Monday, 2 April 2018

The risks of being a pro tarot reader

This post may help, if you are considering setting up your own business semi- or fully professionally (meaning more or less full time and with intentions of making it a career). Instead of discussing potential pitfalls about running a small business in general - as those considerations are needed also -, I'll talk about what I've experienced about reading for money for strangers.

Firstly, I've personally never found that people are difficult about payments. I display my prices on my website and people who feel it's a fair price will contact me, whereas those who don't, won't. I offer the first reading free, which gives everybody the chance to check whether my reading style is for them and whether paying for another reading feels like a good idea.

At the moment, reading cards is nowhere near a proper source of income for me, it's more of a hobby and I work full-time elsewhere. So, someone could ask why I just don't do free readings. Because I'd be flooded with them. It's also a matter of fairness and principle. I'm happy to donate some of my offerings (the first free reading), but I also feel that everybody who knows their craft should be compensated for it.

For a couple of years now, I've only done readings to other people via email. When I first started in 2013/14, I also offered readings at home, face-to-face, but I in the long run, I didn't feel comfortable with that. I advertised locally and realised I have no control over who picks my ad and who wants/decides to become my client.

Most of my customers were completely normal people with normal problems relating to love, housing situation or work and money, but I got a few 'oddballs' with whom I did not feel comfortable. I wasn't 100% sure whether it was just their persistent/insistent/borderline obsessive method of asking questions and wanting to book more and more readings (usually about the same topic), or did I perhaps pick some vibes about not-completely-honest intentions.

For example, one client came to my home for his reading and even as I pointed to the guest room / tarot room, he marched through my apartment and opened doors to check every room, explaining he was looking for a toilet. My husband was at home at the time and said afterwards he didn't like how strangers snoop our place, and I didn't feel particularly happy about that either. Furthermore, I started getting plenty of scammer calls from 'the tax office', as my phone number had now gone viral from the local classifieds site. It seemed like dodgy people in my community and elsewhere deemed tarot readers as scammers and hence, as a 'worthy' target of their own scams. Not nice.

So, I stopped doing in-person readings to strangers and advertising elsewhere but on my own website.

However, doing readings online and in person are two quite different skill sets. Online readings you can deliver whenever you feel like (of course within the time frame agreed with the client). In-person readings must happen when it suits the customer (although there's some discretion in you allotting time slots).

Online you never need to engage in any social niceties and gauging the other person's mood, triggers etc to not accidentally offend; and you 'only' need to have a bit of story telling skills to create a meaningful story of the symbolism of the cards - I don't mean 'making up' stuff, but skills to coherently explain what separate cards mean in that particular situation. You have time to read your lines through, edit and tweak. Whereas in person, it's a lot about thinking on your feet and coming up with things to say pretty much instantly even when the cards look bad, don't promise at all what the client is seeking or are incomprehensible to you.

I got a reminder of how different skills we are talking about, when I did a face-to-face reading to three close friends at once this weekend. They asked their own questions and received their own readings, but all were watching as I interpreted the cards and occasionally, made their own comments, questions and remarks of each others' cards. I did not feel challenged or questioned in a negative sense, but it does take quick wits to keep everyone's questions and comments in mind, yet deliver what I see in the cards in a manner that's comprehensible and reasonably tangible. Doing a reading in person is also mentally and physically draining and afterwards, you may feel like disappearing to recharge.

I prefer to give concrete examples of the card meanings, because I find wishy-washy or overtly spiritual readings can cause confusion and anxiety.  In my view it's better to give an example that's not entirely accurate than give a reading that is so ambiguous that the client can't get a handle of it, or can interpret it in any way they like (usually wrong or wish-fulfilling).

This is not to try to discourage anyone, just to give food for thought for what's your own reading style, what preferences or aversions you'd have as a pro reader and whether you like social interaction or thinking through the cards in peace and quiet, then typing the meanings. Best of luck!

Also, it's my birthday soon so here's a simple birthday spread to try - six cards for two-month blocks.

Birthday spread

How is my next year looking like; what will be the overall major themes? Starts from your birth month. An example spread done for myself with the Fool's Dog tarot app.

April - May - 4 Pentacles Rx

In the card, a grumpy-looking old fairy fella is arguing over a nut with a squirrel. He wants to keep what's his and is very worried about losing his possession. The card came out reversed, in my view meaning he should let go of the nut. Releasing or giving away something seems to be the prevalent theme. Possibly I'll feel like others are trying to take away my resources, when in reality I can never run out - there's always more in the world to find, make, earn. This actually relates directly to my current job, where I constantly feel I'm asked for more than I can give.

