Friday, June 17, 2011

6/19/11-6/19/11—Taking a Cat Nap

Weekend Reading: Four of Swords from Baroque Bohemian Cats. You know, there's no rule that you have to be running around and doing, doing, doing all the time. This weekend, be sure to schedule time for rest. Quiet time. A cat nap. Make taking care of yourself a priority. And encourage others to take care of themselves, too. That way you won't be able to make yourself feel guilty about taking care of yourself before taking care of others. You deserve some rest and time to yourself. More importantly, you need it.

6/17/11—Choosing to Step Into the Sun

Today's Draw: The Sun from the Victorian Romantic. Are you facing a difficult situation right now? Or are things going quite well? Overall, what is your outlook on life...."life sucks" or "life is good"?

I saved my favorite deck for Day Five of Baba Week and it delivered one of the happiest cards in the deck. We've talked about a lot of heavy stuff this week. And the sun is like the lightbulb, the aha moment, the stretch of clarity that comes after difficulty or confusion. It's the return of joy and optimism. A step toward greater freedom. 

I'm pretty sure I think too hard about a lot of stuff. And in doing that, I cause myself a lot of consternation. Earlier this week I talked about how tarot people use the cards to explore their lives and the lives of their clients. And what we're really trying to get at is the truth. Sometimes the truth is very painful. But we have a choice as to how to respond to it. 

Years ago a friend of mine pointed something out to me rather painfully. I can't even remember what it was now or I'd tell you. I just remember it was like a hard slap in the face that hurt, but I was eventually grateful for. When people make critical comments of me, I have a practice of bringing the comments into consideration and seeing whether I agree with them or not. Then if I agree and think it needs changing, I work to change it. I wasn't always this way. I used to feel sorry for myself and hate the mean, mean person who was mean to me. I still indulge in that to a degree now and again. But years ago I realized that my emotions weren't about them, they were about me. And since I see everything around me as a message or clue from the universe, I started taking a more "scholarly" approach to the information I receive from others. 

The process of realizing that you have a quality that you dislike in others is painful. But you have a choice to allow it to aid your self destruction or aid your triumph over it. The truth gives you the opportunity to move into the sun...into your own light. Which is not to say I or anyone else can correct all flaws. Not at all. Some of my flaws don't bother me enough to change them, for example, so I keep them. Others I may be blind to at the moment. And still others are ones I'm aware of, but not ready to face. But one thing I've learned is that when you react strongly and negatively to another, it's usually because you don't like what you see in them...because the same thing exists within yourself in some form. Those annoying assholes are there to reflect back to you your own tendency to be an annoying asshole. 

So I make it a practice to monitor the strong reactions I have to others and then bring them inside for consideration. It's not about being perfect, because perfect doesn't exist. It's about seeing yourself honestly. Knowing yourself. Accepting yourself. And aligning who you are with who you'd like to think you are. It's about living in integrity. 

Which brings us back to the Sun. Sometimes we don't even know how imprisoned we are by certain behaviors or situations until we move away from them. When we finally face the darkness and get to the other side, the sun is there waiting for us. It's that feeling of freedom after having been chained to a false belief or broken part of ourselves for so long. It's that sense of "why didn't I do this sooner?" But of course, the answer to that is "because you weren't ready." Life's painful times always come bearing a gift. I've faced some pretty screwed up things in my life. And some of my greatest gifts issued forth from those times. 

So wherever you are right now—in the dark, in a storm or in the sun—know that you have a choice as to how to see that experience. Know that everything comes with a gift. And that however you choose to approach your situation is on you. Just because it's supposed to be hard, doesn't mean it has to be hard. Because it's supposed to be painful doesn't mean you have to be pained. We tell ourselves these things and create self-fulfilling prophesies. I tried to quit smoking for 10 years, for example, and it was always too hard. Until I opened the door to a different possibility. The last time I quit was easy, because I gave myself permission to make it easy. We always have that choice. Choose to step into the sun.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

6/16/11—Celebrating Groundhog Day

Today's Draw: Seven of Cups from the Fairytale Tarot. Do you feel a sense of deja vu? Do you feel a sense of deja vu?

