Karmic Re-Set with the Nine of Swords

I remember the last time I pulled the Nine of Swords in one of my personal readings.  I had a very spiritual reaction, which was, “Well . . . shit.” Swiftly followed by another, which was, “Why me?”

It probably wasn’t one of my better days.

The Nine of Swords absolutely screams, “karma.”  The individual is lying in bed with his head in his hands, a perfect image of someone who has just awakened from a screaming nightmare.  The quilt on the bed is covered with astrological symbols showing past incarnations in different signs of the zodiac. The swords behind him seem locked together like the bars in a prison cell.

There can be no doubt that this is someone who has just realized that he’s accumulated some terrible, terrible karma and is going to have to pay a serious price for it.

There’s another way of looking at it, though.

If you’ve spent any substantial time in spiritual exploration then you’ve had that, “Ah HA!” moment when you realize that you are a co-creator of your life.  It goes something like this:

I control my thoughts.  My thoughts cause my emotions.  My emotions cause my energy vibrations.  My energy vibrations, through the Law of Attraction, determine what’s going to manifest in my life.  Therefore, I control (or create) what’s manifesting in my life.

To put it more succinctly, if I’m broadcasting a lot of negative vibrations I’m going to attract a lot of negative crap into my life.  If my vibrations are positive, positive things will flow into my life.

There’s a real rush that goes along with that revelation.  We feel very liberated from random circumstances and from people victimizing us.  We realize that all of this isn’t being done TO us, we’re making it happen to ourselves, which means that we can change it.

But there are a couple of, “Well . . . shit,” moments that go along with that.

The first one is, “Well . . . shit . . . I made this.  This is MY karma. I’m totally responsible for this mess.”

It wasn’t our abusive fathers, or our crazy ex-wife or husband, or the country or culture we grew up in, or the opportunities we did or didn’t have, or anything OUT THERE.  We manifested all of it into our lives or we chose to NOT manifest something better. We made it.

Well . . . shit . . .

The second appallingly scary moment happens when we realize that it means that we’re also creating what happens next.

Alcoholics Anonymous and the other 12 Step Programs have a saying:  “You can start your day over whenever you want to.” In other words, if you’re having a terrible day you can always take a deep breath, reconnect with your serenity, and change how your day is going.

Tibetan Buddhism embraces the concept that we can start our karma over whenever we want to.  No, we can’t escape the unfolding of consequences from our previous actions but we can make those consequences a lot better by starting to live our lives with love and compassion and the creation of good karma.

And when we realize – truly realize – that we are creating our lives right now, right here, with the choices that we’re making, that we’re starting over,  that’s a pretty heavy responsibility.

For one thing we have to get really clear on just what we DO want.  What are my values? What do I want in my life? Peace? Serenity? Happiness?  Family? Sex? Money? What do I want to create in my life? If all of this isn’t just stuff that’s happening to me, if it isn’t just things that people are doing to me, if I’m MAKING my life . . . what do I want it to look like?

And if we’re going to choose to consciously create our own lives – and we don’t have to, we can stay unconscious – then we have to consciously choose, every day, every hour, to control our emotions, our vibrations, and our manifestations.  

And that’s not easy.

Well . . . shit . . .

The Wheel of Fortune and the Gifts of Karma


You’re rolling along doing great, happy as a clam, your life full of blue skies and smiles and – BLAM – you get fired from your job.  Or your girlfriend leaves you. Or even worse, you get fired from your job and get terrible, terrible reviews on your exit interview and you know your resume’ will be screwed up for years.  Or . . . wait . . . your girlfriend leaves you for a lesbian who ALSO happens to be your supervisor and fires you and they BOTH give you terrible, terrible reviews on your exit interviews and you know your resume’, your ego and your libido will be screwed up for years.

We’ve all had those moments when life suddenly turns to shit with no warning and for no discernable reason.  It happens to everyone. A rabbi named Harold Kushner even wrote a book about it called, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” that sold millions of copies.

Of course, you could also write a book called, “When Good Things Happen to Bad People,” but it probably wouldn’t sell as well.  Or you could write a book called, “When Good People Have Their Lives Turn into Shit Sandwiches and Then All of a Sudden Things Get Better For No Particular Reason.”

