The Knight of Cups and Love as a Class Room

Developing a healthier model for love and romance.

The Tarot suit of Cups is the suit of emotions and particularly of love, the grandest of all of the emotions.  The Knight of Cups shows a Knight riding forth on a quest, his cup extended in front of him.  He’s on a quest of some sort having to do with love, but we can’t see the contents of his cup. 

 Is it full of love that he wants to share with someone else?

Or is it empty and he wants someone to fill it for him?

Kind of a crap shoot, isn’t it?  And it’s pretty much like what we go through when we start a new relationship.  The other person is on his or her best behavior and we can feel quite certain that their armor is buffed to a high polish and their horse has been carefully groomed.  They look mighty good at first glance.  But what’s going on with that cup?  Are they full or are they empty?  Do they have something to share or do they want us to somehow fill up their emptiness?  Or maybe a little bit of both. . .

There is also, of course, the ass end of relationships, where they’ve ended, our hearts have been broken, and we’re recovering and trying to move on.  In the Tarot, that’s represented by the Three of Hearts reversed, showing that our hearts have been pierced with pain but the swords are falling out and the pain is going away.

Oddly, those two phases – the quest for love and the end of love – are very intimately connected in our culture. They’re connected with what we might call the, “til death do us part,” model of love.  The idea is that love is for life, that it’s a permanent, life-time commitment.  

Of course, the divorce statistics tell us – plain and simple – that that’s a bullshit idea.  Most relationships are NOT for life and about fifty percent of them end up in parting.

Still, we cling to that idea that a romantic relationship is for a lifetime. That belief causes us unbelievable amounts of pain when reality rears its’ ugly head and we have to split the sheets with someone we loved.  And then we beat the hell out of ourselves.

What went wrong?

What’s wrong with me?

Am I just totally unloveable?

Louise Hay, in her wonderful book, You Can Heal Your Life ,proposed a different model of love that takes away a lot of the pain, and it’s just a matter of having a different perspective on relationships.  And a different perspective on ourselves.

“Being needy is the best way to find an unhealthy relationship.”  Louise Hay.

That’s a pretty powerful statement when we take the time to think about it because it focuses straight onto the question of why we feel that we need (as opposed to want) a romantic relationship.  What is it that we’re trying to get from the other person?  Why is it that we feel so devastated when we don’t get it?

She suggests a simple exercise:  get out a pen and a pad of paper and make a list of all of the qualities that you want in your lover.  What should he or she be to make you feel fulfilled?  

Compassion?

Tenderness?

Strength?

Humor?

Empathy?

Now flip it around and ask yourself:  how much of those qualities do I have toward myself?  Do I treat myself with compassion?  With tenderness?  Am I strong and reassuring to myself?  Can I see the humor in my life and laugh out loud when it’s just me here?  Do I really have empathy and understanding for my self?  And then start working on building those qualities, in your self.

You get the drift:  the more we have those qualities in our own lives, the less we’ll feel the desperate need to find them in someone else.  And the less devastated we’ll feel when the other person goes away.

The other person going away is also a part of the process.

As I said, the divorce statistics don’t lie.  In our culture, nobody gets married with the idea that it’s for six months or a year, or maybe a three month contract with the option to renew.  It’s for a freaking lifetime.  Til death do us part.  

Which means that if you’re not RIGHT THERE AT MY BEDSIDE WHEN I CROAK at the age of 186, then you didn’t really love me, you bastard!  Uh, huh.

So . . . getting back to reality . . . as Hay said, all relationships eventually end, except for the one that we have with ourselves.  If we can get our heads around that reality and honestly say to ourselves, “I’m going to be with this person for a while,” then love gets a lot easier and relationships, paradoxically, become a lot more meaningful.

Because then we begin to really focus on why we’re with this person for this limited period of time and we don’t take it for granted that we’ve got forever to get it right.  

It also changes the meaning of what it means, “to get it right.”  Getting it right no longer means simple longevity.  It no longer means that our relationship with that person was somehow, “good,” just because we managed to hang in there through decades of not being heard or not being seen or not being loved back or putting up with a rotten sex life.

It shifts the focus to, “why are we here?”  We’re here, as two autonomous, strong, healthy human beings sharing our space, energy and love for this period of time – and that can be a month or sixty years – for a reason.  What lessons are we here to teach each other?  In what ways can we help each other grow?  In what ways can we support each other to evolve?