OK. This is getting freaky now. On day four of Baba week, I chose the same card I chose on Day Two. From a different deck. And as if that weren't enough, it's the third "seven" I've chosen in a row. And that can only mean one thing. Either you guys aren't getting the message of the Sevens. Or, as unlikely as it seems, perhaps I'm the one who's not getting it. :)

We went over the Seven of Cups two days ago. And not much changes in this version. The fairytale is about a woman with two sisters who are bitter because she's so pretty (but not too bright). Dad goes on a trip and the two sisters ask him to bring back fabric to make dresses. But the pretty one asks for an apple and a silver platter. When dad returns, the pretty, but dull one rolls the apple on the silver platter and magical images appear, beyond one's imagination. So the bitter sisters kill her. And a handsome prince is able to revive her. And he asks her what to do with the sisters, who are guilty of her murder. And she asks him to forgive them. Then he marries her. And, instead of being known for being pretty, but not so bright, she is ever after known for being pretty and kind hearted. 

So basically it's the same stuff we've been talking about all week. Choices. Criticism. Struggles over the way we are. And, in this fairytale, a happy ending where the one who took all the heat, was a gracious winner in the end. 

The Sevens in tarot indicate struggle and call you to find a way to move forward despite it. But as we discussed yesterday, though we may struggle with outside forces, the impetus for that struggle originates within. It's based on a strongly felt inner truth. One we are not willing to yield to the demands of conformity. We can have peace by just mainstreaming ourselves. Or we can remain steadfast to our unconventional ideals, knowing that they will incite conflict, both within and without. 

You know, sometimes we throw up our hands and say to ourselves, "why can't everyone just accept people for who they are?" And everyone can...just so long as everyone is the same. It's our choice to go outside the bounds of conformity that causes all the clamor. We're the sticky wicket. Not them.

This brings to mind a certain person. Very straight-laced. Very proper and presentable. Made all the perfect choices throughout life...perfect childhood, perfect career, perfect partners. Perfect looks. But I can never have a conversation with this person without thinking that they long to bust out of that persona and get down and dirty with the hippie freaks. Just once. Or maybe over and over and over again on some anomalous lost weekend they'll never remember...and never forget. But they would not, could not, ever allow that. Too much has been invested in the image they portray. And I'm not being mean about this person at all. I like them a lot. But always underneath I sense that they wish they'd had the courage to be turn their back on the status quo and face the kinds of judgment and scrutiny that anyone on the fringe faces. We perceive that the people who are the "norm" took the easy route. But look at life through the eyes of someone who's never been able to—or known how to—express themselves fully, and it's a tough row to hoe.

Over the past few days, a number of you have taken a journey with me into those parts of our being that resist conformity and get guff because of it. But I'd rather withstand the raised eyebrows and judgmental whispers of a conformist society than be bound inside a skin that's five sizes too small for the all of me. In a way, the resistance we get from others when we break away from the pack are our badges of honor. This series of Sevens has prompted some of you to express the pain you've felt over the way others see you and your choices. But even the feeling of pain is a choice. Instead of pain, we can feel joy at knowing we're on the right path. Ask yourself if you'd rather be the norm or be special, different. If you vote for the latter, then the whispers and eyebrows merely confirm that you've arrived.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

6/15/11—Confronting Yourself

Today's Draw: The Seven of Wands from the Bohemian Gothic. What or who are you struggling with at this phase of your life? Are there people out there who take issue with your success? What can you do to change their attitudes—or do you even want to?

