014

It's Your Own Damn Fault
Regret. Cyn McCurry
 When I was sixteen I did a really dumb thing.  (Who hasn't at sixteen?) See, when I was fourteen I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and was promptly fitted with a Milwaukee brace, a neck to pelvis contraption that I wore 23 hours a day.  My tummy had not seen the sun in two years and I went with my friends on a day trip to the beach, fell asleep on the sand, and woke with a very red belly.  I shook and shivered on the way home but couldn't tolerate the scratchy, wool blanket I was given to wrap up in.  It hurt my skin.  I passed out once on the way into the house.  My boyfriend stayed with me until my mother came home and explained to her what happened.  I was crying in pain and my mother snapped, "It's your own damn fault!" 

Yes.  She was right.  However, her being right didn't help.  It never helps me to point out this obvious fact that my suffering is my own doing.  That's right, it NEVER helps.  It hurts.  It comes under the category of if you don't have anything nice (or helpful) to say, don't say anything at all.  That's because my default is to blame myself for everything that happens to me. This is why I don't say certain things out loud because I am sure that someone will say, "Well, it's your own fault."  I miss my kids.  I miss them with everything in me.  I hurt tangibly and physically sometimes because I miss them.  I made the heart-wrenching decision seven years ago to be the one to leave the family home when their father and I divorced.  I moved a two hour's drive away.  It's still close enough to see them and they have spent time with me, but that pain never lessened or went away.  Now that they're older and have less time to spend with their mom, it's harder to arrange time to see them. We talk on the phone and on Facebook, but, well, you know, not the same.  This pain is my fault.  I know this and beat myself up about it on a regular basis.  Yes, I know that's not helpful. 

There are people who don't take enough responsibility for their choices.  These are the blamers, the ones who point their finger at everyone and everything else for their pain.  Stuck in victim mode, their misfortune is always the result of something outside of themselves.  Saying, "It's your own damn fault," to them only helps if you first acknowledge their pain and accept that they are hurting.  It's difficult to show compassion to someone like this, but it's absolutely necessary if your goal is to speak a harsh truth to them.  They have to know first that you care, that you have their best interest in mind and you're not just another outside force causing more pain. 

On both ends of the spectrum, whether one takes on too much responsibility for the painful situation or not enough the most helpful advice is to focus on right now.  Before someone can take steps in a positive, forward moving direction, they have to release themselves of the blame, both directed at themselves and others.  The self-blamer believes that if she can isolate the actions and circumstances that caused the pain in the first place she can avoid the pain in the future.  The other-blamer relieves themselves of the responsibility to make changes and keep doing what they're doing because they aren't in control.  One assumes too much control while the other assumes too little.  Regardless of their locus of control, neither has the ability to move forward. The fear of pain keeps them stuck. 

In my tarot practice, I focus not on what will happen but on looking for ways to view the situation as it currently is and on steps one can take from here forward.  Taking responsibility for the choices we make in life is one thing.  Regretting them is something that happens often because once choices have been made they can't be unmade and they come with unknown and unintentional consequences.  The last thing anyone needs when they cry out in pain from shooting themselves in the foot is the reminder that they did it to themselves.  They already know that.  They're already kicking themselves with the uninjured foot.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Not You Again?

Recently a tarot reader wrote to me asking about how to discern the meaning of cards that keep showing up in one's readings.  It will happen from time to time when reading for oneself where the same card or cards will reappear no matter what the subject or question.  It would be fine if we knew what message these nagging cards were trying to convey, but we often don't.  Their reappearance becomes more of a frustration than anything else and they seem to block us from figuring out the rest of the reading, too.

So what to do when these naggers show up time and time again?  I think just the fact that they're being repetitive can cause a kind of "block" to our understanding of them.  If a card or series of cards shows up once, we have no problem interpreting them, but once they start becoming frequent visitors we start to wonder what else they're trying to say apart from the original reading.  The more we try to figure it out, we tend to over-think.  Over-thinking usually blocks us from hearing our intuition and the situation gets frustrating as we pour over the individual card meanings, looking up definitions, and searching tarot websites for clues. One meaning leads to another, and another, and another....

