Friday, June 15, 2012

6/16/12-6/17/12—Feeling Your Abundance

Weekend Reading: Queen of Pentacles from the Art of Life Tarot. The quote on the card says it all—true riches come from a contented mind. So this weekend put your worries aside and be wealthy of mind. Show gratitude for what you have. And practice being in the moment. In this moment there is so much to be grateful for. In this very moment, there is nothing creditor ringing your phone, no child tugging at your pants leg. There is just you and life and the moment. In this moment, you have everything you need to fully, richly, blissfully experience this moment! We spend so much time wishing for riches and alluring new lovers, but the one thing everyone wants more is just to be be content. The mistake comes in thinking anything of those things can do that for you. Only you can do that for putting aside the things that clutter your mind and just enjoying this one moment of wonderful life. Then another. And another. Can you feel the abundance flowing?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

6/15/12—Facing the Pain of Changing

Today's Draw: The 3 of Tools from the Regretsy Tarot. Do you know someone who's always whining and moaning about this or that? Is that just the way they are? Or do you think it's possible they don't know any other way to be?

The Regretsy Tarot's snark is darkening our doorway once again in the Three of Tools. If you're trying to align the suit of tools with traditional tarot suits, good luck. That's not really the Regretsy Tarot's way. But this does bear a small resemblance to the Three of Swords. Except there are gears instead of swords. And a decisive lack of compassion in the book. In fact, the book description for this card is so unique, I've chosen to quote it here for you in its entirety:

"Three gears sit atop a weeping red heart. Underneath the heart are torn definitions from an old dictionary. Some of the words are “anguish”, “damnation”, “griefstricken”, “grief”, “fraught”, etc.

The Clockwork Heart is a rather complicated, deep card, akin to an Emo tween slitting their wrists with a plastic spoon while listening to the latest 70’s punk band that’s suddenly new again.

This is the card of Ultimate Butthurt and Crying Glitter Tears. Someone, or something has put sand in the clockwork of your newly Steampunk heart, and it’s interfering with your functionality.

Rather than sharing your butthurt with the internet, relax. Have a few shots. Retreat into your PRIVATE hugbox for pets and kudos. You must learn to deal with the pain in order to grow, and lashing out will only turn you into a bigger joke."

In one way or another, I've been trying to make this point all week. But since "butthurt", "glitter tears" and "hugbox" weren't in my lexicon, I was unable to express myself clearly. Note to self: buy new, more modern thesaurus.

The thing is, when we have a conflict or someone hurts our feelings, our impulse is to reach out to others. And there is NOTHING wrong with that, Regretsy Tarot. BUT sometimes that's all we do. Which is why the same darned things keep happening to us over and over. At some point, we need to bring our butthurt and glitter tears into our private hugbox for review and take a good hard look at the role we play in each and every conflict that comes our way. Because it's really not "all their fault". It's really not. Some of it is you. 

Another point the Regretsy Tarot makes is kind of humorous. You all have them on your Facebook feed or in your 3D world—people who beyotch and moan over every sling and arrow of outrageous fortune. I feel comfortable talking about them here, because they don't read my blogs. They're too busy spewing and playing the victim. 

I have one on Facebook that is particularly entertaining. She's very "street". To the point that I can't understand much of what she says. But I do understand things like "that's* why your African American* rear end* is in jail" and "that's* what you get for making love* to someone else's girlfriend*, fine sir*". Now if you take those words and phrases with the asterisk next to them and put them in more colorful urban vernacular akin to what you might find in a hardcore rap song, you'll get a taste for what pops up on my feed.

Now I, in my whitebred way, have taken occasion to joke with her now and then. I ask her to define certain terms and such. Turns out she does have a sense of humor on top of her Herculean anger. But there are others who shower us in their poop storms on a regular basis, have no sense of humor about it and are stuck in a pattern that never changes.

