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Archive for September, 2008

Make the card fit the person

   In Walking In This World, Julia Cameron says, “You cannot name me.  I am more than the sum of my parts.”  No one likes to be pigeon-holed, judged, or labelled.  The tarot cards do not define the querent/readee, but rather give us clues based on the person’s experiences and feelings.  Hir story fleshes out the basic concepts of any tarot card

   Imagine me telling you point-blank, “The Five of Pentacles upright means you’re poor and worried.”  Ouch! 
   Now imagine that you’ve told me that you’re not happy in your work environment and you’d like some guidance about how to change that.  I say, “In this context, the Five of Pentacles upright can suggest redoing your work space, asking for a change of salary, moving your location, tweaking your professional skills, or even changing jobs completely.  Give your current workplace experience, which of these feels most helpful or appropriate for you?”  You respond, “Well, it’s not horrendous, so perhaps I could tweak my own skills and ask my boss to pay me according to the extra work I’ve been doing,” to which I add, “And how might those scenarios play out for you?” 
   Instead of making power-over pronouncements to prove that I’m an expert who’s memorised a card meaning, I offer options, create a dialogue, and allow the readee to come up with empowering solutions on hir own terms.  So remember, make the card fit the person, not vice-versa.
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In Council with Deena Metzger

From Sunday, September 21 until Thursday the 25th, a group of us met with poet, author, healer, medicine woman, and holder of council Deena Metzger.  The setting was an exquisite piece of land of more than 200 acres very close to Bancroft, Ontario.  We spent time in deep, deep council together, sharing dreams and stories that could transform each individual, the group, and our world and all of its inhabitants.  Our retreat was an experience of:

a) looking for signs to help us be in alliance with all beings,

b) engaging in an unbiased gathering of those signs into a story that is both personal and collective, and

c) asking ourselves and each other to listen to the call that is being asked of us so that there might be a future for all beings in a culture of peacemaking.

Time with tree, rock, field, snake, water, stars, bear, hawk, wind, deer, dreams, songs, other humans, and more than I could see opened me to whole-body, all-senses awareness — listening with my whole self.  Through Deena’s careful, conscious weaving and the group’s support, I became cognizant of a calling to offer circles of healing that involve energy work, sound, council, silence, dream, deep divination, drumming, and so forth — a sort of Pythian-Asklepian-Darélike “temple”.  I ask all of you for guidance about locations for these gatherings.  It’s not convenient to host them in my apartment.

I was grateful to be asked, from time to time, to pull a card from the Maat Tarot to notice where the group was at any particular moment when we began or ended a circle or when we had been deep in a process of healing or dialogue.  As ever, the images mirrored the feelings in the room.  Wondrous!

Besides great depth, there were delightful moments of singing, laughter, and camaraderie.  Such balance was appropriate and vital at the time of the Autumnal Equinox.  A special treat was to hear Deena read poems from the manuscript of her upcoming book of poetry.  Watch for it next Spring.

Each person present in our council up north was changed in some way, some very obviously, others more subtly.  The tools that each of us carry into the world are compassion, insight, awe, and beauty.

I invite you to live into these questions:

What is your unique contribution to a peacemaking culture?

What is your own story of grief, healing, and insight?  How does it relate to what’s happening on our planet at this time?  What does it tell us about healing our planet?

How do you notice that Life is speaking to you?  What is it asking you?

Where is your “temple”?  How does it nourish you?  How do you nourish IT?

How might the tools of compassion, insight, awe, and beauty manifest in your life and work?

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Have I Coined a New Phrase?

John and I sat at my dining table today.  Over tea, lentil soup, and a tomato salad, he told me the story of what was going on with him, then I offered a few observations.  It was a heartfelt visit.  Just before he left, John said, “James, you should really be a motivational speaker.”  I responded, “Truth be told, I’m really more of a motivational listener.”  Wide-eyed, we looked at each other, realising a truth in what I had just said.  The phrase has haunted me all afternoon, and I’ve just added it to a new brochure.  As I stated in a previous entry, I really try to be present.  Could this presence be motivational listening?

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The Connecting Thread

On Sunday afternoon, I was enjoying a drink and a chat with my friend Jamie Thompson on the balcony.  He asked me what I feel the common denominator is in all the branches of my work.  This caused me to reflect a while before responding (usually a good strategy).  The thread that connects tarot, reiki, journal writing, and council circle for me is PRESENCE.  When I’m engaged with a person over a tarot layout, I must be present with hir, s/he with me, and both of us with the cards and questions.  In reiki, whether offering a treatment, leading a meditation, or offering reiju (attunement), one must be completely present with the other(s) and with the energy.  To write in the journal is to notice and record the herenowness of experiences and feelings, whether one is writing about what was, is, or would like to be.  And council circle encourages us to be present with one another in order to compassionately witness every participant’s story.  So the web of my work is woven from presence.  Thank you, Jamie, for your catalysing question!

