Friday, January 20, 2012

The Week of 1/22/12—Walking Your Talk

A while back, one of my artist friends, Joanna Powell Colbert, wrote something that forever changed the way I looked at my backyard.  

She urged her readers to notice the other animal families that live alongside ours on our properties. And not just to notice them, but to dial into them the way we do our human neighbors—recognizing their patterns and quirks.

Certainly I was aware of much of what lived in my backyard before. There are the birds that live in the honeysuckle tangle. The rabbits that nest under the shed. The mice that live beneath my deck and occasionally invade my house. Then there are the passers by—the mourning doves, the cardinal, the bluejay, the possums, the owl and Harvey, the neighbor's cat who likes to torment my dogs.

I knew all this, but had never seen it as a community before. Nor did I recognize my role as the steward of this community. For example, I take precautions so my dogs can't get at the bunnies under the shed. If I see Harvey in our yard, I warn him before I release the hounds. And, essentially, I don't do anything to discourage these families from thriving on my property (though when the mice enter the house, all bets are off.)

So it was in this mind last year when I really took a good look at the squirrels that raise their young in my tree. It started out with birds nesting in this one hollowed out limb. But about eight or nine years ago I saw the birds being unceremoniously evicted by the squirrels. Since then I've watched generations of baby squirrels peek their heads out that hollow hole looking for their mama. Then, when they get big enough, everyone moves elsewhere, vacating the hole until the following spring.

Anyway, all that changed when, late last summer, a storm brought down that hollow limb. The squirrels were long gone, so nobody got injured. But their home was totaled. I kept the hollow part and leaned it up against my tree, intending to fill it with soil this spring and make it into a planter or other yard feature.

Well, we've had a warm winter so far. And I think someone might have gotten pregnant early, because I've been seeing a squirrel poking around my planter-in-waiting a lot lately. It's like s/he's assessing its worthiness for another scurry of squirrels expected in the spring. Every time I see him sizing it up, I want to warn him not to risk it. But I don't speak squirrel. All I know is one push and my dogs will have those babies. It's no longer fit for squirrels.

In our spiritual lives, we will all come across a challenge like this—when something that has served us for quite some time now no longer suits us. It might come upon us suddenly like it did for the evicted birds. Or it might take time and repeated reminders to realize, like with the squirrels.

As we move forward on our paths, we need to periodically check to see if the way we're living is in integrity with our beliefs. A vegetarian may realize they cannot, in all good conscience, continue to wear leather goods, for example. A yogi might realize the hypocrisy of their cigarette or alcohol habit. Or a spiritual seeker may find that holding grudges brings nothing but pain for them anymore. In short, the spiritual home we've built can no longer abide certain ways of being.

As you walk through the coming week, think about the squirrel and the choice he needs to make in order to do what's best for himself and his family. Consider whether the ways you're acting and being continue to honor the spiritual beliefs you've built. Observe your actions and interactions and ask yourself questions:
·      Are you approaching conflicts from a place of compassion and understanding?
·      Do you follow the advice you give to others?
·      Can you see where the judgment you placed on someone else might also be true about you?
·      While you may not be saying unkind things, do you find yourself thinking them?
·      Are you really listening when people speak or are you thinking of all the stuff you have to do later on?
·      Would Jesus/Buddha/God be proud of the way you handled that last interaction?

The questions you ask yourself may be different based upon your beliefs and where you are along your path. But you owe it to yourself to be as honest and as impartial in your self-assessment as possible. To make progress on our spiritual paths, it becomes necessary to shed parts of ourselves that no longer serve.

We may not always like what we see when we look inward. We may find it's not always convenient to act in integrity with our beliefs. We may even discover it's harder to find a new way of approaching things than it is to stay the same. But if you're one of those people who hates it when others don't walk their talk, then you've got to decide whether you're going to be one of those people you hate or not.

