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 Fool, The Buddha, and the Corona Virus

Some Tarot interpretations say that the bag or satchel that dangles from the end of the pole on The Fool card is his karma. That he is a new born soul dancing into life and the memories of his experiences and actions – both good and bad – are carried with him into his next incarnation in that little bag.

And that’s a good question for all of us as we face this very profound experience of a world wide pandemic: What will we carry with us when it’s finally over?

Shit happens. We all know that. A lot of the time we experience life less as the Captains of our Fates and more as the silver ball in an old fashioned pin ball machine. We aren’t thinking, we aren’t planning, we aren’t really conscious of what’s happening to us or why. We just keep hitting and being hit by those paddles, bouncing around from one place to the next until a bright, neon sign lights up and says, “GAME OVER.”

And then we’re dead.

Did it make any sense? Did our journey through all of the joys and pains, the triumphs and shit sandwiches actually MEAN anything? Or was it just a random series of events that left us bruised and battered and ultimately puzzled over why it all happened?

A large component in that equation is consciousness. Actually being aware of what’s happening to you right now, right this moment and actively SEEKING for meaning.

Let me give you an example from personal experience. My life partner, Carol, died a couple of years ago and eventually I joined a bereavement support group, also known as a Grief Group. Basically, it’s a small group of people who have lost a loved one and we sit down together once a week and talk about that experience. In other words, we’re trying to find some meaning, some understanding of what we’ve gone through and where we go from here.

One of the most positive things I’ve carried out of that group is the realization of how very much alike we all are in the face of something that is as monumentally dreadful as death. It doesn’t matter if you’re an 81 year old great grandmother or a 25 year old newly wed; death is experienced in much the same way. There are periods of shock, then numbing, then panic and horrible anxiety, overwhelming sadness, and the feeling of being totally lost in the world. There can be great nobility and growth in that process if you can somehow stay connected to your feelings and look for answers. What does it mean? Why did they die? Why am I still here? What am I supposed to do with my life now?

And, sadly, there are other people who experience very little growth and get no spiritual or emotional insights from the process. They throw themselves into a flurry of social activities right after the funeral and, when they have to be home, they turn the t.v. up as loud as it can go and stay on the phone as much as they can. They spend as little time as possible in that Sacred Silence that follows death and they think as little as possible about what it means. In a phrase, “they move on,” from the grieving period as fast as they can. If they’ve lost a husband or a wife, they remarry or re-partner within a year, as if their loved one was an interchangeable part rather than a precious human soul who intermingled with their life stream.

In other words, they don’t carry anything out of it.

Perhaps that’s a form of basic, animal wisdom. As the Buddha said, all sentient beings seek to be happy and to avoid suffering, so there’s nothing unusual about not wanting to hurt. But he also said that suffering is inevitable. No matter how much we might wish otherwise, we each have our portion of pain and how we deal with that suffering – IF we deal with that suffering – that moment in time is the anvil on which we forge our karma. It isn’t just what we go through – it’s how we consciously integrate what we go through. Did we learn anything from the experience? Did we grow and evolve as human beings? Did our compassion and ability to love others increase or diminish? Did we make what happened to us MEAN something in our lives?

So . . . here we sit in the midst of a major historical event. And none of want to be in it. I haven’t met one single person who has said, “Damn, this is exciting! I’m so glad I’m here to see this happen!” But, we’re still here, like it or not. A lot of people are going to die before this all over. Many more will lose people they love with all of their hearts and souls. There’s going to be suffering and we know that.

Right now, millions of us are locked away in our houses and apartments, waiting for the storm to blow through, hoping we won’t be one of the people who are swept out into eternity by this goddamned virus. I guarantee you that many of us are spending this time with the television turned up as loud as it will go, constantly on the phone, constantly on the internet, constantly trying to be too busy to think or feel. They can’t wait to, “move on,” and, “get back to normal.”

In other words, they won’t carry anything out of it.