The point is, if it's always something happening outside of you and despite your best efforts because you were standing there minding your own business when it happened, it's never going to change. Until you bring it inside and say "OK, this is probably going to be painful and humbling, but I clearly played a role in this. What is my responsibility? What do I do to attract this brand of crazy in my life? What is this reflecting back to me?", you're going to keep reliving it until you get it. 

If denial is your way of avoiding the pain of looking inside, know that you will experience the pain of the conflict, betrayal or whatever over and over and over again until YOU do something to change. Many years ago I heard something about change that seems to ring true: When the pain of staying the way you are is greater than the pain of changing, that's when you'll change.

Personally I don't think you have to wait for that pain in all situations, but there are some situations where we build hurt upon hurt upon hurt until we can take it no longer. That's the wisdom of the weeping red heart in the card's illustration. Sometimes pain becomes our machine. It becomes our way of life. And the blood we lose is measured in our spirit and relationships and motivation. 

Maybe you're not bitching and moaning about it or taking it out on others. Maybe it's not even a conflict that keeps recurring. Maybe it's a point of shame or defeat that you hold instead. Some pain from the past or a sadness over a loss. Maybe it's actually that you've taken on TOO MUCH of the burden of blame and responsibility in some matter. 

Whatever pain is driving you, if it has reached the point of driving you, know that you have reached the point where the pain of changing is less than the pain of continuing on. So make today your last day without hope. Get help if you need it. Find a way out. 

And if you have someone like that in your life—and you care for them—try broaching the subject with them if they'll let you. Honestly, every time I've tried with a friend, they weren't prepared to address it. But some may be on the edge between the pain of staying the same and the pain of changing. If so, they just might need to know there's a way out. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

6/14/12—Letting Yourself Just Be

Today's Draw: The Wheel from the Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert. How many times today would you say you were fully engaged in the moment? How much of your day is spent in a fog of to-do lists, distractions and thought? Are you ready for a challenge?

Today was an unusually spectacular day for summer in Washington, DC. High of 80. Breezy. No humidity. The same weather will take us out the week. Usually by this time of year, I'm just about to pack it in and not exit the house for the summer. But our unusually warm spring has given way to a pleasant summer so far. So how I could choose any other deck than the one named after Gaia herself today?

The Wheel comes to remind us that everything has a season. Everything is part of a cycle. The weather I'm enjoying? It will change. The feelings you're feeling today? They will change. The people and relationships around you? They will change, too. In fact your only chance at having all the same variables in place just as they are now is in this present moment. 

This morning I went to my favorite park to sit after I visited the farmer's market. As I was sitting there enjoying the view, a lady came to the table next to me, opened up her phone and proceeded to have a 15 minute conversation about nothing of consequence. I eventually moved to another table where I couldn't hear her. By that time, however, her conversation was ending and she sat down with her back to the that she was facing the parking lot...and read a book. Haha. 

Really, it's not my place to judge her visit to the park and it's none of my business what her purpose there was. But as long as she wasn't even going to LOOK at the park, I wonder why she even left home. See, I struggle with people who go to the park just to talk on the phone. There's another park I go to where, in the center of the park, you can't hear anything but nature. That's so rare in this highly populated area. No traffic sounds. No sirens. Just the occasional airplane. Otherwise, it's profoundly silent. And I will hike deep into that park on an isolated trail and, invariably, someone will walk by on their phone complaining about the cell coverage....haha. 

The view from my "office" around noon today.
The ironic thing about the woman this morning is that one of the things I heard her say to the person she was talking to was about how she needed to take better care of herself. And there she was in an incredibly healing environment...talking on the phone! Then putting her back to the river so all she saw was the traffic on the parkway! Again, her reasons for going to the park and her way of enjoying herself don't have to be mine. So it's none of my business. Which is why I struggle with this. It's a control issue on my part to a certain degree. And it's also a frustration because it just so happens I don't go to the park to her her phone conversations.

