78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Your Mind is Mission Control

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If I keep putting quotes like this out there, I'm liable to put myself out of business.  But if one person, upon reading that quote by Marcus Aurelius decided that rather than trying to control the outcome of a situation by force of tarot and made some mental adjustments that allowed them to be at peace with whatever, I would feel that I had done my job well.

Knowing what to expect and expecting to know are two very different things.  Miles apart, in fact.  No matter how well prepared one may be for a particular possible outcome, when it happens it still comes with all its attending emotional baggage and camps out with you for however long it wishes.  Therefore, knowing via tarot that the guy you've been seeing is likely seeing someone else on the side doesn't help the heartbreak or anger.  We also can't expect tarot to provide all the solutions.  It does help with many things -- a kind of psychic weather prediction or roadmap, a projection into what is probable and likely -- but not definitive.  And it can't make your decisions for you.  It can be quite informational but what you do with that information, how you choose to form your thoughts about that information will make all the difference in the actual outcome of any given situation.

Getting a reading on a situation is great for exploring.  Possibilities, options, directions.  A reading can reveal our own attitudes, intentions, and confirm our own intuition, but in the end how we choose to think about the information is what will impact our own outcome no matter what the external outcome of the situation turns out to be. Keeping tabs on your ex may be interesting and satisfying to that part of you that can't seem to let go -- out of love or vengeance, no matter -- but if the reading shows they are happily going about their lives, shouldn't you do the same?  We can go back to the reader a month later and ask what the ex has been up to OR we could choose to think differently about the information and use it to release ourselves to our own lives.  Going back to the reader is satisfying on some level, but it's a futile action, keeping watch on others (outside our control) or situations (outside our control).  We become mere observers in our own lives rather than actively creating and participating.

Many readers will refuse to read on the same topic/person/situation on these grounds. They believe more readings won't help, it amounts to spying, and/or the repetitive readings may enable someone in a kind of tarot dependence.  I don't really subscribe to all of that and I will read on the same topic/person/situation multiple times for a client because They Aren't Done Yet.  When they are done, they will stop.  When they are able to choose their thoughts more effectively, they will stop.  Some people require only one reading for this and others require multiple.  Each person is at their own level or ability to control their thoughts about any given situation.  The more emotionally triggered they are, the harder that is to accomplish.

So we get that we can't control outside events or other people.  What if the problem is we cannot control our own thoughts?  Marcus, dude, it's not that easy. It's really not easy but it is crucial to one's well being and happiness.  I suck at meditation because I can't control my thoughts.  They scatter like a herd of cats being chased by a herd of puppies.  Then I learned this ---



Some situations will never feel okay.  One may never feel "at peace" with a particular outcome.  But one can accept it and move on.  It's a choice, a conscious decision. We make mistakes. We fuck up.  Bad things happen that are our fault, but if we allow guilt, regret, or fear of making the same mistake again to control our choices and decisions going forward, we will simply have different regrets to obsess on later.  I think regret is an inevitable constant in life, so we just have to learn not to let it control us.

When we experience something we feel feelings about it.  Most of us believe those feelings are what inform our thoughts about the  experience -- and they can.  However, feelings actually reside in the brain  and how we think results in feelings not the other way around.  How we perceive an event or experience is a kind of thinking and feelings are a kind of thinking.  So the real process looks like this:



Ever wonder why, no matter how many times you tell yourself you will not do something, no matter how many thoughts of inspiration, encouragement and willpower you think you end up doing that thing you specifically told yourself not to do?  That's because our actions come from our feelings.  BUT -- our feelings come from our thoughts.  Sometimes it takes a while for our feelings to catch up to our new or different thought process, but we will finally see our actions in alignment with our thoughts if we force ourselves into the rather uncomfortable process of re-directing of our thoughts.  Thinking about things a different way than we are used to, seeing it from a completely different angle. Eventually we will feel differently about the situation and once that happens, actions happen in accordance to the thoughts.  But it can take a while.  You know, like this:




Monday, September 07, 2015

Laboring for a Living Wage
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Non-tarot post ahead.  I may or may not get political.  As today is Labor Day, it's a good time to remember what the hell we're supposed to recognize amid the sales and barbecues. Since we collectively seem doomed to repeat history due to our societal amnesia and reluctance to read more than the blips that flit across our various screens, myself included, I did us all a favor and looked it up.  Given the current political climate, I think you'll see why this stroll down memory lane is ironic and a little eerie in its similarity.

If we ask most anyone what Labor Day is for, we'd probably get an answer that says it commemorates the American worker.  That's only part right, though. It was meant to honor not just the individual worker, but what workers accomplished together through activism.  In fact, in the first 20 years since the first Labor Day observance, even though roughly half the states officially recognized it, most employers assuredly did not.  Therefore, Labor Day was pretty much a general strike more than a leisurely day off.

Most of us know the labor movement fought for fair wages and to improve working conditions.  It also led the fight against child labor and for the eight-hour workday and the New Deal, which gave us Social Security and unemployment insurance.  The driving slogan was "8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, 8 hours for what we will."



Even tarot has an opinion. It always does about everything. I can't help but notice that the principle card for "work" in tarot is 8 of Pentacles (coins).  Eight. 




