Thursday, 30 December 2010

Is talking to yourself really crazy?

We're always told that talking out loud to yourself is a sure sign of losing your marbles.  However, with my Dear One away, and Baby Boy at nursery, I started to ponder how true this is, or not.  And so I came up with a host of reasons why it's a good idea to talk to yourself!

This might sound a bit strange, but let's be honest here: who doesn't have an inner dialogue running almost constantly?  "Should I eat that biscuit?  Do I have time to run to the shops?  Should I wear a red top or a green jumper?  Will my friend arrive on time?  What's keeping her?  Should I call her to check?  Do I hoover now, or do the dishes first?  Does it matter?  Oh, yes, I should hoover as late as possible as she's allergic to cat hair, and the cats won't stop moulting just because I've already hoovered."

Speaking some of this out loud achieves two things: firstly, it slows down the rate at which you churn through ideas, as most of us speak a lot slower than we think (well, other than children and some adults who trip over their tongues in their haste to get everything out of their head).

Secondly, actually saying something out loud you hear it both in your head and in your ears.  This makes it more likely that you will pay attention to it, and may notice if you say something important (or ridiculous - I've often laughed at myself when I say something out loud, which in my head I might just have let pass by).  And this matters as those things we say in our heads still get processed by our brains, but without as much censorship as if we say them out loud.  So, we're swallowing whole all those judments, self-criticisms, and down right daft things we sometimes say to ourselves and may be missing our good ideas!

I think it's interesting that the Fool in tarot is always accompanied by an animal (normally a dog, as above).  I have often talked "to the cats", or "to the baby".  While talking to the baby is justified in that it really does help with language development, to be honest talking to the cats is mainly talking to myself but with a theoretical audience to prevent me feeling quite so foolish.  And this points to another aspect of talking to oneself.  It can happen because we are alone, without the benefits of others to bounce ideas around with.  But the benefits of getting ideas out there to examine and play with remains.  So, if we're isolated, whether temporarily or for a longer period of time, talking to ourselves can help us clarify ideas, as well as keeping us feeling more connected, even if it is just with the dog/cat.

This aspect of feeling more connected is relevant, too.  I know of several people who have been on vipassana retreats.  There, part of the idea is to be silent in company.  This highlights again the differences between being with others or alone.  Being silent in company is a different feeling to being silent alone, just as speaking in the presence of others is different to speaking to yourself (just think of having to speak in front of an audience for instance).  Speaking out loud when alone reminds us of speaking with others, just as having the TV on to hear voices can make us feel less lonely.

In all these ways, I think it can do us good to talk, even if no-one is there to listen or reply.  So, be honest here, do you ever talk to yourself, or to the cats/dog/goldfish etc?

Image: The Fool from Dame Fortune's Wheel Tarot by Paul Huson, published by Lo Scarabeo.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Weighing up... part 2

Back at the start of November I decided to stop weighing myself.  The battery on my scales died, and because of all the arguments about weighing yourself being a lose-lose situation, I didn't replace it.  However, as the image here suggests, there can be more than one side to using a scales.  Not that it can do anything but weigh, but that it might be necessary to weigh different kinds of things.

We were supposed to go on holiday on the 17th of December, which didn't happen, but while we still thought it might we suddenly realised that our bag felt pretty heavy.  We try to have just one bag for all three of us, as carrying a baby and pushchair and several suitcases is a bit much.  Normally one of us, generally my Dear One, would get on the scales, see what it said, then get on it again holding the suitcase, so we can decide if we need to leave behind more stuff or somehow redistribute some of it to handbag, carry-on etc.  This time, though, we didn't have that option.

As I say, it didn't matter in the end, as we never even got to the airport (the joys of snow in England).  However, it did make me reconsider how this last month and a half without a scales has been.

For the first couple of weeks I found myself going to where the scales used to be, on autopilot, after a shower.  It was strange for it not to be there, but not too terrible.  Then there have been a few times when I've thought, "I bet I've put on weight" and wanted to check, but no scales...  I realise I feel a bit less in control without the scales.  This is clearly a false sense of control, as knowing what a machine says my weight is doesn't change what I've already eaten!

The other way in which I feel I miss the scales is for motivation.  Occasionally, if I saw I'd put on a bit of weight, it would encourage me to do better, at least for a few days.  However, as I wrote in my post on motivation, this certainly isn't a sustainable way to encourage weight loss. 

Overall, I don't miss the scales enough to bother getting another battery for it, except perhaps for next time we plan a holiday!  I think not having it means one less number to worry about, and to distance me from experiencing and staying with what is actually going on in my body.  If anyone was tempted but uncertain last time, I think this has been an interesting and useful experience, and encourage others to give it a go.

