The Moon Card, Insanity, and 40 Rolls of Toilet Paper

Moving toward a new definition of normality after the pandemic.

So . . . we appear to be coming out of the other end of the corona virus pandemic.  After a year plus of being told to stay home, live in isolation, and wear masks, we’re being told that it’s at least semi okay to start to take off the masks and socialize a bit.  It’s rational to have some hope that we’re not all going to die horrible deaths in understaffed Intensive Care Units.

Huzzah!  Now we can get back to normal!

The question that I’ve been dealing with lately is what exactly IS, “normal?”  And, secondarily, did I ever really, truly KNOW what normal is?  Because it appears to me, in looking back over the past year, that a whole lot of people are a whole lot crazier than I ever thought they were.

The Moon is, “the crazy card,” in the Tarot.  It represents insanity, delusions, illusions, self-deception.  The juxtaposition of the dog and the wolf howling at the moon show us that our evolution from pure animal state was not that long ago.  The crawfish crawling out of the water shows our most primitive, prehistoric state of being emerging from its murky depths.

We’ve seen a lot of murky depths and de-evolution over the last year.  Two things stand out in particular.

The first is The Great Toilet Paper Insanity of 2020.  We, as a society, received the news that we were faced with a horrible epidemic that could kill millions and millions of people.  A virulent plague such as the world hadn’t seen in a hundred years.  Humans were dying like flies in a cosmic spider web in China, Italy, New York, and no end was in sight.  

And our response was . . . BUY TOILET PAPER!!!  Lots and lots and lots of toilet paper.  Buy so much toilet paper that the shelves of grocery stores would be stripped of the stuff for months.  Buy more toilet paper than we could use in five years. If elderly people and weak people who couldn’t shoulder their ways into the head of the line didn’t have any toilet paper because we’d bought it all . . . well, FUCK them!

It was truly insane in the real definition of the word.  You can’t eat toilet paper.  You can’t heat your house with toilet paper.  You can’t wrap your shivering body in toilet paper during the freezing winter months.  Toilet paper – to a sane mind – has a very limited value in our overall lives.  It’s good for wiping our asses and blowing our noses.  Period.

Yet, in a matter of just a few weeks, people had been hypnotized into believing that it was the most valuable commodity on earth.  And it was a truly bipartisan hypnosis.  This wasn’t just a bunch of far right, neo-conservative survivalists hoarding toilet paper.  I have friends on social media who are life-long, foaming at the mouth, liberal-progressives who were proudly posting pictures of the two hundred rolls of toilet paper they had stashed in their hall closets.

Huh . . . who could have seen that coming?  In all of the post-apocalyptic movies we’ve seen, in all of the creepy end-of-civilization Stephen King novels we’ve read, has anyone EVER mentioned toilet paper?  Was there EVER a scene of a howling mob breaking into a grocery store and killing each other over . . . toilet paper?

Not.

The second, much darker, much more disturbing scenario that emerged was the embrace of the, “herd,”  vision of humanity, particularly as it applied to frail people and old people.  At a certain point, the medical model of the virus that emerged was that it was very likely to kill older people and people with pre-existing health problems, less likely to kill healthy middle aged people, and unlikely to kill younger people.

Using that knowledge base, a pretty brutal theory emerged:  for the sake of, “the herd,” it would be better if older people and sick people were exposed to the virus and just . . . you know . . . died.  The Lieutenant Governor of Texas actually said that it was somehow the DUTY of older people to get out there, get exposed to the virus and die, because that would get the economy open faster and there, “are more important things than living.”   

Strong evidence has emerged that the anti-mask movement that many of us found so puzzling was never about, “political freedom,” at all.  It was about ensuring that the maximum number of people would be exposed to the virus as quickly as possible in order to achieve “herd immunity.”

Now, that’s basically one small step down from Nazi eugenics.  It’s a theory that views humans as a herd, rather than as individuals.  If there are members of the herd who are sick or old, they need to be, “culled,” out so that the herd will stay healthy and vital.  Yes, millions of people will die, but think how much healthier we’ll be AS A WHOLE after all of them are dead!

It’s exactly the same mentality that led the Nazis to proclaim that, “the Herd,” (the Master Race) would be SO much better after we eliminated the Jews, the Blacks, the Gypsies and pretty much anyone who wasn’t a pure aryan, whatever the hell that is.  If you’re willing to expose people to a virus that you KNOW is going to kill them, that’s essentially a gas chamber mentality.

The salient point, of course, is that we AREN’T a herd.  We’re a society.  One of the hallmarks of virtually all societies is that they take care of people who are old and ill, they don’t just kill them.  We don’t toss Grandma into a lake with a cinder block around her neck because she’s become a bit of a pain in the ass.  We don’t execute people because they’ve got cancer.

So, yes, in reviewing this last year, I have to conclude that there are a whole bunch of us who are pretty fucking nuts.  And some of us are pretty fucking nuts and pretty fucking brutal.

