Spiritual Anarchy: If it Works for You, it Works.

Hello to all of my tarot, witchy, pagan peeps!

Today, I’m going to talk spiritual anarchy, or as I like to put it, connecting to the All however the f*** you want and in any way that works for you.  As a pagan neophyte, I’ve spent the last six months seriously hitting the books, hoping to find insightful, creative practices that I could incorporate into my own.  Thankfully, I’ve discovered many, and my spiritual journey has progressed by leaps and bounds as a result.  I fully endorse the research method when it comes to growing a sustainable practice that works for you. This endorsement comes with a caveat, however: this madness ain’t written in stone (even if it is), and even if it’s been elevated to dogma-like status by the community, that doesn’t mean you have to practice it.  Have an aversion to herbs? Ditch them.  Crystals don’t leave you feeling warm and fuzzy? Set them aside and return only when the spirit moves you. Don’t enjoy the concept of deity?  Look out the window, smile at the universe, and take it however you see it.  If it looks like it works and it feels like it works, than it works.  If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.  And that’s totally okay.

I happen to enjoy herbs.  I like the way they smell, I like using them to create incense blends, and I like adding them to food to create depth and nuance in flavor.  I have a decent-sized collection of dried herbs, and I make use of them fairly frequently.  Due to my herbal fixation, I figured that I should try growing some of my own; perhaps I’d experience a deeper attachment to them, and that attachment could expand my spiritual practice; hell, maybe I’d even be able to call myself a green witch.  I purchased the seed packs, the egg carton-like growing containers, the seed starter mix and a book on growing herbs.  Armed with my arsenal, I set to work, and as I tended to my little beauties, I produced visions of the garden that I’d create in my yard. As days transitioned into weeks, I managed to produce a mere few leggy seedlings, but I remained undaunted.  It wasn’t until I awoke to find them all dead one morning that I was forced to accept the truth: I have a black thumb.  I’ve always had a black thumb.  I thought that if I didn’t produce a luscious, verdant herb garden, I’d be less of a witch, and as I gazed at my fallen brethren, I actually felt like less of a witch.  And that, my friends, is bull****.

The reason this path appeals to me is that it lacks dogma, authority, and strict methods of practice.  I’ve always been a bit of a maverick; I’m forever devoted to blazing my own path come what may simply because it feels authentic and genuine, and it makes me feel like I’m alive.  But I came so vulnerable and green to paganism that I was primed to accept suggestions as law, even if they didn’t truly resonate with my intuition and beliefs.  This is dangerous.  Once we begin making compromises to our spirituality–arguably the most personal and formative aspect of ourselves–what’s to stop us from compromising elsewhere?  There’s no need to force ourselves into molds that don’t match our gorgeous, unique curvatures.  Your spiritual practice is yours alone, and what you choose to incorporate into it is your choice.  What you choose to leave out is also your choice, and you have only yourself to answer to.  The pressure to conform, whether spiritually, socially, or otherwise, is at best a nuisance, and at worst a crushing force of soul destruction.  Your practice isn’t too fluffy, isn’t too dark, isn’t too connected to a tradition or isn’t too eclectic.  If it resonates with who you are and assists your spiritual progression, it’s golden.

The same goes for the tools of your practice: they are yours to use however you decide. Many assert that a practitioner of tarot cannot possibly read for herself.  Although I see where they’re coming from (we’re so immersed in our experience that it’s difficult to assess our queries objectively), I don’t necessarily agree.  At the conclusion of my rituals, I lay down some cards to help me process the thoughts and experiences that I had. These readings always add an element of clarity, and ultimately invite me to examine my practice in more depth.  I don’t use an athame to create sacred space; I’ve found that my imagination and my hands work just fine.  Sometimes, however, I feel the need to use a crystal.  And when that happens, I use one.