Image: Justice from the Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Sexuality and spirituality

One of the things that first drew me to paganism was its take on sexuality.  After years of hearing how sex before marriage is a sin, how sex is dirty, and how you need to be celibate if you are to be spiritually enlightened, the pagan take on it was like a breath of fresh air.  I remember hearing Starhawk say, "All acts of love are sacred to the Goddess." 

This was so in tune with my own sense of the potential in intimacy, in those moments when we become interlinked with another at a profound level.  I loved the non-judgementality of it - all acts of love!  Any intimacy between willing partners of whatever age, ethnicity, gender.  Not just that, but I see it also in other acts of love - when a mother nurses her baby, when a father and his child unite in joyful play, when friends support one another wholeheartedly.  All these can be sacred moments, too. 

And yes, as suggested by the image shown here, there is something dirty about sex and sensuality.  After all, if you don't get messy, you're not doing it right!   But not only do I disagree with the saying that cleanliness is next to godliness, it has been proven to be positively harmful.  Children brought up in too sterile an environment not only have all the joy drained from them emotionally, but they also have a weakened immune system.  We are not made to be tidy, distant from the world.  We are made to be a part of the world, in all its glorious chaos and confusion.

True connection to spirit emerges from our interactions with the world, not from some tidy distancing of ourselves from reality.  It is at least as easy to merge with spirit in the throes of sex as it is through meditation.  Both have their place in a grounded spirituality.

Another aspect of this dichotomy, and how we live it, goes back to a previous post on weight conflict.  This splitting between body and spirit is so widespread in our culture that we often take it in, even if we don't consciously agree with it.  And then it's possible for spirituality and purity to become equated with slimness.  Think of anorexics, who avoid the messiness of womanhood and menstruation through their extreme thinness, or the buddha in his starvation phase.  At the other end, sexuality and "dirtiness" can become equated with curvaceousness.  This can be another aspect that holds us tied to a higher weight than our stated "ideal" - we want to be able to take pleasure in the sensuality of food and sex and everything else that is enjoyed through the body.

If we can unite these polarities of spirituality and sensuality as paganism teaches, then we may not only be one step closer to dealing with part of a weight conflict, but also to finding a grounded spirituality available in our day to day lives, highlighting joy and connectedness instead of suffering and sin.

Image from the Oracle of Shadows and Light.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Tarot journey into yogic philosophy 8 - tapas

Tapas, the third of the niyamas or inner observances laid down by Patanjali, literally means fire or heat.  While often translated in yogic terms as discipline, I like Donna Farhi's idea of calling this precept "burning enthusiasm".  I see this as being about directing our passion towards objects, habits, thoughts and people that help increase our awareness and connection to spirit.  It's no good, for example, bringing passionate enthusiasm to something which diverts you from your path, no matter how enjoyable.  The key here is to use your enthusiasm to help you stay on the road to spirit, or to whatever goal you've set for yourself.

The King of Wands is passionate and decisive, a leader who puts his all into everything he chooses. This fieriness of passion and wholeheartedness of belief and commitment perfectly matches my understanding of tapas.  The King of Wands knows what he wants and believes in and goes for it, dragging others along with him if necessary.  He fires people up to join in with a project, and is very focused and driven, but always with joy rather than with a sense of duty.  

I love the literal metaphor Donna Farhi gives of a fire: it may be hard to start, and when just beginning to burn it requires regular tending and encouragement, but once it's burning brightly, it's hard to put out.  To help with this sense of enthusiasm, Donna Farhi recommends being around people who already have it - someone who will light your fire!

Once we have this enthusiasm, doing something feels easy and fun.  However, achieving this in the first place isn't always so simple.  For example, having the enthusiasm to eat well and exercise regularly may go against habits we've developed over many years.  How to find the enthusiasm to change?  And the discipline to stick with it when it feels hard?  One thing that comes to mind here is finding the values that will make this feel important enough to fight for.  Another thing, following Donna Farhi's suggestion, is to find someone to inspire you. 

I turned to the tarot to ask what I need to know about enthusiasm and discipline in my life right now?  The answer I got, from the Tarot of Pagan Cats, was the 8 of Wands.

It's interesting that in this version of the card it looks like the wands are flying from somewhere distant, coming down to land around our beautiful black-and-white cat.  The cat seems entirely unperturbed by this rain of wands, after all she's sitting pretty in a sacred circle, protected.  She's enjoying the night-time landscape illuminated by the full moon. 