June - July - 9 Swords Rx

Worrying seems to continue. I already know that in June-July, I'll receive work-related news as my current deployment will end in June and I'm supposed to be transferred to a new place from the beginning of July, but this is all quite hazy and undecided at the moment. I hope the reversed card means the end of worrying, finding clarity about my future or at least realise there's no point in being so concerned over matters I have limited power to affect. I should go with the flow, accept what comes and make the best of it, or find a way to change circumstances that cause me anxiety.

August - September - 7 Cups

It seems I'll be quite lost in the fantasy land in Aug-Sept. It could be a good sign, as I'm also an aspiring fiction writer and one of my genres is young adult historical fantasy. I hope this card means I'll feel imaginative, immersed in the land of fantasy, and deliver some awesome fiction! It could also mean I'll be lost in my daydreams. It's always good to have some wishes and dreams in your life, but it's not always helpful if real-life solutions for something are required.

October - November - Hierophant

This can be very literally about teaching, learning and teachers. I'm about to finish a degree at the end of the year and in Oct-Nov I'll probably sweat my a** off to finalise a thesis to satisfy my professors! I'm also hoping to start an academic career in 2019 so I could be scoping for universities.

December - January - High Priestess

Listen to your intuition, calm down, be still and quiet, find the answers from within. This is the classic message of the High Priestess and probably a good reminder for anytime. Maybe towards the end of the year I'll have a lot of questions about my new year and the future in general and the best direction comes from the subconscious.

February - March - Temperance Rx

Things seem to tip over in some way, approaching to my birthday in 2019. Temperance is a card of mix and balance, in particular of things that are inherently incompatible but need to come together for the greater good. It seems I'll have a challenge with balancing something, or pushing too hard with some matters instead of seeking a sustainable compromise. Will need to keep an eye on that!
The birthday spread

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Compare options with tarot

A few years back, I worked on a global online tarot site for ~ six months and was reasonably popular - got a few questions every day - but I was eventually "kicked out" for not scoring enough customers, meaning earning enough for the site. The reason could have been I wasn't willing to work harder, advertise myself everywhere; or that I wasn't willing to dangle answers and request the customer to pay extra to get the whole story. Nevertheless, during that stint I got questions from all over the world and got a great glimpse on what kind of concerns people everywhere share.

The most common question I got and still get as a tarot reader is an iteration of: what should I do in situation x? Situation x can relate to work, love, relationships, finding one's passion/vocation... More than lazy solutions and windfall victories people seek direction. We all fear wrong decisions and crave for certainty on what we're about to decide, will deliver, be as promised, be The Right Choice.

Normally, in a decision situation, there are options, even if one option is "do nothing". Tarot is a great tool for comparing options and potential pathways. I've found that instead of asking yes/no questions about "is this a good decision?" it's far more informative to ask: "if I do x, how will I feel [in x amount of time]?" Short and sharp yes/no questions are notoriously difficult to answer with pictures that blabber more than 1000 words. But, exploring emotions, feelings, states of being... for that, cards work beautifully.

Completely regardless of whether you believe cards deliver divine guidance or simply unlock your own subconscious knowledge, this question and answer combo seem to work. Wherever the answer comes from, I've found it to be reasonably accurate. Here's a worked example of a dilemma I'm currently facing: whether to apply for a job that I in some ways feel could be a great match, but also think might make me overworked and overstressed. 

Compare options with tarot

1. If I decide to apply for job 1, what will follow? EIGHT OF CUPS

This card is about leaving behind an unsatisfactory situation; something you invested a lot of emotions in, but didn't deliver. This shows the ambiguity of tarot: does it mean I won't get the job (leading to a disappointment) or I'll move on in life, from an old job that clearly is not the best fit, otherwise I wouldn't be looking for anything new?

Ambiguity can be a blessing in disguise. If I knew for a fact I won't get this job, I wouldn't even bother applying and perhaps wouldn't dare to try anything similar either, making me feel more stuck. When I don't know for sure, it allows a chance, hope, attempt, that in turn can help me become better at job search in general.