The question is –  being realistic and acknowledging those facts – where do we go with that knowledge?  How do we react to the idea that the lunatics seem to be running a large part of the asylum?  Do we withdraw and hide?  Do we view other people with contempt or fear?

The only thing I’ve been able to come up with is to just react with compassion.  

In The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) don Miguel Ruiz points out that many people are barely conscious.  They’ve been programmed by their parents, their churches, their schools, and society at large to NOT think.  To NOT question their values or their reality.  They just get wound up like little robots when they’re children and they go through their lives never really waking up.  In essence, they’re Sleep Walkers, stumbling around in the darkness and not even having their own dreams.

When we see something like The Great Toilet Paper Insanity of 2020, it just reinforces that truth.  If your response to a life threatening situation is to grab as much toilet paper as you can, you’re not thinking, you’re not reasoning, you’re not even awake.  And that is sad and that deserves compassion.

If your response to a life threatening situation is to view other humans as being somehow expendable so that you have a better chance to live, as mere members of a herd, then you’re cut off from love, from empathy, from basic human decency, and you’re living in fear.  And that is sad and that deserves compassion.

 What I believed to be, “normal human behavior,” has turned out to be a pretty thin veneer over a LOT of crazy shit. I’m probably going to be a little more cautious around my fellow humans after this, a little less open and willing to believe that we have a common vision of the world.  But I also know I’m going to be a lot more compassionate toward them.

And that’s a good thing.  Hell, I’d trade 40 rolls of toilet paper for a little more compassion.

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Finding Meaning With Synchronicity

I’ve really been getting into investigating synchronicity lately.  Which is probably totally appropriate because reading Tarot cards is all about synchronicity.  You shuffle the cards, you lay out a reading and somehow the Tarot tells you what’s going on in your life, what’s probably going to go on in your life, and what factors you should be paying attention to as you move forward.

There is absolutely NO logical reason why the Tarot should work, but it does work.  And when you get to a space in the Universe where something works for no particular reason, that’s the space where synchronicity lives.

For those of you who aren’t into synchronicity, it was a phenomenon that was first seriously documented by Carl Jung.  He noticed that some things seemed to happen together in a meaningful way, even though there was no direct cause and effect relationship.

The most commonly used example for that is that you’re thinking of a long lost friend you haven’t seen in years when suddenly the telephone rings and – shazam – it’s your friend.  The two events occurring at the same time are definitely linked but they defy logic because there’s no visible cause and effect relationship.  Scientifically minded people would label them as, “coincidences,” which is scientific short hand for, “I really don’t know what the fuck just happened.”

Now, I recently – and synchronistically – stumbled across a book called, The Power of Flow: Practical Ways to Transform Your Life with Meaningful Coincidence. I’d been thinking about synchronicity and how it worked and why it worked in the back of my mind.  I had pulled up an article on my tablet that was totally unrelated to that subject and, in the middle of the article, there was a reference to this wonderful book about synchronicity.

If you haven’t read the book, I really recommend it.  What’s been intriguing to me about its’ discussions is the idea that we can sort of cause synchronicity to happen.  Or, at the very least, we can set up our lives so that they are fertile fields for synchronicity.   Among other things that the author recommends are journaling, therapy, meditation, dreaming, basically anything that opens us up to Deep Mind.

One of those things that really leapt out at me, though, is INTENT.  Having the intention of having synchronistic experiences can increase the probability of them happening.  Or, perhaps I should say, “expectation.”  If you expect them to happen, they’re more likely to occur.

Well, I decided to put on my metaphysical-scientist hat and test that hypothesis using the most stringent experimental methods possible.  By which I mean, I went for a walk downtown.  I didn’t just go for a walk, though.  I went for a walk with the full expectation that the Universe was going to give me some sort of a sign, some sort of direction.  

I was actively looking for it.

And I immediately ran into three of the people I care most about in life.  Boom, boom, boom – there they were.  

I went back home and mulled that over.  It certainly seemed to have worked.  What were the odds that I’d immediately encounter those three people?  On the other hand, I thought, we live in a small town and people do run into each other.  On the third hand, I reflected, I’m an extreme, dedicated introvert.  I can go for weeks and not have the phone ring or have anyone knock on the door.  So. . . I step outside my boundaries for a change and there are my three friends.  Hmmmm . . .

 I repeated the experiment and went for another walk the next day.  And, boom, boom, boom, there were three more friends just like they’d been waiting for me to happen along.

Wonderfully weird, right?

And, if we’re able to stimulate the occurrence of synchronistic events by our intent or by our expectation that they are going to occur, then that establishes a direct link between what’s going on in our minds and what’s going on in the outside world.  Which is amazing.

Now, to be clear – WE ARE NOT ACTUALLY CAUSING THE SYNCHRONISTIC EVENTS.  They are occurring spontaneously with our intentions, but they aren’t mere reflections of our inner states.  Rather, it’s as if the Universe is responding to our inner states and giving us clues and pointing us in different directions.