The first thing that springs to mind is around having the discipline to stay where I am come hell or high water, so to speak.  If I can trust that I have already positioned myself where I need to be, I just need to stay there.  It's about the discipline not to flinch or back down, to continue on the path I am already on.  This is reminiscent of what I said in a previous post, also about the 8 of Wands (Rods), though the image itself was very different. 

Another suggestion I see here is that I let my enthusiasm be ignited by ideas from the outside.  I have to be open to them, to welcome them, but they are at my fingertips - quite literally with the internet.  So in this instance, getting someone to light my fire may not be about going out to someone or something, but about letting their words and inspiration come to me.  However, that won't just happen: I have to be actively present, open and seeking, hence already being sat in the sacred circle.

The enthusiasm of tapas burns brightly, but the moon in this version of the 8 of Wands makes me think of the embers that last through the night, reigniting in the morning when they are fed.  So, my enthusiasm and discipline may not be very apparent at the moment, but they are there, ready to be brought to life again when the time is right.

So, I need to stay on the path I've chosen, be open to new inspiration from the outside, and not worry too much if currently it seems that my enthusiasm and discipline are non-existent.  They are there, dormant but not dead, ready to reignite when the time is right.

Any thoughts?  Can enthusiasm and discipline really be equated?  And if you draw a card to look at your own discipline and enthusiasm, I'd love to hear about it.

Images: King of Wands from the Legacy of the Divine Tarot and 8 of Wands from the Tarot of Pagan Cats.

Saturday, 18 December 2010


Becoming a happier person is in large part dependent on having a sense of being in reasonable control of your life.  Feeling out of control has been proven time and again to be associated with stress hormones zinging around your body, causing harm on both physical and emotional levels.

So often we give away our power to others.  Sometimes we feel we have to; for example, at work with a boss who can fire us, or at home with a family member or partner who hits or sulks if we don't give in to them.  Other times we blame fate, genes, hormones.

Of course, there are things that we can't change, situations that we are thrown into, as Heidegger put it.  Nevertheless, we can choose to take power where possible.  And there are real benefits to doing so.  Not just a sense of being an effective person who can make choices and influence their own life, but also a better metabolism.  Seriously, studies showed alpha monkeys have lower cholesterol on a high fat diet than lower down monkeys!

So, what does empowerment mean to you?  One really nice exercise is to think of who represents this idea to you.  Martin Luther King, or Ghandi, for instance.  Though it doesn't have to be someone real, just go with your imagination.  For example, Fiona from Shrek, or Dumbledore from Harry Potter.  It could, of course, be someone else entirely for you.

Now, how could you behave more like that person?  What is it about them that you admire?  How do they express their control over what life throws at them?  In what ways are they strong?

For today, I'm going for this angel with attitude, the lady with the Dress of Alchemy.  She has a golden halo around her head, indicating her state of enlightenment, eyes on her wings to show that her clarity of vision lifts her above the mundane, giving her a different perspective on life.  She holds a bottle with a double-headed eagle, alchemical symbol of combining masculine and feminine characteristics into a greater whole, and wears a dress covered in alchemical signs, representing her ability to transform herself.

Image: Dress of Alchemy from the Oracle of Shadows and Light.

Thursday, 16 December 2010


Motivation is often seen as key in losing weight.  However, there are a lot of problems with having this as the driver behind weight loss and behavioural change.

Think about what motivates you to want to lose weight?  It might be a particular occasion (wanting to lose weight for a special dress, for instance), or it might be that you hate the way you look.  It could be because you know you'd be healthier if you were a bit lighter, or because people look at you a particular way at your current weight that you don't like.

The problem with all of these is that they may not be sufficient motivators for continued lifestyle and habit changes to not only lose weight, but keep it off.

For one thing, if you're losing weight for an occasion, once it's passed you no longer have any motivation to lose weight.  If you hate the way you look, or don't like how people respond to you, as soon as you feel a little better the motivation may not be sufficient to get you through weight loss plateaus or the fact of having to change your behaviour for good if you want to keep the weight off in the long term.

So, what are positive ways of motivating yourself and keeping yourself motivated?  Some suggestions from Deanne Jade include:

Calm down - this might seem strange as a motivator, but trying to balance out the emotional highs and lows that can accompany success and failure at losing weight can be important in breaking the yo-yo diet syndrome.  Even if you don't yo-yo diet, feeling calmer will help keep your continued motivation good and help with emotional highs and lows that often accompany cravings and bingeing.  At its simplest, this is about just stopping and taking a few breaths before you do something.  At a slightly more complex level, it's practising mindfulness - becoming a non-judgmental observer of your own thoughts.