The look on my dog's face tells me that once that squirrel's eyes are opened to the way things really are, he will seek higher ground. And you will too.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

1/20/12-1/22/12—Integrating Opposites

Weekend Reading*: Integration from the Osho Zen. This is a weekend for honoring, accepting and integrating the opposites within you. Masculine/feminine, light/dark, intuitive/rational...we are all of these things to one degree or another. It's what makes us interesting. Denying any one part of ourselves puts us in a self-made prison and causes disruption within. Because that part of you is always there, trying to come out, whether you acknowledge it or not. So this weekend take an honest assessment of yourself—especially those parts of you that you tend to dislike or deny. See where you are that and where you are also its opposite. See where that part of yourself serves you. And let yourself be...yourself. Your people love you anyway. Isn't it time you started loving yourself the same way?

*As part of the change with my daily draws (see yesterday's post for details) I'm moving the "weekend reading" to Friday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

1/19/12—Changing Things Up at The Daily Draw

Today's Draw: From Soul Cards 2 by Deborah Koff-Chapin. What do you see in this card? Does it hold a message for you? And are you ready for a taste of something new at The Daily Draw?

Soul Cards aren't tarot and they're not oracle cards. They're a thing unto themselves. It's just a deck of cards with art on them. There's no prescribed meaning to any of the cards. There's not even a name for each card. 

When I first set out to learn tarot, I memorized the 78 meanings of my favorite deck and thought I was pretty fancy. Every time I would choose a certain card, my inner librarian would retrieve the meaning and I'd regurgitate it to the sitter. And while there's nothing wrong with this—you can give an amazing reading just doing that—it started to bother me that MY readings were so mechanical. But by this time, I was ruined. I couldn't pull a Three of Swords without thinking "heartbreak". And by the time that came out, my opportunity for any intuitive hits off the card had passed. 

That's when I found Soul Cards. I read these instead of tarot for a couple of years to sort of reprogram all the brainwashing I had done by memorizing meanings. And the cool thing about Soul Cards is that you can't be wrong. Because there are no meanings to measure your reading against. You just got to go with what you get.

What I get from this card is a signal that it's time to shake things up at the Daily Draw. :) I see a woman who has become so "at one" with this tree, that it's hard to see where she stops and the tree begins. In fact she's become such a part of the landscape that the skittish deer came within touching distance before he saw her. 

She is a part of nature and a part of the winter landscape. Her feet have turned to root. And she is so deep in her meditation or sleep that she's not giving off energy, while the deer is sending out ripples. She has gone so deep that she has embodied the slow, regenerative energy of a bare tree. So the deer didn't hear her, didn't sense her—didn't know she was there until he saw her. Or maybe she's part of his tribe and he came to find her and wake her up.

A few years ago, I devoted two years to watching sunrises at my favorite park by the river. I went a minimum of once a week and sometimes went for sunsets, too. I was pretty much a regular there. I like to think, if asked by a passing otter or bluejay, the critters who lived there would say, "oh, her? She's cool. She won't bother you."

While there, I would journal every morning, asking nature what it wanted to teach me. And, for me, listening meant "becoming part of the wind"...dissolving away my human nature and leaving just my "nature" to sense the scene. Sometimes I would find my lesson immediately. Sometimes I would have to sit a while before it came to me. It was never something I thought of in the car on the way over. It had to happen there. Spontaneously. It had to be the one teaching the earth prepared for me that day.

Why I started doing it and why I stopped are like the stardust we were talking about yesterday. In a way, the journal entries were very much like these Daily Draw posts, but using nature as my oracle. Probably one of the biggest lessons I learned is that nature holds an abundance of spiritual secrets. It's like its own Sunday School and you can go every day and learn something different. 

A collection of Soul Card images.
I always meant to do something with those journal posts...something that would make them into a book. But I never did. Until now. Recently a friend suggested that I devote one post a week to these messages from nature. Then, in a couple of month's time, I would have a few good ones to send off to a publisher. So that's what I'm going to do. 

For the next couple of months or so, we're going to do the Weekend Reading on Friday instead of Saturday. And the Saturday post will be devoted to what I consider "sermons from the church of nature". I truly believe there's a need out there for spiritual messages that aren't delivered from the pulpit. But I also believe my normal thing of using tarot gets in the way of the message for many who think tarot is either a) an abomination to God or b) woo woo or c) both. 