Magickal traditions and literature are phenomenal resources for the nascent and seasoned practitioner alike.  They’ve been instrumental to my practice, and will continue to be.  I approach them, however, as theories: if they seem promising, I’ll test them.  If they jive with my spirit, I’ll adopt them.  If something’s slightly off, I’ll modify it to suit my needs.  And if it simply doesn’t resonate, I scratch it and return to the drawing board.  And if a theory sparks a new, vibrant hypothesis, fantastic.  When the path of spiritual evolution pushes us to test our boundaries, we should feel excited, not ashamed, to do so.  And when we strike out into new territory, we inspire and empower others to do the same.

 

You Do What?–Addressing Skeptics as a Tarot Practitioner

My friends and family are a pretty tolerant lot.  Wanna spend your twenties compulsively switching jobs with European sojourns in between? Go for it.  Got a thing for drag shows in dive bars? Totally understandable.  Wanna consult a spread of cards to help you make life decisions? Sur–wait.  You do what?  You’re not serious, are you?

I’m very serious.  And since I’ve surrounded myself with ambassadors of the hyper-logical for the past decade or so, the reaction I received was generally anticipated.  What I didn’t expect, however, was my comrades’ resistance to hearing me out.  So far, they’ve relied on the stereotypical image of the gypsy cradling a crystal ball to inform them of what I do rather than considering the current tarot climate.  No matter how many times I insist otherwise, they still can’t believe that “I think cards can predict the future”.  Despite having zero awareness of the online tarot community and being out of touch with the ways in which tarot is practiced, they believe “there’s no market for that sort of thing” and can’t understand why “anyone would let cards tell them how to live their lives.”  It is this reaction that incenses me–the insistence that I’m a New Age foo foo who has no idea what she’s talking about, who’s overly idealistic about the nature of things and who’s abandoning science for the paranormal.  I may be a New Age “foo foo” and I may be idealistic, but I’m certainly not throwing science out the window, nor am I making any claims that tarot predicts the future.  When I was a Critical Theory student studying Jung, that was totally okay.  Now that I’m a tarot student studying Jung, I’m a delusional looney.

They’ve been kind enough to pepper affirmative dismissals into our dialogues–“as long as you’re happy, I’m happy”.  Somehow, though, this passive acceptance leaves me cold.  I understand that this journey is ultimately my own, and that the opinions of others should hold no bearing on how I feel or conduct myself.  Still, these are people that I love and/or respect a great deal, and how they regard me does, in fact, matter.  I want them to understand that I’m not going off of the deep end.  I want them to see the literary elements of tarot that first drew me to it, and how I regard tarot as a tool for identifying what we actually want and need from the giant, tangled webs of our lives.  I want them to comprehend that tarot is not a means of engaging with the supernatural, but a means of engaging with the natural.  I cannot force them, however, to be an audience to my diatribes.  What I can do, however, is fully embrace the path of tarot and integrate it into my life.  Over time, they will begin to see that I’m still the same logical, rational, philosophically-minded weirdo that I’ve always been.  That embracing tarot did not inspire me to join a cult, abandon my practice of teaching, cause me to suspend conversation because a long dead relative crossed over from the spirit realm to use me as a medium (not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Lucky for them, that’s not my brand of occult).

Time–time will solve my current dilemma. And patience.  And understanding.  Anything that is different or misrepresented is threatening, and sometimes it takes some time for a person to warm up to it.  After all, my comrades don’t love me any less for this relatively new development, and even if they don’t come around, I’m sure they’ll at least see the positive effects that tarot is having on my life, and will appreciate it for that alone.  In the meantime, I will redouble my efforts, and as I learn more, maybe I’ll be able to explain what I do in a way that they’ll be more willing to listen to.  After all, tarot teaches us to always look to the self for answers.  I believe I will continue to do just that.

Did any of my fellow cardslingers experience pushback when they first “came out” as tarot enthusiasts?  If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Peace Be With My Tarot Geeks,

Jessi

Intrigued? Click here to work with me.

Tarot for Happiness: Celebration

Greetings on this glorious morning, beautiful people of the blogosphere! The birds are singing, the sun is shining, old men are crossing their arms and grumbling in French (gotta love my melting pot neighborhood), and my barista made the shit out of my coffee. Taken together, these circumstances translate to one thing: another installment of Tarot for Happiness! Today’s topic is celebration—the revelry! The debauchery! The joy!