Self care - if you take care of yourself all the time, no matter what your weight, you start to believe that you are worth it.  This is a really good motivator for maintaining weight loss in the long term.  To start sending those subconscious messages to yourself, do something nice for yourself every day.  Take a relaxing bath with candles, or cook something healthy and tasty for yourself even if you're eating alone, or take a nap if you're feeling tired.  Let yourself know in a myriad ways that you really do want to take care of yourself on every level.

Rest - make time for sleep.  There are plenty of studies that show that being tired causes you to eat more, and to gain weight more easily.  Also, when you're tired it's hard to keep your focus on the reasons why you want to do something positive for yourself. 

Positive self talk - tell yourself "you can do it", rather than saying "you can't" or "it's too hard".   Like using affirmations, maybe pick something every day, such as "I can stop eating when I choose" or "I like fruit and vegetables".

Visualise your positive outcome - imagine what things would be like if you achieved the weight-loss you want.  How would you look, what would you wear, where would you go, what would you do?  Try to make the image as real (and realistic) as possible.  If that feels too hard, try visualising what would happen after you achieved it.  Along the lines of, "I've been to a buffet, but not eaten too much.  I get home feeling happy, satisfied and good about myself.  I'm wearing my favourite dress and some nice earrings, and I feel content as I let myself into my front door after an enjoyable evening."  By doing this kind of visualisation, you are creating an image for your unconscious of what you want to achieve, and the feeling associated with achieving it.  Then, your unconscious can get on with actually living the bit between here and there.

Something I'd add to this is the suggestion not just of visualising your positive outcome, but using visualisation to help with cravings and loss of control when eating.  New research shows that imagining eating a food makes you better able to not overeat the real thing.  You have to literally visualise each mouthful in as much detail as possible, in fact in the study they flashed up pictures of the food while people were imagining eating it.  Also, in the study they had participants do this 30 times.  If you just do it 3 or 4 it simply gets you salivating and thinking about the food.  You have to imagine eating enough that you become "habituated" to the food - basically bored.  Then, when actually presented with the food you are likely to eat less of it.  You don't stop enjoying the food, just overeating it.

They say there's still a lot of research to be done - does it work with all foods and for all people, how can it be achieved at home, how long does the effect last?  I imagine it's like any affirmation work, best if repeated regularly.  Also, it seems that you have to do it for each particular vice separately - imagining eating a chocolate truffle won't stop you overeating chocolate biscuits.  Still, if there's a particular food that's your current downfall, why not give this a try?

I'd love to hear suggestions of other ways of maintaining motivation!

Image: Motivation from the Angel Insight Pack.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Tarot journey into yogic philosophy 7 - santosha

The next niyama, or as Donna Farhi calls them, "Codes for Living Soulfully" sounds lovely.  Santosha is translated as contentment!  Yet how many of us are content with our lot?  Don't we wish we had something more: that new tarot deck for example, or a book, a CD, a Wii - whatever else you may have put on your Christmas list.  And back we go to aparigraha - attachment!  Or else it may be something on a more emotional, aspirational or even spiritual level - a soulmate, a sense of peace with the world, more time to meditate, less pain, the ability to hold an arm balance.  With all of this going on in our heads, how can we develop an acceptance of and contentment with our life?

There are some areas where I find contentment a lot easier to reach than with consumerism or spiritual aspiration.  One thing Donna Farhi mentions is the idea of hope, another is acceptance.  These seem in direct contrast to one another, and yet... Where I have hope, I can feel content because there is still potential.  Likewise, where there is no hope, so long as I can see a reason for it, I can come to acceptance and contentment.  For example, in Downward Dog my heels will never touch the floor.  Having watched Paul Grilley's Anatomy for Yoga DVD I know this to be a fact based on my bone structure.  It has nothing to do with flexibility or practice.  It is an immutable fact, and so there is no reason for me to feel bad about that aspect of my practice.  I am content to not have my heels reach the floor!

However, there are definitely areas of my life where I am not content.  So, I decided to explore the idea of santosha a little more.  To represent this niyama, and how I see it being achievable, I chose the tarot image of the Queen of Pentacles.  She is often seen as an entrepreneurial figure. However, it is important to remember that she is neither miserly nor decadent. She enjoys what she has, but is also able to make do with whatever is available to her. She chooses simple pleasures and family over luxury and extravagance, either material or emotional.  Although she is of the suit of Pentacles, which is associated with the element of Earth and with material and practical matters, I see her also having a very down-to-earth spiritual side.  These aspects of the Queen of Pentacles represent well, for me, that aspect of santosha, or contentment, that I would like to foster.