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Our Biases in Tarot Sessions

Think of Life’s wisdom as pure, clean, clear water.  Think of your own likes, dislikes, worldview, and experiences as coffee grounds in a filter.  When water passes through the grounds, it changes colour and flavour.  This is a concept that every tarot practitioner encounters whenever she/he sits down with the cards to glean some insight.  Even though I have agreed with Life that Its wisdom will be translated to me via the language/alphabet of tarot, the information still gets filtered through my consciousness.  My own beliefs and experiences will colour and flavour every tarot session, whether for myself or for a client.  On one hand, it’s problematic in that any type of consultation is not a forum for grandstanding or converting people to my particular stance.  On the other hand, it’s helpful in that people who resonate with my philosophy as it pertains to the services I offer will be attracted to work with me while those who resonate with someone else’s worldview will enjoy working with them.  This whole topic recently came up on TarotPsych, a group founded and moderated by Dr. Art Rosengarten.  So I created a three-card tarot layout to address this issue for tarot practitioners and did a reading for myself using the Motherpeace Tarot

  1. What is my most deeply ingrained negative bias at this timeEmpress, reversed.  A sense of entitlement around being pampered, spoiled, and looked after.  The “good life” is something I deserve, so nyah-nyah-nyah.  Life is all about me and my personal comfort.
  2. What is my most deeply ingrained positive bias at this time9 of Swords, tilted sideways (round cards!).  All philosophies have an integrated core that is easily grasped and expressed.  Life is all about an effortless flow of listening and speaking.
  3. How can I become and remain as unbiased as possible while offering a tarot consultationHigh Priestess, upright.  I can align myself with my core spiritual practices and by allowing my oracular tool/process to have its own voice.  It’s all about Spirit, Soul, and depth.

What cards and insights do you come up with when you do this layout for yourself?  What do you learn about yourself as a tarot practitioner?  What do you learn about yourself as a querent/client/readee?

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A Tarot Reading about Astrology and Me

Last night, I did a layout to explore what I most need to know if I choose the option of pursuing astrology as a study and, eventually, a tool to use in a consultative capacity.  The spread I used is the Clarifying Options layout from Gail Fairfield’s first book, Choice Centered Tarot.  Here’s what I got.

1. Why consider this optionKing of Wands, reversed.  To enable myself and others to share the core self and to complete a part of my own personal growth.

2. What does this option represent to me2 of Cups, upright.  A validation of therapeutic processes that I embrace and a way to choose healthy relationships of all kinds.

3. What is the true nature of this option8 of Pentacles, upright.  Astrology is a way to organise reality and a framework on which to hang my skills or talents.

4. What resources support this option2 of Pentacles, reversed.  Resources include saying “yes” to a long-term commitment to it and affirming astrology’s most grounded qualities.

5. What potential obstacles could block this optionKing of Swords, reversed.  It could be detrimental to share what I’ve learned too soon and to let go of my personal ethics around consultations.

6. What are the advantages of pursuing this optionQueen of Cups, reversed.  Astrology could take my intuition to its peak and could assist me (and others) to mature spiritually and psychologically.

7. What are the disadvantages of pursuing this optionAce of Swords, upright.  Having to learn a new language “from scratch” and desiring to be more knowledgeable too early in the process.

8. What will likely happen if I pursue this optionKnight of Swords, upright.  I’ll get enthusiastic about the information and devote myself to the learning experience.

9. What’s the main thing for me to keep in mind about this option9 of Wands, upright.  Integrate astrology on my own terms, study it independently, and merge it with who I am (not the other way around).

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Level Three Reiki Weekend, so far

I’m back at Lakeside Retreats.  This weekend, I’m teaching a Level Three (Okuden = deeper/inner teachings) Reiki class here.  In the tradition of the Komyo Reiki Kai, this is not the teacher level, but rather a rich self-empowerment level, a doorway to a deeper spiritual practice. 

The seven people who make up this weekend’s class are beautiful souls and seem to be experiencing both the meditations and the treatments profoundly.  This morning, we contemplated some of the deeper teachings, journalled about them, and shared them with each other.  People’s hearts were touched and we all learned a lot by witnessing the stories and experiences.  This afternoon, we offered one another Reiki treatments which were exquisite.  Everyone encountered a deeper flow of energy and a real sense of their minds and bodies engaging with Reiki in helpful ways.  Just think, we have another full day together!

I love this simple, yet far-reaching, practice we call Reiki.  The deeper spiritual aspects of it support the therapeutic aspects and vice-versa.  Usui-sensei, Hayashi-sensei, and Yamaguchi-sensei certainly knew what they were doing!  Blessed be their wise souls.

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