2. If I get job 1, how will I feel in it initially? QUEEN OF SWORDS

I'd feel like on top of my game, using my wits to understand and crack problems, answer questions, find information, slice through any confusion with my razor-sharp sword of a mind. That doesn't sound in any way bad. Except... I might not be emotionally invested or committed, given that this card talks purely about logic, rationality, matters of the mind.

3. If I get job 1, how will I feel in it in a year's time? EMPRESS

Personally, I think the Empress is the best card in the deck because it's about creation, expansion, Mother Nature, feeling blessed and happy. Job 1 is about real estate, including tackling homelessness, so I might even feel motherly, helping people find their own nest, stand on their own feet.

4. If I stay in job 2, how will I feel in it initially? 7 OF SWORDS

This card has a bad rap as it's seen as the "thief" card: someone's taking what is not theirs. To me personally this card has often meant "research": gathering others' swords (thoughts and words) for my own purposes. This particular card shows a ferret arming its nest with swords - does it mean it's preparing for a fight, or just gathering resources for tough times? Either way, this card doesn't feel negative but not quite positive either. There's something underhanded in it. I'd probably be spending time looking for other opportunities: if I stay, I would still try to find something else/better.

5. If I stay in job 2, how will I feel in it in a year's time? 10 CUPS

This is the family and community card. It's about belonging, feeling loved and loving, happy, living the perfect life. On the outset it looks like this is the best answer I could get: "stay, of course, you'll find happiness!" I can see this happening, as I currently have a great team, even if the job content itself is a bit draining. Feeling like an integral part of a community is very much a possibility. Comparing the Empress and 10 Cups is not easy, because they are both great. That in my view means: "either way it goes, you'll be happy". Well, isn't that just what we all want to hear about decisions!

6. What is job 1 really about? EMPEROR

I added this question because I wanted to understand what would be the most essential element or most prominent emotion attached to job 1. The job description and advert can say one thing, but what's really going on might be something totally different.

The card shows a silverback gorilla ruling over his kingdom, very emperor-like. That actually is my understanding of the job: it involves negotiating with contractors, "ruling over a kingdom", and that's the reason I'm hesitating whether to apply. I've been in a workplace that was saturated with "emperor-energy", stereotypical male traits of dominance, competition, rationality over emotional connections, and drive to win financially and materially. I'm not 100% sure I want to return to a similar environment as I found it energy-draining, meaningless.

On the other hand, an emperor can also be a good ruler, just and fair leader who champions for the benefit of all his/her subjects. An interesting card - and reading - overall!

Animal Totem tarot



Sunday, 31 December 2017

Happy, fearless New Year!

It sounds to me quite a few people had a hectic, hard or draining year 2017, same applies to me. I drifted out of tarot, somehow just did not feel interested. Funnily enough, at the same time a weird, round dry patch the size of a coin appeared in my forehead at the spot of the third eye. As if my body was saying "you're drying up your ability to see deeper". I don't know if that was the real message - or if there was a message, not just a coincidence - but it did get me thinking.

As the longer-term readers of this blog know, I hover at the border of science and spirituality and sometimes feel more inclined to rely on science 100%, sometimes feel like there's deeper layers behind what we currently know. For example, I just read a hugely captivating book by Harvard University astrophysicist Lisa Randall, who specialises in dark matter and dark energy. The current calculations show that of our universe, only 5% is visible matter. The rest is dark matter or rather, undetectable matter (not the same as black holes, which are incredibly-tightly condensed ordinary matter) and dark energy, or undetectable energy potential.

Dr Randall talks about "matter-racism", meaning that it's quite condescending from us humans to assume we even should be able to detect and measure everything. Why should us, a random species on a random planet, have developed such incredibly apt or multidimensional senses and intelligence that we could have access to every possible particle type and interaction that takes place in the virtually boundless universe?

Anyhow, got carried away, that's not my topic! Given it's the New Year's eve, many of us are probably thinking about New Year resolutions. Resolution implies change, something that we wish to do differently, leave behind or start doing. And what is normally on the way of change? Fear. If change was easy, we probably wouldn't even call it change, it would just be a normal course of the everyday.

Fear is something I've been thinking a lot lately. Not on a personal level as much, but at the society's level. Politicians in particular in the US seem to be exploiting and cultivating fear for political gain and that, in my opinion, is the low blow for the human intelligence (not to mention ethics). Eliciting fear is easy, because we naturally want to avoid danger. And, unfortunately, many leaders exploit this natural response.

