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 World Card, Rebirth, and Designing Your Next Body


The World seems to be the only Tarot card that deals with birth, which is odd because you couldn’t find a more archetypal, universal experience than birth.  As I noted in my book, “Just the Tarot,” the wreath in The World card strongly resembles the shape of the birth canal and suggests a totally new beginning.

We all associate birth with that initial entry into the world, that first thrust through the placenta and into a whole new universe.  In reality, though, we’re being reborn constantly. It’s fairly well known that ALL of the cells in our bodies are completely replaced by new cells about every seven to ten years but many cells are constantly dying and being regenerated.  Red blood cells are replenished about every four months. White blood cells every few days. Fat cells, of course, last the longest. Wouldn’t you know it?

And here’s an interesting slant on all of that.  While the molecules in your body are busy whizzing around and making sure everything that’s supposed to stay inside doesn’t fall out and everything that’s supposed to come out doesn’t stay in, they’re also making these amazing substances called neuropeptides.

I don’t know about you but I totally suck at science and math and just a word like neuropeptides makes my brain freeze with anxiety.  Nonetheless, it’s important to know about them and here’s why.

Neuropeptides are the physical correspondents of our emotions.  They come and go together. Adrenaline is one of them. If you get a big spurt of adrenaline it totally triggers your fight or flight reaction.  Your heart races, your fists clench, your eyes dilate – you’re ready to kick some ass or run like a rabbit. Adrenaline doesn’t CAUSE the fight or flight reaction, they just always occur together.

Same deal with another neuropeptide, serotonin.  If you have a lot of serotonin in your system, you’re happy.  If you don’t have enough, you’re sad. Serotonin = happiness and happiness = serotonin.

The kicker is that our bodies manufacture neuropeptides to MATCH the emotions we’re feeling.  So, if you’re a very happy, positive person, then you’ll have a lot of serotonin being pumped out.  If you go through a sustained period of stress and unhappiness, then your serotonin levels drop like a rock in water and your adrenaline levels go up.

Kicker number two:  we have receptors for these neuropeptides in cells ALL OVER OUR BODIES, not just in our brains.  So if you’re pumping out massive amounts of serotonin, it’s attaching to molecules throughout your entire system and your body is basically happy.  Massive amounts of adrenaline and your body is basically stressed and unhappy.

Where it gets really interesting is when we consider that our emotions are actually dictating what types of molecules are going to make up our bodies AND we’re constantly replacing and replenishing those molecules.  We’re literally remaking our bodies all the time based on our emotional states. We are – right now – designing the types of bodies we’ll have in a couple of months when all of those cells get replaced with cells that match our current emotional state.

To put it another way, if you’re chronically negative and unhappy, your body is going to manufacture molecules that are negative and unhappy.  Serotonin = happiness and low serotonin = unhappiness. It can turn into an endless cycle of misery. Crappy emotional states CAUSE crappy body and brain chemistry which CAUSE more crappy emotional states and on and on.  

That’s where visualizations and affirmations come in.  When we do them, we’re interrupting that repetitive cycle.  When we do affirmations we’re rewiring the Deep Mind and telling it that we’re happy and successful people and – guess what – happy and successful people have oodles of serotonin.  When we visualize being happy and successful, we FEEL happy and successful and happy emotions MAKE serotonin appear.

It’s a very odd phenomenon.  We are literally giving birth to . . . ourselves . . . all the time.  And we have a choice as to what kind of a body and person we’re creating.  Happy thoughts = happy cells = happy thoughts. We choose our World every single day.

* If you’re interested in learning more about this, look up Dr. Candace Pert, who pioneered the research.

The High Priestess, Affirmations, and Writing Your Own Story

I realized many years ago that I was an absolute genius at manifestation . . . with one big problem.  My problem was that my genius was hitched to my unconscious programming instead of what I consciously wanted to create.”  Gay Hendricks, “Attracting Genuine Abundance,”  DailyOm

I grew up in one of those families from hell.  Alcoholic, abusive father, detached, depressive mother, a military family so we were constantly moving and never growing roots.  

And, as Melody Beattie said in, “Codependent No More,” one of the real curses of that is that you accept the insanity you’re living in as, “normal.”  Being beaten, screaming fights, drunks passed out on the floor – it’s all perfectly normal in YOUR household.  Doesn’t everyone live like that? Hell, you’re just a kid, how are you supposed to know the difference?

Someone once said that your parents always know how to push your buttons because they installed the control panel.  There’s a lot of truth in that – on a primal, cellular level no one knows you better than your parents. And, in addition to installing the control panel, they also installed the programming.

If you were raised in a less than benign household that programming can be pretty awful.  You probably grew up hearing things like:

“You’re a very, very bad girl.”

OR

“Why did you do something so stupid?”

OR

“I don’t like hitting you but you don’t leave me any choice.”

And your poor little subconscious, your subconscious that was too young and too trusting and too inexperienced to know any better just soaked that shit up and believed it, the same way that you believed that drunken, crazy parents were normal.  And – voila! – you end up as an adult who believes that he’s very, very bad, stupid, and deserves to be abused. After all, your parents told you so, didn’t they?

I was talking with a therapist about all of that subconscious, self-defeating programming and I asked if affirmations and visualizations were a way to sort of short circuit it.  She looked very thoughtful for a minute and said, “No, I think of them more as a way of writing your own story. Who do YOU want to be in your story? How do YOU want to live and feel in your story?”

That’s a wonderful distinction that we miss too often.  Affirmations and visualizations aren’t just ways of overcoming negative beliefs that we absorbed in the past.  They’re also ways of consciously creating what we want our futures to look and feel like.

A great deal of The High Priestess is about the deep mind, the subconscious and unconscious part of our minds that holds both our creativity and our self-defeating beliefs.  Too often it’s like a one way door. Magic, symbols, dreams emerge from the Right, feminine, side of the brain, but we don’t consciously interact with it, we don’t, “input,” data, we just passively receive content.

When we dream or meditate that realm of magic that resides in the Right Brain flows into our lives.  When we visualize or do affirmations, we’re talking directly to the Right Brain. We’re dropping what we want our lives to be, what we want our stories to be, into our subconscious and then it performs the magic and makes it real.

In my original definition of The High Priestess, I wrote this about what happens when the card is reversed, when we’re ignoring that interactive process with our subconscious:

The creative, intuitive, feminine right side of the brain is being overpowered and held hostage by the logical, sequential, male left side of the brain.  Intuition and creativity are being ignored in favor of so-called rational thinking. There is a need here to reconnect with your primal self. Take the time for meditating, long hot baths, dancing, art.  Get back in touch with your creative energy.

We need to take the time to visualize, to affirm what we want in our lives, to have a nice, quiet talk with the High Priestess.   We need to take the time to write our own story or someone else will write it for us.

“Just the Tarot,” by Dan Adair, a book of basic Tarot definitions available on Amazon.com.

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.

Karmic Re-Set with the Nine of Swords

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

It probably wasn’t one of my better days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well . . . shit . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s not easy.

Well . . . shit . . .