Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Power of Play

A couple of months ago I signed up for a "personal growth" presentation at my place of work. The title was "The Power of Positive Thinking," and I'm all about that, so I thought it would be interesting to hear what the presenters had to say. When I finally attended the session about a week ago I did find that most of the content described my life, in general. In particular there was one part where attendees were asked to recall the last time that they laughed at something that didn't appear to be obviously funny (ahem. This is a nearly everyday occurrence for me!!!). But there was another topic that did get me thinking... when asked how often we engage in play, I had to pause for a moment. While I do have a very healthy sense of humor, and often entertain my kids with silly antics, I wasn't able to say that I really played very often. Playing, of course, can be any activity that is fun, and I honestly can't say that I engage in truly fun activities on any sort of regular basis. Hm.

Then, a few days ago I was suddenly moved to start the #tarotselflove challenge by Ethony on Instagram, even though they were already 20-some days into the thing, and I was already participating in another. One of the first prompts asks you to pull cards to represent what your inner child thinks of you, and what you can do to nurture your inner child. The message was clearly conveyed in my draw: play. Perhaps that same afternoon I had seen a note from a friend which mentioned that she was very excited to be going out dancing for the first time in ages. On my way to work I started to think about how I used to go out dancing in my early 20s, and how much fun it was to let loose on the dance floor to some really good music. Just thinking about that sparked in me the desire to do something fun, though I had no idea what that might be. I'm not really interested in going out dancing these days, so what would "fun" even look like? Still, I was entirely oblivious to the threaded theme that was unfurling throughout all of these experiences.
Gabriel being coached during his first game.
My son is just shy of five years old, and has a lot of energy, so we decided to find a sport for him to register for. Incidentally baseball season was just starting when we sat down to browse our options, and so we set him up with a local tee ball team. His first practice was a couple of weeks ago, and since then he has participated in another practice, a fielding clinic, and then yesterday had his first game. He loves it. Every day he asks me, "Is it Tuesday?" (Tuesdays are practice days). When we bought him a Star Wars bat he was thrilled and wanted to sleep with it (which he did). And I found myself falling under the enchantment of the thrill of athletics. When I was a kid I played all kinds of sports: I did karate, tennis, rode and jumped horses, ran track, played basketball, and was the only girl on a Parks and Rec baseball team (I was number 8). The last time I participated in a sport was when I was 13 years old (which, interestingly, was about the time I started becoming more interested in divination, though there is no causal relationship there).

Being a witness to my son's excitement about baseball brought all of those feelings back to me. Tee ball is totally non-competitive, which is partly why it's so great - there is no pressure involved. The kids are very young, and they are just out there to have fun, to learn the game basics, and to improve individually over time. They all receive equal playing time, and I have to say that they are extremely adorable to watch in action. So I've been sort of bit by the "bug." After the game yesterday we were thinking about what to do for the rest of the day, and the only main thing on my agenda was to go out and find Gabriel some new cleats, because the old ones he was using were starting to peel. We ended up finding two pairs (Nike and Under Armour, respectively) in great condition for a combined total of $8.50 (let me take a moment to plug second-hand stores which are wonderful places to look for sports equipment for kids, seeing as they outgrow things rather quickly!).

Later that evening I was getting ready for tea and scones and relaxation when Doreen Virtue's Archangel Oracle cards grabbed my attention. Now I have to be honest and say that I am decidedly not much of a Virtue fan (perhaps because she seems to spread herself thin across a billion oracle and tarot decks; perhaps because she features an overabundance of unicorns, fairies and angels which are not so much my cup of tea. Not sure.) however I picked this deck up at, yes, a second-hand store for .99 - a deal too good to pass up, regardless. I never use these cards, but for some reason I was drawn to pull a card from the deck, and so I did. I didn't ask a question, per se, rather I focused my thoughts and feelings on the cards as I shuffled, opening myself to whatever message might come up. It was:
I had to blink for a moment. Then I laughed out loud, and was overcome by a new warmth and admiration for this deck of cards.

"Archangel Gabriel: As you nurture a child, you nurture your own inner child. Both activities are important for you right now."

