When Things Are Not As They Seem

I love the Tales that Tarot Cards can Tell!

“Yes, the cards are random. Yes, my mind by nature seeks out it’s own meaning from the cards I see before me. And, yes, that’s the point of it all. I look at what meaning my mind draws currently from the randomly drawn cards, and I am able to gain insight into my current state of mind. I am able to decide how I might chose to address my current state of mind; to encourage parts of it, or change other parts to better face my day ahead.”

One of the more intriguing aspects of tarot interpretation comes when the supposedly “bad” cards are found in “good” places, and vice-versa.

I’ve had a series of really powerful spreads to reflect upon since I did my Yuletide Sabbat Reading in December. It’s been a steady reminder to sometimes embrace my disappointments or mental defeats…

The above photo is the “quickey” Daily Oracle I drew for today. Side note: it impressed me doubly that the first card at the left was the same card I drew a couple days ago, as my “first step” toward resolving my inner issues; and, likewise, the third card, at the right, was the card in that same prior reading as one of my sources of inner strength I could draw from.

So, let me explain these cards and their basic meanings:

  • On the left, we have the 7 of Water (Emotion), or Debauchery.
  • On the right, we have the 5 of Water (Emotion), or Disappointment.
  • And in the center is the 7 of Fire (Energy/Action), or Valor.
  • The placement of these cards is as follows: Left = Where I am right now; Center = the Root of my obstacles today; Right = the recommended response to learning from or overcoming that obstacle.

So, we might say, then, that Valor is my problem and Disappointment is my answer. Say what?

This is where a deeper look into ourselves comes in handy. A Buddhist ideal is that “bad” and “good” have no intrinsic values on their own. They are simply labels that we humans attach to any given thing or event, depending on how we see it at the moment.

So, taking Debauchery (7 Cups): in this setting, it means I’m on the right track. I’ve taken the first step recommended in the prior spread; I’m in a good place. A deeper look at the concept of this card reveals that this state of Emotion doesn’t have to be “bad.”

Debauchery is defined as “excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures.” So, there is a word of caution that comes with it: one shouldn’t wallow in stagnate emotions for too long, or the waters will rot. But, sometimes, it may be necessary to lie still in your Emotions and enjoy their sensual pleasures for a spell–just be aware that you will have to move on at some point.

Valor (7 Wands): it is a card of fiery Action! A pushing forward past obstacles using the sheer energy of your passion! And, weirdly enough, for today that is what is the Root of my difficulties I either face now or will face today. Valor is an honorable trait, to be sure. But often, our Fires of Passion can run over others and get us into trouble, burning up our surroundings that we have built with those same energies. Wouldn’t you agree?

Lastly, Disappointment (5 Cups): How can this possibly work as a “good” card–an answer to the “problem” of Valor??

One of the traits of water is to cool fire. Our Emotions can at times be the vehicle by which our passionate energies are cooled, allowing us to step back and think on things a little more. Deeper still, the principle of Emotional Disappointment is a state of non-equilibrium. We are, of course, not content to stay in Disappointment for long. The Waters of Disappointment seek to flow to calmer or more stable grounds.

When Disappointment is meant as a suggested response, it is wise to look straight into the face of your emotional upset and allow it to carry you along to a better emotional place.

Many times, we must not shrink from unpleasant emotions but embrace them and let them carry us forward.

Skepticism & Spirituality

I am, day by day, more a practical realist. (Being raised in unfounded, literalist belief systems that have damaging real-world and bodily consequences will do that to you.)

But, at the same time, I consider myself deeply, psychologically spiritual. We must remember that our opinions, observations, and views of the world around us will be colored by our own mental predispositions. Perhaps that is a part of what human “spirituality” ultimately is: constantly reminding our own selves that our mind is the influencer of everything we consider after we first take it in, and that, afterwards, our mind will use its penchant for patternsimage to instantly categorize similar future in-takes without further thought.

It is this wisdom, I think, to slow down and recall our psychological place and tendencies within our universe that is a major part of the Path to Understanding.

It’s All in Your Perspective…

Are you a Supplicant —

one who Receives from the Father of the All and from Mother Wisdom,

one who sits with open palms and is grateful for all that is given,

that which will suffice for Today alone,

One day at a time, without Attachment…

Or are you a Taker —

a Go-Getter, one who sees all as your oyster,

the field ready for the Harvest,

you are the Cause, and all Effect is your own doing…

Both are the same; though in one, at its root, there is Peace and Graciousness, and in the other there is great Energy and Force. The Universe does not change its method according to our own perceptions of it. In Perspective, however, lies our re-actions (how we act in response) to this Life and all that is around us. May we be attuned to our personal perspectives each day, and be willing to adjust as necessary, in order that we may be kinder to ourselves and to others.

