Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finding Playing Cards

It's a curious thing, and it has happened to me a number of times. Walking down the street and coming upon a playing card (or cards). It generally is more frequent in summer. What would be the reason for a playing card to be laying on the sidewalk? One explanation is the old trick of kids sticking them in the spokes of their bikes (it makes a vroom vroom sound the faster you go). But I doubt there's that many people playing crazy eights while they go for a walk. So I have come to regard "findings" as little signals. Opportunities to be woken up by life.

This has happened often enough to me that I have made a little game of it and some friends have too. Sometimes the instances of coming upon the card are also intriguing. On one occasion a friend and I were taking her nephew for a walk during a very trying time in her family. He was about 3 or so and at one point we had to stop and tie his shoe, I noticed under his foot was an Ace of Diamonds card. He has since proved himself to be an exceptional kid. I have had friends who have related that they've been out walking their dogs and come across playing cards too, often at a point where life has needed a little signal of some kind. I have my own hunches on how to interpret these things - I wouldn't call it a superstition, more just a kind of "food for thought" sort of thing.

I take notice of where the card is and especially whether it is face up or face down. A face up card is like a road sign (like trouble on the path of life, rest stop coming up, or romance ahead). A face down card is more a choice, you turn it over and your stuck with the lesson. You could turn it back over and leave it for someone else or you could rip it up into little pieces, or (and this is what I do) put it in your pocket and let it be a lesson card. This is especially nice when it's something positive, but difficult cards have their value too. I have a little box on a side table in my home, sort of a mindfulness table. It's where I put things I find, like marbles or rocks from the beach. I place the playing card there with these things and it serves as a little post it note to my consciousness.

A significant "finding" occurred for a friend of mine the other day. Dodie is a very community minded person, very active in her neighborhood and with some groups working hard to bring an area that's seen difficulty back to vibrancy. There's been some crime and some absentee landlords and such but many people are putting down roots, reaching out and doing good things. Recently Dodie was out walking her dog Oban (who is a very wise old soul himself, known to rescue kittens but that's another story). I should mention here that Winnipeg has had a LOT of snow lately (it's over 3 feet deep in my yard). Dodie has been noticing found playing cards in the last few years too and this particular day she came upon the six of spades. The odd thing (and I have never known this to happen before), It was standing up in the snow!

Now many people have many interpretations to cards, my own are definitely biased to the translation to Tarot. In the Tarot system this card relates to the Six of Swords. I also see a relationship of the sixes to the guardian role of the knights. All of the sixes in the Rider Tarot have a kind of guardian figure that is helping a process, directing a force of energy or working through currents to improve a pattern. The Six of Swords particularly is often guidance through grief or conflict, protecting others in times of trouble. So the card standing upright, like a little sentinel and being found by Dodie who is very much the kind of guide mentioned, is kind of neat.

I'd love to hear other people's experiences along these lines, post a comment if you have any "finding" stories!

NOTE: This has been an extremely popular post over the years and I enjoy hearing people's experiences with this quirky little phenomenon, however I cannot offer interpretation of what the cards mean in these instances. It is outside of a reading and my area of work is with Tarot. You can relate the systems of playing cards to Tarot - they are related - but even the interpretations I have offered in other articles are outside of a reading and many of these articles and videos are just random thoughts and entertaining "food for thought", not meant in any way to be either definitive interpretations of the cards themselves nor the greater stretch of what finding a card could mean for you.

There is a great deal of good free resource on http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/ and other websites that can give a lot more detailed information than what I have freely offered through this page.
If you wish to look comparatively at playing cards to Tarot, the usual associations are Wands = Clubs, Cups = Hearts, Swords = Spades and Pentacles = Diamonds. You can refer to my "Videos/Articles" section for some light takes on the cards.