Day Three of Baba Studio week brings the Seven of Wands from the Bohemian Gothic. This, and what I consider its sister deck, the Victorian Romantic (which we will see later this week) are probably two of the most sought after decks in the tarot world. And I can pretty safely say they're THE most sought after decks created in the past five years. Within maybe a year or two of their introductions, they were both completely sold out and were going on eBay for hundreds of dollars. And people were buying them. Gladly. Such is the allure of Baba decks. 

The Bohemian Gothic is what tarot people might call a "dark deck". I am on a few missions with this blog I write every day. One of them is demystifying the world of tarot for the uninitiated. So I show dark decks sparingly, because I think that's what many people think of when they think of the tarot and tarot readers—something dark and scary and unapproachable...something you shouldn't mess with. Plus there's the whole Death card thing and everybody thinks a tarot reader is going to tell them they're going to die (the Death card is actually about transformation, not physical death). So I'm very sensitive to perpetuating misconceptions like that. But every once in a while I do show a vampire themed deck or something darker, because part of telling the story of tarot is that there is endless variety in its art and expression.

But the fact of the matter—and the reason why this particular deck is so popular—is that tarot peeps are predominantly people who are devoted to learning about the inner workings of our minds and souls and purpose here on earth. We're fascinated with spirituality and personal growth in general. Some are pagans and wiccans, yes. Just as many that I know personally are people who don't align with any particular religion, but consider themselves "spiritual". And we, like all humans, have dark and light sides and feel we would be remiss on our paths if we only examined one side of us and ignored the other. There are literally thousands of decks designed for our light side and/or ourselves as a whole (and by "literally", I literally mean literally). But there are only a handful of decks that specifically challenge us to address our darker, more shadowy sides. This is one of them.

So on to the card. The Seven of Wands usually depicts a struggle of some sort and that struggle is typically over creative ideas or concepts. In the Six of Wands, the card before this in the tarot, we achieved a victory or milestone and are encouraged to appreciate the moment. Because in the Seven of Wands, this card, all the angry villagers come to knock us back down to earth...haha. Such is life, huh? Victory is sweet, but usually short lived. 

However, take a good look at this card. Is the demon trying to keep the attackers out? Or are the attackers trying to keep the demon in? The distinction between the two is significant and speaks to how carry ourselves and bear our successes in the world. Sure, we're in an elevated position, above the crowd, but how do we conduct ourselves while we're there? How graciously do we lead?

Since this is a theme week...haha...let's look back at the previous two days. The first was about changing one thing in our daily routine to realize we have choices and don't have to stay in a rut. The second was about owning our ability to create our lives and affirming our unconventional choices and beliefs. And today asks us to look inside ourselves and question if the struggles we face as a result of those choices are really about the choices themselves, or are they, perhaps, about the way we present them to the world. In other words, are we righteously indignant about the choices we make? Do we flaunt them in peoples' faces? Do we hide them out of shame? Or do we otherwise turn people off by the WAY we go about exercising and executing our rights to choose and create whatever we want?

Any time we over-identify with any one aspect of our personality, we run the risk of causing struggle and controversy in our lives. And then we tend to blame the narrow-mindedness of others for causing the struggle when, in truth, our attitude toward it may actually be the catalyst. 

I had a friend once who I always suspected might be gay. Then he came out and I was one of the first people he told. I was so happy for him that he was finally expressing his full self and was truly supportive of this phase of his life. But then, over the course of the ensuing year or two, everything was "gay this" and "gay that". He giddily described sex acts he was enjoying. He dove into the culture and stereotypical affectations. And my friend, the one I could talk to about myriad subjects, disappeared. Now all he could talk about was being gay. And that's understandable for someone suddenly free to express their full self, but it was also a turnoff because, for a year or two, he stopped being a three-dimensional person. And he was crossing the bounds of TMI without any regard to the comfort zones of others. He eventually leveled out and a new normal set in. But along the way, he lost a lot of friends. And he blamed it on their discomfort with his sexuality. But, for the most part, it was because of the way he imposed his sexuality on others.

