Heart-Centered Living

What does it mean to live from the heart? There are plenty of opinions about it, ranging from giving it all to everyone to taking care of yourself first. Like everything else, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The Buddhists have a term, bodhichitta, which is defined as limitless compassion for all sentient beings. This is the ultimate in heart-centered living, but it is most difficult to attain. After all, it means the release of all attachments. These attachments are replaced by pure compassion. I’ll let you know when I get there.

Living from the heart means to have at least a well enough developed sense of empathy to be able to understand and truly feel with another’s experience. This releases judgment and replaces it with identification. But does the release of judgment mean that everything is OK, regardless of the action or its consequences? Obviously not.

On the Tree of Life, the sphere of Compassion (Chesed) lies opposite that of Severity or Judgment (Geburah). – You can review the Tree in my post here. – The goal of consciously incorporating the Tree into one’s being is based on balance, or following the Middle Way, to borrow a term from Buddhism. In other words, from a Tree of Life perspective, balance must be maintained between Compassion and Judgment. Straying too far one way or the other leads to error. To put a further twist on it, sometimes the best way of showing compassion is through a stern punishment. True tough love.

It’s difficult to live from the heart, and it’s an easy out to justify insensitivity on our part as “taking care of ourselves.” After all, love does begin at home. Without self-love, all other forms of love are hollow, being ill-directed attempts to find inner acceptance. Carried too far, though, self-love becomes narcissism. Not carried far enough, it becomes self-loathing. Neither alternative is pretty.

Balance, balance.

Is It Intuition?

Here’s a vexing question for you. We’ve all had intimations, gut feelings, vague senses, etc. Is it intuition? It can be tough to tell.

But what is intuition? It has been called a direct realization of the truth, without resorting to a reasoning process. Good enough; let’s use that. Not perfect, but it will do.

In the health care field, we have the notion of clinical intuition. It is a term that is accepted even by some of the stodgiest amongst practitioners. I have told class after class of budding healers that intuition needs a channel through which to flow, and that channel gets bigger and better worn the more one knows about the relevant field. In other words, intuition needs a translator to be useful, and the better the translator, the more accurate the intuition tends to be.

In my opinion, there is nothing worse than someone who calls themselves a healer without a good grounding in what they are doing. Such individuals have an unfortunate proclivity to speak every thought that crosses their minds as if it were Divine Guidance – when often it is only the pontificating of personal ego. Such healers can and often do harm to those they are trying to help.

So, is it intuition, or ego gratification? A most important consideration is whether there is true neutrality about the situation in the intuiter, to coin a term. When there is no ego involvement, the information is more likely to be accurate – but even that is no guarantee.

As you can see, there are no easy answers here. Outside verification of intuitive impressions is helpful, but not always available.

Bottom line: Caution is advised. Not much help, I’m afraid. I’ll do some Qabalistic musings about this soon, as it pertains to the Tree of Life.

Tarot Reading – Stage Five

Please note: I no longer use this stage, as I do not believe that it gives enough extra information to justify its use. Therefore, this post is for information only.

So, we’ve reached the final stage. By this point in a reading, the major themes have been identified and fleshed out to a large extent. Now, it remains to see what sphere on the Tree of Life is most applicable. This gives the aspect of personality, or the manifestation of the God-self, that is being called upon. Vague, I know. It’s a difficult stage to quantify.

To lay out the cards, they are dealt into ten piles, traditionally in the shape of the Tree  itself. Whichever pile the significator is in, that is the sphere begin brought into play.

As an example, say the significator is found in pile four, which is the sphere of Chesed on the Tree. This is the sphere of Jupiter, and it brings good fortune, but also a call for order and regularity. In our dealings with others, Chesed brings compassion. Depending on the question, this result could indicate a need for proper attitude, a reminder to heed the natural cycles of things, or an uplifting bit of support for a fortunate outcome.

As in previous stages, the cards are laid out, counted, and paired. Timing of the outcome to the question can also be approximated by the card that falls in a particular position in the spread. (This is true for the third stage as well)

So, there you go. This set of posts was especially for those interested in reading the cards, and for those curious about how I go about it. Go here for details of how to request a reading from me.