We celebrate when a friend or loved one has reached a milestone, when the community has accomplished a shared task, when we desire to delight in one another’s company, and in some circumstances, when a community/family member has transitioned to the afterlife. Celebrations are a shared release of intense energies, an opportunity for the group to let its collective “hair down”. A celebration is essentially an end in itself—the goal is to have a good time for good time’s sake. When communities gather to celebrate, there’s a suspension of role, expectation, and propriety, allowing for an exchange of positive energy with no strings attached. Celebrations also nurture the storytelling tradition of a group (Do you remember that time Colin set off an M-80 in front of a cop car on the Fourth of July?). When groups recall celebrations, they relive a shared experience, and the retelling reinforces their affinity for one another and reminds them of a time when they were close, vulnerable, and happy with one another.

IMG_4175.jpg

The Three of cups illustrates the spirit of celebration perfectly. The women depicted are raising their goblets triumphantly, smiling, laughing, and dancing amidst the fruits of their harvest. Their bond with one another is evident in the way that they intertwine their hands and through the smiling expression of their faces. They have shown up for one another, have made space for one another, and are using the opportunity to express their love and friendship for one another.

Challenge: Don’t be shy to mark a special occasion by inviting your closest friends and family to celebrate it with you. Nearly everyone relishes in the opportunity to suspend the pressures and demands of daily life, and what better way to do so than to kick back, relax, and have some fun? We all deserve to revel in the gorgeous tide of positive emotion, and when this revelry is collective, it organically feeds and sustains itself. If you are the one throwing the party, make sure you take the opportunity to enjoy it—don’t be so concerned that the hors d’oeuvres are offered at the perfect time or that everyone is getting along perfectly. The celebration is as much for you as it is for everyone else, so allow your guests to hold their own so you have the chance to engage with the party vibe.

Cheers for Now,

Jessi

Tarot for Happiness: Cooperation

Hello All!  I’m back for another installment of Tarot for Happiness, and today’s glorious topic is cooperation.  If you’re a lone wolf like me, the thought of cooperation may send shivers down your spine: you mean I have to play well with others?  Why can’t I just nestle into my little burrow and set about doing this myself?  I promise, if you let me do this alone, the end product will be MUCH better.

As much as we like to believe that we’re fully capable of flying solo, the old adage persists: no man is an island.  And often, when we least expect it, we’re faced with an obstacle that requires the action and input of others to overcome.  Ever try moving house alone?  Unless you’re prepared to completely Hulk out, you’re going to need a couple of strong backs to help you get your King-size up the staircase.  Besides, isn’t beer and pizza with buds post-move the best part?

Without cooperation, we’d still be lone hunters canvassing the prairie, fending off coyotes with rocks and sticks.  Together, we’ve been able to accomplish mind bending feats (International Space Station, anyone?), creating a whole that is much more than the sum of its parts.  I’m here, however, to speak of those parts.  So without further ado, the Rider Waite-Smith:

IMG_4258.jpg

The three of pentacles is the classic cooperation card: the mason, priest, and architect work together to construct a towering cathedral.  Each offers his/her area of expertise to the project, and together, they execute a task that would be impossible for each of them to do alone.  Built of stone, the fruit of their labor is stable and timeless; what they create will survive long after them.

The spirit of cooperation is fueled by the notion that what we achieve together is much bigger than ourselves.  Remember the Occupy Movement? Gandhi’s quest for an independent India? That awesome talent show you performed in in the sixth grade?  There is an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment born out of working in groups, and teamwork builds and strengthens bonds that persist long after the task is completed. When we are part of a group, we feel valued and appreciated, and our dedication to our group-mates and the task at hand often inspires in us strength and determination that we never knew we had.