In this particular instance, the inner state was my question, “Can you show me that synchronicity works?”  And the Universe responded, “Yep, we can arrange that.”  My friends, who, “appeared,” on my walk are all free, independent entities and I couldn’t MAKE them appear in any sense of the word, but the Universe could bend the rules a little bit and put us all in the same section of the same town at the same time.

In other words . . . there is something out there and we can have a dialogue with it about our lives.  You can conceptualize that any way that you want to.  You can call it spirit guides, angels, the universe, the Tao, being in The Flow,  Whatever it is, you can ask it a question and it will give you an answer.  “Hey, you’re puzzled about this, so look over there . . .”

When we really get into that framework, when we make that shift into realizing that we’re interacting with the Universe in a meaningful dialogue (we’re asking questions and we’re being given answers) it makes a HUGE difference in how we approach our lives.

Here’s how the authors of, “The Power of Flow,” put it:

“By using synchronicity for guidance, confirmation, and validation, people’s lives become a dance of energy with the Universe, a give and take with their environment that fills their days with insight and zest.”

Life, at that point, becomes a book that we know how to read and it’s  full of amazing answers.  As Albert Einstein put it:  “There are only two ways to look at life – as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is a miracle.”  With synchronicity, everything becomes a miracle.

Ulla Suokko, author of Signs of the Universe: A Practical Guide to Shift Your Story gave an amazing Ted Talk on the synchronicity that has occurred in her life.  She reiterated Einstein’s point but took it a bit further.  “Choose to live as if everything is a miracle.”

When we consciously make that choice to LOOK for the miraculous, it appears. We can talk to the Universe and it talks back. How cool is that?

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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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Introverts, Extroverts, and Becoming a Cookie

My life partner used to say, “I’m my own cookie.”

What she meant by that was that she was the source of her own valuation.  She didn’t need someone to say, “You’ve been a good little girl, so here’s a cookie.”  She could decide on her own that she was a good person AND she could make her own rewards rather than depending on someone else for them.  

Above and beyond all of that – she was her own reward.  Just being herself and being with herself was reward enough.  She was her own cookie.  That’s a hell of a life skill if you can figure out how to do it.

It can also be a really vital life skill if you’re an introvert.  The more introverted we are, the less likely it is that we’re going to get our cookies from someone else.  If we don’t want to starve to death, we’d better figure out how to do some baking.

If you’re reading this, there’s actually a pretty good chance that you’re an introvert.  It’s a pretty simple equation:  people who do Tarot reading are usually empaths.  Empaths are usually introverts.  

When we do a Tarot reading (or any other type of psychic reading) for other people, it’s not about us.  It’s about the life and the experiences and the dilemmas of the person we’re reading.  If we’re going to be effective at that, we have to be able to empathize, to actually put ourselves in their space, and say, “Okay, you’re going through THIS and that makes you feel like you want to do THAT, but perhaps you should consider doing THIS instead.”  If you’re a good reader, you have to be able to suspend your own judgments and really get into the life and vibrations of the other person, to really see it from their perspective.  And that’s called, “empathy,” right?  That’s literally being an empath.

Doctor Judith Orloff, author of, “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People,” flat out states, “An empath can be an introvert or an extrovert, though most are introverts.”  So, if you’re a Tarot reader, you may be one of those wonderful extroverts who likes to dress up like a gypsy and do readings at Renaissance Fairs.  But the odds are that you aren’t.  The odds are that you’re an introvert and you hate crowds and feel intensely uncomfortable when you’re forced to be around too many people.

Which brings us back to baking our own cookies.

Our society is extrovert-driven.  We’re taught from the moment we come into this world that there’s something wonderfully right about being an extrovert and something terribly wrong with being an introvert.  Think of the terms we use to describe extroverts:  

  • He’s the life of the party.
  • She took center stage.
  • They were vibrant and bubbly.

Now think of the terms we use to describe introverts:

  • She’s a shrinking violet.
  • He’s a wall flower.
  • They faded into the background.

As we grow up, introverts are literally shamed just for being who we are, just for the way we were born.  Brene’ Brown, author of, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” says that our society has an epidemic of shame and that our school systems are 90% shame based.  A lot of that shame is aimed at children who are introverts.

  • She’s too quiet.
  • He doesn’t  play well with the other children.
  • She seems to be in her own little world.

In other words we’re taught that everything an introvert is – quiet, socially withdrawn, introspective, etc. – is NOT NORMAL and is a cause for alarm and a sign of neurosis.

Perhaps one of the most prevalent – and most damaging – myths in our society is that introverts are sort of socially backwards (not to say, “socially stupid”) and that they just don’t know HOW to fit in.  That’s why they spend so much time alone – they don’t have any choice.