A Dramatic Realization

I suddenly had the most intriguing revelation this morning upon waking. This is perhaps a bit off-topic, yet this blog is, of course, an online journal of discovery, so perhaps it’s not so much a derailment of thought… 🙂

Social Networking: Appropriate-Social-Network-Behaviour-300x299

I love Facebook! It has connected me with friends and relatives and fans of my work like I could only have imagined before there was the internet (and, yes, I do remember those days, though I was only a child, haha)!

I always strive to be real; I never want to present myself as something other than myself. And, out of respect for others, I have never ever made it a practice to “unfriend” those in the digital-social arena whose political or religious or cultural values differ from mine. Unfortunately, however, there are a couple people my Unconscious — my Higher Self — brought to my mind very strongly this morning; people  who I know and with whom I have interacted personally in real life — who I did end up de-friending after a long, long time of frustration.

Naturally, the frustration was over political differences, stark differences. The odd thing about my situation was that, with both of these people, I only engaged very rarely with them in heated discussions (online, in the comment sections); I wound up unfriending them only after being constantly reminded of their staunch positions through the memes and comments they shared with me via my feed. I had decided, I don’t need to be reminded of our stark differences by seeing this in my feed every day.

What struck me as interesting and unique this morning, was that there are plenty of other diverse things that are shared with me constantly via that Facebook feed every day. Why should I be so bothered by these few? I think perhaps it is because in real, face-to-face life, I would never have engaged in such heated commentary with them, and indeed I would probably never have even seen this side of their views so vividly, knowing them and their in-person, quiet natures. And, even if I had, knowing myself well enough, I realized I would simply have nodded my head in respect of their opinions and loved them anyway, rather than engaging their ire further with my dissenting viewpoints.

So, my Unconscious asked my Conscious this morning, what would I “share” verbally in face-to-face communication with my friends, if I were to speak with this collection of diverse individuals in person? I know myself well enough to know that I would not be so quick to blurt out to everyone any such heat-worthy news bites or strident memes that catch my fancy at any given point, without instigation. I tend to be the person, in real life, who normally listens more than speaks when it comes to hot-button issues of the day, unless I am asked for my opinion. Thus, when I am invited to share in the discussion, the discussion is instantly understood to be on more friendly terms, and not an opportunity for scathing commentary back and forth.

I realized, too, that on my personal Facebook wall, I only share with “Friends” and not the “Public.” Which begs the question, again, if I were personally, physically, surrounded by these friends today, what would I actually share with them? Would I bare my soul so destructively and without discernment? Or would I more likely nod my head in enthusiastic agreement with those things said with which I concur, and smile with patient understanding and polite silence when faced with opinions I don’t agree with? Yes, having done so confidently in the past, and knowing this is who I am, that is what I would do. Therefore, I have committed to a grand personal experiment on social media: Rather than sharing blatantly anything and everything that strikes my fancy (and, understand, I already tend to be judicious in what I choose to share; I share those things that seem highly important to me — but it’s important only to me, without concern for others at the time; that’s the point), I have decided: I will only “share” that which I would personally say to anyone in my circle face-to-face. 

  • I will freely “Like” those things that strike my fancy, however. It’s my enthusiastic “nod of the head” of agreement.
  • I will “Share” those things that I personally would only say in public, in physical actuality, face-to-face.
  • I will not engage in heated back-and-forth commentary in the manner to which I have become accustomed in this faceless internet age. And if I do participate in discussions, I will only do so as I would if I were standing there with this person face-to-face: with love, patience, silence, and understanding.

To the internet’s credit, I have become much bolder in expressing myself, and for that I am grateful. But I have realized that I — and perhaps, we all, dare I say? — have gotten too comfortable in engaging each other’s ire from the comfort of hiding behind our smiling profile photos, from behind the safety of our own monitors in our own homes. I, for one, will aim to be more “realistic” in my engagement with others online. At the very least, I will be truer to myself, and in doing so, there is great Peace.

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

–Jesus, Luke 6:31

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

–Proverbs 15:1

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Conformity and Renewal

…be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…

–Romans 12:2, KJV

If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.