Right now, we are ALL fools dancing on the edge of a cliff. We can take the time to sit down and meditate, to read, to journal, to REALLY talk with people we love, or . . . we can turn up the volume on the t.v. If there’s one thing we should all know right now it’s that life is precious, time is precious. We can fill that little bag The Fool carries with some new found wisdom, compassion, and meaning. We can actually ask what all of this means, why we’re here, and what we’re supposed to do next.

Or not.

The Three of Pentacles and the Creative Process

We know that humans essentially have two different brains in one skull.  The left hemisphere of the brain is involved in logical and linear processes such as math, writing, driving a car, and analyzing problems.  The right hemisphere is the, “creative brain,” and deals with dreams, symbols, intuition, inspiration, poetry and art.

While the right brain is more involved in the genesis of art, both sides of the brain are necessary to make it materialize.  Here’s an example: Janis is an artist and has a dream about a beautiful, glowing landscape. Upon awakening, she’s determined to paint the image she dreamed and share it with the world.  That’s right brain working.

She goes to her studio and has to select which paints will work best with the image, what size canvas she wants to paint it on, and which brushes she want to use.  That’s left brain working.

As she begins to paint she falls into a sort of a trance and hours go by without her being aware of anything but the painting.  Right brain is in charge again.

When she’s finished for the day she sits back and critiques what she’s done.  Did she get the lines right? Is the shading perfect? Did she capture the source of light?  That’s left brain engaging in the process.

So there’s this interesting back and forth between the two sides of the brain, each side contributing its’ own powers and skills to creating.  And that’s what we see in the Three of Pentacles.

The Three of Pentacles is unusual for a Minor Arcana card because it incorporates two figures from the Major Arcana.  A stonemason stands on a bench, mallet in hand, pausing between strokes to listen to two people who are conferring over a plan.  The two people are obviously The Fool and The Hierophant.

They are represented here, it seems, not so much as the formal individuals they are in the Major Arcana, but as the energies or vibrations associated with those two cards.

The Fool is wild, intuitive, intoxicated with divine energy but with no need to interpret or define what he’s doing.  The Hierophant is stodgy, stolid, conventional, not unkind but a stickler for the rules. The Fool is all about Right Brain energy and The Hierophant is all about Left Brain energy.

So we have this almost perfect representation of the creative process:  Left Brain and Right Brain working together while the craftsman waits to create their synthesis in the material world.

And one of the fun things about this card is that it’s not about art at all, according to its’ common definitions.  It’s about buying real estate and making improvements to your home, being enthusiastic about it but paying careful attention to details.  Which is a wonderful reminder that everything – everything – we do in life is a creative process. 

 Life is a canvas – use bright colors.

The Fool, The Magician, and Jesus Driving a Plymouth

Jesus is Watching – Original Painting by Dan Adair

There is a terrible country and western song called, “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”  I admit freely that every time I hear it I think, “Jesus, take a hike.” Too much church when I was a kid, no doubt.

At any rate, the heroine of the song is driving her car down an icy road when she suddenly hits a patch of black ice, the car starts to spin out of control, she takes her hands OFF of the steering wheel and cries out, “Jesus, take the wheel!”

Jesus, take the wheel

Take it from my hands

‘Cause I can’t do this on my own

I’m letting go

So give me one more chance

And save me from this road I’m on

Jesus, take the wheel

And apparently he does and the next thing she knows she’s sitting on the shoulder of the road in her car, which for some reason I’m thinking is an old Plymouth, and everything’s hunky dory.

Now, aside from making me intensely frightened of fundamentalist christians driving in snowstorms, it also brings up the distinction between spiritual surrender and spiritual co-creation.  I wrote in a recent post that I was practicing turning my most difficult problems over to my higher powers and this song is a perfect example of what I didn’t mean.

When we look at The Fool tarot card we see someone whom we might call, “god(dess) intoxicated.”  He is channeling that power from the Higher Realms, it’s flowing through every molecule of his being and he is HIGH with its’ energy.  He’s going to dance right off the edge of that cliff and just float away instead of plummeting to his death. In a very real sense he has surrendered his being and his body to that Higher Power.