Actually, the evidence indicates quite the opposite.  Researchers at Yale University asked over a thousand people to predict how the average, normal person would think, feel, and behave in different situations.  The correct answers were based on data they had already gathered about how the average, normal person actually DID react in those situations.

And do you know who scored some of the highest points on the test?  Introverts.  Introverts were able to predict with a high degree of accuracy exactly how, “normal,” people think, react, and behave. Introverts, far from being socially inept, can be highly tuned into and aware of social norms and behavior, even more tuned into what’s going on around them than extroverts.

So if we’re introverts, the start of baking our own cookies, the start of being our own rewards, is to firmly, thoroughly, once and for all, get rid of all of the BULLSHIT that we’ve been taught about ourselves since we were kids.  We are not socially inept, we are not painfully shy, we are not dull and uninteresting.  In fact, we can be a damned sight more interesting than the social butterflies who are getting all of society’s cookies.

But a more important step is to rethink what the terms, “introvert,” and, “extrovert,” actually mean, once we jettison all of the cultural prejudices.  Anna Lemind, author of, “The Power of Misfits: How to Find Your Place in a World You Don’t Fit In,” has a very simple answer for that:  energy systems.

Extroverts recharge their energy systems through large amounts of social contact.

Introverts recharge their energy systems through having a lot of time to themselves.

Period.

Extroverts aren’t any better than introverts and introverts aren’t any better than extroverts.  We’re just different.

The salient point here, though, is that if you’re really and truly an introvert, AND you buy society’s bullshit that you somehow have to be an extrovert to fit in, to get your cookie, you’re going to end up physically exhausted and spiritually depleted. Trying to be around a lot of people sucks you dry. No cookies for you.  Sorry.

As introverts, we really and truly ARE our own cookies.  We draw our energy from ourselves, not from others.  We ARE our own rewards and that’s just how our energy systems work.  The good news is that, much more than extroverts, we get to choose the ingredients that go into our cookies.  Chocolate chips?  Yes!  Sprinkles?  Definitely.  Whole wheat flour?  Ummmm . . . no.

After all, it’s my cookie.

The High Priestess and the Hallway in Our Brains

In my original definition of The High Priestess, I said:  

“The real message in the imagery of this card, though, is about balance between opposites and the center point where intuition reigns.  The cross on her chest is the solar cross rather than the Christian cross, its’ four arms all of exact equal length from its’ center. She sits exactly between the white and black opposites of the columns.  The crown she wears is a solar disk surrounded by crescent moons, emphasizing the opposites of night and day.”

I also pointed out that she symbolically corresponds to the center point of our brain, the place where communication takes place between the right side of the brain and the left side of the brain.  Because, of course, through some bizarre turn of evolution we ended up with two brains instead of one.

Our brains look very much like a whole walnut.  There are equal but separate sides, the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere. 

The left side does math, reads, writes, is logical, is ultra critical and is considered to be male energy.  The person who lives on the left hand side of our brain looks a lot like this:

The right side of our brains is creative, poetic, artistic, dreams a lot, thinks in symbols, and is associated with female energy.  She looks a lot like this:

Now, you can see where they wouldn’t be very happy roommates.  In fact, they barely talk to each other at all.  They do have more conversations in women’s brains than in men’s brains, but it’s still a pretty strained relationship.

If you want to think of them as two separate children who were born into the same body, then the left side of the brain definitely got most of the food and the right side of the brain was almost starved to death.  From the time that we’re tee tiny children we’re being encouraged to excel in left brain activities.  We’re forced to learn to read books, to memorize the alphabet, to figure out how math works.  The poor right side of the brain, though, is pretty badly neglected, if not abused.  We’re discouraged from day dreaming, told not to talk to our imaginary friends, and we get it drummed into our heads that art and poetry aren’t, “practical.”

To use a different metaphor, it would be like if we went to the gym and only lifted dumb bells with our left arm.  One arm would be beautifully sculpted and the other would be shriveled up, right?  On the other hand, we can look at the human brain and see that both halves are equal.  They take up the same amount of space and they weigh the same, which pretty much implies that we’re supposed to be using both sides equally, not just the left brain.

So how do we get the wonderful, artistic gypsy who lives in the right brain to come out and join the party?  How do we get her to engage more and force the left brain to quit being such a grouchy old tyrant who wants to run the whole show?

Well, imagine that there’s a hallway that runs between the two rooms that right brain and left brain live in.  The grouchy old tyrant can keep the door to his room locked tight, but he can’t keep the hallway locked.  The gypsy who lives in the right brain can come out and dance in the hallway.

In the actual brain that hallway is called the, “corpus callosum.” 

It’s the brain tissue that connects left brain and right brain and messages between them travel back and forth in that hallway like secret notes that they’re throwing at each other.

The reason that all of that is important is that we now know that the brain can be physically changed through habits and behaviors that we adopt.  Scientists refer to that as, “neuroplasticity,” meaning that we can, to some extent, mold our brains into something entirely different.