Maybe I should do a reading on a topic and post results here for inspection. It’s always an interesting thing to do, and there’s always something to learn from a reading.

Tarot Reading – Stage Four

Please note: I no longer use this stage, as I do not believe that it gives enough extra information to justify its use. Therefore, this post is for information only.

This stage is a monster. It uses 36 cards, as well as the significator. Its purpose is to drill down a bit more deeply into the signs. However, rather than look at the one sign that is most applicable to the question, this stage uses them all.

Let me give you a definition first. In astrology, each sign is split into three decanates or decans (periods of ten or eleven days, comprising 10º of arc). For instance, those born between, March 21 to March 31 are in the first decanate of Aries. In this stage of the reading, called the decanate stage, the 36 cards dealt are for the 36 decanates of the zodiac.

To begin this stage, the deck is reshuffled, as is the case for each stage. Then it is turned face up and the significator is searched for. Once it is found, it is placed on the reading surface and the next 36 cards are dealt, in groups of three, around it. This will make a circle of twelve groups, one for each astrological sign. Interpretation is then made for each group of three, giving some information from each sign. Then the cards are counted as in previous stages. Again, once a given card is touched a second time, that part of the stage is over. Finally, the cards are paired, like before, but in a different way. The card for the first decanate of Aries is paired with the first decanate card of Libra, second Aries with second Libra, etc. In this way, each card is paired with the one diagonally opposite it around the circle.

It’s a long and involved stage and, as I mentioned in the last post, I don’t use it unless the question is particularly complicated. It does yield a good bit of information, but it can seem like overkill for many questions.

The central themes or messages of the reading are obvious by now, and the only procedure that remains is to look to the particular sphere of the Tree of Life that pertains to the question.

Stage number five, the last stage, is coming up.

Tarot Reading – Stage Three

Stage three deals with the astrological sign that is of greatest import to the question. As you may know, we are more than simply our Sun sign or our rising sign. (The rising sign is the sign of the zodiac that was on the horizon when we first drew breath and represents sort of a first impression that we give to the world)

We actually have all twelve signs in us and can call upon their various attributes when needed. This stage of the reading indicates which of the signs we need to call upon to best address the themes and issues raised regarding the question.

In this example, the significator appears in the ninth pile, which is Sagittarius. In other words, the questioner needs to be in touch with the Sagittarian qualities in herself in order to work with the issues raised by the question.

What might those be? Well, that might include a willingness to look at one’s philosophy around the question – possible doing research, maybe even traveling (actually or vicariously) to find out more about appropriate things. There is a sense of adventure in Sagittarius as well, and Sagittarians are natural gamblers. Therefore, the questioner may be asked to take a risk.

Cards are counted and paired as in previous stages. They are interpreted with an eye to how they pertain to the sign that is being dealt with.

From this stage, we move to the most complicated stage of the reading, astrological decanates. It is the stage I use the least, as it is long and, at times, tedious.

I’m only telling you the truth as I see it. Next time, you will be able to see it too.

Tarot Reading – Stage Two

The second stage of the five-stage reading involves the astrological house of relevance to the question.

Houses in astrology relate to areas of our lives, such as material possessions, partnerships, travel, children, home life, etc. In this stage, we determine what area of the questioner’s life is of particular concern. In our example, we are following the Queen of Cups (significator) through the stages.

The entire deck is dealt into twelve piles, each pile representing one of the houses of the zodiac. Dealing begins at the upper left (first house) across (to the sixth house), then on to the second row, left to right (seventh to twelfth house). The first six piles contain seven cards, while piles six through twelve have six cards apiece (for a total of 78, the number of cards in the deck). Each pile is then searched face up until the significator is found. In this example, the Queen appears in the second house, the house of personal possessions, material goods, etc.

The cards are laid out in a circular formation, and counted as they were in the first stage. Once any card is landed upon twice, the cards are paired as they were in the first stage. In this case, each card has a mate, while the Queen stands alone.