As the King of Siam said, “It’s a puzzlement.”

One of the reasons it’s puzzling for most of us is that we get that training from the time that we’re infants:  if you’re good, good things will happen to you. If you’re bad, no fruit cup for dessert and you stand in the corner.  It’s supposed to be a straight, cause and effect transaction that if you’re good you get rewarded, not kicked in the head.

But life is full of ups and downs, and The Wheel of Fortune is a perfect illustration of that.  At best our ill fortune can seem terribly random and at worst it can seem just plain perverse. A turn of some invisible wheel over which we have no control.


As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to take a lot of comfort in the concept of karma.  When a stranger decides he doesn’t like me and he’s going to make my life hell it makes more sense to me to think that I must have screwed with him in a past life than to think that he  just doesn’t like my nose or my aftershave.

And if you really embrace the concept it can actually help you to get through some horrific times.  “Yes, this is terribly painful and I’m going through some serious suffering. On the other hand, think of all of the bad karma I’m burning off.”

I remember the first time I had a serious discussion about karma.  I was taking a tour of a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center and the woman who was the tour guide and who lived there said:  “When we get up in the morning we try to live virtuously and if we do that we accumulate merit, which is good karma. And then we consciously dedicate that merit that we’ve earned to anyone who is suffering or in need.  Which is also a virtuous thing to do so we accumulate more merit by doing it and then we consciously dedicate THAT merit to others.”

To which I replied, “Huh?”

It took me a few years to get it but the key words there are, “consciously dedicate.”  

When we encounter the bad times in life – as we always do – live them consciously.  Endure them with grace and dignity. Be determined to learn and to grow spiritually from them.  Consciously dedicate those bad times to earning merit.

And when we’re having good times in life, consciously dedicate some of that extra energy and fortune to helping others who are having hard times.  

Conscious living makes The Wheel of Fortune make sense.

The Judgement Card

 

judgement

An angel blows a horn and people rise joyfully from their coffins which appear to be floating on water.  An icy mountain range is in the background.

This card looks kind of creepy – probably because of the gray people jumping out of their coffins – but it’s not.  This card is about judgements of all kinds but especially about self-judgements.

When Judgement shows up in a reading it indicates that a very significant part of a person’s life is coming to an end.  Moreover, the questioner is in a place where he or she can sit back and examine how they behaved during that phase of their lives and whether or not they are satisfied with what they did.

I’ve seen this card come up frequently with home health care providers, for instance, after the loved one they were caring for had passed over.  They had devoted months or years of their lives to caring for another person and then it was time to reflect on the experience and evaluate what they had done.  You can apply the same thing to any important phase in a person’s life, whether it’s the end of a long career or children who are moving out of the house.The basic questions here are what did it all mean and how did I do?  When the card is upright it indicates that the questioner has done well and feels good about it. And there is also the obvious theme of being reborn in this card. I’ve finished that phase of my life, so what do I do next?

There is also, of course, the more mundane matter of legal judgements.  If you’ve been involved with some sort of a court case you can expect a positive outcome.

REVERSED:  The same scenario as with the upright card but when reversed it implies a negative judgement.  The questioner is feeling far from satisfied with his or her own behavior and wishes that she had done better.  Again, this can be applied to any life event that’s coming to an end, whether a relationship or a job.

Pending legal matters will not go well.

A Few More Thoughts About the Judgement Card:

“You’re judging me!”

“Don’t be so judgemental.”

“That’s a value judgement.”

Not to mention visions of crabby, constipated old men in black robes banging little wooden hammers on their desks.

There’s no question that the word, “judgement,” carries a lot of emotional baggage with it.  It, “feels,” like we’re talking about one person condemning another person, something most of us aren’t totally comfortable with.  Hell, I’ve known Buddhists who refused to serve on juries because they were so adamant about not judging another person’s karma.

As I said in my book, “Just the Tarot,” though, the Judgement card is really more about self-judgement.  It’s about taking a hard, dispassionate look at your life and deciding whether you did good or you fucked up.

And then moving on.