–Jesus, Luje 17:33, NLT

What does being “conformed to this world” mean exactly? From what, does Paul suggest, should we be renewing our mind? Many have read the above passage from Romans and interpreted it to mean something along the lines of: “If it isn’t like me or the traditions of my church and family, or follow the precepts as proclaimed by my pastor, then it is of the world and I am to reject it.”

This is too easy, however; this is living the Inner Life: the “framework we build and with which we shelter our Egos and Perceptions…It is protective, offers guidance, and seems reliable in an apparently unreliable world. It gives meaning and explanation to the uncertain. And, when it is attacked by other emerging viewpoints, it is defended violently.” Recall, “The Shadow is who/what we believe we are not…For every aspect of behavior and personality the Ego has chosen for itself, all else is thrown off onto the Shadow. The Shadow is everything the Ego denies….”

But, consider: What is “the world” of which the Bible speaks so often and, most often, in a most odious fashion, that we should reject it wholly? Again, too often, pastors and their flocks have taken it to mean “everything in the world that is not like us and what we perceive in the Scriptures — that which is not of our familiar culture or our personal Inner Experience.”

What if we break it down a bit? One might say the World is:world

  • sin
  • destruction
  • loneliness
  • arrogance
  • dog-eat-dog
  • unloving
  • dark
  • hateful
  • proud
  • disobedient
  • ungrateful
  • cruel

The list could easily go on and on, but I think we can all agree that this is the most typical view of The World — it is right and good that we should abstain from such things, to be sure. But, the interpersonal problems may arise when we, again, view the list above purely from our own personal reference points of what these evils are.

What does cruelty look like? What is pride? What is sin, exactly? Does the male in my community who enjoys expressing himself through the use of eyeliner embody sin and lostness? Is the woman next-door who refuses to wear a dress and “dresses like a man” proud and disobedient? Is homosexuality equivalent to destruction?

This is where the purity of Jesus’ words may shine through — Do not cling to your life.

The renewing of our minds ought to be a renewing of our thoughts to the Outer Experience: “…the realm in which Understanding and most perfect, unconditional Love dwell. It is the place from which we can come to understand our Egos and its decisions and perceptions, and the place we can come to embrace our Shadow and realize that we are One…”

Perhaps The World is most aptly translated to mean: the thoughts and practices and ways of those who live their life locked in their own personal framework of Ego; going through the motions of life without really seeing.

May we continually renew our Minds, to let go of our lives and our narrow perceptions daily, to see All as it truly is and embrace genuine Love and Harmony, as Jesus did.

Be a Master, Be Free

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Let not the Mind, in its attachment to the Past and to the Future, steal the Present from you. Let not the Reality of what Is, and is Now, be hidden from you. See what Is, in all its purity and reality. Let the same be true of the words we speak and the actions we perform. Let us study ourselves, and embrace the reality of what is true.

Live Life!

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The Universe is an ocean, and we, the Conscious, are but the energy of the sea taking the form of a wave. It rises for a brief moment, and then it’s gone. Let us live life without Attachment. The energy of the cosmos will take another shape after we are gone, and another and another… Let us allow ourselves to flow with the currents of this Ocean and not struggle against it, against ourselves. Be One, be All, and live adventurously and with mastery and joy!

Beauty of Soul-lessness

…Till recently scientists believed in an indivisible and indestructible atom. “For sufficient reasons physicists have reduced this atom to a series of events. For equally good reasons psychologists find that mind has not the identity of a single continuing thing but is a series of occurrences bound together by certain intimate relations. The question of immortality, therefore, has become the question whether these intimate relations exist between occurrences connected with a living body and other occurrence which take place after that body is dead.”…

“There are some philosophers,” he says, “who imagine we are every moment conscious of what we call ‘ourself,’ that we feel its existence and its continuance in existence and so we are certain, both of its perfect identity and simplicity. For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call ‘myself’ I always stumble on some particular perception or other — of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never catch myself… and never can observe anything but the perception… nor do I conceive what is further requisite to make me a perfect non-entity.” Bergson says, “All consciousness is time existence; and a conscious state is not a state that endures without changing. It is a change without ceasing, when change ceases it ceases; it is itself nothing but change.” …