So this is a great example of how the Six of Wands (celebration over coming out of the closet) turned into a Seven of Wands type of conflict. Any conflict of ideas and passions is a matter of perspective. It's easy to blame the conflict on the other guy and their ignorance or whatever. But the harder road to take is to examine your role in creating the conflict and use it as an opportunity to understand yourself better and grow. 

This is what I talk about when I talk about our "dark sides". It's that part of you that works against your conscious desires, the self-destructive part or the off-putting part. I've turned people off in the past because of my willingness to discuss this side of myself. I mean, people like that I talk about it when I'm talking about myself, but when I turn the spotlight on their dark corners, not so much...haha. And from this, I need to remember that just because I'm comfortable with confronting these sides of myself, as are many of my real-life friends, there are a lot of people out there who either insist they don't have a dark side or find it a private thing they either want to deny or keep to themselves. So if you're getting a negative response from someone regarding a certain aspect of your life, try seeing what role you play in it. We can't change others. But we can change ourselves. And sometimes changing ourselves can completely shift the energy of a bad dynamic.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

6/14/11—Putting Luck in Its Place

Today's Draw: The Seven of Cups from The Fantastic Menagerie Tarot. How good are you at daydreaming? Do you see it as a valuable thing or an idle waste of time? And if there were no barriers standing in your way, what would you be doing differently today than what you have planned?

Day Two of our Baba Studio week brings the Seven of Cups, a card I usually equate to having a wealth of choices. That's interesting in light of yesterday's draw, which also touched on choice. But The Fantastic Menagerie puts a different slant on that. It talks about imagination and daydreaming. As the author of the companion book, Sophie Nusslé, so eloquently puts it, it's about "...inventing and populating new worlds of your own be carried by the thrill of the moment towards living a life richer in texture and color."

There are those in my family who discount my worth based on my mystical hippie-like daydreamy nature. I have a nephew who denigrated me quite vocally and rudely a while back because he perceives me as having little of value to bring to this world. It struck me that this attitude would have never entered his mind if he grew up in a household where his parents respected me. It saddens me that I have achieved a good amount of success as a self-employed person, won awards for my work and am respected by my peers and still have to face that kind of energy from the people who are supposed to love and support me most. His mother once suggested to me that I didn't earn my success, rather achieved it through a series of lucky breaks. 

On one hand, I have to own some of that. I'm a fairly free spirit. I don't wear my serious face often. I don't talk about how hard I work or any altruistic things I do. I don't walk through life in an exhausted state demonstrating the distress of my mortal coil. I never complained about the years I spent in crappy jobs paying my dues. They've never seen me in a meeting or leading a presentation. They have no idea how much I know about my industry and all the dozens of industries I concept of the network of contacts I consciously acquired or the choices I made to forgo immediate desires in favor of the long-term plans I had for my career. To them, I'm just a lucky flake who somehow landed a job where you get to sit in playroom and think of silly ideas for ads all day.

The thing is, their attitudes mirror the attitudes of an outside world where is there is little appreciation for anyone who veers away from the analytical, practical mind. After all, if you're going to be a conceptual person, you should be inventing "important" things. Like rockets. Alternative fuels. And life-saving equipment or medicines. Creativity and "fun" is not for work, it's for whatever spare time you care to waste after work is done. And that model would make perfect sense if all we had was a left side of the brain. But we have a right side, too. And we not only have two sides of a brain that need nourishing, we have a heart and a soul, as well. And this is where the eyes of the overly practical people will roll...with me thinking that stuff like hearts and souls matter. But they do.

Fantasy and daydreams and play not only feed the heart and soul, they are the protoplasm that hosts the nucleus of invention. They are not at odds with the rational mind, rather they work in tandem with it to create new forms of reality for the individual and society at large. Before the rational mind can construct something new, it must be first be imagined. And this isn't just true for things, it's true for lives as well. Before you can create a new life and new reality for yourself, you must imagine it first. And if you want it to be a life that fulfills you, you have to see it first in the heart and soul before you can begin to strategize its attainment in the mind. Fabuliciousness is something you create. Not something you stumble upon because you're daft and lucky.