This stage gleans more information about the question, and the themes exposed in the first stage are often fleshed out a bit more.

But how is the questioner to deal with the situation? What skills must be called upon to assist? This is where the third stage comes in – astrological signs.

Tarot Reading – Stage One

The first stage of a B.O.T.A. style reading involves determining to which of the four Qabalistic Worlds the reading pertains. This ranges from the most abstract, archetypal level to the most manifest, material level. (I go into a fuller explanation of the Four Worlds concept here.)

I will go into a bit more detail on this first stage of the divination, since it is sort of a template for the rest of the stages. First, the significator of the questioner (also known as the querent) is determined. How to do this is in this blog post. (In this example, the significator is the Queen of Cups.) Then the cards are shuffled by the reader until they feel “ready” to read. At this point, some readers ask the querent to cut the cards, others don’t.

Next, the cards are cut by the reader into two piles, slightly separated. Each pile is cut again, with the cut of pile one (the pile that was on the right) placed between the original two piles; pile two’s cut is placed to the left of the other piles. This movement from right to left mirrors the order of the letters of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, and the order of the four worlds.

The significator is searched for, and the pile in which it is found becomes the cards to be used for this stage. The cards of this pile are then laid out in a circle (usually this turns out to be an oval or a square). The rest of the deck is set aside for the balance of this stage.

Only certain cards are read in this portion of the stage, based on card value. Each card has a count value, and the count determines which cards are selected to be read. The count stops once any card is chosen twice. (It’s not as complicated as it sounds.)

Finally, the cards are paired, moving outward from the significator. These pairs are then interpreted with regard to the question and the World in which the reading is taking place. (You will be relieved to know that I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt when this picture was taken. I do not do Tarot readings in the nude.)

When doing this stage, I often find that the first two of three cards touched during the count relate to the current state of things. This is a great way to assure that the reading is “radical,” or true to the question. Stage 1 lays out the basics of the situation and gives a couple of themes that will be refined and emphasized during any subsequent stages.

We now move on to Stage 2 (Astrological Houses).

Reading the Tarot

First of all, let me say that I see the Tarot primarily as a device for the pursuit of enlightenment. Meditation on the cards and symbols unlocks aspects of the psyche, and allows us to free ourselves from limiting, erroneous beliefs. Using the cards for divination is appropriate only under certain circumstances, and I don’t read them for mundane matters. More on that below.

The system I use to read the Tarot has been taught to me by B.O.T.A., a Western mystery school that I have belonged to for 14 years. Their lessons in the study of tarot, astrology, and Qabalah are unequalled, in my opinion. The Tarot reading system is not even introduced until you have studied with them for almost 10 years. Suffice it to say, they don’t hurry things – very wise.

I’ve been reading cards since I was in my 20’s, and I used to use common spreads like the Celtic Cross. Now it is very rare for me to use any spreads other than those taught by B.O.T.A. The reason? Depth. The system is so rich that it is worth the effort.

A full B.O.T.A. reading consists of five stages. However, for most questions, I have found that two or three stages are enough to get the guidance sought. I will give an overview of the stages in subsequent posts.

The reading can last as long as two hours, though about 60 – 90 minutes is the norm. Length of time depends, of course, on how many stages are used.

By the way, I read only when the question shows the respect due the process. On my page that talks about my readings, I give some examples of good and poor questions.

To clarify, let me tell you a true story. I worked for a psychic hotline (which will remain nameless) several years ago. It was done mostly out of curiosity, and to get my “divination chops” honed. I lasted 10 days.

Why did I quit so soon? Several reasons. Sitting around waiting for the phone to ring is irritating to me. I felt constrained and captured by the phone – and I don’t like talking on the phone all that much, anyway. I was getting paid about $14 per hour (only time actually on the phone counted), while the callers were paying the hotline $3 per minute. Do the math and let me know who was making out like a bandit in this scenario. There was pressure (subtle, but there) to be sure to keep the person talking for a bit, eating up their moolah. Finally, it seemed like a lot of what the callers were asking for fell either into the realm of psychotherapy (something your ordinary telephone psychic is ill-equipped to provide) or into the realm of Jerry Springer fare. The first category was no real problem. I’ve been doing psychotherapy for close to 35 years – but I didn’t want to do it as a side-gig for $14 per hour. The second category was something I definitely didn’t want to get involved in. Ultimately, it simply didn’t seem right for people to be paying the hotline $180 per hour for either of those categories and, more to the point, for me to be a party to that.

