Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wish I May, Wish I Might...

The Star is one of those cards in tarot that feels good when we see it, but we're not always sure why. I see it as a light at the end of the tunnel, a signpost that tells me I'm heading in the right direction, no matter how lost I may feel at the time. The disappointing thing, and probably the only disappointing thing about the Star is that the thing or event that you're heading towards and hoping for is a ways off. It's not going to happen today nor tomorrow, but sometime in the future. For those of us who adore immediate gratification, this can be almost as frustrating as seeing The Hanged Man show up.

The symbolism of the Star is curious. Often there is a naked woman portrayed pouring out two jugs of water, one onto the earth and the other into the water. One immediate sense is that of abundance. But as one friend of mine noted, this woman is pouring herself out to a ridiculous degree: "She's watering the water, for heaven's sake!" my friend said. When we look at what water symbolizes in tarot, the emotions, we can see a dual meaning here. On the one hand, there is emotional healing going on. She's pouring out, releasing her emotions, both for their generative qualities and just for the sake of releasing them. Her nakedness suggests both a vulnerability and a healthy sense of self. Being transparent and not hiding one's feelings is imperative for emotional health and healing. Yet it does leave one vulnerable to further injury, so it takes a good deal of courage to do what this woman is doing. Going back to my friend's observation, women especially tend to overextend themselves emotionally and give rise to the need for the Star's emotional down time. Someone represented by the Star in a reading could signify someone who is an emotional giver, sometimes to their own detriment. The advice then is to take some real time for oneself and attend to one's own emotional waters and dry, parched soul.

The Star is an incredibly peaceful card and brings with it a sense of wholeness. It's a relief, a breather, on a long arduous journey. It reminds us to slow down because any amount of stressing out about when you'll get there isn't going to make the trip go any faster. It quiets those voices in your head that sound like children in the back seat chattering, "Are we there yet?" every five minutes. It answers soothingly, "No, but we will get there at just the right time, now relax and enjoy the scenery." It's the kind of card that makes you stop and experience the present moment in all its peaceful beauty and reminds us that the journey IS the destination.

The Star makes me wonder where is the There we're all trying to get to in life? Does it even exist? How many There's have we had in our life's journey? When we graduate school, then what? When we marry, then what? When we raise our kids, land that job, travel to Indonesia, then what? The Star says, "Oh please, stop fretting about all that." You're There right now. At least you're somewhere, at some There. You don't like where you are? You don't like this There? The Star says, ok, you'll get to another There.

My favorite rendition of The Star is in The Hudes deck. The woman is neck deep in soothing, calming waters and her hair swirls around her. Her eyes are closed and she is immersed in the moment. Traditionally, stars have symbolized a divine source, heavenly guidance, and hope. Stars have figured prominently in religious symbols in most major as well as minor world religions, crests, coats of arms, and national symbols. As humans we've always been fascinated by stars and have divined by them, wished on them, used them for navigation, and attempted to reach them. They remain mysterious and beautiful, unreachable, and indiscernible. The Psalmist in the Bible says that God has counted out the stars and knows each by name. They are a wonder to see, to observe, to simply lie beneath and dream.

Polaris, the North Star, is always a constant in the Northern Hemisphere and hence has been used for ages as a guide for seafarers and nomadic folk. It's not only constant, in that it doesn't dip below the horizon, it is always usually the brightest star in the sky. The Phoenician sailors noticed that the North Star Polaris could be used for celestial navigation and soon Ursa Minor gained in recognition from about 600 BC. The box-like body and tail of the smaller bear constellation pointed to the North Star, making those stars a welcome sight on a foggy night out at sea. The constellation Ursa Minor would speak to the sailors and guide them on their voyages. The constellation Ursa Minor resembles a mountaintop that is at the top of the world. That mountain was considered a place of meditation and calm. The sight of it brought with it the relief of knowing you are headed in the right direction. It symbolized the end of fear and indecision. The pole star gave hope to the sailors who wanted to see their native lands again.

These ancient beliefs continue today as we gaze at the night sky and wish upon a star, usually and often it is Polaris that receives our wish because it shines brightly and is often the first star seen at dusk. The Star in tarot continues to mean we need to keep hoping, keep folloiwing that star of heavenly guidance, look to the future but keep focused on now. It is numbered 17 in the Major Arcana which reduces to 8 and is connected with Strength...the inner strength to persevere and keep going, no matter what. It heals from the wounds of those tangles with lions and gives us our direction when we've lost or think we've lost our way. That light at the end of the tunnel does seem far away, but the Star assures us it's not an oncoming train. It really is going to be ok.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Like Riding a Bicycle

I finally saw The Celestine Prophecy last night, and despite the buzz surrounding the book and the movie, I can see why its critics roll their eyes. The movie itself is, well, how do I say this nicely? Let's just say it won't win any Academy Awards ever. Gorgeous scenery, though. The acting was, for the most part, pretty stiff, but enough with the armchair movie critic stuff. It seemed to be a kind of propaganda primer for some very basic concepts that actually make sense. Some scenes in particular, using very simplistic imagery and symbolism, held quite profound messages.