We’ve known for some time that women have larger and more active corpus callosums.  They hypothesize that this is why women tend to be so much more in touch with their intuition than men – there’s a lot more connection with the right side of the brain.

What we didn’t know until a study at UCLA medical came out is that the corpus callosum can be strengthened and can actually gain in size in both sexes through the simple practice of meditation.  A control group that meditated daily for six months was found to have significant changes for the better in connectivity between the two hemispheres of the brain.

What that means in practical, day to day terms, is an increase in all of the qualities associated with the right brain.  Increased creativity, increased intuition, increased ability to live in the present moment instead of the past or future.  And, yes, increased intelligence because we’re now using both sides of our brains instead of just one.

And it all takes place in that magical middle, that center of the brain that’s exactly between male and female, logical and creative.  Like the High Priestess, we absorb and then synthesize BOTH of those opposing energies and release a new form of knowledge and a new way of knowing into our lives.

The Lovers, The Goddess, and The Monogamy Model

Did you ever have a good friend just disappear on you when they became romantically involved with someone?  You know:  a friend you loved to hang out with, a person who was your go-to buddy for a cup of coffee or a drink, the first person you’d call when something really good (or really bad) happened to you?

And then they fall in love and suddenly you can’t reach them.  You ask if they’d like to have a cup of coffee and they reply, “I don’t know;  I’ll have to see what WE’RE doing.”  On the one hand, you’re happy for them to be in love, but on the other hand, you really kind of feel like you just got dumped.

The bottom line on it is that romantic love, as we currently practice it, tends to be very exclusionary.  We’re a decidedly monogamist society, so 99% of the time falling in love involves two people, period.  And, yes, there is a strong expectation that those two people will devote the majority of their loving and caring to each other and not to people who are outside of the relationship.  It’s very much as if your former best friend is saying, “Well, yeah, I loved you but that was what I was doing until I could find someone to fall IN love with and now I’m busy.  Bye!”

The Lovers tarot card beautifully illustrates the romantic model of love that the Victorians positively adored.  A man and a woman stand beside each other, nude, but not touching, not even making eye contact, while an angel hovers overhead, its wings spread protectively over the couple.  The message is loud and clear:  romantic love is holy and ethereal and, yes, we have bodies, but REAL love is about those heavenly emotions and not about . . . you know . . . S-E-X.

And, yes, it’s about two people and two people only.  You don’t see any best friends hanging out in this card.

Thic Nhat Hanh says that true love, as opposed to our normal idea of romantic love, includes four elements:  (1) loving/kindness which is the ability to offer happiness to the other person; (2) the energy of compassion, which removes suffering from you and the other person; (3) joy in loving; and (4) inclusiveness, which is removing the barriers between you and the other person.  BUT – and this is the kicker with our western concept of love – if it’s really true love then those energies will continue to expand, particularly the energy of inclusiveness. 

 In our romantic love model we draw a circle around ourselves and our partners and say, “Okay, we’re in love – go away.”  In this alternate model, romantic love becomes a spiritual practice that expands to include, rather than exclude, others. In other words, if it’s real love it grows your circle, it doesn’t contract it.

Which leads to a very sensitive and perhaps painful question:  Is monogamy really a healthy model for growing love in our lives?  

Unfortunately, the very question comes packed with a lot of poisonous images.  We think of the middle aged man cheating on his wife with the babysitter.  Or unhappy housewives having miserable affairs with the next door neighbor.  Or swingers, who basically just want to fuck anything that moves, proclaiming that they have, “an open marriage.”

In other words, there’s a large, built in, “Yuck,” factor when we try to visualize a model of love that doesn’t involve exclusive monogamy.  All of those images, though, are operating WITHIN the framework of a monogamist society.  Screwing around on your wife or husband is yucky because it involves lying, cheating, and deeply hurting people who love you, trust you, and expect that you’re going to be, “faithful.”   Sexual swingers probably have inordinately high sex drives and are non-monogamous by nature.  They just get yucky when they try to disguise their true nature within the framework of a traditional marriage.

It may help to think about this issue if we can actually step back a bit and ask ourselves, “Is monogamy natural?  Is this the natural state of human love or is this something that’s been imposed by society over many thousands of years?”

As Leonard Schlain points out in, “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess,”  the evidence is strong that most human societies were originally matriarchal.  And there are actually a few truly matriarchal societies left in the world.  So where do they stand on the issue of monogamy?  

The Mosuo women are China’s last surviving matriarchy.  They don’t marry.  The women choose and change partners as they wish, whenever they wish.

The Minangkabau people practice marriage to a limited extent but the women and children live in their own houses and the men live elsewhere.  

In the Khasi society, a matrilineal and matrilocal culture in the northeastern part of India, monogamy is the norm but women are free to divorce and remarry as frequently as they want to, with no social or economic consequences.

So, if the most ancient form of human society was the matriarchy, and if the current surviving matriarchies are examples of how those societies functioned, then we can conclude that monogamy is NOT a, “natural,” human norm.