At any rate, what I’ve been trying to say here is that I don’t do the “Is my boyfriend cheating on me?” kinds of Tarot readings. My readings are for personal and spiritual growth only. Anything else, and you’re not respecting the process – and I won’t read for you.

Stay tuned, and I’ll give you a peek inside the stages of a reading.

Planetary Forces – Pluto

The final planet to consider is Pluto. Whether it’s a planet in astronomical terms or not doesn’t matter. It’s a planet as far as astrology is concerned, and it represents a force in the human psyche, just as the Sun and the Moon are considered planets in this regard. Pluto is elemental Fire and is associated with the Tarot card Judgement (Major Arcana Key 20).

Discovered in 1930, Pluto arrived at a time of great upheaval in human history, almost as if it were announcing the depths of the Great Depression and the beginning of the period of World War II (remember, China and Japan began hostilities in 1937). Pluto has therefore become associated with change, but of a violent or upheaving type. It co-rules Scorpio, along with Mars, and is seen as a higher octave of the Red Planet.

Scorpio is one of the so-called fixed astrological signs, and it has two symbols – the scorpion and the eagle. These represent the two extremes that the Scorpionic temperament can take: vengeful or majestic, seeing far and wide. Scorpio also rules the large intestine in the body, which certainly gets rid of whatever isn’t needed, and sometimes in a violent fashion.

Pluto, elemental Fire

Pluto is also a rule breaker, psychically and physically. The planet itself is inclined to the usual orbital plane of the other planets, so it wanders outside the boundaries. Also, its orbit is such that for a couple of decades each revolution around the sun, it is closer to the sun than Neptune.

In our psyches, Pluto can bring about rapid cleansing, and asks us to die to ourselves so that we may rise anew – hence the Tarot card that shows the dead rising.

Pluto has the same note (C natural) as Mars. Look for Pluto in sweep in and really shake things up. It can seem traumatic at the time, but it often signals a growth period, as that which is outmoded dies and the new rises from that destruction.

Planetary Forces – Neptune

Moving outward, the next planet is Neptune, which is elemental Water. It is paired with the Hanged Man (Tarot major arcana Key 12).

Water is the emotional self. It is also our contact with the unconscious, both personal and collective. Neptune was discovered in 1846, after its position was predicted mathematically. Isn’t it just like emotion not to explain itself truly until rationality is put into play?

In astrology, Neptune is our dreamy side and it helps us formulate hopes and aspirations. On the negative, it can enslave us with unrealistic expectations and even addictions. It co-rules (with Jupiter) the astrological sign of Pisces, perhaps the least grounded of all signs. Its rulership of this sign gives a clue as to its ability to put us into contact with our intuitive parts. Perhaps that is why it’s considered a higher octave of the Moon.

Neptune, elemental Water

Recall that the Moon is paired with the High Priestess (the post for the Moon is here), the mistress of memory and intuitive connection. There is a decidedly feminine emphasis here; also the Hanged Man (post on the Hanged Man is here) reminds us to look beneath the surface, not to take things at face value. In other words, there more to life than what the senses tell us.

The note for Neptune and the Hanged Man is G#, because of the relationship with the High Priestess.

Here is an essential point: Rationality without emotion is cold, while emotion without reason is unfocused. It is again, no surprise, about balance. The lessons of Neptune and the Hanged Man are indispensable. They ask us to dream and to hope. Without that, life becomes meaningless and pointless. Out of Cosmic Memory comes the true sense of connection with something greater.

Let Neptune bring you to the heights of fantasy and dreams, while you keep yourself tethered to the physical. This is the formula for making dreams into reality.