I use tarot and oracle cards as tools for reflection and contemplation. Rather than divining the future, they are a way for me to look more deeply at the "now."
"The goal isn't to arrive, but to meander, to saunter, to make your life a holy wandering." ~ Rami Shapiro

Monday, April 24, 2017

Personal Triumph

From the Stone Tarot, the Eight of Wands; from the Buddhist Quote Cards, the Dhammapada 19:258:
          The Eight of Wands symbolizes projects coming to a quick conclusion. Finally the end goal is in sight and about to be realized. Stone's poem speaks of superheroes, both from the imagination and real life. Yet no human is without flaw, regardless of their amazing talents (she points out Lance Armstrong). Likewise, completion rarely means perfection or an accomplishment that will never be surpassed. Perhaps just getting to the end - having the tenacity to see things through - is enough. The quote from the Dhammapada reads:
One is not wise only because one speaks a lot. One who is 
peaceful, without hate, and fearless is said to be wise.
Buddha's words teach that wisdom comes when we aren't self-preoccupied (and trying to gain attention). Without our ego in the way, we won't be agitated by fears of 'not good enough' or resentments that someone else exceeds our knowledge or skill. We can be happy for our abilities and personal triumphs without needing to compare them to prove our worth. The benefits of wisdom and peace will always beat the front page news.
[Note: Some translations of the Dhammapada provide only verse numbers without chapters, and some provide chapter numbers. I'm using chapter : full text verse; the translation is by Gil Fronsdal.]

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Corrupted or Clear Mind

This week I'll be using the Stone Tarot, a self-published deck by Alison Stone. I may also dip into her book of tarot poems (Ordinary Magic), although it wasn't written as a companion book. The oracle I'll be using is the Buddhist Quote Cards, painted and published by Diana Altenburg. Even though she has spiritual quotes (from John Lennon to Lao Tzu) on the back of the cards, I have decide to pair each card with a verse from the Dhammapada (a Buddhist text). Today's draws are the Two of Wands and Dhammapada 1:1:
           Two golden rods seem to be blocked behind a chair-like object. I was surprised to see the drab colors in this card; most of this deck is done in intense, jewel tones. But there is a method behind Stone's use of color in this Two of Wands. It can feel like looking through murky water when trying to make a decision about what to do and how to do it. Stone's poem for this card describes the choice of Hans Rey, a Jewish illustrator and author, who fled Paris before the Nazis arrived. He and his wife had to decide the best way to leave without detection; they finally managed to gather enough parts to make two bikes. One of the few things they took with them was a manuscript for the children's book Curious George. The verse for the Buddhist Quote Card reads:
 All experience is preceded by the mind, led by mind, made by mind. Speak or act with a corrupted mind, and suffering follows as the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox. 
The 'Law of Attraction' folks have twisted the words of the Buddha to mean 'positively think it - get it.' But this is not even close to the truth he points out. As Bodhipaksa explains, "The Buddha’s view on positive thinking was that if it violates reality, it’s worthless." Instead, Buddha taught that if we habitually respond to life with aversive or grasping thoughts and emotions (Ex: "This isn't fair - I can't live life this way!" or "I must have things this way to be happy!"), then suffering will follow us like a shadow. When presented with a choice, I must question my thoughts and emotions and see if they are based in facts or simply assumptions with no hard evidence to back them up. Then my actions will be responses rather than reactions.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bundle Up

From the Tarot of the Cat People, the Ten of Pentacles; from the Sacred Geometry Oracle, the Octagram:
          This card made me think of two things. The first was how unusual it is these days for a family business to be passed on to the next generation, and for that next generation to be able to have success with it. Second was to wonder when domesticated animals became pets (and a part of the family) rather than a simply useful tool. The Octagram is described by Greer as a "symbol of interactions between two firmly established forces or factors." These two sides don't need a guardian or keeper because they can click along just fine on their own. But combined, they become a stronger and more resilient force. They support each other rather than become a drain on the other. These cards remind me of the teaching tale of the bundle of sticks; one can be easily broken, but together they are sturdy and durable.