The unknown, uncertain, new or different can easily elicit a fearful response. What I think is a true measure of maturity is our ability to recognise and handle fear. Any three-year-old can be scared; it's instinctive. But it takes a mature, level-headed person to be able to say "calm down, let's take a proper look at this. Things are not that bad. Maybe we just misunderstood, or can change things so they are less scary?"

When is fear needed and when it's not? In some situations, fear is handy. It's better to be cautious when attempting something risky, such as crossing a dodgy bridge somewhere high up in the mountains. But, even then, is fear really keeping us safe? A spoonful or sprinkle of fear can be a good thing, but fear can also paralyse. In particular when it comes to a life change. Better the devil you know, they say, but are wrong.

Why would it be better to stick with something undesirable, unsatisfactory or even downright unhealthy just because the unknown devil can also be bad? If it turns out to be, then, a new change is required, until things are better. Life by definition is a series of events where an organism attempts to adapt to and thrive in its circumstances. If that does not happen, there's no life. We only have inorganic matter: dead weight.

Here's a New Year's spread to study fear, what to let go and how to let go. 

As a "worked example" with my own responses.

1. What unfounded fear do I have? KNIGHT OF DISKS (PENTACLES)

I fear being stuck in a rut, having to repeat the same things every day. Slow and steady in my mind often means slow and tedious. That is very true and that is perhaps my worst fear. Even this blog is themed Tarot for Change, because I often value change higher than routine, newness over continuity.

2. How can I best let go of that fear? SEVEN OF SWORDS

This is an unexpected answer. Many people interpret 7 Swords as a card of underhanded moves and manipulation, as it depicts a person stealing swords from others. However, I've learned that for me this card often means "research", finding and taking others' ideas (swords) for my own purposes. To overcome the fear of the rut I should exercise my mind, learn more about techniques to tolerate routine and perhaps spice up the everyday with unexpected moves.

3. What will change in  my life if I overcome the fear? THREE OF CUPS

I'll find new or old friends to connect with. 3 Cups is a card of get-togethers, friendship, celebration and connection with like-minded people. Well, that's an absolutely positive outcome!

4. How can I live more fearlessly overall? ACE OF STONES (PENTACLES)

This card shows a boulder and the card's traditional meaning is tangible, physical opportunities and gifts. I think it reminds me to be grounded. There's no need to let fears run havoc. Just stay down-to-earth, take each day as it comes, enjoy the physicality. Fear is, after all, preservation instinct running overdrive: we are only frightened when we fear - consciously or subconsciously - pain or death. But, being a physical creature also has benefits and joys, not only fears about potential harms and risks.

5. How can I help others overcome their fears? THREE OF WANDS

This card traditionally shows a person gazing at the sea, to the approaching ships. It means planning, looking towards the future, having taken the first steps towards something bigger and better. I can help others by reminding them about the potential for expansion: when life is not bound and constricted by fears, it can be larger, bolder, louder, fresher; what we choose to make of it.

Have a fun and fearless New Year and a fortunate year 2018!


Sunday, 18 June 2017

How to read suits in tarot: wands

Long time no see! I've been bogged down by other things in life, but now at the verge of a holiday, I found new inspiration to delve in to tarot again. I figured something the other day about how to understand and interpret suits, and I thought I could share it with others. This way of thinking made it easier for me, I hope it helps others. It's based on referring back to the earlier card and seeing what was built from that. It's by no means my own and original idea, but it somehow clicked just recently.

Suits in tarot deck

As mentioned before, a standard tarot deck of 78 cards is divided into suits, similarly to a standard playing card deck. The suits are called wands, swords, cups and pentacles/coins and they all symbolise a different element: fire, air, water and earth, respectively; or passion/willpower, intelligence/logic, emotions, and material matters.

Suit of wands

Let's start with wands, the suit of willpower, volition (free will, the ability to use one's will), passion and drive. Wands are the suit of fire, normally depicted with wooden clubs, branches or similar, to show material that is burnt, consumed, needed to keep the fire (passion) alive. Everything in tarot is about symbols and often in decks, the wands/branches sprout shoots or buds to symbolise life force, energy and viability.

Ace of Wands - this is the first spark of will, the initial flash of wanting something. It's like a matchstick burning: quick to flare, quick to fade. The want can relate to ambition, pursuit or passion like sex; or it can be the first flame of crush or the feeling that you want to achieve something in life.