I've experienced the best results from simply doing another reading on what the recurring cards are messaging.  You'll want to remove the repetitive cards from the deck before laying out your reading because the last thing you want is for tarot to answer with those same cards, which is what usually happens.  What does the 2 of Pentacles mean for me in these readings?  The 2 of Pentacles.  Thanks a lot, tarot.  In the case of multiple recurring cards, I would do a reading on each and one for them together.  A short, two or three card spread asking a direct question is best such as, "What does this card mean for me now?" is best.  It is also helpful to have a position in your reading for "The card does not mean this," which will help rule out some of the various things your mind has been mulling over.  Most importantly, do not over-think these readings and go with your initial intuitive meanings that come to you.

Another option is to consult another trusted tarot reader.  I often receive feedback after a reading that the cards I pulled were the same cards the client had been seeing repetitively in their own readings  but my more objective view was able to see what they had not. 

Do you have another way to figure out those nagging recurring cards?  I'd like to hear your suggestions!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Healing Without Wholeness

heal (v.)
Old English hælan "cure; save; make whole, sound and well," from Proto-Germanic *hailjan (cf. Old Saxon helian, Old Norse heila, Old Frisian hela, Dutch helen, German heilen, Gothic ga-hailjan "to heal, cure"), literally "to make whole."
I struggle with this.  I have been on this quest for most of my life, the quest to "become whole."  I laid down my sword in this battle recently.  I'm done.  No, I haven't reached "wholeness" or at least I don't think I have.  I remain scarred, broken, and wounded.  I'm just tired of the search and the work for something I now think is unattainable.  
I question the idea that we come into this world whole and if only the best things happen to us we would remain so.  Some of us enter life already injured, mentally or physically, or both.  Some who endure deeply wounding experiences are incredibly resilient and move forward in living their lives to their fullest.  Others, to whom nothing horrible appears to have happened, feel crippled by even getting up in the morning.  Many of us are combinations of both, depending on the day.  

Physically, I've been mostly healthy, but the places in my body that have been made un-whole bear the evidence.  There are scars and small fractures where the experience left its mark.  There is no such thing as putting something back the way it was before.  It works much the same way with emotional injuries.  Healing is, at best, mostly.  Not whole, not complete, not ever.

One of the most compelling things about Christianity for me was its focus on healing.  I embraced the religion in the aftermath of a deeply traumatic and abusive marriage and the promises of healing in the Bible gave me intense hope. But looking back at my time within that religion, I can't say for certain that healing came, at least not specifically through practicing the religion. Time, love, experience -- these things helped greatly.  Therapy helped a lot more.

whole (adj.)

Old English hal "entire, unhurt, healthy," from Proto-Germanic *khailaz "undamaged" (cf. Old Saxon hel, Old Norse heill, Old Frisian hal, Middle Dutch hiel, Dutch heel, Old High German, German heil "salvation, welfare"), from PIE *koilas (cf. Old Church Slavonic celu "whole, complete.") The spelling with wh- developed early 15c.
According to the dictionary, the whole is all there is, every part, member, aspect.  It is the complete sum, amount, quantity of anything.  Something that is whole is not divided. It is undiminished, integral, complete, unimpaired, perfect.

So I needed a different definition since it became clear this kind of return to emotional Eden was not going to happen.  I am now inspired by people who, though damaged and decidedly not whole, live in peace with themselves and others.  Who, despite not having much to offer, are generous and outreaching.  Not because they don't hurt, but because they understand hurt.  These people are patient with others because they understand that living broken makes us walk with our own peculiar limp. They're not offended when their efforts to embrace are rebuffed because sometimes just touching raw, wounded people can hurt them.  These people have not erased their injuries but incorporated them into themselves as part of the package. 

For me, wholeness is better described by acceptance.  My spine, for example, is crooked.  Extremely crooked.  It looks something like this but more pronounced:

