Why I Tarot

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Tarot.  (deep sigh)  There are a lot of misconceptions and judgements that come up from just mentioning the word.  In fact, I lost followers on Twitter after sharing a Tarot youtube video I’d made.  Most people don’t understand it.  Most people think it’s fortune-telling.  And almost everyone thinks it automatically associates you with the world of the occult.

And yet, Tarot is an incredibly practical, down-to-earth tool for me that is neither of those things.  I don’t think it has anything to do with “fortune telling” or “psychic powers;” but rather I believe it has a direct application to intensive self-study and introspection.

If you’re familiar with Jung and depth psychology, you’ll recognize certain characters in the Major Arcana (that is, the main deck).  These are the universal archetypes that people either adopt as their own or manifest in their surroundings.  These are teachers.  You learn so much about yourself by “doing the Tarot,” and alternately about those around you.

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The High Priestess, for example, is the second (technically third) card in the deck who beckons you to your inner voice.  Your calm waters of knowing.  Your depth.  Your dreams.  The gentle waters, rippling and lapping against a deserted shoreline, at midnight, tell you a secret.  That is the High Priestess.  She will show up for you when you need to know.

This is the metaphor, the symbolism, the Tarot presents us.  To study ourselves as much as others.  To connect to something just beyond the reach of words and not quite falling into the category of conscious thought.  The major Arcana represents our journey here on Earth, in many ways, starting with card zero (technically the first) the Fool.

And if we distill that down, then understanding the Tarot is a way to understand our time here.  And that’s why I Tarot.

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The Over-Identification with the Death of Celebrities

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USA. Chicago 1966. Muhammad Ali, boxing world heavy weight champion showing off his right fist. © Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos

With the very recent passing of boxing champion Muhammad Ali, and not long before, the sudden passing of the musician/visionary Prince, the collective has been abuzz with sorrowful mourning over “great” celebrities who have died.

To be totally honest, I don’t know much about Ali, except for the very basics.  And while I did enjoy a few Prince songs, I was not an avid fan.  Though, in January of this year, a celebrity that I did greatly enjoy died — and that was David Bowie.  When news of his passing hit the internet, I found myself momentarily shocked and even saddened… but then I snapped back to reality.  A reality in which all of Bowie’s work could still be enjoyed.  I still have the music I so loved, and I can still watch the handful of movies he starred in that I really like.

In essence, I don’t identify with the personal tragedy of his loss of life — because who he was, as an everyday human, wasn’t a part of my personal reality.  His art was.  The art remains (a great thing about art, eh?).  And I am thankful for that.

What I’m seeing the trend becoming when a “great” dies (what is great anyway?) is this widespread over-identification with the personal tragedy of their death.  There were several people who legitimately mourned, as they would mourn if a close personal friend died, when Prince passed.  I’ve seen tributes and long diatribes about how much he would be missed, and how hard it was hitting those people, personally.  A quick scan across social media and online news outlets confirms that this is now the rule, and not the exception, in how people react to celebrity deaths.

The psychological implications, on a mass scale, are a touch concerning.  Yes, people like to identify with greatness.  When that greatness, which is subjectively defined by requirements of the society at large by the way, passes away and is gone, individuals can easily substitute those lost lives in for their own personal tragedies — that have either gone denied, repressed, or fragmented; spread across and divied up amongst different aspects of their psyche.  So when that useful mass tragedy occurs (in these instances, celebrity deaths), they can disperse the energies that have been long pent up inside of them and moreover, they have a reason to.  All the while, unaware that reason is reason enough and that their own personal lives should matter more to them than a person they never knew and never will know.

I believe it’s indicative of a mass ill in our society that we don’t know what it means to connect with our own tragedies.  I’m certainly not denying the significance or gravity of David Bowie dying… to his wife… or immediate family, or close friends.  A single tribute at most, to his art, should have served as ritual enough to commemorate his life as a talented musician.  Same with Prince.  And same with Ali.  Generally, these are known as funerals or memorials.  And while that is clearly not enough for the public, I would dare say let us now ask the question of why.

Besides, what is death?  I don’t mean this particular post to venture into the esoteric and symbolic questions of life and death, except to suggest that people begin to wonder… does it have more or less impact for a celebrated talent to die if they leave behind all manner of mementos of their time here, available for mass consumption on the whim of any person in the developed world?  What about the children the world over who die in deplorable conditions, every other minute?  What is left behind of them?  What is the value of a life?  Is gross over-identification with the deaths of celebrities symptomatic of belief systems built upon lies?  Built upon, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others?”

