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!