Here I am, playing, nurturing my son's excitement for his new sport, finding my own profound sense of fun in accompanying and supporting him on his athletic journey, all the while reviving exhilarating memories of my own sports days. The significance of the archangel's name was not lost on me.

Clearly I have been experiencing a notable lack of play in my life, and by nurturing my son, I am simultaneously receiving much-needed sustenance of my own.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Divinity Within Each Moment

There is divinity within each moment. Sometimes it calls to us like light from a vivid setting sun, vibrating through and over and around us. Other times it is subtle, elusive, hidden within the folds and bends of everyday life. We often overlook its presence; we swim like salmon against the current into the embrace of deeper meaning, even if our awareness there is fleeting.
Dark Goddess Tarot; Ellen Lorenzi-Prince
Ritual is a helpful tool for bringing our consciousness into divine awareness, and ritual can be found in everything, most especially the seemingly mundane facets of quotidian life.

There is a certain stability and sanctuary (literally, "holy place") that the present moment affords, and tea brewing is one way I seek to inhabit it more mindfully; a method to show appreciation for what is; brewing/drinking as a ritual of embracing the immediacy of the moment:

Now I am watching the steam curl upward. Now I am pouring water over leaves. Now I am seeing them unfold, release their essence, color their surroundings. Now I am waiting. Now I am sipping. Now it is scalding to the lips. Now it heats a path to my center. Now I release and sigh. Now it becomes warm, and now it becomes cool. Now I am here; not earlier, not soon, not tomorrow. Just here, just in this space, in this moment.

Tea time pauses everything. It keeps the pressures at bay. It reminds us that there is a holy light in each moment if we choose to find it.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Like Sunlight Through Stone

Interpersonal relationships can be challenging when expectations aren't met, and this can be further exacerbated when communication channels becomes muddied. Attempting to match up the puzzle pieces of disparate experiences, to get on the same page or find common ground, can prove at times to be quite difficult; sometimes the pieces just don't fit. But there is often room for a little ambiguity; space for many truths to sit together at once. An open heart and still mind may embrace the wholeness of that union (or dichotomy, you might also call it).

The Queen of Swords is a natural expert at this: balancing clarity with caring, seeking to understand while also maintaining gentle-but-firm boundaries; searching for truth amidst emotional turmoil, but never discounting another's perceptions.
Tarot of Vampyres; Ian Daniels
When I pulled this card yesterday morning I was immediately jarred by the raven on this Queen's shoulder because it pierced my dream memory; I was visited by such a bird in my sleep. It was large in size and I only recall being uncertain if it was a crow or raven, but based on its beak shape I'd been fairly certain that it was the latter. Perhaps it was a messenger.

As I was pondering the Queen of Swords' gifts of perception, and her ability to lock onto the most important undercurrents of a given situation, I suddenly thought of a new stone I acquired several days prior. It is called "strawberry obsidian" (if I understand correctly it is a manufactured stone, something along the lines of goldstone or blue sandstone). I picked up a piece and it felt nice in my hand - smooth, cool, bright but in a muted sort of way. And then I held it up to the store lamp and it was like a whole other world opened up before me. The light illuminated the stone's inner workings so brilliantly that it took my breath away, lightened my heart, and I knew I wanted to bring it on home.
The Queen of Sword's essence reminded me of that moment. Like sunlight though stone, situations that seem opaque when grasped closely may reveal all of their complex layers and delicate filaments when we are willing to hold them up to the light.

Perhaps it doesn't matter so much if we can't find a measure of common ground. What matters is that we don't hide from truth; that we open our hearts to understanding. Our openness and willingness is an invitation for those puzzle pieces to be brought back into alignment. And if it is still not enough, then what matters is finding peace with that incongruity.