In a very condensed nutshell, this movie shows how we can tap into our intuitive guidance system and follow those nudges and hunches and thereby live our lives as we are intended. Also, it explains how to shift one's focus from the very mundane material day-to-day world of power and control to seeing all of life with greater vision, seeing all of it as linked with energy.

I believe we're all born with this internal guidance system, a kind of intuitive GPS, that we are taught, over time, to ignore. We are then taught to rely only on facts, what we can see with our eyes, touch with our hands, and know from "science" and proper research. We're taught that it is dangerous to do things any differently and people who do things differently are viewed as foolish and unwise, or worse, as woo-woo crackpots.

When I was a fundamentalist Christian, I entered the faith through a door that strongly stressed relying on an internal guidance system called the Holy Spirit. Throughout the New Testament there are strong urgings to follow that internal Guide and not to rely on one's own physical senses. But Christianity is rather schizophrenic about this subject. On the one hand, we are told to follow the Spirit, but on the other hand we should "test the spirits" to know whether we are following the Holy Spirit or some other random human or demonic spirit. Some branches of Christianity don't advise any of this at all and instead instruct its followers to just follow what is written in the Bible and don't rely at all on what you feel inside. They believe that we have a human spirit that is corrupt and the Holy Spirit that is pure and because it's often just too difficult to know which spirit is sending messages to you, just rely on what is written to be safe. Then some factor in the influence of the demonic spirits as well, so just forget all that esoteric stuff and follow The Word to bypass confusion. The problem is that The Word urges the following of spiritual urgings and promptings. That's just circular reasoning and it makes one a little crazy when you try to actually live it out.

In some Christian circles, the spiritual promptings are embraced and encouraged. The caveat is that the Holy Spirit will never prompt you to do something contrary to the words in the Bible, so if you believe the Spirit is prompting you to smoke crack or something, it's probably not the right spirit giving you that message. (However, the Holy Spirit did instruct a major Old Testament prophet to walk around the streets naked, so....) Still, they do encourage the development of that intuitive guidance system, within a certain framework. Issues tend to arise when the Holy Spirit tells one person to do one thing and another person to do the opposite and then it becomes a battle between whose intuition is correct.

This Sunday School lesson is all to say that what I found in the realm of Christian practice regarding this issue is like a microcosm of the rest of the larger world. Some people will embrace and encourage intuitive guidance and others are skeptical and will dismiss it altogether. The protagonist's journey in The Celestine Prophesy was encouraged to be done entirely "by faith and not by sight." There was a line in the movie where, after the guy was told to just take off on a motorcycle into the rainforest willy nilly to find a woman who was captured by rebels, he responded by saying, "But I don't know where I'm going!" The reply was, "None of us do."

Think about that. Just take a moment and think about that. Do any of us really know where we are going? Sure, we have plans and goals and may even have a map drawn with the steps laid out to the fulfillment of those goals, but can any of us say what event will happen tomorrow or even five minutes from now? We have expectations that if we do this then that will happen, and it might. Or it might not. There are far too many variables in life that can throw even the finest laid plans into disarray. Ok, so what to do?

Well, our guy in the film takes off and really tries to rely on this unseen guide inside himself. He comes to a literal fork in the road and tries to sense which way to go. One path appeared a bit brighter to him, it pulled at him a bit more than the other. So he takes off on that road and promptly gets captured by rebels and thrown into a crappy little jail cell out in the jungle. Oops! As he sits there kicking his own ass, knowing he effed up and made the wrong choice, it turns out he made exactly the right choice because the woman he was searching for was being held in a cell right there, too.

Ok, aside from the painfully obvious being whacked over your head with rather poor script writing, this was an important point. I know how it feels to follow that flow of intuition and it feels "right" and it gives me a strong sense of hope and wellbeing when I am in that mode. I tend to think ok, I've got it now, I'm riding the wave of intuitive guidance and all will be well. I will see life just roll out the red carpet for me and things will go smoothly and there will be a pot of gold at the end. And then what happens? Something shitty. Uh oh. So then I think, crap, I did it wrong. I must have made the wrong decision there back at that fork in the road. Damn. How can I get myself out of this mess I've made? I'm then tempted to throw all this intuitive stuff out the back door and just go back to relying only on traditional advice. Following that intuitive guidance doesn't necessarily mean it will all be easy. It doesn't mean bad things won't happen to you. But it also doesn't mean you didn't make the right choice. You have to wait and see what unfolds.


Learning to use this intuitive guidance system is a lot like taking an old bicycle out of storage. It's rusty, the tires are flat, and it squeaks and rattles when you roll it out. Tarot is an excellent oil for this old bike. Using tarot encourages the intuitive part of our brains to pay attention and come to the fore. But once you've got the bike all cleaned up and oiled and its tires pumped up, you've got to ride it. That's the real scary but super fun part. Take it for a spin around the block. Follow that intuitive nudge and just go. You don't have to go far at first, but go. Pretty soon you'll be going on cross-country trips on that old bike and the more you ride it, the better your own conditioning will be. You will go places you never thought you'd go in a million years. Some of those places might be scary and uncomfortable, but...this is truly living life, isn't it?
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