But then we transition to the next card, The Magician, and we see something very different.  He’s in touch with that same energy, that same power, but he’s not just channeling it, he’s controlling it and directing it.

And that’s a major distinction, both philosophically and spiritually.  It’s the difference between spiritual surrender and spiritual co-creation.

In classic christian theology human beings are seen as essentially flawed, sinful creatures whose only hope for real salvation is to surrender their lives and their wills to Jesus.  Essentially, they want their independent, “selves,” to disappear as much as possible so they can be replaced by Jesus. It’s sort of like a cross between being possessed by a cuddly demon and The Stepford Wives.  You’re out, Jesus is in, everybody’s happy. Jesus take the wheel.

In Wiccan and Pagan theology, we aren’t flawed sinners, we are embodiments of the divine.  Yes, we may not remember that, we may be confused, disoriented, feel spiritually and emotionally lost, but in essence we ARE the divine on a journey to the earth plane.

When we,“turn our problems over,” to our angels, spirit guides, gods and goddesses, we aren’t asking them to take the wheel.  We’re asking them for wisdom and guidance to help us on our journeys. We’re asking them enter into our lives and act as co-creators with us.  

As an artist I can totally relate to that concept.  Instead of hogging the canvas and the paints and the brushes, I can paint for a little bit and then let my spirit guides paint for a little bit.  Or I can ask them for some advice about what colors to use and how I should blend the shadows and the light. But, ultimately, it’s my signature that goes on that canvas.  Ultimately my life is my creation, it’s not a surrender or a mistake. And I don’t think our Higher Powers would want it any other way.


The Fool – Alone but not Lonely

In the first (or the last, depending on your perspective) card of the Major Arcana we see The Fool starting off on his Spiritual Quest, a dog barking at his feet, his eyes turned toward the heavens.

And he’s very much alone.  But maybe not lonely.

What starts us on a Spiritual Quest?  It’s certainly not because things are going swimmingly.  Sometimes it just a chronic, nagging feeling that something in our lives is just not quite right.  Sometimes it’s a sudden flash of insight that’s like the first rolling stone that starts an avalanche.

Frequently it’s some life event that knocks us ass over teakettle and forces us to look at the fact that our assumptions and beliefs have been wrong all along.  That what we took for granted isn’t worth a bag of spit. The death of a loved one. The suicide of a coworker. Surviving a crash or a deadly disease.

Even then, many people will embrace what might be called “a pseudo-quest,” or perhaps, “an aborted quest.”    Shocked and shaken right down to their toes by some near catastrophe they respond by pulling the covers over their heads and crawling into the safe, warm womb of organized religions.  Like the men kneeling in front of the pope in The Hierophant card they look to others for spiritual truth rather than seeking it in their own hearts.

The person on a true Spiritual Quest is there because he or she HAS to be.  The choices of pretense, dull lassitude, and being a comfortable member of the herd no longer exist for them.  They have a burning desire to know – or at least seek – the truth and that desire can’t be ignored.

And, yes,  that can feel lonely at times.

For one thing most people aren’t really very interested in looking at the verities of Spiritual life.  The next time that you’re at a family gathering just casually mention that everyone in the room is going to die sooner or later if you don’t believe me.  You may not be invited back and, if you are, I guarantee no one will want to sit next to you at Thanksgiving Dinner. People actually seek out toys, money, meaningless sex, and anything else they can think of to AVOID talking about death and they don’t appreciate it when someone puts the subject right up in their faces.

A second factor, though, is that your Spiritual truths are YOUR Spiritual truths and not necessarily anyone else’s.  As you tread your way down the path of The Fool you will discover certain things that you know in your heart are true but the people around you, even your loved ones, may think that you’re out of your mind.  Or very much a Fool.

I remember when I first realized that visualization actually causes the things we visualize to manifest in our lives.  And I don’t mean just reading about it or acknowledging it as an abstract idea. I mean actually sitting my butt down, doing the visualizations and having them actually manifest.

I was blown away.  “This,” I thought, “is magic.  Real, honest to goddess, freaking magic!”