My spine will never be straight.  I will never know a pain free day.  It hasn't stopped me from dancing, working out, hiking, running -- well, ok, sometimes running hurts.  I have learned that strengthening the muscles around my spine helps reduce the pain tremendously.  I am not on pain medications.  I have some limitations, but I work around them.  I accept that my spine will forever be crooked, I accept that I will never be "whole."  For me this works a lot better than trying to become whole in reality.  It is a kind of "wholeness in spite of not whole."  This is the same approach I now use in terms of emotional wholeness.  Healing, then, is not a quest to return to some untarnished state but to move forward with acceptance of one's broken pieces.  Where there are limitations, find a way to work around them.  There are days when my back hurts so much I can't do the things I planned.  Those days I am gentle with my body and rest.  So it is with emotional hurts, even those from long ago that, for some reason, have flared up with an unintentional trigger experience.  Give yourself time and space.  Don't berate yourself for not having healed yet.  Who said you will?  Who told you that there would come a time when you would never hurt again from that injury or damage?  Maybe so, but maybe not.  Instead of hoping for some future time when it won't hurt ever again, find your way through the pain now.  Do things that strengthen the muscles around the injured parts.  Be kind to yourself and rest.  Tell that nagging voice in your head to sit down and shut up because it is what it is and you are who you are, broken parts and all. 

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Back To School with Tarot?

So my car died.  The transmission was being stupid and every day it was being a little more stupid.  My mom bought herself a new car and gave me her older one, a PT Cruiser.  If I had won the lottery, the PT Cruiser is not the car I would have chosen but it is very nice and it certainly beats a dead car.  So I'm extraordinarily grateful to my mother.  In the process of registering the car, I had to produce my birth certificate to prove I am my mother's daughter but the problem was I couldn't find it.  I tore through some boxes of stuff in storage and found not what I was looking for but a whole slew of old tarot journals from when I was learning to read.  I didn't realize how many notes I'd taken, how many readings I wrote down, card meanings, musings, etc.  Many.

I'm frequently asked how to learn to read tarot.  Several people have asked if I offer classes.  I can do that.  One of the roles I play at my day job has been as a trainer.  I can teach adults the stuff I know.  But tarot is different.  Some people thrive in a classroom setting and there are some wonderful readers offering wonderful tarot courses and  classes, but I'm hesitant.  Because that's not the way I learned tarot.  I realize not everyone is an autodidact, a self-taught person, but I learn best when I research and practice on my own.  Besides, I'm not sure I can teach anyone how to read tarot exactly.  I can teach the history of tarot cards and I can show how to lay them out in spreads and I can hand out a set of acceptable meanings, but that's not reading.  Besides, you can get that within the little booklet that comes packaged with almost every tarot deck.  So what would a class really offer that one can't get on their own?

Maybe I'm being dense.  Learning tarot in a class is much like learning anything else.  If I took a class on cake decorating but then didn't practice on my own at home, I wouldn't get any better at creating rosettes.  If I took a language class and yet continued to use the translation dictionary, the words, the subtle meanings and the natural flow of speaking and understanding wouldn't embed itself in my brain.  Maybe this is why I don't take classes unless they are a means to an end such as earning credits toward a degree. If I have a passion to learn something, I just go do it and learn as I go.  I have thoroughly enjoyed taking classes, don't misunderstand.  I love learning new things.  But learning a skill is different and learning tarot is more different still.

While there is a right and wrong way to bake a cake and pronounce a word in another language, there is no right or wrong way to read tarot (or pronounce it, for that matter).  While I can equip you with the basics, you must take it from there.  You will need to work with your cards every day several times a day.  You will be thinking about them even when you're not working with them.  You will be reading about them, talking with others about them, writing about them and yes, reading, reading, reading them.  You will make discoveries and apply them to your readings.  You will study the cards, research symbols, colors, numbers, and incorporate what you find.  Or not.  Maybe you will find whatever you find in the cards.  Maybe you will develop your own set of meanings and symbols and use those.  No one can teach you these things.

Because the language of tarot comes from your own conscious and subconscious connections and experiences, every reader speaks a different dialect of tarot.  When I read for someone who also reads tarot, I am often asked how I arrived at a particular card meaning.  I don't know?  I can only tell you what I know about the card itself but how the connection came to be made between that and what I told you in the context of your reading is a complex domino effect of associations that happens so quickly in my brain that I couldn't begin to unravel it for you.

The first tarot reading I received was so mind blowing for me that when I began the process of learning tarot, I wanted to read like THAT.  I wanted to be able to read those cards like a story, connecting them in a way that not only made sense linguistically but made sense in the life of the one I was reading for.  Just as learning a language is best done by immersing oneself in the culture and environment of the language, so it was for me with tarot, too.