UPDATE: I've been sent a link to a Facebook page devoted to the phenomena of finding playing cards, I'm quite happy to share that:
www.facebook.com/cardfinders/

Happy finding!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Happiness

The Sun card is often seen as one of the most positive cards in the Tarot deck. It often signifies clarity, honesty and optimism. it suggests a bright outlook, not necessarily that everything is entirely problem free, but that everything is out in the light of day. Nothing is hidden in the shadows here and we can bask in the light of reason.

It's a curious thing that so often difficulties and worries are accepted as facts of life and negativity seems to need little justification. Happiness is sought and sold to us as elusive. I don't buy into that.

There is never a moment when the sun stops shining on the earth. True at night we turn our backsides to it and things like clouds and pollution obscure it momentarily. Some would be quick to mention that the sun, as a physical entity, has a life span. Like other stars it will eventually burn out. But the very light of the stars goes on shining and ever moving outward long after their demise. Some stars that are visible to us burnt out long ago, the light continues to move forward.

Even what we see as a lower life form knows this. Plants evolve to capture light. Sunflowers (which are depicted more than once in the Rider Tarot as a symbol of self -honesty) adjust daily to follow and soak up the sun's rays. Dandelions manage to root into concrete and stretch to absorb light. Happiness is our connection to that sort of life force. When we are happy we radiate a kind of energy that is positively infectious and it continues to move forward. This is our natural state. We forget it and get preoccupied. We often buy into the lie that we need to have things or the right conditions or the right relationship in order to be happy, but there are moments where we get to forget that (probably what St. Francis of Assisi meant in "self forgetting") and experience this. It is what C.S. Lewis meant in the business of being "Surprised By Joy". Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with wanting things, it's when the wanting hurts that we are out of line. Relationships are a prime example of this, when we want a relationship in order to be happy our odds aren't as good as when we want to share the happiness we do have with someone.

Some many years ago I was in a group that was trying to do some conscious inner work. We were working very hard at trying to be HAPPY people and there was a lot of focus on what our problems were. Some felt that they had repressed issues they needed to get in touch with and while in some areas this is a valid thing, it was also a bit of a blame game. I found myself questioning my childhood. Was there something I was blocking? Something I needed to "get in touch with"? I wondered, and at the time as I was distant from my father (and had blamed him for some things) it was a question of what did I maybe have bottled up that I needed to see. I talked to some people and fortunately someone very wise said "maybe you're so focused on the negative that you're blocking the positive". Well at first I found that annoying, (frankly I was in such a state that I found A LOT annoying those days), but it stayed with me. A few days later I was out with a friend and he asked me to pass him something on the table and as an off the cuff remark he called me sunshine..."could you pass me that sunshine". It hit me like a bolt from the blue...when I was very young my dad called me sunshine. I had forgotten that, along with a lot of other very positive little things he had done or said. It was at that time I began to re-connect with my father and came to have a happy relationship with him, he passed away peacefully in 2005 and  I was with him when he did.

Another thing this reminds me of; a friend was going through a really tough time, a genuinely hard, tough time. Her partner had left her, had taken everything (even the dog), she was living in a hotel room, she was faced with so much uncertainty and had every justifiable reason to feel low. We were sitting in her car (which she was on the verge of losing) and she was talking about how tough things were. I didn't have any platitudes to offer (I'm bad for that - sorry). Something told me to just shut up and listen (and thankfully I did). She eventually just fell silent and we were staring ahead down the street. We were parked near my work on College street. Some grubby little kids (about 4 to 6 years old) were playing with an old tire they'd found. They found it uproariously funny to roll that old tire down the street. We just found ourselves watching and after a while when they laughed, we did too. My friend was very okay after that (maybe she just needed to see she was okay all along) still she had rough times but she came through them. I believe happiness is what children know and what we misplace (but I believe we never really lose).