Ace of Wands, The Wild Unknown Tarot. The first spark that initiates what's to come.
2 of Wands - this card usually shows two wands, symbolising two choices or pathways. A common interpretation is choice. However, because all 2's in tarot symbolise choice, it can be tricky to try and tell the difference between this and that kind of choice. Why this 2 and not some other 2? 2 Wands adds to the initial spark of the Ace: you cultivate your original idea, need or want; carry it further, and that is the choice - whether to try to pursue this path and goal, or initiate another spark; scratch a new matchstick instead of passing on the fire from the first one? Sometimes, 2 Wands can also mean two wills - two people coming together in passion, or wanting different things.

3 of Wands - many people have hard time telling the difference between 2 Wands and 3 Wands, because in the standard imagery they are quite similar. In 2 Wands, a person stands looking towards the ocean with two wands, and in 3 Wands, a person stands looking towards the ocean with three wands, waiting for three ships to arrive. The difference is that in 3 Wands, the person has started to carry out the plan, has made the choice of 2 Wands; has cultivated the fire/will/passion, kept it alive for long enough to see whether it can bear fruit. The ships in the horizon symbolise this wish to reach a goal. 3 Wands often means "waiting for the future results" or "future results are almost here" in readings.

4 of Wands - what happens after the results come in? It's time to enjoy life! 4 Wands is often interpreted as the marriage card, or engagement, graduation or housewarming card, but celebration is just one aspect of it. All those signposts and celebrations are a culmination of a person/people making a decision in the past, sticking to it, working for it, wanting to achieve something, and finally making it. It's about having carried the fire for long enough to be able to establish a steady home hearth, so to speak. Four is a steady number, four corner stones, but it doesn't mean life will be a breeze after. It just means one stage is now complete.

5 of Wands - introduces the free will, wants and needs of other people. Not everyone wants the same things; in fact, very often in life, people's needs, wants and plans clash and collide either in minor or major scale. That's what 5 Wands means. It's often interpreted as a card of competition, and competition is a conflict of competing wills. I want something, somebody else wants something, and instead of cooperation, there's competition. 5 Wands can also mean an internal struggle: my own needs, wants and plans are not aligning, but frustratingly clashing. Depending on a situation, the competition can be fun and invigorating (such as games or flirting), or annoying.

5 Wands, Shadowscapes Tarot. When outside forces make you fight for what you want - or your own conflicting wants, needs and efforts frustrate you.

6 of Wands
- what's the best case scenario following a competition? Victory! That's the message of 6 Wands. It usually shows a person riding a horse, higher above than the rest, being celebrated, acknowledged and acclaimed. Winning AND receiving public recognition are the best outcome of a competitive situation. However, sometimes it can mean egoistic tendencies, for example someone doing something just to be admired (e.g. winning hearts, being a player).

7 of Wands - things are usually never steady for long and not everybody loves the winner. There will be more competition, this time even tougher. 7 Wands shows one person standing up alone against a group. It's about taking a stand for what you believe in, care about, are passionate about. It's about trying to progress in a situation where everyone is trying to put you down. That's why the themes of 7 Wands are bravery, resilience and self-control. However, sometimes 7 Wands can mean that you're fighting a desperate battle and it's time for a break, not keep banging your head on the wall of others' resistance. There might be another, better way than open conflict or headlong push.

8 of Wands - again, what's the best case scenario after a battle? Things working out swiftly, effortlessly, with the least resistance. That's the theme of 8 Wands. It's a card about successful or rapid communication, the moment when wills, needs and wants align: it's easy to communicate when both parties want to understand and accommodate each other instead of fighting. 8 Wands can also mean news, swift change or forward momentum. It's when things flow and fly.

9 of Wands - if only everything flowed smoothly forever. 9 Wands symbolises a situation where almost all your energy is spent on working on whatever cause was triggered in the Ace, and you can't, won't, should't give up. The card often shows a wounded soldier guarding a wall of wands, 'you shall not pass': blocking enemies or naysayers or exhaustion. 9 Wands is about hidden reserves, low-burning fire that is still alive, quietly, subtly. However, it can also be about resistance, being guarded and blocked. If this card comes up, ask yourself: do I need to be resilient, or do I need to let others in, allow them to influence me, advise me, help me?