We’ve all known people who were in dysfunctional relationships where one person was doing all of the heavy lifting and the other person was letting him or her do it.  I knew one man who was married to a woman who had been brutally raped when she was younger. About five years into their relationship their sex life pretty much disappeared because she was having flashbacks to the rape.  He was a very sensitive, caring man who was deeply in love with her and so he went along with a sexless relationship until it started to make him crazy. He tried to talk to her about it and got nowhere. He suggested that she see a therapist and she refused.  He suggested that THEY see a therapist and she refused.

He finally ended up seeing a therapist himself and discovered that, sadly, a lot of marriage counseling is actually divorce counseling.  After two years of trying to make things work he filed for divorce and they went their separate ways. He still loved her but he realized he deserved a life partner who could love him back.

I mention that particular instance because it contains all of the elements of the Judgement card.  1 – Being confronted with a large problem in your life. 2 – Working hard to deal with it or solve it.  3 – Seeing very clearly that it involved a phase of your life which, for better or worse, is over and walking away from it.  4 – Making a Judgement about your own behavior and evaluating how you did before you move on to the next phase.

It happens all the time.  Women who live with abusers and try with all of their hearts to believe that the man will somehow change until there’s one too many beatings.  Home health providers who take care of parents with dementia until they’re emotionally and spiritually exhausted and just don’t have anything more to give.  People who endure terrible jobs with terrible bosses for years and finally have enough.

The self judgement is sometimes positive and sometimes negative.  Sometimes we can look at ourselves and say, “Yeah, I did really good and I did everything I could have.”  Sometimes we have to admit that there are things we wish we could have done better or wonder if we should have tried a different approach.  

In either case there is strong self-knowledge that it’s OVER.  That chapter of your life is closed out and you’re moving on to the next chapter, hopefully a wiser and more compassionate human being.

Time to be re-born.

compassion-fatigue-lr-knost

 

The Star Tarot Card

 

the star

A nude woman kneels beside a placid body of water.  She holds pitchers in both hands and is pouring water out onto the ground and into the body of water.  The sky above her is spangled with stars and a bird sings in a tree.

This is one of the loveliest cards you can get in a reading and indicates hope and good things to come.  

Her nudity indicates both an innocence and a freshness, a starting over without the trappings of a former life that may have weighed her down.  Her foot in the water indicates that she is fully in touch with her emotions while the other foots placement indicates that she is well grounded.  The singing bird denotes happiness and the fact that she is freely pouring out the contents of the pitchers indicates abundance.

Basically, this card means blessings and sweet times ahead.  If life has been hard for the questioner or he or she has experienced poor health they can expect wonderful improvements in the very near future.

REVERSED:  The questioner is letting self doubts and pessimism seep into his or her spirituality.  There has perhaps been a new and wonderful start but doubts are beginning to spring up.

A Few Extra Thoughts About The Star:

I’ve been collecting books about the Tarot for decades.  One which has gone out of print described The Star as, “The Star of Hope.”  I have to say that from my experience that’s exactly right.

Sooner or later we all go through one of those awful periods that are marked with the appearance of cards like Death and The Tower.  Sometimes we feel totally demoralized and defeated. Sometimes we feel like we’ve been beaten right down to our knees, bowed and bloodied, and unable to get back onto our feet and move forward.

But it’s the nature of life that if we hang on long enough, if we don’t give up and become cynical and jaded, a glimmer of hope will enter our lives and we begin to see the possibility of being happy again.

One might just say, “Well, hope springs eternal in the human breast,” and leave it at that.  We are, after all, a pretty hopeful species. We do tend to rebuild and regenerate after disasters and catastrophes.

I think, though, that there’s something a little more to it, at least as far as The Star is concerned.  I think that there are times in our lives when we get periods of grace, periods of blessings, when we’re protected and helped by higher powers or higher realms.  When we have peace and contentment, many times after our hardest struggles.

The Tibetan Buddhists have a wonderful way of looking at karma.  If you’ve led a really, really good life (or many of them) and you’ve helped a lot of other Souls then you’re likely to reincarnate in really, really good circumstances in your next life.

BUT – they warn – even a large accumulation of good karma can be used up so it’s important to keep living a good life and to keep helping other Souls.  It’s sort of like a karmic piggy bank: you have to keep putting some more good karma back into it or sooner or later you’ll run out.