This sort of thing has happened for me again and again, not on demand, not instantly, but often enough for me to know (but still need reminders), that happiness is a natural state. It does not distract us from grief, it does not solve everything, but it's there. We allow ourselves moments, we need reminders, we get preoccupied, some of us get very lost, there are dark states that can be quite lethal, but in those instances especially I believe that spiritually we all eventually find our way into the light.
Let the sunshine in.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Cheer

December in Winnipeg. The shortness of the days. The crisp mornings and long twilight of the afternoons. It's a season of extremes. The holidays are a time I look forward to. For me this is a time of year where the focus is more about just getting together with people, renewing connections and catching up. Professionally it's my month of greatest extremes. December is usually quiet through the early part of the month and then a scurry of people wanting to get in while they are off work. It's also very nice to see people who visit from out of town. Some people make coming for a reading part of their holiday tradition!

In my own family the kids are grown, there's not a lot of presents to buy (other than for my Mother) and, thankfully, most of us have what we need. A few years ago we started putting the emphasis more on just getting together. I don't much relish the craziness of shopping. I also volunteer a bit around different community areas. I usually help decorate a community centre and other stuff.

For a lot of people this season is challenging. Maybe because there's so much thrown at us about how it OUGHT to be and it's easy to feel we have fallen short if we aren't living some sort of Hallmark card version of the season. Also we often see a lot of old patterns arise as we go "home for the holidays". I see a lot of struggle 'round this time of year, but I also see a lot of progress and hope.

One of the symbols of the season that I have come to have a different appreciation of is the little nativity scene my mother puts out every year. She often threatens to give it away and I always get antsy when she does. It's one of our little struggles but it means something to me. She bought it when she worked at Eaton's back when I was very little. Eaton's was an amazing big old department store in it's day. The toy land at Christmas was (in my memory) a huge otherworldly adventure. It didn't have the same feel as the big box stores of today. Amid all the over the top stuff that our family went through at Christmas time, the little nativity scene or "creche" as my mom calls it, is one of the few things still around.  The papier mache figures that have survived many moves and jostling. I think we lost a barnyard animal or two and St. Joseph has a chip on him. The year our basement flooded we found the box waterlogged. Mom very carefully unwrapped each figure and let them dry, they could have crumbled at the touch.

My mom always did her best to make Christmas special for us ( I have three older brothers). In the years when she was a single parent, working secretarial jobs and, for the last while as an inspector on an assembly line in a computer plant, she  did her best to keep things together. By the time I was about 13, my older brothers had moved out and it was just her and I for a few years. I remember one afternoon about this time in December, I was home alone after school and there was a knock at the door. A guy from the Christmas Cheer board was there with a hamper. I thought he must have the wrong address and told him so. He had our names and suggested I call my mom and check before going away. I called my mom at work and when she heard why there was a long pause and she said "it's not a mistake". I had not known at the time how hard some things were. Someone had submitted our name for that turkey.

What that little Nativity scene represents to me more than anything now, is endurance, survival and hope in times of challenge. I'm looking forward to spending time with my mother this holiday season, like the little creche, we've come through a lot.
I'm including a link, for those who may be interested, for the Christmas Cheer Board's website, it gives information on how you can donate and the good things they do;
Winnipeg's Christmas Cheer Board

In a few weeks the days get longer again. Whatever our individual spiritual beliefs and traditions, it is a time for renewal and appreciation of what we have, what we can share and what we are here to do. To all my friends and clients, best wishes of peace, comfort and joy and to a good new year, cheers!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Abundance" From A Friend

I have a really good friend that I have posted about before. Dann is the kind of friend where we might not talk for a while but we pick up where we let off immediately. I have always admired his spirit and pluck - along with a sense of humor we have in common. A side note in the story that follows is that a lot of people think he resembles the actor Will Farrell (I think Will Farrell is lucky to resemble Dann)
 He is going to be opening his own yoga studio in Oakville Ontario soon and has been updating me and some other good friends on his progress. there's always adventures along the way. I asked his permission to share his most recent post as well as a link to his own site (http://www.bikramyogaoakville.com/ ), where I hope he continues to share his perspectives on things:
Here is the post:

Abundance comes in many forms.....