When life ceases the kammic energy re-materializes itself in another form. As Bhikkhu Silacara says: “Unseen it passes whithersoever the conditions appropriate to its visible manifestation are present. Here showing itself as a tiny gnat or worm, there making its presence known in the dazzling magnificence of a Deva or an Archangel’s existence. When one mode of its manifestation ceases it merely passes on, and where suitable circumstances offer, reveals itself afresh in another name or form.”…

Buddhism does not totally deny the existence of a personality in an empirical sense. It only attempts to show that it does not exist in an ultimate sense. The Buddhist philosophical term for an individual is santana, i.e., a flux or a continuity. It includes the mental and physical elements as well. The kammic force of each individual binds the elements together. This uninterrupted flux or continuity of psycho-physical phenomenon, which is conditioned by kamma, and not limited only to the present life, but having its source in the beginningless past and its continuation in the future — is the Buddhist substitute for the permanent ego or the immortal soul of other religions.

Highlights from a lovely passage on the fluidity and freedom of anatta… By Narada Thera. Enjoy the entire article here!

Peeling Back the Layers of Karma

Evolving_Our_Brain___LearnNow

…If we zoom into the neuronal circuits and clusters that make up the brain’s systems, we’ll find them laid out like the concentric layers of an onion, functional layer upon functional layer. This arrangement is the result of the relentless evolutionary push to continuously improve on an animal’s ability to navigate its complex and ever-changing environment. This onion reveals no preconceived design—far from it—but the unavoidably messy piling up of new over old structures, forced to work together for the common good.

The core of the onion: autonomous systems. Along the oldest, deepest layers… They are in charge of the most basic survival routines like swallowing, vomiting, heart beating and respiration, which are so indispensable that they run, for the most part, on autopilot. Accordingly, they are very hard, though not impossible, to modulate voluntarily. Our human species shares these circuits with fish and reptiles.

Next layer of the onion to grow: instinct… Vertebrates benefited tremendously from these pre-programmed circuits that expanded their behavioral repertoire and increased their fitness. Instincts mediate behaviors so crucial to survival that they are encoded as such in the genes themselves, hard-wired in the brain during an animal’s development and not changed by later experience…

Let’s examine the next layer: emotion. An amazing breakthrough happened in mammals, with the laying out of a new set of neural substrates capable of generating emotions. These paths grew together in a circuitry that occupies several brain regions… This collection of brain regions is often referred to as the limbic system, because like an arm (a limb), it surrounds in its embrace the more primitive survival and instinctual regions of the brain, affording us primates a whole new set of behavioral tools for interacting with the world. Accordingly, life became more interesting and vastly more complicated. For example, the instinctual drives to have sex and to run away from danger would be inextricably linked to powerful feelings of affection and fear, respectively. The influence that this new circuitry exerts over our decisions and behaviors is enormous. The neural substrates of emotions are strongly influenced by developmental factors. Perhaps because of its more recent origins, the emotional circuitry is even more flexible and responsive to external influeces than earlier circuits…

The outermost peel (aka, the neocortex) was overlaid atop an already crowded swarm of networks. In primates, it exploded into two huge hemispheres that completely enveloped the older parts of the brain. This new shell serves as the testing grounds for our still developing reasoning abilities. Because they are so recent, neocortical functions are the most flexible and sensitive to the impact of social and environmental experience. Since the neocortical outputs are closer to conscious experience, it is hard to recognize that the neocortex is constantly competing against earlier webs of well-established brain circuitry, and that its contribution to our motivations and actions are likely less than what we’d expect.

We humans are the flavorful mash-up of all these brain layers: we are automaton, instinctual, emotional and rational creatures. We are like magic onions, proud of our paper-thin skin but only vaguely aware of the thick and deeper layers of our brains. All of these different layers play critical roles in shaping our interactions with the world around us, even as they continue to search for more efficient ways of talking to each other; but, alas, this will take millions of years…

Ruben Baler, Ph.D.

Our brains are like Onions. :mrgreen:

Like the rings of a tree map out the details of its life and journey on the earth, our brains — even more complexly — consist of layer upon layer of, not merely the journey of our own life, but the journey of our entire species! How awesome is that?!