Even more fascinating is the fact that these are WOMEN who are rejecting the monogamist model.  Remember, a large element of the argument for monogamy is that women, especially when they’re pregnant, are weak, helpless, and badly in need of male protection.  Apparently these societies think otherwise.

Is monogamy simply an artificial social construct that was foisted on humans by patriarchal societies that viewed women as property, as, “belonging,” to men?  And, as the Goddess archetype reemerges in the world, will we see a breakdown of the monogamistic model?

There may be signs of that, especially among older people.  Sociologists have already noted a new form of family structure they call, “living apart together,”  in which people who describe themselves as being in love still choose to maintain separate households.  Women in these relationships are very much maintaining their own individual identities rather than merging into a shared identity.

It’s fascinating to think of what new forms of romantic relationships may emerge in the coming few years.  Communes?  Group marriages?  Matriarchies?  The Lovers card may need to be a lot larger before it’s all over.

Tarot Readings, Archetypes, and God-Fearing Southern Women

I recently heard a very nice woman describe herself as, “a good, God-fearing Christian.”  And it really gave me a bad case of the creepy-crawlies because it’s such a death blow to any true spirituality.

I spent a substantial portion of my life in the Southern United States, so expressions like that aren’t anything particularly new to me.  Many people in the South are not only God-fearing but they also have a lot of things, “put the fear of God,” in them. God, for them, is a pretty scary dude.

I didn’t really think much about those sayings until recently, when my life took a drastic turn toward the worst and I had to reassemble the jigsaw puzzle that my incarnation had become.  When confronted with the death of a loved one and the financial disaster that ensued, I began a spiritual quest of sorts, trying to put some meaning back into a life that had become dangerously Meaning-Less.

The Tarot was a big part of that quest.  In reading after reading it provided a basic framework for understanding where I was in life and where I wanted to go.  It was my touchstone through the darkest times l’ve lived through.

One of the most profound lessons it taught me was, “don’t be afraid.”  The readings were . . . well . . . readings. It was like, “Okay, THIS is happening in your life and THAT’S happening in your life, and in order to move forward you need to do THIS and then THAT.”  Or, to put it in more concrete terms, “Okay, the Death Card is in your life right now and so is The Tower, so you need to channel The Hermit and retreat and heal and then you’ll get the spiritual lessons of The Hanged Man.”

It was a road map, really.  Or, perhaps more accurately, a sort of a spiritual GPS system that kept telling me, “Okay, now turn right and go 12 miles more . . .”  And I learned to see that everything that was happening to me was a necessary step on the road.

I learned to trust.  To trust in the process of life and in the Universe as a loving, benevolent energy that was always there and always supporting me.

That’s a necessary pre-condition for any serious spiritual quest.  You have to believe, deep in your heart and mind, that you are ultimately safe and that you are moving toward something or someone that loves you.  Otherwise, why would you do it? Why would you deliberately seek out something that could harm you?  Something that’s scary?

Let’s look at the way that we, as Westerners, usually view the whole God thing, whether consciously or not.  We see the universe as a sort of a triangle or pyramid. God sits at the very top of the pyramid and everything – all the energy and forms in the universe – flow downward from him/her to us, who live very close to the bottom of the pyramid.

In most mystical traditions and many non-western religions, God is seen as a sort of pure, loving energy that flows down to us, but becomes more diffused and faint as it enters the physical realm where we exist.  The quest for the holy grail, then, becomes a quest to bring ourselves more in alignment with that pure, loving energy and to expand its presence in our lives.  

We may use a variety of means to get there – meditation, psychedelics, yoga, loving/kindness, etc. – but there is a basic belief that the underlying energy in the universe is love.  That it nourishes us and completes us and comforts and guides us through the dark times in our lives. Conscious contact with that energy heals us.

But . . . then we have the Judeo/Christian/Islamic model of the universe.  It’s still a pyramid with God sitting at the top, but God is a sort of a psychotic, abusive, completely unpredictable father.  And not only does love flow down, but a LOT of punishing, sadistic shit also flows down. This God is, a “jealous God,” a, “fearful God,” a God who claims to love you but is perfectly willing to pitch you into eternally burning flames if you even question what he tells you to do.

This is a God who blows up cities because there are gay people living in them.  Who tells Abraham to tie his son down to a stone altar and thrust a dagger into the child’s heart.  Who destroys Job’s family and his bnlife over a casual bet with the Devil.

This is one sick puppy.

There is no, “God Card,” in the Tarot.  We don’t think about it but it really is a curious omission.  The Major Arcana contains nearly all of the archetypes that blow through our lives:  death, love, luck, rebirth, judgement. But no God. And God IS kind of a major archetype, right?