Interestingly as I was looking deeper into the dream raven, I came across this phrase:

"Raven will show you how to go within in yourself, into the dark areas and then illuminate them, making you ‘sparkle’ and bringing out your true self. Inner conflicts should then be resolved, however long buried they are – this is the deepest healing." (Click here for the site)

And with that the circle was complete, the message filled out: the Queen, and the stone, and Raven's presence in my dream all symbolic of the search for clarity, the at times painful willingness to shine light into the dark, to understand, to express, to heal, and ultimately to release back into the universe.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Between Water and Fire

This morning I sat at the kitchen table enjoying the first cup of coffee from my new pot (thanks to my sister for a belated birthday/Christmas present!!) and I decided to pull a daily card from the Tarot of Holy Light. I shuffled a bit and selected the Ace of Swords. I've pulled this card a couple of times recently, and I have been uncovering many new and interesting facets of its character. I thought, "I wonder what its message is for me today....?"

Since taking on a leadership role at my place of work I've found myself positioned between two departments that happen to share a specific population of students. These departments have different personalities, cultures, perspectives, and approaches, and this has caused some friction over time. Now I am in a place where I often find myself mediating conflicts between the two. Over a week ago I was preparing myself for one such meeting and decided to pull a card to help guide me in how to approach these relationship misalignments. I pulled the Ace of Swords, from this same deck, the Tarot of Holy Light. At the time I wrote this:

"Demand honesty and forthrightness. If they inhabit a world hazy with clouded emotion and ambiguous intent, shine your blade a little bit in the sun. Let them see you. Remind them that you're there. Plant seeds of justice that over time will evaporate the doubts and frivolity obscuring the sharp clarity of truth."

It was very helpful advice.
So this morning I laid the Ace on the table, and then thought to look at the top and bottom cards which were the Page of Cups and the Page of Wands. I laid them to either side of the Ace and spent some time considering the line of three. Image-wise it looked quite a bit to me like mediation. And then I remembered: the first item on my morning agenda was a meeting with two members from these different teams, to discuss an ongoing problem.

On the left sits the Page of Cups, almost literally pouring his emotions out into the foreground. The eye floating above the ocean is symbolic of the way in which the perspective of this page is filtered through his/her feelings and emotional responses to the environment. On the right sits the Page of Wands, surrounded in bright, urgent flame. While the Page of Cups appears to be considering the beauty of the flowers nearby, the Page of Wands reaches out almost as if to connect with the other two cards. Water and fire, emotion and spirit. In the middle sits the Ace of Swords, an upright blade surrounded by six faces or eyes connected to a central eye that lies over the sword. All of the varying opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and feelings must be funneled through the impartial eye of the sword whose principal interest is in understanding, truth, clarity, and precise communication.

I see both parties from today's meeting in these Pages - both passionate, both motivated, both caring. But both in need of common ground, of someone to listen to them and to draw out the salient points; to help draw attention to and tease apart what is factual from what is perception. The Ace of Swords is good at that.

The meeting went well, ultimately, and I was able to use Ace of Swords energy to help achieve a level of mutual understanding. It once again brings to my mind the idea of pursuing formal mediation training, and perhaps it is time to look into that!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Five Things to Love

I have been participating in an Instagram challenge hosted by @violetauraphoto for the month of February. Each day participants receive a prompt for which cards can be pulled in whatever manner suits each individual. For the fifth day of February the prompt was: “Five Things to Love About Me.”

Honestly my first reaction went something like: “Ugh. Do I actually have to list things that others would love about me? I can’t do that. That’s weird. It’s a little self-centered. Can Jorge do this one for me?” Ultimately I decided that I would just have my cards and runes help me to identify five areas of value in who and how I am as a person. I chose to use: the Goddess Knowledge Cards (Susan Seddon-Boulet), the Earthbound Oracle (Andy Swartz), the Ancestral Path Tarot (Julie Cuccia-Watts and Tracey Hoover), the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot (Sallie Ann Glassman and Louis Martinié) and my homemade rune set.

In the end this turned out to be an exercise in self-love and understanding more than anything else, and I would recommend that all card readers take a moment to do this for themselves:
1. Changing Woman. I embrace constant evolution of my being; I meet people wherever they're at, no matter their gender, background, culture, or walk of life. I see the youth in the elder and the wisdom in the child.

2. Home. (A turtle carries its home on its back. In this image its slow-moving shell provides a perfect nesting area for birds to fly in and out, without ever losing track of their place in the world.) No matter where we are, I am home for my family.