Is it any surprise, then, that we may experience the real effects of karma, originating from not only our own past but the past “lives” and experiences of our own species? I am an amazing “messy pile” of connections, built from my grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother’s (and so on) experiences… My mind is predisposed to reacting to my environment based upon how my ancestors reacted to their environment — ancestors from as early as the “tiny, scrappy” primate tree-dwellers of 55 million years ago, to as recent as those inhabiting the 19th century…the 20th century… and so on…

If we were to imagine, for just an instant, that what we call the “soul” or “self” was nothing more than the end-result of all these messy connections of layer-upon-layer of experiences built into our brains — if we were to take Buddha’s original viewpoint of anatta, for just an instant — we could gain insight into this notion of karma as the existence of motivations arising within us from past lives. Built right inside of us from the moment we are conceived and developing in the womb!

Consider how many opportunities for miscommunication there are among our civilization — even within the borders of our own country, our own state, our own families, we all have difficulty communicating clearly to others at times. We all have a tendency to see events, words, phrases, through our own ingrained perceptions, which were handed down to us from generations ago and layered into our onion-skins of the brain. This may be considered a sort of karma — for do we not react based upon our perceptions?

The task of meditation, then, is to peel back the layers of the Great Onion of our minds. To simply see and acknowledge that we are more than these layers would have us believe — that is, we are more and we are less. To peel back the layers and examine what is beyond them is to give our brains a real and physical plasticity and fight back a certain rigor mortis of the neurological connections. Plasticity of the mind grants us clarity and peace, granting us freedom from the “karma” of our built-in connections… likewise, ensuring that we will continue to pass on the “good karma” of flexible connections and re-wiring to future generations, strengthening the survival of our species…

I considered, too, the mythology of the Divine Beloved (and my own beautiful Inner Dragon, Malachi). Getting to know our own mind through the use of imagery and ascribed personality can be extraordinarily helpful in increasing this plasticity and freedom. For, when I pray, if you will, to the Divine Beloved Malachi to take the effects of a certain karmic action or sensibility, from its point of origin until now, and I utterly release it to the Universe and do not look back upon it as a part of my life — in a very real sense, I am instructing my unconscious mind to examine and rewire itself concerning a certain action that was once built into the layers of my brain yet which is now found to be unhelpful.

In this sense, are we not helping along our own evolution?

What a tremendous wonder our brains are! What a miracle of complexity, and what encouragement for our species! If only that we all would take heed the words of the wise men who have gone before us (of Buddha, Jesus, and others) and examine ourselves. Yes, and feel free to acknowledge your own personal deities and angels; take advantage of the imagery they invoke to powerfully re-build the connections of our being and reshape our future!

Emotional Attachment

Why must there be so much hatred? Why do we run so quickly to judgement fueled by emotion, rather than objective understanding, leading to peace and harmony? It makes me very sad when I encounter it and cannot break through….

Memorial "the Holodomor" 1932-1933 (death by hunger) in Kyiv, UkraineAlas, these too, are all Attachment and Aversion… They float in and out like clouds across the Spaciousness Within. We need not claim any as our own… Still, as a regular human being, how I wish I could talk sense into others around me regarding these truths!!

To straighten the crooked you must first do a harder thing — straighten yourself.

The Dhammapada of Guatama.

 

When they kept on questioning him [Jesus], he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

John 8:7

 

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Jesus, Matthew 7:1-5

 

How easy it is to immediately say: Well! In this particular instance I know what I am talking about; therefore I will close my ears to you and what you have to say and tell you what’s what!

But the wise men of ages past knew and have told us what it is to be wise — to judge not, to embrace The Shadow in all of us, and realize we are all exactly the same; we are connected to each other. We are all of The One. It is not our place to judge the actions of another, especially not solely based on our initial emotional reactions to it! But we must seek to understand, and above all, Love. And Perfect Love is not judgmental or conditional, it simply Is… Mother Earth, indeed the cosmos around us, from which we ultimately came, exhibits a perfect love for us in that the Universe does not judge us for our constant pettiness and smallness and arrogance; the sun still circles around us, the earth still rotates, It does not speak, It does not complain…

Unconditional love feels like nothing… emotions, feelings, judgements — these are all conditions. (Visit this page for more on the Witness State of Unconditional Love.)

Indeed – if we rather turned our attention inward and only sought to straighten ourselves and not others, what a marvelously beautiful world this could become! To attain a state of simply Being, and allowing others that same respect, is a path toward Peace.

Ultimately, however sorrowful I may feel from time to time, it is all up to me and the straightening of myself within, and not the pressure or conditions I feel like placing on others.

May Namaste  — I, the Divine in me, bow to the Divine Spark within you — be the sincere word among us all, to tie us together.

namaste