Challenge: Help someone move (I know, I can’t seem to drop this example).  Help your neighbor do some yard work.  Volunteer for a local park clean-up, or plan a celebration with some friends.  Play kickball or ultimate frisbee or whatever awesome sport-like thing you do.  Meditate with a group.  Revel in the wonder and the collective energy of the moment. If you’re a journal-type person, write about your experience.  And if you care to, tell me about it : )

Peace and Love Happy People,

Jessi

Overcoming Isolation With Meditation, Pathworking, and Conscious Action

IMG_4225

Ice Queen.  Sharp.  Cold.  Unfeeling.  This seems to be the general opinion of those who shun openness and intimacy, and it couldn’t be further from the truth.  People who isolate are often deeply sensitive; their heightened response to social situations leaves them anxious and drained, so they withdraw physically and emotionally to cope. Unfortunately, cutting ties with the community is even worse than being ruffled by it, and the lack of love and nurturing will wear on even the most stoic of souls, causing unrest, cynicism, and in the worst cases, depression.

What can be done to overcome this seemingly paradoxical condition?  The answer is simple, yet demanding: know thyself.  Self-love, self-esteem, and self-acceptance are the perfect antidote to anxiety and discomfort in the face of group dynamics.  Once you understand and embrace the beautiful, warring factions of yourself, it’s much easier to make space for the bright, bold personalities of others, and to forgive them their missteps and peccadilloes.  Sound intense?  It is.  But from where I stand, it is the only way to create and sustain positive relationships.

Soul work of this sort is a commitment–accepting yourself warts and all ain’t gonna happen overnight.  However, if you’re more than ready to step off of the bullshit carousel (thank you, Kelly-Ann Maddox), here are some methods to help jumpstart the process.

Pathworking the Cards

One of the best ways I’ve found to break out of isolation is to revisit traumatic events through pathworking tarot cards.  To date, I’ve discovered two ways of doing this:

1. Choose a specific event that happened in your past that deeply wounded you, and choose a card that you feel best reflects the way in which you felt betrayed.  You may also choose a card to symbolize the party or parties that wounded you.  Meditate on the meanings of the cards, and if you haven’t already done so, project yourself into the environment of the card and “take a walk”.  Create a narrative of what’s happening, give your figure action, and try to imagine where he/she is coming from or where he/she is going to.  Upon completing this, recreate the event in your mind as accurately as possible.  Try and explore the motives that you had and that your party had that caused things to go down the way that they did.  Allow yourself to feel any emotions that this reflection stirs in you.  Once you’ve completed this (and here’s the kicker), explore the things you may have done or the ways that you behaved that contributed to this traumatic event.  It is key that you try and be completely honest with yourself–I’ve rarely found myself to be a completely innocent party in any conflict, and viewing myself through the perspective of others is…enlightening.  The many times that I’ve done this, I’ve realized that I wasn’t just a helpless victim, but rather an active participant in the situation, and as such, partially responsible for the outcome.  And, if you manage to get through this step in one piece, reflect on the action of the person(s) that hurt you, and think if you’ve ever committed those actions against others.  Think of your own motives for doing what you did, and try to see if maybe those that hurt you didn’t do so out of spite or malice, but perhaps out of fear and insecurity.  The revelations will blow your mind, I promise.

2.  Choose a card from a tarot deck that inspires disturbing or complex feelings in you.  Sit and meditate on that card and try to figure out why you feel the way that you do about it.  See if the feelings you experience have their genesis in shadow; in other words, see if the card prompts you to think about aspects of yourself that you aren’t necessarily keen on or are denying to yourself.  Next, try to pinpoint those feelings to a certain relationship or event in your life, and reflect on why you experience/experienced them.  If you’re having trouble, pick up a journal and let your stream of consciousness flow.  Let what you’ve written sit for a couple days, and then revisit it.  Write down your thoughts.

Meditation

Set aside time and find a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted.  Sit in whichever position is most comfortable for you and focus on your breath.  If you’re having trouble concentrating, try closing your eyes or putting on some meditation music (youtube has loads of options to choose from).  If you’re of the witchy sort, create sacred space and use your altar as a focus point.  After you’ve reached the alpha state (moderate focus and relaxation), turn your attention to your heart chakra.  Imagine the smiling faces of all that you love, and wish them love in return.  Then, attempt to free your mind of all thought but loving kindness–imagine feelings of goodwill emanating from your heart and reaching every human being.  Smile.  Breathe.  Let fear, doubt, and disbelief leave you, making space for the expression of love.  Try and do this for ten minutes or more every day.  If that doesn’t quite fit your schedule, try and do this as often as possible.  Every little bit helps, believe me.