And that realization was followed by a whole series of other realizations.  If my thoughts and emotions can cause things to manifest in my life, then my life is . . . a manifestation of my thoughts and emotions.

Which means that I made this mess.  Not my parents, not my environment, not my culture, not random circumstances.  This thing I call my life is . . . ME. My thoughts. My emotions.

Which means that I’m responsible for it.  It’s my karma that I made. BUT . . . it also means I can change it.  And, man, that’s not just magic . . . that’s freedom!

It was a major turning in The Fool’s Path and I was tremendously excited about it.  The people I tried to share it with . . . not so much. My New Agey friends sort of yawned and said things like, “Oh, yeah, I think I read something like that a long time ago in Ram Dass.  Or was it, ‘A Course in Miracles?’ Maybe it was, ‘Codependent No More . . .”

My more conventional friends either edged slowly away or their mouths hung open for a moment before they changed the subject.

I realized eventually that it was MY Spiritual truth.  It was a result of my Tarot readings and my studies and my meditations and it fit perfectly at that exact moment in MY life.  The fact that other people didn’t understand it or know it or really, really dig it in their own hearts didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had found one of my truths.

And there’s a Spiritual truth in that realization, too.  Just because you’re alone in your beliefs doesn’t mean you have to feel lonely.  In all likelihood the people around you don’t share or understand your truths because they haven’t done the work that you have or they just don’t care.  That doesn’t diminish what you know by one little bit. Every truth that you find along the path is a jewel to be treasured and uncovers a little bit more of who you really are.

The Fool in Tarot Readings

 

The Fool is numbered, “Zero,” and you can either consider it the beginning or the end of the Tarot deck.  In my book, “Just the Tarot,” I wrote this about The Fool:

“This is a card of pure, undifferentiated energy.  It is Spirit before it enters into the material world.  Christianity tends to refer to it as, “the Holy Spirit,” whereas Eastern religions may refer to it as, “Prana.”    It is the underlying force that energizes the universe and some would go so far as to say that it is Love.”

And that’s really the essence of The Fool.  It represents energy. Really, really good energy.  And it’s also freshness and innocence.

Have you ever stepped outside on one of the first days of Spring and it’s all so beautiful that you just feel high?  Like the world – and you – have been reborn and everything is fresh and shiny and full of possibilities. That’s the energy of The Fool.

fool

We are now beginning to evolve a philosophy (and religions) that hold that the Earth herself is sacred and holy.  For most of history, however, this wasn’t the case. The Earth plane was viewed as evil and dark or, at the least, neutral.  Light, inspiration, spirituality came from outside the Earth into the Earth.

Many of the definitions you’ll find on The Fool are based upon that model.  Spiritual energy is pouring into the Earth Plane from an outside source but it hasn’t really taken form yet.  It’s just that sheer joyous ZAP flowing through your life and your spirit and your body. Whether you think it’s flowing down from the astral plane or up from Mother Earth, it’s there.

The Fool is also about endless possibilities.  When The Fool appears in your reading you have all of power that you need to do anything that you want, but you may not have the slightest idea what it is that you want to do.  Pick a card. Any card. You’ve got the juice to make it happen.

The Fool is also irreverent and doesn’t care even a little bit about being socially proper.  To really get that you have to go back to medieval times and remember what The Fool was back then.  The Fool was the court jester, the only one who was allowed to make fun of the King and Queen and even point out that the Emperor had no clothes.  People with The Fool manifesting in their lives tend to laugh at conventions and norms and act silly when everyone else is being solemn and correct.

And people may laugh at The Fool, just as he laughs at them.  The village idiot was often chosen as the court jester. To some, The Fool may appear simple minded in his boundless optimism and joy.  Cynics and pessimists are very uncomfortable around The Fool’s energy.

When The Fool is reversed he shows another side of his nature which is fool-hardiness.  He’s so high on what he’s feeling that he may be sloppy about details and make mistakes.  “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” and The Fool is definitely no angel.

My best advice when you get The Fool in your reading is . . . enjoy!  You’ve got a wonderful force blowing through your life. Don’t worry. Be happy.