It’s likely that something similar happens when we go through really bad times.  When life absolutely beats the shit out of us and we endure the pain and suffering – AND WE CONTINUE TO HOLD LOVE IN OUR HEARTS! – then we earn that period of grace and blessings.  We earn that Star of Hope that surrounds us with its’ light and protection.

The Wheel of Fortune

 

wheel

The Waite deck obviously went all out on this card and crammed as much occult symbolism into one little package as the mind can conceive.  I personally think you’re pretty much always going in the wrong direction when you combine the new testament with Egyptian gods, but – hey! – to each his own.

The word Taro in the center of the wheel is a reversal of the word Rota, meaning wheel and it emphasizes that our journey through this life is very much like being affixed to a turning wheel.  What goes up must inevitably come down and then, in the nature of the wheel, go back up again. This card is talking about the fact that change is inevitable.  Nothing remains fixed or static in this world and you may be riding high one day and fall off your horse the next.  You may be flat busted and then have a crazy idea that makes you a fortune. Life is always changing and we just pretend that it isn’t because it makes us more comfortable.

When the Wheel of Fortune shows up in a reading you know that a large change is about to happen.  The card doesn’t speak to whether the change is good, bad, or indifferent: it’s just telling you that something big is about to happen and you should be prepared for it.  When it happens it will probably feel like a bolt from the blue, a sudden stroke of good luck or a lightning flash of bad luck. Other cards in the reading may give clues as to the area of life in which you can expect the changes.

REVERSED:  There’s not a huge difference between the upright and reversed card, except the reversed card shows more of an aspect of bad luck.  It’s possible that the questioner is about to enter into a period of hard times or that he or she is simply going to have a string of bad luck.  The main lesson for this card is to use the tough times to develop stronger character. Persevere and grow.

A Few Other Thoughts About The Wheel of Fortune:

The Wheel of Fortune represents a glitch in the fabric of their well-ordered universes which organized religions have been trying to ignore since their inception.

Which is to say . . . luck.  Good luck, bad luck, and no luck.  

If The Hierophant represents the well-oiled machinery of organized religion, the The Wheel of Fortune represents a huge monkey wrench that got thrown into the gears of that machinery.  Organized religions teach – put simplistically – that if you’re a good person then good things will happen to you. And if you’re a bad person, then bad things will happen to you.

And, of course, that flies in the face of much of what we see around us.  Why do kind, gentle people of faith sitting in a synagogue in Philadelphia get gunned down by a vile racist who is consumed with hate?   Why do billionaires who celebrate avarice and greed live lives of luxury while the pious frequently don’t have enough food for their children?

It’s a conundrum that religions have been hard put to explain.  In the christian religion we see the rather sickening tale of god and the devil deciding to turn Job into a human ping pong ball, kill his children and his livestock, and give him some sort of a leprous disease just to, “test his faith.”

The most logical explanation I’ve run across is the Buddhist idea of karma.  We plant seeds of hate and violence in past lives and they may bloom into poisonous flowers hundreds of lifetimes later.  Thus, bad things happening to us aren’t the random, crazy things that they seem to be but just natural consequences of our past actions.

That’s what I personally believe but, like all metaphysical assertions, it’s an unprovable hypothesis based on my experiences, thoughts, and feelings.

The Wheel of Fortune pushes aside all of the metaphysical hypotheses and organized religions and just says, “Look:  shit happens. And good things happen.” Period. You don’t have to have an explanation for it to recognize that it happens.

The nicest, most successful person in the world can hit a string of really putrid luck and have everything she’s worked for destroyed.  The biggest bastard in the world can hit a string of really good luck and end up in the White House.

It’s a principle of randomness that seems to be built into the universe.  What goes up, must come down, and vice verse. Today’s rooster is tomorrow’s feather duster.  Life moves in cycles and we have no choice but to move with them and do the best that we can. The Wheel of Fortune is a reminder of that.  

Ultimately none of the castles that we build – or lose – on this earth plane are real.  Figure out what things ARE real. Your values. Your heart. Your love for and from others.  Those are things we create ourselves with the way that we live our lives. No change of fortune can give them to you and no change of fortune can take them away.