Historians tell us that the first Tarot decks emerged in the 15th century, a time when Europe was absolutely obsessed with and dominated by the Christian God-Model.  The scary, crazy dude who you kind of hoped wouldn’t notice you and do something awful to you. That may be the very simple reason that the creators of the Tarot decided to just leave the God-Model out of the deck:  because a malevolent, harmful God is a complete short circuit to the spiritual quest.

If there’s no belief that you’re moving toward love and healing, why would you go there?  And if your God is a foul tempered narcissist who is off of his medications, why would you think there’s any genuine love flowing out of that?

The model of God emerging out of the Middle Eastern religions – the angry, hateful, capricious, male god of war – has been an absolute spiritual disaster for the Western world.  We have been deeply wounded by it and we need to KNOW that and begin to consciously heal our hearts and minds. And the way to do that is to move toward love.  

Always.

The Ace of Cups and Generating Your Own Hugs

Psychotherapist Virginia Satir rather famously said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”   And there’s a lot of truth in that. Babies who aren’t stroked and touched and held develop a syndrome called failure to thrive and can actually die from not  receiving enough contact.  There are many, many recent studies showing that animals also require an abundance of physical touching to develop and maintain healthy bodies and nervous systems.  What one psychologist referred to as, “skin hunger,” has been linked to depression, apathy, heart disease, and a lack of empathy.

The conundrum, of course, is that a lot of us don’t have anyone to hug.  Eleanor Rigby is real. A recent survey by Cigna found that an astonishing 46 percent of U.S. adults report sometimes or always feeling lonely and 47 percent report feeling left out.

Just think about that:  when you pass someone on the street there’s almost a fifty percent chance that he or she feels very much alone.  And the same thing may be true when you look in the mirror.

So where do we get that hug-energy that we need to be happy?

We might consider getting frequent massages, which is fine, but most of us can’t pop for 60 to a 100 bucks a week.  And we can’t go around hugging strangers because, as The Searchers have already told us, they’ll break our little bottle of Love Potion #9.

We might find the help we need in contemplating The Ace of Cups.  As I said in my original definition:

 It emphasizes the divine origin of love and how it flows into the world and nourishes all that it touches.  The lotuses echo the Buddhist symbol for the divine in the human spirit. They begin life in the mud and yet grow into the air and produce beautiful flowers.

The scientists who documented the need to touch and be touched ignored an important part of the phenomenon because it’s not in their purview:  love. It doesn’t help us at all to be touched angrily or hit or jabbed or abused. Quite the opposite, it’s worse than not being touched at all.

No, what makes us grow, what makes us thrive, what makes us healthy is being touched with affection.  That’s what a hug is, right?

The Heart Chakra is attuned to the vibration of love and love is what makes it healthy and glowing and open.  It doesn’t in the least bit discriminate about where the love is coming from, it just vibrates to that energy.  The love can come from another human being or a pet or a divine entity or from . . . our Selves.

Psychologist Gay Hendricks believes that we only find true abundance when we cease viewing ourselves as consumers of abundance and start viewing ourselves as generators of abundance.  In other words, we don’t have to look for external sources of abundance because we can make it ourselves.

And that’s true of any energy, including love.  The Heart Chakra doesn’t just receive love, it also generates it and, paradoxically, in generating it, it receives it.

When we have genuine, conscious compassion, when we practice loving-kindness, even when we pet our dogs or cats, we’re generating love straight out of our heart chakras.  It’s not hard. We don’t have to be meditation masters. We can just sit and visualize the face or touch of someone we love, really feel that love, and every time we do, we surround ourselves with love.

Or, to put it another way, we give ourselves a hug.  We can do it 4 times a day, or 8 times a day, or – if we want to grow – 12 times a day.

As The Beatles said, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”  And we can make as much as we want to. We ARE the Ace of Cups if we choose to be.

The Eight of Pentacles and the Death of Creativity

The Eight of Pentacles looks like a pretty happy card.  A craftsman sits at his bench carving away at one pentacle after another and seems to have several of them displayed, as if they were for sale.  My original definition of the card in my book, “Just the Tarot,” pretty much agrees with that:

Profiting from your skills.  Learning new skills that will advance your career.  Possible promotions or awards at work.

And, yet, as an artist and a writer, I have to say, “Ugh.”

And, “Yuck.”

In some ways the Eight of Pentacles is sort of the anti-creativity card.  Real creativity involves an interesting balance between competence and incompetence.

If you’ve ever gone through the pains of starting a new job or you’ve supervised someone who was new at their job, you know that there’s a definite learning curve.  For about the first six months you can count on a pretty high level of screwing up. The new employee has to learn new skills or – in some cases – unlearn what he thought he knew.  At about six months to a year, she’ll start to develop the abilities to perform the job and, after a year, it should be easy peasy.

We see a lot the same thing with artists.  Having a creative vision isn’t enough. The painter has to learn how to blend the colors and which brushes to use.  The wood carver has to know which chisels do what and what types of wood have smooth, tight grains that will take the details of the carving.