Get Out Into the World

So you’ve shut yourself up in your ivory tower and now you’re a bit hesitant to leave. Completely understandable.  But if you’re ever going to have a healthy relationship with yourself and others, you have to put yourself out there.  Even the most mundane activity (like going to the grocery store) gives you countless opportunities to interact, and the more you do it, the more you realize that it’s not that bad after all.  Think of it as your own personal brand of exposure therapy–when you face your fears and emerge more or less in tact, you become more confident in your abilities to weather the storm.  Given time, you internalize this success, and your reactions tend to lesson in intensity.

If you’re still skeptical, try this experiment: for one day, record all of the social interactions that you experience.  Try to pinpoint and record your emotional response, and as objectively as you can, report the outcome of the interaction.  If your outcomes are generally more positive than negative, it supports the notion that human interaction is generally beneficial.  If, however, your outcomes are more negative than positive, it stands to reason that a) you are being weighed down by toxic relationships and environments, and you possibly need to pair down and regroup, or b) you may be the source of discord, and you need to delve deeply into that shadow work.

Forgive Yourself, Forgive Others

Many isolate themselves as a result of being hurt or betrayed by a loved one. Given the wrong done them, they shy away from openness and vulnerability to prevent experiencing the same sort of pain. The only way for a person to truly overcome this wariness is to forgive the wrong done them, and to forgive themselves for any part they may have had in the conflict.  Being a human is messy, and sometimes we screw up in our dealings with one another.  Emotions take control and we do and say hurtful things in the heat of the moment.  As pathworking tarot cards gives you insight into how and why things went awry, forgiving the trespasses of yourself and others gives you the peace of mind to get out there and try again–you’ll have more tolerance for people, more tolerance for yourself, and hope that you’ll behave differently this time.  Everything is a process and no one is perfect, so the best we can do is apologize and move forward.

Good luck, beautiful people, and may the force be with you!

Jessi

Intrigued? Click here to work with me.

 

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

Last night, I signed up for the World Tarot Exchange. It was right before I went to bed, so I was too tired to censor myself the way that I normally do. In the field where I was meant to type my question, I wrote this:

“I’ve been putting all of my efforts and energy into becoming a self-actualized person. I have a tendency to distance myself from people, partially because I’m uncomfortable with conflict and intimacy, and partially because I’m afraid that I will fail them, or that they will judge me and abandon me. I know that this is a complex of my own making, or at least of my own perpetuation. I feel that it is the largest obstacle that I have in transitioning from a “caged bird” to a “free bird”. Given that, here’s my question: what can I do to overcome this wariness and distrust of others? How can I truly open my heart and be the integrated, compassionate person that I so strongly desire to be?”

IMG_4214

The question poured out of me organically—I edited nothing, changed nothing, and clicked “submit” without a second thought (and it’s more than I can say for this post). I realized that everything I had confessed, vulnerable and incriminating as it was, was true, and that there was value in that truth.

In fact, I realized that truth is the only thing that holds value.

I went into my room and stared at my face in the mirror. I looked into the reflection of my eyes and my pulse began to quicken; it was almost as if I was afraid to look at myself, to try and see myself objectively. The longer I gazed, the more disturbed I became, and the more accountable I became to myself. Myself looked at me accusatorily—what have you been doing to me? it seemed to ask. Why do you deny me with overwrought thoughts and carefully constructed delusions? Who do you think you are to put me in a cage? What gives you the right?

 IMG_4218

Nothing, was all I could think in response.

There are many facets to who each of us are, and we fulfill many roles in the delicate web of our lives. How are we to face the constant challenges of life if we can barely face ourselves? How can we expect to be anything but confused if we refuse to see the truth?

The call to honesty is the deepest call that anyone can answer. I know that I haven’t answered it, but that I will not find peace until I do.