That said, I've been thinking about offering something, though, along the lines of teaching tarot. Just because I learn best on my own doesn't mean everyone does.  I'm not against a tarot class, per se, but maybe a kind of tarot mentoring or coaching would be more beneficial?  For those who might be interested in a tarot class, what would you be looking for?  What would you want to accomplish by taking such a class?  When the class was over, what would you expect to be equipped to do? 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Get Lost

It is good to feel lost... because it proves you have a navigational sense of where "Home" is.  You know that a place that feels like being found exists.  And maybe your current location isn't that place but, Hallelujah, that unsettled, uneasy feeling of lost-ness just brought you closer to it.  
~Erika Harris

Looking out of the car window in the dark, nothing looked familiar.  I could hear my mom mutter under her breath.  One of us would inevitably ask the question, "Are we there yet?"  and then the snapped answer, "We're LOST!"  Gasp! Oh no! Our eyes would widen as we scanned the foreign land around us.  How will we make it home?  What will happen to us in this dangerous, unknown place?  "Lock the doors," Mom commanded.  We quickly obliged, then slunk down into the seats, not wanting the people of the outside to see us.  Sitting ducks.  Inevitably, being lost meant wandering through the "bad" parts of town.  Anything could happen.  We could run out of gas.  A gang of rabid squirrels could attack the car.  We  could keep going round in circles and not get out of there, wherever there was.  It's a scary,  frustrating thing being lost.

DruidCraft deck by Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington, Published by Connections 2005
Those were the days before GPS, before Google Maps. There were no cell phones.  Mom was a single mother and had no back up partner to call from a pay phone at a well lit gas station.  Being kids who didn't know how to drive or how we got to where we were in the first place, we were no help.  To the contrary, I'm sure we made her feel even more vulnerable and our nervous questions added to her own anxiety.  She had to figure it out on her own and though my mother has many talents, a sense of direction is not one of them.  I remember hanging over the front seat during one of these "adventures" and making the observation, "You know, Mom, whenever we get lost, we always end up home eventually."  This made her laugh and relax a little.  "Yeah, " she said, "We do.  We always do get home."

The thing about getting lost is that it just happens.  You can't make it happen, I've tried.  I've intentionally taken wrong turns, driven until the road ends, went places I had no idea where they went to, and still mostly knew where I was.  It's pretty much an exercise in bullshit trying to get lost, so I'd end up back home not feeling at all satisfied.  When you're truly lost it happens in what seems like a blink of an eye.  You're in familiar territory then all of a sudden you're not.  Nothing looks right.  It dawns on you that you have never seen that building, that road, that sign.  Uh oh.  So you try very hard to listen to your intuition to guide you out and you feel very strongly you need to take that turn, go that way.  So you do, and keep following your gut.  And you end up going in a big goddamn circle.  Now you've lost faith in yourself, your inner compass, and you really don't know how to find your way home.  Now it's at least an hour later and it's dark and you can't see the road signs. Not that they'd help you because you don't know the names and you don't know which one you're supposed to take.  One leads to a cul-de-sac, so you just turn around.  Another leads to a dead end.  Yet another ends up in someone's driveway.  You're getting more hopeless and frustrated but you know you can't stay where you are.  You don't belong there.  You begin to feel like prey.  Don't act lost, you think, someone will smell your fear.  Someone will take advantage of you.  You try to act like you belong there even though everything inside of you feels like a gnawing, nagging desperation that knows you don't.

What to do?  Might as well pray. Got nothing to lose. Please, God, show me the way home and I'll never get lost again!  Then you look around and keep your eyes peeled for a sign.  Nothing.  Crickets. A beautiful night sky blinks in starry silence. Fuck it.  Go.  This way.  Then that way.  Keep going.  Stop, get more gas.  Ask directions.  Get laughed at as they tell you the highway exit you've been looking for is a mile away.  That way.  Feel relieved and stupid at the same time.  Laugh at yourself.  Turn the radio back on, relax and go.  As you drive into familiar areas, you relax even more, turn the volume up and start dancing in your seat as you feel the stress of the evening leave your body as you sing along with the radio at the top of your lungs.  You know where you are.  You're home.