Hi Everyone,

Abundance and prosperity can come in many forms. It is interesting how something that most of us would look at as a inconvenience such as a bird pooping on our arm as a bad thing, in other cultures that same occurrence can be looked upon as a sign of good luck. I am not sure if Drive through yoga will ever catch on, but who knows. Yesterday when a person was parking their car in front of the studio instead of pressing the brake they hit the gas and below are pictures of the resulting damage. No one was hurt, the driver of the car is OK.
When I arrived this morning to check things out I met two police officers. They were so friendly and the friendliness seemed odd. Then one said “Has anyone ever told you…” and I interrupted and said “That I look like Will Ferrell.” I said yes almost every day. I was told yesterday that the damage was minimal and the frame of the door was slightly bent. Lucky that there are two more doors inside of the vestibule that are locked to make the space secure. No one was hurt, not even the driver of the car, the building will be repaired and this will not hinder the opening of the studio.

I am so lucky, that as a result of this incident I got to meet some very nice people and perhaps make a couple of new friends. I have enclosed the pictures with the police officers they said that their families had to see that they met Will Ferrell’s look alike and I said I wanted pictures too then. Insurance for all parties concerned have been contacted and the couple who own Subway down from our studio location said that I need to look at this as though it is a blessing and good omen. So that is exactly what I am doing. Wouldn’t be a good ad for the studio if I pitched a fit anyway.

Have a good week and in one way or another there are blessings in all of our lives and I am sending this note to everyone who is a blessing to me.

Dann

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Elemental Book and Curiosity Shop - Now Open!

A good friend's home based business, formerly known as Cloaked Realm  has moved to it's own full business location at 355 Langside (just off Portage across from the newly built U of W's Mcfeeter's hall) in the old Club Morocco building.

From the store's Facebook page: "Elemental Book and Curiosity Shop is a rising star within the Winnipeg community. With humble roots as a home based business formerly known as Cloaked Realm ~ Pagan Emporium our shop will offer a diverse range of spiritual related products for those seeking enlightenment and self awareness".

Dominique has a beautiful selection of crystals, pendulums, jewellry, incence, imported stock and some things from local people as well. Candles, beautiful artwork and different books and implements for various traditions and practices...too much for me to try and describe here.

The space will also be available for classes and various community functions and lectures.

The soon to be up and running web page will be found at;
/http://www.elementalbooks.ca/
the phone number is
(204).779.8900
and to email:
elementalbooks@gmail.com

Further on the Eight Of Swords; the lessons of compassion,detachment and acceptance

In the comments on the previous article about the Eight Of Swords, I mentioned the business of detachment and how that doesn't necessarily mean physical detachment or leaving a situation but rather not being defined by it - being "in it but not of it". This is a tricky business for some.

I've started this post with Van Gogh's Starry Night. I was looking for images that could depict a person's attempt to break through isolation and convey a unique and at the same time relatable feeling. This image speaks to millions of people both in it's beauty and in it's poignancy. Although Van Gogh's life held a lot of suffering, his work ultimately has been a legacy of the vision he needed to share. Some experiences of suffering, like Vincent's, seem inescapable and sadly not all have happy outcomes.

The key thing to (hopefully) overcome in what the Eight Of Swords describes is isolation. Whether it is our own difficulty or that of someone we care about, the tools we can work with are compassion, detachment and acceptance. We can hear, we can try to listen and out of that to understand. At the same time we can never know entirely what another person's experience is and we have to be rooted in some degree of well being if we are to be of any good.

Many of us grow up believing that to be compassionate we must feel what the other person is feeling. How often in a caring situation do we feel compelled to say "oh I feel badly for you". We are often taught that this is compassion, but what good does it do? True we need understanding and the ability to relate and empathize to a degree, but this needs to be balanced with our own healthy well being.