So you'll get four days of what you're used to, an early weekend reading, and something to wake up to on Saturday to carry into your weekend. And, in doing so, you'll be helping me find my voice for the book my soul has been begging me to write for years. :)

That said, what does today's card say to you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

1/18/12—Peering Into Our Trail of Stardust

Today's Draw: Ace of Wands from the Science Tarot—Nebula. Is there something you're doing right now based solely on gut instinct? When you look back on your life, do you see a lot of "clues" that haven't yet materialized into anything? What do you see in your trail of stardust?

The book for this deck says, "apparently from nothing, the star stuff comes together and begins to take shape. But what will become of this gathering of dust, this mass of potential, this nebulous form just beginning to emerge?"

The Ace of Wands signals a beginning of some creative effort...the first steps into a sea of possibilities. Maybe you're just now thinking of pursuing a new hobby. That thought is a speck of stardust. The class you're taking? That hunch your following? Another speck. And another speck. 

Sometimes we don't know what we're building until it's half built. After ten years of working in advertising agencies, I stunned myself by making a split-second decision to become a freelancer. In the very moment I made my decision, I realized it was the trajectory I'd been on my entire career. A minute before, I was clueless. A minute afterward, I had a calling. True story. And when I looked back on the previous ten years, all the specks of stardust leading me there became visible in ways I hadn't seen before. 

That was 15 years ago. And now I'm seeing another trail of stardust gathering with these blogs and other work I'm doing. It hasn't quite formed into anything tangible yet. I'm not sure what I'm doing or why. But I'm following my instinct. 

I think we all have times in our lives that we wonder what the heck we're doing it all for. Our path may seem fruitless, thankless or unforgiving. But we're throwing out specks of stardust and, somewhere out of our view, something is, nonetheless, in the process of forming. 

We may have no idea what we're doing, but we can still maintain control over the energy those specks are wrapped up in. Are they wrapped in bitterness? Exhaustion? Hopelessness? Or are they wrapped like the gift they are?

This is the second time this week that stardust has been a part of this reading. I have no idea why. But maybe it's a clue that there's magic afoot for us. Even if it's not, we can still proceed like there is, though.

I often think back to that day 15 years ago when I made a life-changing decision, seemingly out of the blue. Calling the days and weeks after it blessed or freeing or magic just doesn't seem to do it justice. Everything suddenly made sense and I had complete trust and faith I wasn't being led down this path to fail. Over the past five years I've done a number of things just from my gut without needing to know why. This blog, a series of meditations by the river and all this poking around into tarot teaching and book writing are among them. All specks of stardust gathering into a form I can't quite make out, but sense this year will bring into greater clarity.

What might your own stardust be telling you?

Monday, January 16, 2012

1/17/12—Remembering Gratitude

Today's Draw: Nine of Swords from the Art Postcard Tarot by Marcia McCord. Has some thought gotten hold of you to the point that it's haunting you? Do you feel vulnerable right now? Have you used the resources at your command to return yourself to center?

Although this card can be about disillusionment and denial, I more frequently connect it to those thoughts that keep you up at night. Maybe they're worries. Or some obsessive drama that plays over in your mind. Or maybe you're telling someone off in your mind. 

I've been doing this a lot lately. And when I get like this, it's a good signal that I'm feeling vulnerable. Things that would normally bounce right off me, penetrate instead. I don't always realize it right off, but it's also a signal that I've left something open energetically, so negative thinking that was looking for a way in, found its way in. 

There was a time in my life that I would stay up obsessing over stuff every night. Stuff like "did I remember to lock the door when I left the office?" "Why did I say XYZ to So-And-So?" And spontaneously remembering things that I should probably write down, but would have to turn the light on in order to do so. 