But one of the things The Wheel comes to tell us is about being in the moment. And you can be in the moment on the phone. Or reading a book. Or sitting in silence in front of the river. You can be in the moment during all those activities. But often, we're not. We're thinking about yesterday and tomorrow and what to say to so-and-so... and what people shouldn't do and where they shouldn't do it....haha. 

The thing is, the only chance either she or I had at that specific time of magic when the sun was glinting off the water just so, the fish were jumping for insects, the breeze was blowing cool, the vista was crystal clear, the coffee was warm in my hand and the clouds were still shifting from yesterday's gray to today's white and fluffy, was in that one moment. I got to be there to experience that moment...and then I got to be there to be distracted by her phone call and my cell-phone-at-the-park issues....and then I got to experience the peace and healing of the river again. I don't know what Chatty Cathy experienced, but from her restless distraction, I doubt she was in the same moment I was. 

Each day we're faced with countless moments and opportunities to just be happy in what is. Again, just today I got home from the park, gave each dog the bite of scone I'd saved them from the farmer's market, then sat down and checked my emails. I probably didn't look up for 15 minutes and my dogs were just staring at me in a way that said "OK, we got the scone, but we didn't get you." So I put my laptop down and loved them. But I missed the moment they REALLY wanted to love me. I do that all the time.

A secret path leading to places quiet and beautiful.
I would think it would take great discipline...or great live in the moment all the time. So I'm not suggesting that. But I know all of us can live in the moment more. Honestly, there are entire days in each of our lives where our head is everywhere but here, in this moment, right? Yet, if we subscribe to Buddhist thought, and I do, then that's the only place we can find true bliss. So then the question becomes "why do I choose to place bliss aside in favor of the neurotic ramblings of my mind?" 

I've spoken a lot about forming a daily practice of meditation. I've had one for close to 30 years now. Its intent is usually to put me in the now. But being in the now doesn't need a special place or a special time or a special ritual. All it needs is for us to start forming a habit of stopping the madness in our head and observing where we are, how our body feels, what we smell, what we see, etc....getting into the moment and noticing all the stuff we don't when we life moves by at a million miles per hour. For most of us, none of the crap we worry about all the time is relevant and/or imminent in THIS second. 

In this very second I'm writing a blog, yes. But I'm also stopping frequently to feel the breeze on my cheek, smell the flowers so sweet at this liminal time of day and take a peek at my dogs who are 10 feet away watching me because that's their favorite thing to do. And there's this one tree that's across the street from the house behind me. Right at this moment, it's catching the full dose of a slowly setting sun while all the other trees behind and around it are already in shadow. It's just a freak of light and shade that exists only in this moment. In the time it took me to write about it, half the tree is now swallowed in the shade. Soon the whole tree will blend with the ones behind it and it will be as if it never was. 

As I see the first of the lightning bugs blink on this GORGEOUS evening, I challenge you—how many times can you stop and Just. Be. Here. In the next 24 hours? You don't have to go outside. Heck, you could be watching TV. But how many times can you remember to stop and be fully engaged in the moment? And if you did that, how might it change the way you perceive your life? How might it, over time, change your physical health? How might it prove to be just the answer you've been looking for in your life?

The view Chatty Cathy dissed today. She's the white dot at the far right...nearly out of view/earshot. Where she belongs. :D

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

6/13/12—Lincolning Your Life

Today's Draw: James Buchanan, #15, from the Presidential Oracle. Are you sitting on the fence about something? Are you doing it to try to please the most people or are you doing it because you can see things more clearly from atop the fence? Assuming you can't do both, would you rather serve everyone, or would you rather serve the highest good?

Many years ago, in a lighthearted effort to prove that anything can be an oracle, I concocted the most boring and convoluted oracle ever—The Presidential Oracle. Basically you choose a number between 1 and 44, then read an essay about the accompanying president's life. In this essay, you will find the wisdom you seek. Well, that's how it was supposed to work. The real way it works is you start reading an essay about the president in question, then you fall asleep from boredom two sentences in. 