The Osho Zen Tarot arrived in my mailbox two days ago, and since then, I’ve been deeply haunted by its imagery. I’m drawn most powerfully to the suit of clouds and the strikingly negative portrait it paints of the machinations of Mind. This faculty has given us the ability to realize our mortality and to perceive ourselves the way that others perceive us. It has also given us the ability to imagine different lives for ourselves, and for many reasons, this is both miraculous and devastating. We have the ability to captain our own ship, to choose life or, as Rents of Trainspotting so aptly put it, to choose “not to choose life”. It is the latter choice that ultimately damns us, that perpetuates the cycle of pain and suffering we seem inescapably drawn to. We are on the brink of an enormous shift in consciousness, one that promises to release us from this cycle, but in order to transition we must undertake the most difficult challenge that’s ever been presented to us. Living in truth, I believe, is the hardest thing that we could ever do. It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. I have yet to meet anyone who resides in this space, and if I were to apply the scientific method, I’d have to conclude that it’s impossible to do so.

IMG_4217

But I don’t believe it’s impossible. If I’m wrong, I still believe that it’s something worth striving for, if not for the self, than for the fate of Consciousness at large. The Osho Zen addresses this conundrum unabashedly, and promises that the truth already exists whether we acknowledge it or not.

IMG_4213

There are many things that I deem subpar about this post. I could go back and revise it a hundred times and still be unsatisfied. Even so, I think it humbly attempts to answer, at least in part, the call to truth that I feel in my soul, and so I’m offering it to you. I hope that it may, in some small way, help you to shake off your shackles and walk through the invisible walls of your prison. I hope, in some small way, that connecting with you may help me walk through the walls of mine, so we can all be free of “fear, doubt, and disbelief”.  I wish all of us freedom from mind.

IMG_4226

 

 

 

 

Tarot for Happiness: Charity

I am no expert on happiness. I’ve often found it elusive, cropping up when and where I least expect it and disappearing just as quickly. I’m not alone—a Harris Poll conducted in 2013 found that only 33 percent of Americans reported being very happy, while those on the bottom third of the spectrum report feeling dissatisfied with their lives. Scientists have spent the better part of five decades studying the causes, patterns, manifestations, and expressions of happiness, and in that time, they’ve been able to come to a general consensus of what makes us truly happy. In a series of posts, I’ll use the beautiful wisdom of tarot to reveal these findings, and hopefully, make the goal of happiness a little less elusive for all of us.

RELATIONSHIPS AND COMMUNITY

Almost every study ever done on happiness has come, at least in part, to this conclusion: happiness is largely contingent upon having positive, meaningful relationships with others. Dr. Christine Carter, a sociologist and fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, claims that “the quantity and quality of a person’s social connections—friendships, relationships with family members, closeness to neighbors, etc.—is so closely related to well-being and personal happiness the two can practically be equated”.

There are thirteen cards in the RWS tarot that reflect the importance of nurturing our relationships and engaging with the world at large. The cards reflect (to yours truly, anyway) five virtues that build and sustain relationships: charity, cooperation, celebration, dedication, and integration. The first of these is the lynchpin, the wellspring from which compassion and empathy flow, the very action that makes true community possible.

CHARITY

IMG_4173

The young boy of the six of cups has dedicated all of his efforts to making the seeds of compassion blossom into beautiful flowers. Being white, the blooms reflect the purity of his intentions. As he peacefully offers this gift to the young girl, he seeks nothing in return. His action illustrates the very essence of what we consider laudable—the gift of self in the service of others. We’re so often driven by the carnal force of selfishness, and so often our most selfish actions breed hostility, discord, emptiness, and dissatisfaction. This boy has realized the paradoxical truth that the only way to achieve fulfillment is to give wholly of oneself. He challenges us to see beyond the wants and desires of our egos so we may feed the universal force of Consciousness.

Challenge: Give something of great value to yourself to others. Whether it’s donating your time and effort to a community project or simply giving your last cigarette to a fellow or lady who asks (perhaps not the healthiest gift, but an immensely charitable one if you’re a slave to the addiction), any small act of charity challenges your concept of what it is that you actually need. A smile given in gratitude adds fuel to the light in your soul, and each successive act of charity grows the light until it becomes your dominant force.