It’s time to ask these questions.  It’s time to face our own pains and losses with the reverence and attention they deserve.  And it may even be time to assess whether greatness is somewhere out there, or if it’s been right here all along.

The Difficult Journey: How to Stop Seeking Validation from Others

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So… this one can be a doozy.  Most of us aren’t even aware of the ways in which we persistently seek validation from others.  How do you address a problem you aren’t even aware that you have?  With some simple questions, of course..

So, let’s start here — a simple yes or no will help you to determine if this is or has been a problem for you,

Do you find yourself regularly displaced outside of your own experience, wondering and guessing at what another person is thinking/feeling?

Do you stop before you even start on new endeavors or projects because you are anxious over how others will perceive them?

Are you always or often the first person to say, “How are you?” or “How was your day?” to those closest to you?

Do you only show certain aspects of your personality, such as favored interests or hobbies, to carefully selected people in your life?

After a success, accomplishment, or major life event, is one of your first thoughts about how you want to share this news?  And if so, does the thought give you any level of anxiety?

If the answer was yes to any of the above questions, you may suffer from an unhealthy need to seek validation from others.

So where does this need come from?  What’s it about?  While there are innumerable books and resources designed to answer those questions, you first must understand that the need to seek is but a symptom of a greater cause.  Essentially, we are dealing with a lack of self-confidence.  You’re not confident in your voice, your truth.

One of my favorite speakers/writers on this topic is a woman by the name of Lisa A. Ramano, who runs a prolific Youtube channel, in addition to being the author of several self-help books.  She deals primarily with the issues faced by adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs) and I highly recommend watching some of her videos if you have abuse in your past.  You can find her Youtube channel here.

But even if your problem isn’t an abusive childhood, you may still suffer the effects of low self-confidence.  Here are my practical steps to stop seeking validation from the outside world and instead provide spirit affirming validation to and for yourself.

  1. Get OFF and stay OFF “Validation-book,” aka Facebook!  Yes, yes, I know — how can I ask such a thing of you?!  But I’m not.  You are asking this of yourself.  Because today, you’re going to start doing things for yourself.  This is a great first step.  Unfortunately, social media has programmed us to believe that every second and facet of our lives must be shared, when in fact it doesn’t, and actually it shouldn’t!  If you need to use it for business or because you manage a group or page, fine, use it.  But only as a resource or tool.  Do your stuff.  Then get off.  And stay off!  Anyone who is a real friend has other ways of contacting you and they will if they need to.  Just start by taking a break.  Go on, you can do it.
  2. Stop judging and critiquing yourself so harshly.  I know, this is much easier said than done.  But a very simple way to start this is to acknowledge the moment when you mess up, or say something you probably shouldn’t (or eat something you probably shouldn’t… hello donuts and sweets), and immediately and unconditionally forgive yourself.  See, those of us who suffer from incessant validation seeking have a really hard time of being kind to ourselves.  We need someone else to tell us it’s okay.   Someone else to forgive us.  Or say that donut won’t go to our thighs.  We know very well what we ought and ought not to be doing.  It’s time to allow yourself to be human, mess up, and move on.  Try it.  Take a deep breath, say “that’s okay,” and move on.  Next.
  3. (And this comes from Lisa A. Ramano, but it’s a good tip and one I have to share)  Do things for yourself, and solely with the intention of pleasing yourself and no one else.  If you want to do something fun or exciting, go do it!  Then tell no one.  Shut the front door.  If you want to pamper yourself and get a mani/pedi, do it!  And tell no one.  If you want to write that book and finish your outline or rough draft, do it.  And don’t tell anyone. It doesn’t have to remain this way forever, obviously, you can and should share good news.  But the point is to not have to shout something from the rooftops when it’s good enough to enjoy and savor by yourself.

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Ultimately, humans are social creatures and need other people to live fulfilling and enriched lives.  But the need for a balanced sense of self and a solid foundation of confidence, in yourself, as an individual, is paramount.  Validation begins within, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with allowing and accepting feedback from others, we must realize we are the ones living this singular life, for and by ourselves first.  The ultimate and final verdict on anything in your life necessitates your leveled, balanced, and confident voice alone.  We must start there.

Powerful Quotes by Joseph Campbell

Who is Joseph Campbell?

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From Wikipedia,

Joseph John Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work covers many aspects of the human experience. His philosophy is often summarized by his phrase: “Follow your bliss.”

One of his most memorable works was actually a series of interviews with Bill Moyers in a 1988 PBS documentary entitled, “The Power of Myth.”  Henceforth, a myriad of deeply insightful and profound quotes were gifted to the viewers of that series.