So yesterday I challenged you to change just one thing about your daily routine, as well as think of other things you could change. (Oh, yes I did...go back and read it if you don't believe me!) Before you can exit a rut, you have to remember you have choices, which is easy to forget when it comes to the things you do mindlessly and automatically every day. And today I challenge you to take that concept a little farther and apply wild imagination to the aspects of your everyday life. If there were no barriers to achieving your dreams, what would you do? Who would you be? And how would you live your life?

Without spending time in the Neverlands of your heart, mind and soul, you simply can't try on new ideas and thoughts and dreams to see if they fit. And until you know what fits, you can't effectively apply your will and faith to achieving those dreams. Because the fact is that stumbling upon a ready-made dream that fits you to a tee is for people who believe in waiting around for luck. And imagining a new reality and bringing it to fruition is for people who want to actually want to achieve their dreams in this lifetime.

Monday, June 13, 2011

6/13/11—Choosing Something Different

Today's Draw: Four of Wands from the Tarot of Prague. Do you have a normal "routine" you follow every day? Do you feel stuck in a rut? What's one thing you can do differently today?

This week we're going to have a little fun and feature a different deck each day from Baba Studio. Baba decks are created in Prague, Czech Republic. Their quality and design is highly prized among collectors and their decks sell out quickly. 

As tarot is wont to do, the first card I choose after I make the decision to have a "theme" week for the first time ever is the Four of Wands. Among other things, it talks about breaking out of your routine. It also speaks of celebration. And both of those things are exactly what I've done today—celebrating my favorite deck creators by breaking my deck selection routine (which, by the way is usually a random choice made according to my daily whims.)

We all get caught in ruts. Many times we're not even aware of it. We just feel like we're on automatic or slogging through something and don't realize it's because we repeat the same task day in and day out. In fact, most of our days are routine to one degree or another. We wake, drink coffee, shower, drive to work, work, drive home, make dinner, do family stuff, sleep, get up and do it all again. And this kind of repetition lulls us into hypnotic state of sorts. We're not living consciously. We're just completing the routine.

So today's card comes to tell us it's time to shake things up a little. It doesn't have to be anything major. Just something spontaneous and different. Get your coffee made a different way in the morning. Walk your dog along a new route. Stop by that place you've always wondered about on the way home. Or dance to the music at the grocery store. Just change the energy of your day a little and see if it makes a difference. Better yet, do one thing different every day this week and see if it doesn't change your energy. You never know what will happen if you veer off course. 

So today, I'm changing my usual routine with my daily reading. It's not a terribly big thing, but it woke me up enough to give me a new perspective on this particular routine. I already have a few themes for future weeks swimming in my head. But I'm also going to finalize my proposal for my Top Secret Project today and open the door (hopefully) to a whole new thing in my life. And that is BIG. I almost feel like the last few months of my life have been about shaking things up in my routine. And it feels good. The more I exercise my options, the more I see how many options are available to me and the more of an adventure life becomes. 

Which is why I think it's important to do something different and unexpected now and again. I think routine makes us forget we have options. Somewhere along the line we chose a certain direction and haven't veered from it because it was easy and efficient. Well, today is Veer Day. Whether you do something big or small, approach it consciously. Be present and see if it makes you feel anxious or comfortable or neutral or whatever. 

And, just for funsies, maybe take the opportunity to look at multiple things in your daily routine and ask yourself how you might do them differently. See what your many choices are. Question why you made the choices you made. And know for sure that when you repeat something day after day, you're doing it because it's the option you still consider most viable, and not just because it's the same thing you did yesterday. These are all baby steps. But they lead us toward living more consciously, being in the now and experiencing more of the adventure of our life.