3. 8 of Swords. (The imagery stood out to me here – a woman wrapped in beautiful but impractical clothes, in shoes not meant for travel. She looks longingly out toward the rising sun, as if wishing she could choose some other path.) I challenge the status quo, and outdated socio-cultural mores that limit self-determination and self-discovery.

4. Hagal. (The 9th rune, the deep, sighing breath). I look for the grace in difficult and unexpected circumstances; I don't hide from the dark.

5. Ace of Air, Damballah. I seek clarity and justice, the seed of truth in all things, the wisdom of Damballah Wedo.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Moon Reading

For the last full moon I decided to do a reading using a spread designed by Vickie Wilson @eternal.athena.tarot that was posted on Instagram for #newspreadsaturday. In regard to the inspiration behind this spread, Vickie says:

"In astrology the moon represents your emotional and instinctual reaction to things. As the Gatekeeper to the Underworld, we must ask her permission to pass through her gates and peer into the depths of our subconscious. Our pains, fears, insecurities, and weaknesses lie behind her veil, waiting to be confronted. That is where we find the Moon."
Credit: Victoria Wilson/Eternal Athena Tarot
Card 1: What makes me feel happy?
Card 2: How do I express my moods?
Card 3: What unconscious emotional needs motivate me?
Card 4: What is my greatest fear?
Card 5: Where do I feel insecure?
Card 6: How do I instinctively respond to threats?
Card 7: What are my emotional triggers?
Card 8: Where do I avoid taking action?

I appreciate the approach and the focus, and the results yielded were quite interesting...
A reading with the Fountain Tarot
1. What makes me feel happy? King of Swords

I recognize this King in myself - especially lately as I've embraced a leadership role at work and have had to cut through the emotional messiness impacting my team from a neighboring department. In the Fountain Tarot a row of rainbow colors flows across the ground, up through the King's body in a triangular form, and out through the apex of the King's head, at which point it becomes clear/white. In a way it may symbolize how the underlying energies from the environment are perceived and processed and then utilized by the King to understand and interact with it. It could be both metaphysical/unconscious (picking up on subtle influences or energies as information) and mundane (piecing together the smaller details of a situation or project in order to understand the full picture and formulate the next steps - microcosm and macrocosm as one). I do enjoy that. 

Also, emotions can me messy, and I like removing that filter and looking at the facts and reality when there is a benefit to doing so, and especially when matters of justice are concerned. 

2. How do I express my moods? 6 of Coins

I see the lemniscate embedded in this image, and it works with the 6 of Coins' relationship to reciprocity, give and take. I feel very strongly about people not taking out their negative moods on others. In a way this goes back to the King - I expect people to be able to discern the factors influencing how they feel and why (or at least know what isn't a true source of contention), and to be capable of filtering that, when necessary, in interactions with people in their environment (tall order at times, I know). Likewise, if I am in a bad mood (which is rare, but happens on occasion) I try not to pass that on to others. When you are upset and lash out, you send out ripples of negativity into the world. On the flip side, when I'm happy I like to engage with people and emit that joy - to smile at passers by, or chat amiably with strangers in line at the grocery store - sending ripples of positive energy out into the universe. Give and take isn't just about money and material resources, after all. 

3. What unconscious emotional needs motivate me? 9 of Coins

I like how in this image there are concentric circles rising up under, around, and behind this woman; it seems to be to be a symbol of incremental growth. It's not even an unconscious drive, this card. I have worked long and hard to be economically self-sufficient, and it has not been an easy road. I had my first child when I was 20 years old, in my second year of college. I raised her on my own, with the additional support of my mother and step-father, but I struggled. I was filled with a thrill of relief and joy when I graduated with my Bachelor's degree (it took me 6 years!). But the subsequent work I found never fulfilled me, despite being great experience. I felt lost for quite a while. It wasn't until I met and married my husband and we started our life together (and started to have more kids!) that I pursued my Master's degree, a path that ultimately has led me to my current job, which is so much better than I could have ever imagined. I have come a long way, and I feel good about what I have accomplished. And yet there is a special *something* that floats beneath the surface; a legacy left from those difficult years in my early adulthood. I imagine there are subtle aspects related to that journey that still influence me in subtle ways. Will my successes ever feel like enough? 