10 of Wands - all 10's in tarot are end points or culmination, things can't go further than that. It can be a happy situation: reaching the ultimate goal and happiness; or it can be a low point; there's nowhere further to go before things fall apart with serious consequences to mental and physical health. 10 Wands is the point of exhaustion. Too many wants, needs and musts have accumulated. Either you're trying to do too much at once, or other people have managed to pile up their competing needs and wants in the 5 Wands and 7 Wands situations on your load. Why are you carrying all that burden? Shed some of it asap for your own well-being.

10 Wands, Dream Logic Tarot. The load of wants, needs and tasks has become so heavy all joy has drained out of what once was a source of enjoyment, inspiration and fun.

Court cards

I think that pip cards (number cards) usually depict an action or phase in life, whereas court cards often depict a personality trait, behaviour or attitude of a person. This is not a hard and fast rule but seems to give indication. Also, court cards mean "matured energies" of the pip cards, i.e. all court cards can use, manage and survive the actions and phases depicted in cards numbered 1-10, but the level of skill depends on the "maturity" or ranking of the court card.

Cards usually picture genders but the Princess and Queen can mean a man and the Knight and King a woman - it's about the behaviour and the mindset, not about the "outward" markers of gender.

Page (or Princess) of Wands - The Page is the messenger in the court, someone who travels to bear news. The Page is also somebody in training, to become a ruler of the suit one day. Page of Wands symbolises a person (or mindset/behaviour) who's curious, passionate, powered up by the need to do, act, learn, expand; someone who likes to go beyond one's earlier boundaries and perhaps play with fire a bit. It can also mean literal or mental/emotional travel or adventure.

Knight (or Prince) of Wands - The Knight is the soldier, someone's who's brave, speedy and ready for action. Given that the suit of Wands is the suit of fire, this card is the fieriest in the deck: it's someone who doesn't think and consider, or doesn't plan his/her actions, but just jumps. It can be a good thing: jump to save the day, take the leap of faith - or it can be a bad thing: jump to conclusions, jump the gun, flee and disappear when going gets tough. To me personally this card most often means "don't be so hasty, stop and think," or "things are not as you think, you're jumping into conclusions."

Queen of Wands  - The Queens in tarot symbolise people who fully own their actions and emotions. They are poised, skilled, elegant and looked up to. The Queen of Wands is the queen of fire: passionate, fun-loving, confident, doesn't take anyone's cr@p, knows her worth, goes after what s/he believes in and wants to do. She is fully in charge of her own life and doesn't need anybody's permission. Interestingly, this card often pops up to women who are recovering from a divorce/separation: "you are your own person, fully, authentically and enjoyably - reclaim it."

Queen of Wands, Robin Wood Tarot. My favourite queen of all four suits. Someone who knows what s/he wants and how to get it. No excuses made, no permissions asked.

King of Wands - The King is the ruler of the suit, the master of every element of it and able to use his/her skills to one's own and others' advantage. The King knows his/her own worth and is able to inject confidence, courage and energy in others. A true king doesn't seek to elevate himself, but he seeks to equip his court (everybody around) with his power. This applies in particular to the King of Wands in my opinion. A true King of Wands is so comfortable in his own skin and vision that he almost by accident inspires, influences and informs others around to be more, do more, achieve more - use the tools of the suite of willpower for everyone's benefit.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

How to deal with other people's difficult issues?

As this blog suggests, I spend a lot of time thinking about happiness. It's my research topic from the angle: how does the environment affect people's happiness (or well-being, quality of life), positively and negatively? Even though I study the built and natural environment, I also think about the social environment, meaning other people.

I believe one of the major life lessons for everyone is to find the right balance between independence and interdependence. How to be our own persons, standing on our own feet, but not push others away in the process? How to ask, receive and give help without becoming clingy, interfering or irritating? How to build our own life, yet be inclusive to others? How to know where the boundaries lie?

Why is this important - or, as I think, one of the most important lessons in life? Because whether we find that balance or not, has a direct and immediate impact on happiness: our own and others.

I used to stress a lot about other people's problems. If a family member was struggling with something (a health problem, an unrewarding job, relationship issues), I'd spend days and nights trying to come up with a solution to help them become happier - or, at least, less unhappy.

Often, that was a source of mutual, accumulating frustration. I would get upset that my family member wouldn't take my advice, and I saw that as obstinate, pessimistic or lackadaisical. Whereas the person I tried to help probably saw me as interfering, overbearing or bossy. I only realised a few years ago that I can't possibly solve everyone's issues and people are, at times, unhappy. The only one who can resolve the unhappiness is the unhappy person themselves.