In other words, the relationship becomes a life lesson.  And when we’ve learned that lesson, class is over, we graduated, time to move on to another lesson.

There’s nothing inherently sad about that.  We’ve just been taught that it’s sad.  If we view the relationship as a life lesson, then we can be grateful to our ex-partners for what they taught us and for allowing us to teach them, and move on with gratitude and love in our hearts.

It ain’t easy.  The beliefs that love relationships are supposed to be permanent, that we’ve somehow failed if they aren’t, and that we should just go right back out and do the same stupid thing again, are so deeply ingrained in our culture that it takes a lot of conscious effort to pull out of them.

As Hay says, though, relationships ending is NORMAL AND NATURAL.  We don’t need to put up with a worn out relationship just to avoid the pain of the parting.  We’ve learned what we were supposed to learn.

I love her affirmation for ending relationships, which I shall keep near me in the future:  I bless you with love and I release you – you are free and I am free.

Yes.

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The Ace of Cups, Heart Chakras, and Flounders in Rayon Golf Shirts

Opening our heart chakras to find love when our relationships aren’t working out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about broken hearts.  LOL – Again.

 At one point or another, whether it was the result of an adolescent crush gone awry or a mid-life divorce, most of us have gone through the experience that we tag as, “a broken heart.”  We fall deeply in love with someone and they don’t love us back.  Or they love us and leave us.  Or they, “love us,” in such destructive ways that we end up in shreds.

It hurts like hell.  Jeeeeezus, it hurts.

The 3 of Swords shows the classic broken heart scenario where two people were in love and one of them fell in love (or lust) with someone else.  The heart is pierced with swords and the person who was betrayed is so deeply wounded that he feels that he may never heal from the pain.

So what do we do with our poor broken hearts after someone stomped them into a jelly with their hobnail boots?

One popular solution is to just jump right back into another relationship.  “There are lots of fish in the sea,” we tell ourselves, “and I’m gonna hook me a big old flounder.”

Sometimes that works but a lot of times it doesn’t.  The divorce rate in the U.S. regularly hovers between 45 and 50 percent, which means that an awful lot of serious relationships end up as flaming disasters.

One of the big problems with just catching another fish is that, “life is a mirror,” as Louise Hay says in You Can Heal Your Life, and we tend to catch the same damned flounder over and over and over.  Whatever energy we’re radiating out into the Universe is the energy that’s going to come right back at us, in this case in the form of a lover. 

 If we’re really emotionally needy, clinging people, then we’ll probably attract other emotionally needy, clinging people and then – JOY OF JOYS – we can be needy and clinging together!  Or, if you really hate yourself and you’re constantly treating yourself like shit, you’ll probably attract an abuser to do the job FOR you.

So, basically, unless we change our energy patterns, unless we change what we’re radiating out to others, we’re going to continue to attract the same kinds of people, the same lovers who broke our hearts, only in different clothing.  (Hopefully stylish clothing, at least.  It’s doubly tragic when your new flounder shows up in a rayon golf shirt.)

That can even happen to kind, loving people who’ve gotten therapy, who’ve done the spiritual work, and are really, sincerely looking for a healthy, compassionate partner.  In some ways, people who are truly loving and on a sincere quest for genuine love may be even more vulnerable.  Just take a moment or two to listen to this video from the wonderful Doctor Ramani about malignant narcissists and, “love bombing.”

Remember what it’s like when you’re really, really, REALLY in love with someone?  You feel like – to use an old Southern expression – they hung the moon.  Everything they do is perfect, everything they say is a glittering gem of wisdom, and just being around them makes you ecstatic.

The malignant narcissist gets to us because they can perfectly mimic that feeling of being in love.  They praise us, they flatter us, they tell us that we’re smart and sexy and funny.  Just like someone who really loved us would do.  And then they destroy us.

Oops.  Another goddamned flounder.

Hopefully, we go BACK to our therapist and he or she teaches us about malignant narcissists and how to spot them and how to build healthy boundaries.  It’s all very complicated and it can take a lot of time along with a lot of emotional work and commitment.

In the meantime, in between time, we’re just hanging there with no love in our lives.  I mean, we KNOW that if we just go back out fishing without cleaning up our own emotional messes, we’re just going to get the same fish again.  And that’s not a good thing.  Living without love is NOT a good idea.  We NEED love.  It nurtures us.  It heals us.  It grows us.  So what do we do?