“Getting lost is just another way of saying 'going exploring.”
― Justina Chen, North of Beautiful 

Getting lost is an unnerving experience for many.  For others, it's an adventure. It's a matter of perspective and circumstances.  For my mother, the responsibility of four young children added to her stress because she felt responsible for our safety and well being, too.  If you're on your own and have no pressing external obligations or responsibilities, no one worrying about you being dead in a ditch, you're less likely to freak out.  If you have a lifeline like a cell phone or a GPS in your car, you're also less likely to panic.  If your internal compass leads you in the right direction the first time, it's all good.  But I don't consider those kinds of circumstances truly lost.  You're simply misdirected, misaligned, out of your way.  Being truly lost is to be without lifelines, directions, internal compasses, and sometimes even hope.

It gets harder and harder to literally get lost these days. The world is a smaller and smaller place and increasingly interconnected.  With all the franchise and chain stores in the strip malls and shopping centers, most towns look a lot the same.  While you may not know where you are, at least things look familiar.  Pull into the McDonald's and use the free WiFi and figure it out.  Get on Facebook and ask your friends. Google it.  Get instant answers.  We're not able to get lost these days it seems, except inside, except in life.  There isn't a roadmap for your inner journey.  No GPS for your life.  Your Facebook friends can't direct you.  That friendly guy at the gas station? Nope. And the stars just stare and blink, still silent.

And it's not even that you're stuck, but maybe running in circles.  There are plenty of roads, but not a clue which one to take. All the familiar storefronts are here, but it doesn't feel like home.  We can divine tarot for direction, but ultimately even that advice must resonate with your internal compass before you agree to take it.  Ultimately, in life as in being lost on the road, we just say "Fuck it" and go. Any direction different from the circles you've been going. Because it doesn't really matter which way you go as long as you go.  Because there's one thing you know: here is not home.  It may not feel like it, but this is a good experience.  Even as a child I knew we would make it home. Somehow.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.  ~Douglas Adams

Saturday, August 03, 2013

When Tarot Says Wait

Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.
   -Khaled Hosseini,  A Thousand Splendid Suns 

 Tarot is a master of dilemmas.  One of the finest uses for tarot is sorting through the angles and what if's and projecting possible outcomes.  It's what makes it such a great tool for brainstorming and decision making.  So when the advice the cards give is to wait it can be extremely frustrating.  We've been waiting, hence the stalemate of the stubborn problem, and we decide to give tarot a go at the situation and even tarot is being stubborn! At first you might think tarot is being obtuse.  Like, no shit Sherlock, I already know I'm stuck, give me a freaking answer already!

There are several cards in the deck that indicate waiting.  The Hanged Man is probably the most obvious as he's got no other option.

Ambre Tarot by Florence Magnin, Phage Press 1994

In some ways, as frustrating as any kind of waiting can be, this kind of waiting is one of those "Oh well, may as well make the best of it" kind of times.  And with this card you really do make the best of the waiting time and come away from it better off.  What's more, you don't have to do much externally.  (Well, you can't anyway.) All the good stuff happens internally.  Your focus and perspective takes a major shift so when the waiting is over, you're all set to move forward.  Getting this card as a signal to wait is a bit easier because you already know if you're caught up like the guy in the card and there's nothing you can do.  It's nice to have this acknowledged by a tarot reading so you can accept the situation and get to the internal business rather than struggle against the ropes.  

The 4 of Swords is another kind of waiting.  

Fenestra Tarot by By Chatriya Hemharnvibu; Published by US Games 2006

The waiting in this card can be either self-imposed or externally demanded.  It indicates a time out either due to illness, imprisonment, a short retreat, even spending time catching up on desperately needed sleep.  Like the Hanged Man, it involves gaining perspective, indicated by the swords, as the mental blockade becomes less impenetrable during the time spent in rest.  This card advises stepping back and waiting so your mind has an opportunity to settle and in that time you will be better able to go back and deal with the issue.  With waiting, time seems suspended and that can be the most frustrating part.  Waiting is always less frustrating when we have something to do.  But doing isn't always active or physical, it can be mental doing that occupies the time. However, this card says we shouldn't even be doing that.  Stop tossing the problem back and forth in your mind for a while.  Let it just be and go take care of yourself.  Stop obsessing. 

And then we have the 2 of Swords:

DruidCraft Tarot By Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington; Published by Connections 2005
 If ever there was a dilemma card, this one's it.  It's not always indicative of indecision.  Sometimes it can be a conscious choice to remain neutral in a situation.  In terms of waiting, however, this card advises to take that neutral stance until a truth of some kind reveals itself that will undoubtedly break the stalemate.  That revelation often comes as the 3 of Swords, an unpleasant truth, but necessary to understand clearly before one knows what to think and do.  