Friday, April 21, 2017

It's Not a Twin Thing

From the Tarot of the Cat People, the Two of Cups; from the Sacred Geometry Oracle, the Right Triangle:
          This couple is dressed so alike, they almost appear as a mirrored reflection. Their coming together is a movement toward cooperation and partnership. But the 'twin' outfits are a bit concerning; does it mean one of them must give up their ideas and ways of doing things in order to be like the other? Or is there enough respect between the two of them to blend the best of what each brings to the table? The Right Triangle is made up of one 90 degree angle with two other smaller sized angles that together equal 90 degrees (for example, 90 + 60 + 30). This is a relationship that is not about equality, but about playing a part in the whole (180 degrees of the triangle). Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses depending on what the subject or situation may be. Some days our partner might need to wear the bigger shoes, but other days we may need to fill them. The bottom line is not who is better or smarter, but who is more suited for the task at hand.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cup of Comfort

From the Tarot of the Cat People, the Four of Cups; from the Sacred Geometry Oracle, Discontinuous Proportion:
          In Buddhism, the near enemy of compassion is a kind of grief that is often seen in cases of burnout. Look at the helping professions and volunteers of all kinds; you will find this kind of depression and weariness from people who have been in the game for too long without a breath of fresh air. They drown in the suffering of other people while forgetting to hold on to the lifeboat of self-compassion. The anguish of the Four of Cups is reflected in Discontinuous Proportion (no measure of equivalence between variables). In this case, the woman offers numerous cups of kindness and compassion to other people, but refuses any sips for herself. Do we think this kind of behavior makes us a good person or some kind of savior? Self-compassion requires that I examine my own suffering. I must be willing to pull back the curtain and expose the irrational thoughts behind my discomfort.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Don't Hide

From the Tarot of the Cat People, the Ace of Swords; from the Sacred Geometry Oracle, the Hexagram:
          The Ace of Swords often represents mental clarity that helps us see the truth. But this fellow has added a shield to his sword, as if he is protecting himself. Perhaps he thinks he is preserving the truth, but my guess is that he is using the shield to keep from fully seeing reality. Reminds me of this description by Bodhipaksa:
 Worry can make us behave in ways that perpetuate it. I was surprised, talking at a class one night about how I sometimes leave mail from the tax office unopened for several days, to find out that I wasn't alone. In fact almost everyone there said that the fear of knowing what was in a tax notification stopped them from opening the mail, sometimes for weeks! So what happens here is that our anxiety takes an unknown that could be resolved in a moment ("Hmm. Mail from the tax people? I wonder what's in it? Let's see!") into a prolonged bout of dread ("Oh, god it's still there! I wonder what's in it? OK, I'll try and ignore it a bit longer!"). The mind multiplies and amplifies our sufferings.
The Hexagram is constructed from two equilateral triangle pointing in different directions, suggesting a balance of opposites - yin with yang, light with darkness, pleasant with unpleasant. To live life fully, I can't continue to run in the direction of one and leave the other behind. All of it is valid and deserves my time and attention.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Drops Filling a Giant Pot

From the Tarot of the Cat People, the Five of Swords; from the Sacred Geometry Oracle, Continuous Proportion:
          It's one thing to win an argument, but it takes it to another level when the other side is cowed into submission by intimidation. It's not enough that he wears a horned helmet to advertise his bullheaded personality, this man also wears the skins of cats to remind the others who is in charge (and who holds the only opinion that counts). He might get the 'honor' of always being right, but I bet he sleeps with one eye open. Continuous Proportion means that you can't change one thing without affecting everything else. Do something on one side, and the other side will be transformed too. Remove a dam and the water previously held behind it will seek its own level. Though I don't concern myself with rebirth, reincarnation or any form of resurrection, I do put stock in karma (intentional acts, words or thoughts). Both today's cards suggest taking Patrul Rinpoche's words to heart:
Do not take lightly small misdeeds
Believing they can do no harm
Even a tiny spark of fire
Can set alight a mountain of hay.

Do not take lightly small good deeds
Believing they can hardly help
For drops of water one by one
In time can fill a giant pot.