We can find at least a partial answer in the Ace of Cups.  It shows love – pure, undifferentiated, unattached, unconditional love – pouring into the world.

Believe it or not, we can manifest that love in our hearts and in our lives without a relationship and without a mate.  We all have a very special place in our energy systems called, “the heart chakra.”  This is the place where we receive, store, and generate love.

We can sit down at any time that we choose, do a heart chakra meditation, and, “grow,” the love that is in our hearts.  It’s not hard, it’s not complicated, and we don’t have to be spiritual masters to do it.  There are heart chakra meditations all over the internet, so you can start loving TODAY, if you want to.  (Here’s a nice one to get you started.)

The thing we frequently miss is that love exists.  It’s a force in the Universe that’s out there, independent of people, and we can let it into our lives and our being anytime that we want to.  Hell, we can set aside an afternoon for meditation and just BATHE in that energy if we want to.  All we have to do is open our heart chakras.

That’s not to put down loving another person at all.  Being in love can be one of the most magical, wonder-FULL things that ever happens to us.  It’s really hard to beat snuggling up against your partners back on a cold, snowy night, right?  (Well . . . neck kisses.  Neck kisses might beat it.  Of course, you could do both.)

Until that happens, though, until we can untie all of the weird, dysfunctional emotional knots that keep us from finding that relationship, we can remember that our lovers aren’t love itself.  They are vehicles that get us to love, but we can still experience love without a relationship.

It’s right there in our hearts.

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The Fool, Wu Wei, and Touching Your Woo Hoo

Exploring the concept of Wu Wei and the work ethic of drifting.

We all know how to be a success in life, right?  We set our alarms so that we can get up before the sun rises and we work our asses off all day.  We do twice as much as everyone else, put in lots of overtime, and keep working right up until we go to bed.  And some of us actually keep working in our dreams, mulling over the day while we sleep, running through scenarios for when we go back to work tomorrow.  We even have lots of inspirational sayings to reinforce our work-a-holic thinking.

“The early bird catches the worm.”

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

“Stay positive, work hard, and make it happen.”

Yay!  Let’s get out there and WORK!

But what if all of that is wrong?  In fact, what if most of it is bullshit?

The Taoists have an interesting concept called Wu Wei, which can be loosely translated as, “doing nothing,” and they say that it’s a major key to success.  A more accurate translation might be, “purposeful inaction,” and the basic idea is that the harder we work, the behinder we get. Taoists love to use rivers and lakes and water in general as metaphors, so we can do that to explain Wu Wei.

Suppose that you’re floating down a beautiful, green river in your little Rowboat of Life.  There’s a gentle current that’s carrying you along nicely and you’re making good forward progress.  It’s so quiet and peaceful and you can feel the sun warming your face and body.  Perhaps you let one hand trail behind you in the crystal clear water and for just a moment it feels like everything is absolutely perfect.  

BUT . . . you suddenly decide that you want to go faster, because faster must be better, so you grab your oars and you row like hell until you’re exhausted.  And you really haven’t gotten much further down the river.  All you’ve accomplished is to wear yourself out when you could have been just drifting along, enjoying the ride.

But WAIT!  You remind yourself that drifting is wrong!  Drifting is bad!  We need to be GOAL ORIENTED and MOVING FORWARD with MAXIMUM ENERGY AND MOTIVATION at all times.  By now, you know that rowing forward didn’t accomplish much, so you start paddling your Rowboat of Life from one side of the river to the other, just to be doing SOMETHING.  After all, you’re the Captain of your Rowboat!  YOU determine where you’re going and YOU’RE in charge of your destiny!  

 Eventually you realize that you’re making even less forward progress and after a while you get discouraged and put your paddles back in the boat.  You drift along thinking about it and beating yourself up for not making more effort.  Maybe a dragonfly lands on your nose while you’re cogitating.  “Am I lazy?” you ask the dragonfly.  “Do I just not have what it takes to be a winner?”

As you work it all out in your head, you realize that WINNERS KEEP GOING, no matter what the odds are against them.  Real winners are willing to work as hard as they can and then DIG DEEP to find that last reserve of energy to carry them across the finish line!  The harder you work, the more it proves that you’ve GOT WHAT IT TAKES, by god!