A lesson I have often seen with the Eight Of Swords is that sacrifice for others must be balanced with our own demonstration of responsible self care. The alternative is suffering for others, a kind of martyrdom. When we do this we actually are making others responsible for our state and we are not living our own potential. The other side of the coin is not selfishness but rather a sense of sharing what we can, and what others can receive. Being responsive to, not responsible for others while being whole and responsible and accountable for ourselves. This is a life lesson that I'm not great at. It's a learning we move through many times. I can say it get's easier and along the way there is a lot of beauty, even in the hard stuff.

I will only give brief mention here of those (happily few) that often want to make others feel responsible for the state they are in, or in some way apologetic for not being in their suffering with them. But these people are rarely and only momentarily satisfied. All I can say in regards to them is a big thank you to whoever invented call display. I usually don't avoid the call altogether but that brief pause gives me fair warning where my boundaries can be in place. That's a swords lesson in itself!

Detachment is not being aloof or uncaring, far from it. It is about being responsible for one's self so that you are in good shape to be of service to others and to be a healthy demonstration. A healthy nurse can better look after people. A good teacher doesn't necessarily have all the answers but rather the tools that they are willing to share to find answers. If a good friend has the flu we don't say "here, sneeze on me, we'll both be miserable", but rather we avoid the sneeze, bring them soup and wash our hands and take our vitamins while doing so.

This is a challenging lesson, especially with those nearest and dearest when trauma is going on. Being caring means that of course we are affected, but it's also the recognition that we can't be in the same place as those directly suffering, nor would it be constructive to try. I learned this in some of the deepest grief situations my friends have gone through, both in loss and in facing their own passages. I learned that it is sometimes better to say "I have no idea what this must be like for you", because it was the truth. At the same time it is important to try to relate and understand.

Compassion is about knowing that others move through these situations and we can learn from those experiences. The circumstances are often not that unique (if they were there'd be no such thing as country western music, or Shakespeare or any form of art) but our individual experiences are.

There is comfort in knowing others move through similar situations. That's a big part of creativity. Music is a great example of people relating over heartache, joy and hope and most forms of art are about people expressing their individual experience and perceptions in a way that others can identify with, each in their own unique way. It is one of the things that makes the symbolism of Tarot useful. It is a way of relating these common themes with a degree of intuitive understanding from the reader and in what the person being read can relate to.


Being in the Eight of Swords state also means having compassion with one's self. This is not narcissistic victim-hood or self pity, rather it is being a friend to ourselves, being able to drop the ego's expectations, the false armor of pride that isolates us. Being open to the experience of others is often an important start. It means giving up the familiar identification with pain, though what have we really got to lose?

This also has another word running through it all, acceptance. Acceptance is not a resigned giving up or (as I said in the comments section before) playing "possum" to a tyrannical force. It is also not about trying to run from or deny the circumstances.It's about seeing it as part of the journey, useful in our understanding and compassion to others and yet not the entire definition of ourselves.

All of the Eights are our relationships with circumstances. They are not the totality of ourselves, simply where we are momentarily on our journey. We might get stuck in them for a while (or choose to stay stuck). Swords are about conflict but they are also about our responsibilities in working with boundaries, making decisions, articulating ourselves, dropping the unnecessary baggage and protecting what is important.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Eight Of Swords

There's trends I sometimes notice, where certain cards are more prevalent. It sometimes seems that there's lessons we all are moving through and symbols become more evident during these times. Lately I have noticed a stronger than usual emphasis on the Eight of Swords.

The suit of swords itself is where we often are having to work with issues around conflict, stress and the part of consciousness that makes decisions, sometimes a more dualistic (good or bad, right or wrong) decisive focus.

None of the suits are good or bad in themselves but swords do seem to indicate more trouble on the surface than the others, yet they are necessary and when we work with what they represent we grow.

Not many people can say they like conflict, but conflict resolution is a very good thing. Any relationship that doesn't have a degree of conflict (internally or externally) isn't much of a relationship. How we work through these issues and identify problems is an essential part of our life experience.