So it is with much delight that I resurrect this oracle for you today with one of the most enthralling presidents of all—our 15th President, James Buchanan. I know what you're thinking. But there really was a president named James Buchanan. I swear! 

Buchanan was a one-term president by his own design. He announced that at his inauguration. He served 1857-1861 and is probably best known as being the president before Lincoln. He is the only president to remain a bachelor throughout his life. He cohabited with a man for many years. His niece served as First Lady. As a result of that and the rumors at the time, he is thought to be the first gay president.

Buchanan entered the presidency at a time when the country was quickly dividing over the issue of slavery. As a skilled lawyer, he felt constitutional law would solve the problem. He appointed advisers on both sides of the fence and felt he could maintain a balance until the Supreme Court made a decision, then guide the country to accept whatever decision that should be. In short, he wanted to make everyone happy. And it failed. Two years in to his presidency, the new republican party took control over the congress and pretty much everything Buchanan tried got deadlocked. Ultimately, his inaction in the face of secession would become his legacy.

So James Buchanan comes to us today to warn us against the dangers of trying to please everyone. The key, as is the key to everything, is intent. Are you being equitable and agreeable so everyone will like you? Or are you remaining neutral because you feel detachment serves the highest good? And the role you play also plays a part. As a lawyer, Buchanan is wise to walk to middle ground and play devil's advocate. As a president, his role is to be the key decision maker. So he has to make the tough decisions and choose between one thing or another. However in many roles, we're called upon to do both. 

As a spiritual writer, I've taken a particular stand on the spiritual lessons I want to put forth in my blogs. Those beliefs do not please everyone. They speak primarily to people who consider themselves metaphysical, "spiritual but not religious" or "spiritually open minded." You won't find many born again Christians reading my blog, though I suspect many would find common ground in some of the things I talk about. However they will never see past the tarot card at the top of the blog or the fact that I rarely ever refer to Jesus. And that's OK. I've chosen my audience. It's the audience with which I can be most effective, because lord knows I can't talk scripture. 

That said, within the stand I've taken, I choose a neutral, non judgmental, detached stance. As best I can. That also does not please everyone, because detachment means I'm not going to get emotionally caught up in your issues and bleed your blood. If I do that, I can't serve you. Because chances are, whatever you're bleeding about is here to teach you a lesson you're too emotionally involved to see. And the more I become personally embroiled in it—as a friend, teacher or adviser—the less I'm able to pull back enough to help you see the lesson so you can move past the repeating pattern. 

Conflict, pain, disappointment—as well as joy, peace and accord—are all here to teach you something in my way of believing. Before you can see that, though, you need to move past your ego involvement in the situation...your investment in being right. There are plenty of people who will rail against your injustices with you on the ego level, and those people are important to have around. The path I'm increasingly choosing in my life, however, is playing the "bad guy" who stays far enough detached that I can see your personal responsibility and steer you toward your spiritual evolution when you're ready.

In my way of believing, if you don't eventually learn the lesson, it will come back to you again and again. It might have a different plot and a new cast of characters, but it will come back. I've just had something come back around on me again. It feels good to have people affirm that I'm right, but I'd also like someone who doesn't care if I'm right or wrong to help me focus on what I'm not learning. Sometimes we need our egos soothed before we're ready to examine our role in why the same patterns keep repeating in our lives—or even that it is the same pattern, seeing as how it looks different than the times before. 

So the role I want to play in my tarot practice, my writing and as a spiritual counselor is that of someone who can help you see your personal responsibility, identify the patterns in your life and challenge you to evolve spiritually. Which means I'm not for everyone, either personally or professionally. By taking that stand, I tell the universe what kind of energies to bring to me. I attract the kind of people who are looking for what I have to offer. And I'm able to be effective where I want to be effective. 

I'm not saying my choice is better than any another. I'm saying I know what's right for me and my talents, and who I want to serve and who I want around me. And I'm not afraid of the consequences that come from that, including a smaller pool of clients, friends and readers upon which to draw in life. 