You study it, you practice it, and you learn it.  I used to refer to that as, “getting the knowledge out of my head and into my hands.”

But, the thing is, the second you’ve REALLY learned it, the second you can do it perfectly over and over and over again . . . you’ve stopped creating.  You’re just repeating.

That’s what I see when I look at the Eight of Pentacles:  a line of perfectly carved pentacles that are all exactly the same.  It would have been really cool if some of them were orange and some of them were purple, if there were a few folk art pentacles mixed in with some abstract pentacles.  

But there aren’t.

Henry Ford invented the assembly line in 1913.  It was a novel concept at the time: a product moving down a line, being assembled by a team of workers.  Each worker was highly trained in doing one separate part of the assembly, over and over and over. Doing exactly the same thing day after day after day until they retired or dropped dead from boredom.

It was a brilliant idea for a capitalist and an absolute soul killer for the workers.  Real creativity involves trying something new that you don’t actually know how to do perfectly.  It’s a meshing of your skill set with unknown territory that results in something unique and different AND increases your skills.

Unfortunately, we don’t see a lot of that in our work places.  We see people stuck in jobs where they do one or two things over and over again and are never challenged and never grow.  We actually give them awards for that and congratulate them on knowing how to do those one or two things better than anyone else, on accepting the concept that they should be, “good”, but not creative or different.

The Eight of Pentacle is a safe card, a card that shows that nothing bad is happening to that person.  But nothing particularly wonderful is happening to that person, either.  The real story is in the definition of the Eight of Pentacles Reversed:

 Employment problems that may involve a need for retraining or learning new job skills.  Possibly the questioners position being eliminated or some sort of a reshuffle of employees that will place him or her in a job requiring different skills.

In other words, THAT person is going to have to GROW.  It’s all really a question of choosing emotional safety or choosing growth.  Sit in the nest or jump out and learn how to fly.

Life is way too short to choose safety.

The Three of Swords and Healing a Broken Heart

Did you know that having a broken heart can actually . . . well . . . break your heart?

There is a medically recognized condition called, “broken heart syndrome,” that can cause all of the symptoms of a heart attack and lead to hospitalization.  Although it’s most commonly associated with middle aged women it can strike anyone and it’s brought on by intense grief such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, or breaking up with a lover.  One side of the heart actually enlarges for a period of time and fails to beat normally causing chest pains and shortness of breath.

The Three of Swords is a perfect illustration of that pain.  Most of us have been there: being deeply, completely in love with someone who betrays our trust, or falls out of love with us, or, sometimes, dies.  It literally feels as if we’ve been stabbed in the heart, wounded to our very core.

The question then becomes, how do we recover from that?  Or do we? One strategy, of course, is to just swear off falling in love and vow that we’ll never be suckers like that again.  Oh, sure, maybe we’ll have sex every once in a while – maybe a LOT – but we’ll never fall in love with or completely trust another human being again.  Ever!

Probably not the best plan.  In one of her always excellent podcasts called, “The Courage to Love,” Tara Brach asserts that moving away from love is actually moving away from the best and most authentic part of ourselves.  Which is not hard to recognize when we stop and think about it. When do we feel best about ourselves? When we’re loving and kind.  When do we feel best about the world? When we’re receiving love and kindness. It really IS hard wired into us: even a baby happily recognizes a smile and is frightened by a scowl.

As Brach points out, though, it can be difficult to remember that.  We are right now JUST starting to evolve out of that fight, flight or freeze response that’s always lurking in our amygdalas.  When someone shuts us down, when someone breaks our hearts, it feels like danger, like a terrible threat to our very being and we want to fight back against them, run away, or become emotionally frozen in place.  (Never again! Ever!)

We do have a couple of assets that we’ve evolved into, though, that can help:  consciousness and intentionality. We can consciously recognize our emotions and just sit with them.  “Okay, I hurt like hell. I feel betrayed. I feel like I can’t trust anyone.”  And that’s okay.

And we can intentionally move toward love.  “Okay, I really hurt but I recognize that I’m a loving, caring person and I’m not going to let someone else remove love from my heart.  I claim my autonomy and I choose love.”

We can also remember that the Heart Chakra just feels love and it doesn’t discriminate about where it’s coming from.  It’s wonderful to receive love from another human being but it’s not the only source.

When we’re broken hearted we can bring in a lot of self-love.  We can write out affirmations about what good, loving and deserving people we are.  We can visualize ourselves bathed in love and compassion and we can be especially nourishing and kind to ourselves.

Divine love can be another source for many people.  In Red Tara practice meditators will visualize Tara hovering before them, sending golden beams of love into their bodies and hearts.  We can do the same practice and replace Tara with the deity, spirit guide, or angel of our choice.

And, of course, we can just love.  Love generates love. The more we act with loving kindness and compassion toward our fellow travelers on the earth plane, the more the heart chakra opens and heals.  The more it opens, the more love we attract and receive.

“Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass.” – The Desiderata