Let’s revisit some of the most impactful nuggets of wisdom straight from Joe Campbell:

But if you will think of ourselves as coming out of the earth, rather than having been thrown in here from somewhere else, you see that we are the earth, we are the consciousness of the earth. These are the eyes of the earth. And this is the voice of the earth.

What am I? Am I the bulb that carries the light, or am I the light of which the bulb is a vehicle?

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.

Poets are simply those who have made a profession and a lifestyle of being in touch with their bliss.

(on what time is)  Our experience, yeah. But the ultimate, unqualified mystery is beyond human experience. It becomes inflected… there is a condescension on the part of the infinite to the mind of man, and that is what looks like God.

One could say that the images of myth are reflections of spiritual and depth potentialities of every one of us and that through contemplating those, we evoke those powers in our own lives… to operate through ourselves.

-Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Power of the Unconscious as seen in Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix

As a massive Harry Potter fan, I’ve read all of the books and loved all of the films just the same.  Although some of the films translated the finer nuances of certain books better than others, ultimately they did a great job in the adaptations.  Order wasn’t my favorite film, nor my favorite book (those honors go to book three, and film seven) — however, there was a scene in it that blew me away and was way cooler than anything I could’ve conjured up in my head. (pun intended)

You may already know what scene I speak of — the ultimate showdown between the two greatest wizards of all time: Dumbledore and Voldemort.

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If you haven’t watched this scene, or movie, in awhile, I highly suggest you go do so sometime after you read this.  You may see it in a new light.  But just to refresh your memory, Harry runs out, alone, to the main hallway of the Ministry of Magic to find himself face to face with Voldemort.  Who could easily Avada Kedavra him away.  Which he would have, had Dumbledore not shown up in the nick of time through the floo network to save the day.

What commences is an awesome display of their equally impressive magical skills and prowess.  So skilled neither one of them utters a single incantation.  It’s a battle of magical wills, and they are truly the only match for the other as far as greatness and power are concerned.

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If you are well-versed in the meaning of the Unconscious as defined and characterized by Freud, and later Jung, you know that there is theorized to be enormous energy pools contained within.  Like the water held back by a dam with enormous potential energy, the Unconscious is modeled as a reservoir of pure, raw power held back by the conscious mind.

Thus, it would seem evident that from a psychological perspective, what we witness in the final act of Order is but a gritty parlay between two opposing Unconscious forces, squarely leveled at each other.  When uncloaked they become deadly archetypal forces of good and evil, in their pure and unequaled glory.  Both wizards were once only boys, hardly deserving of any designation of greatness, and as noted by Harry earlier in the film, both of them were once beginners in the magical arts.  This highlights the key point that this sort of untapped and massive energy pool is dormant and available within each one of us — just waiting to be harnessed.

Watch it again and enjoy viewing it from this perspective.

The Brown Sisters (Time is the Great Revealer)

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If you’ve never heard of the Brown Sisters, then an article that easily summarizes their chronicled photo project can be found here.  But if you already know about them, and their forty plus year journey of posing together, you know there is something inherently beautiful to be found here.

Above pictured Heather (26), Mimi (18), Bebe (28), and Laurie (24) in 1978.

The sisters easily represent and symbolize the passage of time and the immutable undercurrent of familial (particularly sibling) bonds.  I’d seen the chronicled pictures previously, but only until today, when faced with a growing internal and personal transformation of my own, did I fully connect the significance of what they’ve presented to the world.

These sisters stand beside each other, year after year, until (assumed) present day for the next picture.  We know nothing about the state of their relationships to each other save for the obvious willingness to commit to continue the project every single year.  We know nothing about their current personal issues, marital status, plot in life, where they’ve been, are going, or even where they live.  I suppose these are facts that could be dug up, but for the photo project to work, and to convey its message, none of that is necessary.  It’s implied.

The sisters love each other.  When you scan through the years, the bond is evident.  Their eyes speak.  The love and the core relationship to one another, is evident.  It’s beautiful.  Moving.  And touching.  But moreover, the significance lies in the fact that time is the great revealer.  Time is transient.  What’s here one moment is gone the next, all seemingly at random.  They speak to what’s really important in life — that which doesn’t abide by time, but rather, that which is unaffected by its unmerciful march.  What time can’t touch.

Overall, the emotions evoked are heart-wrenching.  Especially when you truly look… and earnestly see.

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Above pictured Heather (62), Mimi (54), Bebe (64), and Laurie (60) in 2014.