Eights as a number are often about how we are identifying with our experiences. They are a sort of "you are here" indicator. We have to remember that our circumstances don't define us entirely, we have to be in them but not of them. When we define ourselves by conflict, when our main subject matter is our battles and conflicts there is a self victimization that the eight of swords can illustrate.

Sometimes that victimization is from an external source, an abusive relationship whether it is with a partner or one's environment can be shown by this card. Feeling powerless in our circumstances is also a big part of what this represents.

Looking at the illustration in the Rider deck there are some useful clues and insights. The figure is bound and blindfolded, surrounded by swords and abandoned on a beach, a castle is seen high on a cliff. Small puddles surround the figure, it is also significant that she is wearing red. What this seems to be is an execution by drowning. The tide will come in and this figure will be washed away. It's almost as if the executioners didnt have the guts to do the job themselves but rather have left it up to a force of nature to do the dirty work for them.

In some cultures a woman in red represents a dangerous figure, a "fallen woman". In the Tarot deck however she represents a resourceful woman of experience, the crone aspect of the female trinity (Mother, Maiden and Crone). In a happier aspect she is present in that trinity in the three of cups and also the Queen of Pentacles herself wears red (again symbolic of resourcefulness and the ability to see many sides of a situation).
So our figure in the eight of swords has fallen into a bad situation. The manner and style of execution suggests she is a powerful woman, again so much so that no one wants to directly do her in, nor do they wish to be identified hence the blindfold. In some cases so much as a look from this person would be enough for her to either do damage or to influence her escape.

The water is significant too. In many instances in the Rider deck, the ocean represents the vast unknown of our life experience, to venture out, to risk going beyond our comfort zones. This is different symbolically than just water as an element (cups). I always have felt though that the very thing meant to do our lady in red in, will be the very thing that sets her free. We have to sometimes "surrender to win", let go of the defining circumstances and sink or swim but in doing so we reclaim the freedom we have lost.

In practical application this card comes up a lot for caring people who have lost their way in taking on the worries of others. I sometimes call it the "Achilles's Heel of Empaths". When our feeling for others has taken over our lives, we are in this state. Sometimes to take on our own feelings can be overwhelming at first (like the great ocean tide) but when we surrender to these things rather than run from them, we find our way out.

The term "Empath" has come up more in the last few years to refer to a person who has the ability to pick up on the feelings of others. I didnt hear the term so much until one of the Star Trek Shows ( I think it was Next generation) had a character who identified herself as one. Sometimes this seems to be an involuntary condition, a person who is an involuntary empath has not yet learned to set boundaries and is strongly affected by the vibes in their environment. Also there is the danger of projection, or ascribing to others the very dark emotions we do not want to own up to in ourselves. When we lack these boundaries or the accountability to see that the dark emotions we are "picking up" are sometimes our own, we have fallen into this trap. For some who are addicted to feeding off the emotional turmoil of crisis situations, boundaries can be frightening. To feel seperated from or cut off from others is harsh, but this is where the illustration of the card takes on new meaning. Sometimes we need the boundaries that the swords represent and the blindfold makes us look inward, we can begin to rescue ourselves (we often need help though in opening these things up) rather than using crisis as a way of avoiding.

I also sometimes call this "the flannel nightie card". In relationships this can be an indication of a lack of safety or security, a need to withdraw from intimacy. We cannot truly share ourselves with another if we are feeling hurt or threatened. So like putting on a red flannel nightie that would look good on grandma and getting a good night's sleep, we have to stand back, take back our space and be whole before we can share.

Sometimes this card can indicate physical problems. I don't diagnose health, but the physical aspects of stress come up here. Some people don't know they are on fire til they smell the smoke. This is not a good card around issues of pregnancy or fertility issues. It usually suggests a strong need for self care before any new undertaking can be accomplished.