Not everyone is ready to do it, for myriads of reasons: not everyone sees what's the real source of their unhappiness; they don't want to face the truth; they assume/hope things will improve due to the hoped actions of other people/fortune; they don't believe (yet) that things even could change; or they're worn out by their problems and can't solve it just now.

What helped me realise I can't carry the burden of others' issues was twofold:

  • I believe everyone has their own life lessons to learn and if somebody else's lessons relate to overcoming obstacles or experiencing unhappiness, stuckness, apathy, etc. so be it; and
  • other people are not my extension and vice versa. 

What decisions my loved ones make, is not actually up to me to change. Of course, self-destructive behaviour and unhealthy decisions need to be raised and if possible, stopped. But, at the end, there's only so much outsiders can do to stop an adult from making (good or bad) decisions and living an unhappy life - other than politely offer support and conversation company.

An example. I feel that some family members are overeating, overdrinking, taking unnecessary risks or overly engaged in a conservative religious mindset (the former and the latter relatives are not the same, btw ;) ). I used to stress about those to no end. What could I do to change things? How could I help/force them to see that they are harming themselves by either creating health issues, or by creating social division and discord with their loud views?

The answer: I can't do much. I can only point it out politely and diplomatically, but I can't make anyone change. Change must come from each of us within. If these people don't see a problem in their lifestyle even after repeated discussions, then the only thing I can do is to learn live with it. Change myself, if possible, or disengage, if needed.

However, herein lies the problem: we can't force anyone to change, but I think it's our responsibility to offer a sounding board or a mirror to other people - and expect / allow others offer that to us. How could the people around us ever know we disapprove, if we don't tell it (politely and with a reasoned justification)?

I've also been guilty - and still am - for not raising issues, because I don't want to offend or cause a conflict. But withdrawal actually steals a chance from both parties to learn, grow, change for better.

Here's a spread to examine,

how to more fruitfully deal with someone else's issue?

1. What's the best way to raise the matter with the other?
2. What response can I expect, if I raise it?
3. How to best deal with the response?
4. What sort of a plan I could propose to move forward?
5. What will happen, if I don't raise it?
6. How can I offer better support?
7. How does the other person feel about his/her issue?

We are all different, yet we should be able to live peacefully side by side. Not an easy task!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

How to be happier in the everyday?

Apologies for being MIA since October! I've been catching up with studies, work, hobbies and social life and also experiencing a bit of a writer's block with this blog. What to write about? The internet is full of clever, informative and inspirational blogs, including tarot themed, and I've felt there's not much I can add to the discussion. But then, I remembered the words of a song that translate like this:

"everything that can be done has been done, everything that can be seen has been seen,
everything that can be touched has been touched by many hands,
but not with your hands, not with your eyes,
not with your soul before you've tried it all yourself."
CMX

I like the message about: nothing's completely original, but every one of us has something new to offer, because we are all unique with our unique histories and experiences.

What is happiness?

I spend a lot of time thinking about happiness. Not just my own personal happiness, and how to stay happy, but other people's happiness and the concept of happiness in general. My PhD studies focus on the quality of life, everyday happiness and mindfulness. In particular, I'm interested in the connection of beauty and happiness: can beautiful things, surroundings and experiences make people happier? Or can the lack of beauty make people unhappy?

I'm not talking about make-up, clothes etc. (even thought they are one part of the idea, depending on what's everyone's personal preference in beauty), but noticing beauty around in the world, in the everyday.

This is a branch of philosophy called everyday aesthetics. Mindfulness, a trendy concept, draws from everyday aesthetics in my opinion. Mindfulness simply means: be aware of every moment, stay focused on the now instead of drifting to the future or past, worries, regrets or anticipations.

Being mindful can mean enjoying your cup of coffee in peace, tasting every sip. The key concept in everyday aesthetics is similar: pause, enjoy and appreciate what you have around, what your senses capture. The sun dancing on the pot plant's leaves. The aroma and scent of morning coffee. The calming, rhythmic beat of the dishwasher. The vibrant colours of the fruit in a bowl. The shine and softness of your pet's fur.

I started practising tarot and "fortunetelling", because it was an intriguing concept and I wanted to know if it even can work.

I've come to a conclusion after five years of card-reading that yes it does seem to work, and even better it works for self-development and self-reflection. Tarot is an excellent tool to examine your own deep thoughts, emotions, motives, dreams, fears... every aspect of one's personality. I've grown much calmer, mature and dare I say wiser by using tarot regularly. And funnily enough, also more mindful, to stay in the present, noticing the beauty of the everyday.