So just to prove how hard you work and how inspired you are, you turn your Rowboat of Life around and start paddling AGAINST the current.  You struggle and you strain and at a certain point you have a massive coronary and die, but at least you died a winner, right?

The whole point of this, of course, is that there are underlying currents of energy in the Universe.  They actually help us get to our goals if we just surrender to them and go with the flow.  Life isn’t an enemy.  Life isn’t something we have to fight.  Nature isn’t something we’re supposed to conquer.  We are meant to float as gently on the currents of life as a blossom drifting down a broad, quiet river.

Most of the New Thought writers and speakers have this concept as a central pillar of their philosophy.  In Choose Them Wisely: Thoughts Become Things! Mike Dooley talks about visualizing your goal in general terms and then moving toward it.  BUT he emphasizes very strongly that we don’t need to sweat the details about how we’re going to get there.  The Universe will provide the means and the ways and the paths once we get in harmony with the flow.

Louise Hay, in You Can Heal Your Life writes, “I believe in a power far greater than I am that flows through me every moment of every day . . . Out of this One Intelligence comes all the answers, all the solutions, all the healings, all the new creations.”

In Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires Esther Hicks/Abraham, says, “Well-Being is the basis of the Universe.  Well-Being is the basis of All-That-Is.  It flows to you and through you.  You have only to allow it.  Like the air you breathe, you have only to open, relax, and draw it into your being.”

In other words, there is a current of energy, of love, that underlies the entire Universe and our, “job,” our only true, “work,” is to align ourselves with that energy current and drift along on it, knowing that it will take us where we want to go.

The Fool Tarot card is the perfect illustration of this.  She dances along on the edge of a cliff, filled with the energy of love, totally unconcerned about where she’s going or how.  She’s in the flow.  She’s dancing with the energy and if she walks off of the cliff, she’ll just walk on air.

So . . . how do we get to the Flow and how do we know when we’re out of it?  How do we know when we’re paddling up the river, instead of riding the current?

According to Esther Hicks/Abraham, we actually have a compass in our little Rowboat of Life.  It’s called emotions.  And we can check that compass anytime that we want to.  HOW DO YOU FEEL?  If you feel crappy, angry, sad, or resentful, you’re paddling upstream.  If you feel happy, joyous, free, and content, then you’re floating down the river with a dragonfly perched on your nose.  If you’re not feeling anything at all, if you’re emotionally flat and apathetic, then your Rowboat is stuck on a freaking sandbar.  So the key is to get up every morning and say, “Woo Hoo!  I’m alive and I love it!”

We all need to stay in touch with our Woo Hoos a lot more than we are.  We can do that.

Of course, all of this is totally un-American.  Hard work and a lot of sweat are the answers.  Anyone who says different is plain Fool-ish.

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The Ten of Swords, the Death Card, Child Abuse and Forgiveness

It’s hard to put an exact figure on it because child abuse tends to operate in the darkness, but most statistics indicate that about one in five people were abused as children. That abuse can, of course, be a broad spectrum of behaviors from physical abuse to emotional and social abuse to sexual abuse, or a combination of all of those. And therapists will take different approaches in treating those abuses, depending upon the type and severity.

We can simplify that by just lumping it all under one word: trauma. Victims of child abuse suffered severe trauma at a point in their lives when they were totally ill-equipped to process it intellectually or psychologically. Child abuse is normally committed by those who are closest to us – our parents, siblings, uncles, teachers, priests, pastors – and so it involves a deep betrayal of the most basic sense of trust. It leaves its victims with an enduring, often unconscious, feeling that the world is NOT a safe place and that we can never feel secure or at peace, even in our own homes. To use a current phrase, we suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, just like people who have been in combat for extended periods of time.

Eventually, that lack of trust in life, that basic inability to ever really relax into safety, will cause us to build impenetrable walls that destroy the quality of life. We are so wounded that we just can’t let other people all the way into our lives because they might hurt us, too. Very much like the figure in the Ten of Swords, the battle is over and we lost. And how could we not? We were just children when the battle took place.

We may seek help through therapy or spiritual resources in an attempt to remove the toxins, to tear down the walls of distrust and fear. If we’re blessed with a really good therapist or a wonderful teacher, we may actually make progress with our issues and begin to engage in life in a more open, loving way. We still feel wounded, though, pierced with countless swords of pain when we recall what happened to us as children.