 The employers and the government didn't just say, "OK, hard workers, you've earned some quality of life, here you go."  These advancements in humane conditions in workplaces were fought for in the streets in bloody riots, strikes, marches, and other collective actions.  Employers fought back with strikebreaking, blacklisting, vigilante violence, and by enlisting government force to their side by paying for lobbying for and getting local governments to pass anti-sedition laws that severely curtailed the free speech of those at the Labor Day gatherings.  President Grover Cleveland deployed more than 10,0000 troops to break the Pullman strike in Chicago.  Protesters were arrested, jailed, injured, and killed. Since 1850, according to one estimate, over 700 people died as a result of anti-union violence during strikes.



While these protests are similar to the recent Occupy Wall Street protests, the main difference seems to be focus and purpose.  The Occupy movement has identified a broad number of specific concerns and calls for a general overhaul of many aspects of our economic system.  The Labor Movement was focused primarily on working conditions.  I think maybe it's easier to raise awareness and ire about focused issues rather than broad, amorphous Change.   Unions won in the end and with them the luxurious working conditions we now take for granted.




Recent anti-union sentiment has diminished the pull and members of these organizations as well as internal strife being their own undoing.  Recently the governor of  Wisconsin wrote into law the seven-day work week. Contrasting that, we also have the Raise The Minimum Wage movement gaining momentum along with local organizations of workers that aren't unions, per se, but where workers in a common industry will gather and organize activism.


Wherever you may stand on these issues these facts remain:

One cannot live on $7.25 an hour.  Being below the poverty line qualifies one for federal assistance in the form of SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and possibly other benefits depending on one's family situation.  If we want to reduce the taxpayer burden of welfare, workers need to earn a Living Wage that allows a family to pay for rent, transportation, food, utilities, and clothing without having to rely on welfare.  Across the country, costs of living varies, but the average living wage -- which is the bare minimum one can earn to meet one's basic needs -- is around $12 an hour.  This issue is a true working class issue and one worth considering today, on Labor Day.




Saturday, April 04, 2015

What Your Brave Is
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There are generally two types of courage. "Physical courage" is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, or threat of death, while "moral courage" is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. Which tarot card represents courage?  Strength, of course.  Strength illustrates both inner and outer fortitude, strength, and bravery often emerging from the most unlikeliest of sources. It is a fairly obvious depiction and one that we associate easily with Courage.

But have you thought about others?  Courage is displayed throughout the deck.  The 7 of Wands displays a kind of crazy, madman courage in the face of overwhelming odds and besides, he's not ready. He didn't have time to put on proper footwear.  The 5 of Pentacles shows the inner strength to persevere when one is at the rope's frayed end but to keep going despite hardships and challenges.  The 8 of Cups shows the courage to strike out on one's own, leaving behind what once was cherished. 



“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it doesn't.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.

That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”    


The 8 of Pentacles is about the everyday courage it takes to do what has to be done, again and again.  The 7 of Swords shows someone taking a lot of risk into one's own hands, for better or worse.  The 6 of Swords sets out to unknown shores in the hope of something better. All of these actions take courage in varying degrees and measures.  


Stories.  We all have our stories, our moments, however brief, of striking courage that surprised ourselves most of all.  We look back and wonder at our own bravery, or foolish recklessness, because sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.  Sometimes we don't even recognize it as bravery.  We were just doing what had to be done and didn't feel any special commission that stated, "This is bravery, right here."  It was just necessary and we did it.


“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.”  

Bravery isn't usually on display.  It rarely is and that's why we have such high standards for it and don't recognize it in ourselves.  We have a Hollywood expectation of bravery.  We think that once we do something rash exhibit courage that it should be a game changer, that all will be set right because we finally did what we were afraid to do.  That's bullshit. There are times in life when we must find the courage to keep going every single day.  That's no better or worse than any other kind of bravery.  It's made of the same stuff.

We need to understand that we're not going to understand someone else's brave.  What may come easy to one is a daunting struggle to another.  My experience of a similar or even the same event is not your experience.   I come from a family of introverts, of which I am one just less so, who thought I was brave to dance in front of an audience, speak to large crowds, and tell off a judge (and gained his favor in doing so).  These things come easy to me so I don't see the bravery.  Sometimes I can look back and see it, but never in the moment.  Some of the most courageous things I've ever done were done where no one could see, and even had they seen they probably would not call what I did courageous.  Dragging myself off the sofa to take a walk in the midst of a debilitating depression was brave.  Leaving one life behind for another while everyone, even I, disapproved was brave.  Someone else's brave may be leaving the house determined not to re-check that the stove is off.

My sister was recently diagnosed with leukemia.  The chemo made her feel much worse than the disease and she had to go through four agonizing rounds that made her guts raw, her body weak, and took away her beautiful long hair.  There were times she said she had frightening thoughts of dying, but overall she tried to remain positive.  She told me, "It's just a ride.  A crazy ride, but we'll get through it."  I don't understand this brave.  Were it me, I'd have my funeral planned, written long letters to my loved ones, taken videos to leave them, and cried and cried in mournful self-pity.  I once had a biopsy (benign, of course) and did all these things.  My sister is now in remission and cancer-free.  Brave, not just to face the disease but also to take control of her wellness.  She might say no, it was not brave, just something that had to be done.  But that's what courage is made of: doing what needs to be done.

 “To try to be brave is to be brave.”
~ George MacDonald


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lazy Tarot
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Photo Attribution
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
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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.