Here's my spread to realise one's blessings:

  1. What is the best thing I have in my life right now?
  2. What do I have I take for granted?
  3. What should I discard from my life?
  4. What in life inspires me?
  5. Where or how to find that inspiration?
Below: some things that make me happy - beautiful places and sights from my hoods, equally nice to enjoy with loved ones or alone. 






Thursday, 6 October 2016

How to treat the risk of failure

One of my almost-daily routines is hanging out at Aeclectic Tarot Forum, which is an online discussion board for anyone interested in tarot and wanting to practice their reading skills and intuition in general.

I have shifted from other social media to AT, because in the tarot community, the focus is on self-improvement and helping others, whereas Facebook and other platforms are nowadays flooded with bad news, disrespectful language, trolling and other negative traits this species of ours can exhibit.
The more time I spend on Facebook, the more agitated and annoyed I get, whereas with AT, the more benevolent and refreshed I feel - it's funny what a big difference the language, attitude and ambience of a forum can make.

Because AT is anonymous, people discuss their issues openly. One of the common underlying currents of discussions is "I want to do thing X, but my family/friends/social circles oppose/ridicule/don't approve it". No person is an island and whatever people around us say and think, affects us. positively or negatively. But. How can we ever achieve anything in life, if we put too much emphasis on other people's opinions?

For instance, I want to be a novelist one day. I have supportive and encouraging people around, but also those who don't think I can make it. It is possible I can't. But it's also possible I can. And the only way to find out is to give it a proper try - do my best to become what I want to be, even when it comes with the risk of failure.

People around us often think they know better, see the risks better, are more realistic than us or otherwise just have more authority to tell how to live our lives. But is that really true?

It's actually just a perception. The louder or more convincing these critics are, the more credible they sound. However, being loud or sounding confident don't make anyone right. And nobody else but you can know, whether something is good or right or doable for you.

But here's the trick. You need to believe in yourself to make it work - whether this is a new job, relationship, studies or business. Critics around can take that self-confidence away, thus spiralling you to a failure and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. I told you so! When in fact, if they had not told you so, you wouldn't have failed. Tricky, isn't it?

My motto in life is:

nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

This (perhaps foolishly?) bold and straightforward attitude could be best described by wands tarot cards, i.e. those that depict willpower, inner fire, drive, motivation and wants. However, I think it's best captured by the slow and even dull-looking
7 Pentacles.
The traditional 7 Pentacles of Rider Waite Smith deck shows a farmer assessing his crop. Only one ripe pentacle has dropped, the rest might still fail or succeed. The only thing to do is to keep trying and hope for the best.
Tarot of the Pagan Cats shows a different side of 7 Pentacles - curiosity and play. Any dream, project or plan in life starts with curiosity (could it work? what if it worked?)  and at best, is fuelled by play: fun, exploration, creativity, excitement. Even if the dream fails after all, experiencing those elements on the way make it worth trying.
Every farmer knows that the crop might wither and die. No matter how much you've watered, tended and cared for it, it could still fail. But then again, there could be a huge reward, a bounty, a successful harvest. The only way to know is to try - not just half-heartedly, but giving it the best you've got.

I value tarot as a tool because looking at the cards and pondering them peels off layers in our thinking that are plastered in there by other people.

Looking at the pictures analytically or semi-meditatively should reveal what your real thoughts and feelings about any given matter are, free and pure from others' influence. How could I best make this project work? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What could I do to strengthen the strengths and weed off the weaknesses? How to best go about with this dream of mine?

These are all empowering questions that help you forward, instead of dwelling on "I really want to do it and I think I could, but everyone says it's not wise/easy/possible/for me." Well, everyone can say that the sun will be blue tomorrow, but it doesn't make it true, does it?

Here's a spread to explore a plan or dream you're unsure about. Pull 1-3 cards for each question, depending on your preferences and reading skills.

New plan or dream - analysis spread

1. What do I believe this plan/dream will give me if it works?
2. What is the real reason I hesitate achieving it?
3. How can I overcome my hesitation?
4. What skills I have that will most help me with achieving this?
5. What in my life or thinking is hindering me from achieving this?
6. What will my life be like when I have achieved this?
7. How to best start moving towards this goal?
8. How to encourage myself to keep going until I reach my goal?