And then an odd thing happens somewhere along the journey: our abusers die. Abusers, like everyone else, are ultimately mortal and they age and die like everyone else.

When that happens it can be a very odd time in our lives. There may initially be a real feeling of catharsis, a sort of a joyful crying out into the world: “I’m still here and you’re not, you son of a bitch.” Or there may be a total numbness and lack of grief. After all, they taught us the value of learning to feel nothing again and again and again while they beat us. Later, if we go into therapy, there may be a deep regret: “Why didn’t I confront him when he was still alive? Why didn’t I ever ask her why she couldn’t love me?”

At the end of the day, though, they’re dead. As the coroner in Wizard of Oz put it, “She isn’t simply merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.”

Or is she?

The terrible truth of the matter is that, for most of us, they go on living in our own heads and hearts long, long after they’re physically dead. There are constant inner dialogues with them, sometimes dozens a day, that we carry on as if they were right there in the room with us, instead of lying in a grave. There are the critical, shaming voices that intrude on our every activity.

“That was stupid.”

“Can’t you do anything right?”

“Well, THAT was typical. You screwed up again.”

Many times these inner critics have become so natural to us, so much a part of our existences, that we don’t even realize that they aren’t us. They’re the disembodied voices of our dead abusers.

So how do we ever get rid of them? How do we ever get to a point where we can say, “You know what? You’re dead. Go away now?” The answer for me came in the form of forgiveness, but not forgiveness in the normal sense of the word. At least not the way I’d ever thought about it.

At first, the idea of forgiving your abusers feels grotesque, even outrageous. “Wait a minute . . . I was a little tiny, helpless kid and this person beat me (fucked me, fondled me, burned me, shamed me – fill in the blank with your particular form of abuse.) Why in hell should I forgive them? Just because they’re dead?”

Well, there are two reasons and, oddly, neither one of them has a thing to do with the abuser.

First of all, yes, they’re dead. Yes, in a physical sense, they really ARE most sincerely dead. Whatever they are now, they aren’t any longer the specific person who abused us.

And that means that, as Louise Hay pointed out, all that they are right now is thought constructs in our heads. That’s it: they are literally just our memories now and they have no existence beyond that. When that really hit me, when I finally GOT that, my first thought was, “Wow! I’m CHOOSING to live with my abusers. All they are is my thoughts and I’m in charge of my thoughts. This is a choice to continue the abuse.”

And once I got that, I realized that if I continued to keep those thought patterns alive, it was a CONSCIOUS choice to live with abuse.

That’s where forgiveness comes in. Louise Haye also pointed out that forgiveness is, ultimately, an act that takes place in our own minds. We don’t tend to think of it that way. We tend to think of it as always involving another person and it usually has a lot of drama attached. It goes something like this:

“I forgive you for the fact that – even though I was deeply in love with you, had your three children, and was a good and faithful wife who adored you with all of her heart – you just couldn’t keep your dick in your pants and you screwed my best friend. That slut.”

In other words, we’re SAYING that we’re forgiving the other person, but we’re really not. What we’re really doing is pointing out what a total piece of shit the other person is and saying that we’ll live with that, as long as they feel good and guilty about what they did wrong. It’s a power thing disguised as a kindness thing.

Real forgiveness, though, is truly letting it go, not choosing to live in it, and that’s why it’s so important in healing the wounds of abuse. It means recognizing that we’re keeping the abusers alive in our own minds, acknowledging what they did to us and honoring ourselves as survivors, and then just . . . letting them go . . . for once and for all . . . back into Universe. “If hating you means I’m keeping you alive, then I can let go of that hatred. I forgive you, I bless you, I release you.” And in doing that, we’re really blessing ourselves. We’re really releasing ourselves from the prisons they built in our minds.

You can invent your own rituals for doing that. I like to use Nick Ortner’s Meridian Tapping with three rounds of what they did to me and three rounds of letting them go. You might prefer to build a Day of the Dead Altar with their picture on it. Talk to the picture, tell them what they did and how it felt, and then throw the picture away.

Light a candle, meditate on the abuser and then release him or her as you blow out the flame.

Do a Buddhist Sur Ceremony and release them with love and compassion.

They don’t exist anymore. We’re free.