In marketing you might call it differentiation or appealing to a niche market. Ultimately we have to specialize in take a name our practice. Even being a general practitioner is naming a practice. But in the world of the Presidential Oracle, we call someone who is both a general practitioner and a specialist, a Buchanan. They're Buchananing it in order to be all things to all people. And, in the end, they're not as effective in serving others as those who are Lincolning it in their lives. 

Ultimately that's the lesson Buchanan needed to learn. Both presidents were presented with the exact same challenge/opportunity—to heal the rift in our nation. Buchanan tried to do that by serving everybody and failed. Lincoln, instead of serving everybody, served the highest good. In doing that he had to take a stand that would cause resentment among many and, eventually, cost him his life. But he was more effective, his mission succeeded and he created significant change in the world.

Where in your world might you be trying to please too many people? And are you doing it to avoid creating waves...because it's easier? How well is it working for you and your personal growth?

Monday, June 11, 2012

6/12/12—Identifying What Is Expendable

Today's Draw: The Knight of Hazards from the Zombie Tarot. As you look around your life, what are you coming to realize is expendable...excess, ego-driven baggage that weighs you down? Are you ready to let go of some of it yet? And what really matters in your life...what will hopefully fill the new space you've created?

In the Zombie Tarot, they've re-named the suit of Pentacles to Hazards. I have no idea why. A quick perusal of the book offers no clue. I'm not a big reader, so if I can't find it in a skim, I'm happy to declare it unfindable. I'm sure there was a really good reason, though. 

This zombie knight has worked really hard in his life and has attained some success. He owns a nice gravesite on the good side of town. When a limb falls off, he can afford to get it reattached. And he has fresh, certified organic brains delivered three times a week—no need for hunting. He has everything an undead could want. But does he have what he needs?

The Knight of Hazards asks us to reevaluate what's important to us and what is truly expendable. This is something I'm contemplating myself lately as I continue to reassess what is serving me in my life and what is not. I've already set some changes into motion, putting my energy into things that are more healing and nurturing. 

Today's big thing was reclaiming my bedroom. I had been sleeping on a blow-up mattress that nearly swallowed all the open space in the downstairs of my small home because my dog was recovering from surgery and couldn't go upstairs where the bedrooms are. But today I deflated the mattress.

I essentially worked and slept in the same room for three months—a room that you could barely walk through because of the big mattress in the middle. It sucks your energy. And during this same period of time I not only helped my dog through his recovery, but I watched my brother die. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I have lost a lot of people in my life and none has affected me more thus far. Never lose a sibling if you can manage it. 

So anyway, it has been a difficult few months. And the Deflating of the Mattress was symbolic of many things. First, it's a signal that things are getting back to normal around here. It's symbolic of the clutter I've been clearing out of my psyche and my life over the past month or more. But I also made sure I deflated the mattress while my dog was watching. I know he'd like to keep being the baby and not have to deal with climbing the stairs again, but it's time. There's a lesson in that for all of us, I suppose.

One of the interesting things that has happened as I've begun to move away from old patterns is that new old patterns have come swooping in. Start to move away from compulsive eating and new compulsive behaviors try to swoop in. Back when I quit smoking, it was important to me not to replace one addiction for another. In a way, I ended up doing just that. I had a mean gum chewing issue for a while, but eventually weaned off of it. 

And I'm feeling the same way now...I'm moving away from something akin to addictive, compulsive behaviors and I don't want to trade issues. A brief, frenzied foray into ebay shopping and the hell of manic bidding this past week pointed that out to me quite clearly. So now I'm searching my soul, trying to get to the bottom of what I've REALLY been feeding all these years.

So this is the Knight of Hazards at work within me. What matters and what is truly expendable? I know the RARE! gemstone jewelry I purchased this week on ebay doesn't matter to me. I know that very few of the hundreds of tarot decks I own don't matter to me. I know a lot of the crap I have around this house doesn't matter to me. And I know my dogs DO matter to me. And my dreams matter to me. And my health matters to me, even though I don't always act that way. And some key relationships matter to me. And my spirituality matters to me. And that's where I am right now. 