Active waiting is another kind, somewhat better to deal with, but still frustrating to get in a reading.  The 7 of Pentacles can represent this kind:

Pamela A tarot deck

In the situation represented by the 7 of Pentacles, you've already put so much time, energy and investment into the situation but you're wondering if you should expend any more.  It may be starting to look like it was all a wasted effort and if you continue you may just be throwing good resources after bad.  Or maybe when you started you felt more positive about the whole thing but now, you're just not sure it's what you really want. And it's turning out to be a lot more work than you bargained for, too.  This card is full of doubt and wishful thinking.  Still, there's stuff you can do in the meantime while you're waiting for the situation to ripen.  Until something indicates it's time to go in a different direction, you can keep tending to the situation as you have been.  I wouldn't invest any more additional resources if you can help it, but just watch and wait to see if things turn out well (or not).  This means you'll still be busy, which makes the waiting somewhat more bearable.

Fours in tarot often show stillness, a time of unmoving stability.  The 4 of Cups is interesting because cups, emotions, are often anything but still:

Hudes Tarot By Susan HudesPublished by US Games 2002

Here's the kind of waiting that one does when you're just not feeling it.  You had hoped for more and you didn't get it.  There's disappointment and feelings of hopelessness.  These emotions have a way of dragging you down so you don't even want to keep trying or hoping.  Just fuck it, you think, I should just forget it.  But you can't.  So you wait until something happens to engage your emotions or passions again.  Waiting through this card can feel awful, so the advice would be to try not to be so pessimistic and look around you for opportunities you may be missing that would fill your cup again.  Take time to just sit with your emotions (or lack of them) and accept that we all go through times like this.  I definitely wouldn't make any decisions during this time.  Probably unwise.  So wait it out.

I really hate the next one, the 8 of Swords:

Robin Wood Tarot By Robin Wood; Published by Llewellyn 1991

Stuck.  So goddamn stuck.  I always get the sense that this woman didn't get into this predicament by herself.  While her own thoughts may be keeping her there, she's been hoodwinked and tied up, too.  It's as if someone has deceived her and she is now realizing she has been deceived but doesn't know what to do about it and can't find her way out of the deception.  The advice here isn't about waiting for rescue, because that isn't going to happen.  The waiting in this card is less about standing still any longer, but waiting on your own senses to engage and give you important clues how to release yourself.  This woman can use her sense of smell and hearing to gather crucial information.  She can smell the sea and hear the waves and know not to move in that direction.  She can feel the sand under her feet and take tentative, careful steps across the sand, feeling her way forward.  This card can also indicate you've been accepting of your victimization and it's now time to take some control.  This card can reveal why you have been waiting but it doesn't exactly advise to keep waiting.  It does, however, advise that whatever you decide to do, do carefully and calculatingly.  

Usually the 4 of Pentacles is viewed in a rather negative light, as a miserly, greedy, stubborn kind of energy.  But in terms of advice and waiting it can mean not these traits but something different:

Housewives Tarot By Paul Kepple; Published by Quirk Books

This is mine and you can't have any.  It's telling you to not give any of your stuff, your time, your resources, your attention.  Be stubborn and stick to your boundaries.  Don't give in.  It's not so much about waiting as about taking a stand and refusing to be manipulated or  victimized.  So if you're wondering what you can do about a situation and this card comes up as advice, don't do anything.  Don't give anything. Let them come to you, and even then, don't budge.  

While waiting is hard, really hard sometimes, when the advice is clear that waiting is the best course of action, er, non-action, we can at least use the time wisely and productively by following the other clues in the card's advice.  If we need to take a break from the situation, do that.  Take a long drive, go to a movie, whatever it takes to get away from the anxiousness of waiting.  If the card says just keep doing what you've been doing, then do that and try not to stress over what if's.  If you're supposed to start taking baby steps, take one.  Doesn't matter which one, just move in a direction.  If you can't actually do anything, try to see the situation from other perspectives.  A change of mind and understanding can actually be the key to getting unstuck.  Waiting is always difficult, but with something to do it seems to pass more quickly. 
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