Right now it's about a job I'm working on with clients I can't seem to do anything right for. And it has brought me right back to times when I was younger that I was afraid of getting in trouble...or got in trouble for something I didn't do. It's a fear-based, diminishing mindset that I'm no longer used to living in. And I feel like the last couple months of stress, overloaded calendars and decisions I've made for my future have sort of weakened my emotional immune system. I'm not in my comfort zone, so I'm feeling all discombobulated. And I hate that I'm doing this to myself, because I've had some really good "wins" in the last couple of months, too, and have chosen to focus on the ooky stuff instead.

Yesterday we talked about how hope is always available to us, and my Facebook friend, P.C.,  commented that gratitude was the path to hope. That's so true, isn't it? Gratitude is a sure path back to hope, grace, faith and all the beacons of light within our higher selves. As much as some of us practice this stuff, sometimes we nonetheless have to be reminded. In the past week, I've gotten two such reminders. One was to protect myself energetically...something I'm usually cognizant of. (And by this, I just mean to imagine the protective white light of God surrounding you.) And earlier today, gratitude. 

So if any of you are out there and feeling a little off your game...or worried...or obsessive about something that happened in your life, remember those two techniques to guide you back to your faith and strength. Feelings need to be felt. There is nothing wrong with being sad or whatever. But when you feel it so much you it starts seeming like you're captive in its clutches, it's time to find a way back to center. And one good place to start is gratitude.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

1/16/12—Finding Hope Within

Today's Draw: The Star from the Legacy of the Divine tarot. When things are bad, where do you find hope? Is hope something within your command or is it a gift from God? And what's the difference between you and the most distant of stars?

The Star is a card that signals hope, especially in hard times. As you can see from the rubble in the background, the city has been destroyed. The card just before this in the tarot is The Tower, a tower that has crumbled. So something in our lives has been beaten down to its very foundation and The Star comes along to say "all hope is not lost". Whatever has happened in your life, happens for a reason. The destruction or damage was necessary for you to rebuild on a stronger foundation. Getting this card is a sign of better times ahead.

Today, however, this card reminds me of what my favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson says—"we are stardust". OK. Not original. But what he means when he says that is that the universe is made up of elements and atoms and energy, just like we are. And the iron that courses through your veins is the exact same iron that hits the earth as a meteor. Here it is in his own words:
“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”
The cool thing about NDGT (as his fans call him), is that his mind is as blown by this as yours is. He's a leading astrophysicist. He's not some metaphysical guru and, in fact, like most scientists, does not even believe in God.  And this blows his mind, too. He doesn't say this because it sounds nice or because he thinks it's what humanity wants to hear. He's the Director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of NOVA ScienceNOW on PBS. He says it because it's a scientific fact.

We are walking, talking stardust. Each of us is a museum of earthly and universal elements. Even if you believe we end at the outer edge of our skin, there is no line between us and all there is. Our breath continues past the skin, skin cells, waste. As NDGT says, "we are in the universe and the universe is in us." We are incredibly small and incredibly large at the same time. And if you don't believe NDGT, maybe you'll believe CSNY:

We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

I really love the thought behind those lyrics, because I think we get so caught up in our "king of the jungle" ego here on earth that we forget we are no greater than anything else that exists. It's all stardust. And we think we're the smartest and fittest, but on whose scale? Earlier versions of man had respect for the earth and its critters. They didn't have the wisdom NDGT has, but they sensed it within them. They had to. They lived and died by nature.

Anyway, relating this back to the card, there is nothing outside of you the inside of you can't handle, manage or transcend. Hope—and the magic it brings and the change it promises—is not something that exists outside of you. It is within you right now. Sometimes we get caught up in our dramas and forget this. We see situations as worse than they are. Or we see them realistically, but feel "there is no hope in sight". But there is always hope.

And there is always a solution. Which is not to say that the solution will land you where you were before the problem came along. But there is always something that can return you to peace, whether it's something outside of you or something inside you, like a thought. When it comes down to it, that's where all the problem is anyway, right? In the mind? Because even if we have a physical issue or an issue with a loved one, it's all dependent on the way you choose to think of it.

So what it comes down to is this...the next time you're waiting for hope to come along and bless you, remember there is nothing outside of you that you can't find within. It was in there all along just waiting for you to claim it.