I can't help but think I'm going to learn something really profound if I manage to continue on the road I'm on. I had mentioned before that my brother's death awakened me to some of the realities around me. That's what set me on this course in the first place. As if a fog had been lifted. But I suspect there's even more fog to go. That's the path of discovery in our lives...a series of lifted fogs that take us out of our ego-driven concerns and merge our humanness with our divinity as we peek further and further into what really matters. The road can be both painful and joyful, frustrating and freeing. And though I'd like to be a baby and stay camped at the last turnoff, I'm finally moving forward despite myself. And I'm grateful for that.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

6/11/12—Being Right All The Time

Today's Draw: Shell from the Mother's Wisdom Deck by Niki Dewart, Elizabeth Marglin and Jenny Kostecki-Shaw. Are you a good listener? Are you an equally good sharer? Should what's right for you be considered the right way for others to do things, too?

The spiral pattern of a shell not only mimics the workings of our inner ears, it also mimics the spiral walk of discovery as you listen to others tell their piece of the collective truth. 

I recently had a conversation reflecting this. My friend had had a conflict awhile back with another person. Really no one could fault my friend in being upset at what had transpired and I told her as much at the time. But that was the extent to which I involved myself in the situation, which led some to question why I didn't get more actively involved.

So an opportunity came up for me to discuss this with the friend and an interesting thing happened. Her reasons why I should have gotten involved made perfect sense to her and, in the way she explained it, it even made sense to me. But my reasons for why I didn't get involved made even more sense to me...not in a defiant way, but in a way that I can really just see no other alternative if I were to remain true to my ethics, values and beliefs. 

While I still believe my reasoning is spiritually correct and the right thing to do, I can see where hers is spiritually correct and the right thing to do, too. Yes, there can be two different "right" answers to the same situation. In fact, there can be many. The same goes with the truth. Everything is colored by who we are, what path we're on, what we came here to learn, what baggage we're carrying, what we believe in, what we're challenging ourselves with at the time, where we are in our spiritual development...the list goes on and on. And with each element we add to the list of what colors the situation, the more "right" answers, "right" stances and "right" actions there are. 

The Eightfold Path to the end of suffering as practiced in Buddhism.
In Buddhism, they have what is called the Eightfold Path, which is based on the "right" way of living in order to minimize suffering and eventually reach nirvana. It provides a fairly clear pathway to speaking, doing and thinking the "right" way. Different belief systems will have different pathways to what is right. Families will have their version of what is right. Collective society has different pathways to what is right. Governments have different pathways to what is right.  And individuals create their own version of "right" from all the different available options. That version may change over time based on our results and evolving beliefs. 

There was a time my friend's "right" was my right, but that is no longer the case based on the direction my life and spirituality have taken. By the same token, there may have been a time when someone who shared my friend's beliefs may have thought the way I think now and found it garnered less than satisfying results for them. All of us are good people trying to raise our souls higher, even though we disagree on the "right" way of doing it. When we can recognize ourselves in the faces of people who believe differently than us in this way, we find our oneness...our compassion...our understanding.

The Four Noble Truths. The Eightfold
Path is the path mentioned in the 4th truth.
Listening to others is a key tool we have as we shape our spiritual voices. Sharing is also a key tool. I know a few people who tend to listen far more than they share, thinking they're being giving, but giving is found in both listening and sharing. Without sharing, there is little discussion or debate. Without sharing, you never give others the wisdom of your thoughts, nor do you ever put then up for discussion. No one will ever see your way or understand you if you don't share. 

But just as listening to others and sharing with others is important, it's also important to listen to ourselves. Because there are so many "right" ways in the world, we may find ourselves questioning our own "right". Some questioning is healthy, but too much can leave you moving off the path of your own north star. The trick is not in believing you're right and others are wrong. It's in believing that there are many right paths to take....and yours is not only just as valid as the others, but it's also the most right for you.