4. What is my greatest fear? 4 of Swords (reversed)

Stagnation. Plans that are made but never materialized. 

5. Where do I feel insecure? 9 of Wands

This is a card of the battle-weary but courageous. It's also a card of being defensive, which is an instinctual response to insecurity. In the card, the man has come a long way, and he's close to the top, but instead of focusing on the goal ahead, he's looking backwards and down. Is her trying to retrace his steps? Is he worrying about the past? Is he concerned that someone is coming up the ladder after him? Perhaps he is worried that the path he has forged won't hold his weight for much longer. I do have a tendency to worry about the past, and about things that I could have done, or said, differently. I worry about being misunderstood. Learning to express my voice confidently and freely has been an arduous journey because I often don't know what to do when I find myself under attack. I'm getting better at that, though. I believe it stems from some unsavory early experiences in life where I was ripped to shreds on multiple occasions (verbally and emotionally) by my father's wife (he remarried following my parents' divorce). It was totally shocking and unmerited, and my father never stood up for me, or my sister. There is something there that probably still hasn't been entirely healed. 

6. How do I instinctively respond to threats? Chariot (reversed)

This relates somewhat to the previous card. In the past I've never dealt well with threats. I would end up crying in anger and vulnerability, or else stand there frozen like a deer in the headlights (or a combination of both). I would totally lose any sense of focus and I'd crumble. The other entity would dominate me, and I hated it, but didn't have the fortitude or clarity of mind to do anything else. Over the years I've learned to pause, breathe, and let the initial wave of emotion flow through and out of me. Then I become ultra focused, determined, and prepared to use all of my faculties to do what is right on my own behalf, to stand up for myself. Instead of crumbling (okay, maybe after crumbling), I gather my resolve, determine the best approach, and put my full force behind it. I have always relished challenge. If it seems hard, I will find a way to do it. If it seems unlikely, I want to try it even more, just to see if I can. 

7. What are my emotional triggers? 6 of Swords (reversed)

This is an appropriate cards to represent the response of an emotional trigger. Upright it is about "mind over matter"; the ability to be objective about emotional situations such that one can make the choice to leave what isn't working, or what causes pain. Reversed it suggests an inability to move on, an attachment to past hurts that on some level keep us connected to history. In large part we are triggered emotionally by things that bring to our minds hurts that we haven't healed from. It's interesting because I don't have many emotional triggers, but I have never handled sadness well, or the feeling of lack of emotional control. This connects a bit to the Chariot - to situations in which I've felt stomped on, belittled, disempowered, taken advantage of. Those things can lie beneath the surface of consciousness, and if they aren't healed can become unconscious triggers, like freezing under threat and conceding to the other person entirely, even if they are in the wrong, simply because it hits a nerve, a soft spot, a fear. Channeling my own strength and using it in timed of challenge has been an ongoing learning curve, though I recognize that I've come a long, long way.

8. Where do I avoid taking action? 2 of Cups

Wow, interesting. On one hand this is a card of emotional healing. I wouldn't say I avoid healing, but since being out of control, feeling deeply sad, is so difficult for me, I may not always allow myself the opportunity to fully heal. I think I have improved in this area over the years, though. 

On the other hand it brings to mind emotional expression, which I am not a big fan of. I am a private person, generally speaking. I like people, I like collaborating, I like supporting others...but in other ways I am sealed up tight. I used to not realize the extent to which I wouldn't communicate even with close loved ones (my mother, my husband). I'd be worrying and stressing about a matter and it just wouldn't even occur to me to share that with my partner. So over time I've become more aware of that tendency, which is good, and I've learned to speak. However in general I still find that my emotional sharing has very clear limits. And I am sure I don't call my friends nearly enough.

Finally, I was reading my astrological chart the other day and one section made me pause and think of this... with Venus in Aquarius I tend to be friendly and pleasant to be around, but difficult to get close to due to my preference for personal freedom. Hm. That was interesting. I am notorious for avoiding making plans whenever possible. I don't like the feeling of being tied down that plans give me. In that light, the 2 of Cups as something I avoid makes a lot of sense!

Welp. That is a lot of food for thought!