So, I asked: "What will help me develop contentment?" and drew a card from the Hezicos Tarot by Mary Griffin.  The 8 of Rods shows knobbly rods flying through the sky on the breath of the wind.

The first thing that springs to mind is that the rods travel together, in a flock.  Contentment comes from good company along the road we take through life.  As I wrote in a previous post, friendship is important on a lot of levels.  It helps us define who we are, as well as providing us with stimulation, support, and inspiration.  Feeling I am not alone, but part of a group, will help me be more accepting of where I am.

The second thing I notice is that in this particular version there is a creature blowing to create the wind, making it more than just rods flying through the air.  Rather, they are being carried on the wind.  The message seems to be about going with the flow rather than fighting the energy that sweeps through my life.  How can I be content if I am fighting the flow of life?  So, I should keep an eye out for which way the wind is blowing in my life now, and respect that.  There will be a reason for that direction, based on choices I have made in the past.  That's not to say I have no room to make new decisions, just that I should be aware if those choices match with where I have been heading for the last little while.   

What areas of your life are you content with?  And where is contentment harder for you?  Why not draw a card to see what might help you be more content...

Images: Queen of Pentacles from the Radiant Rider Waite Tarot, 8 of Rods from the Hezicos Tarot.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Tarot journey into yogic philosophy 6 - shaucha

It's been a while since I posted in this thread, having focused more on tarot, oracles and diet in recent months.  However, I wanted to come back to this path I started.

In previous posts back in June and July, I covered the yamas, or restraints on behaviour.  Now we move, in this strange yogic tarot journey, into the realms of the niyamas, or observances.  Here the yogi/ni turns inward, looking to themselves rather than to their relationship to others.

The first principle is Shaucha, or purity.  Temperance is a card some people have issues with because it represents being balanced and maintaining a certain clarity. Temperance sees situations clearly, which is what makes finding the right mix to balance all perspectives possible. Likewise, for shaucha the example sometimes described is having simple surroundings in a yoga class. You don't want clutter, strong smells or overly gaudy decorations, as these distract from the true focus of the class. Temperance would certainly know how to strike this balance.

However, Shaucha goes much deeper than this.  The suggestion is to be pure of thought and pure of body.  In Pattabhi Jois' book Yoga Mala he takes this to such lengths as saying you should not watch television, nor have sex even with your wife unless it's a particular day and time.

Personally, I feel there needs to be more of a realistic balance, a skill Temperance teaches us.  It's not just about abstaining, but about choosing what elements you will or won't bring into your life, and being conscious of why you are making those choices.

This is a very hard one for me.  I tend more towards the Devil than to Temperance, at least when it comes to chocolate!  And I'd be hard pressed to give up my murder/mystery TV shows like CSI, or White Collar (less gory, more eye candy, but still not "up-lifting" of "educational" by any standards).  Maybe some people can be perfectly pure, but then there can also be a certain rigidity or fanaticism in over-arching purity - what I have sometimes termed the "yogier than thou" attitude.  Purity for the wrong reasons might be as bad as balanced impurity.  This isn't to deny that some people may live a perfectly pure life, but simply to suggest that striving for this can be it's own undoing in some instances.

An idea I like is one which Andrea Albright talks about in her book, Amazing Body NowSamskara is a buddhist term for conditioning thoughts.  As Andrea points out, we condition our own thoughts through the choices we make each day.  However, we can balance these out a little, and help ourselves to decondition aspects we don't like, by creating a counter-weight conditioning.  She talks about this in terms of food - eating something healthy starts to balance out eating something unhealthy in our food habits.

I think this can be applied generally in the realm of Shaucha, and that Temperance gives us a good model for this.  It is about balancing out the good and bad, the pure and the not so pure, in a way that is true to ourselves at this moment, and realistic within our current life and culture.  So, doing a brief meditation, drawing some cards for a spiritual reading, chanting or just singing, taking a walk in nature, all these would be things to help balance our shaucha when we also watch TV, sometimes eat chocolate, or whatever other "impure" things we may still choose to include in our lives.

What is your take on purity: where do you feel you achieve it and where do you fall down?  Perhaps more importantly, what balance can you create in your life?

Image is from the Radiant Rider Waite Tarot.

Monday, 6 December 2010


I sometimes like to draw an angel card for the day.  One of my favourite, lesser known decks is the Angel Insight Pack, with artwork by René Milot.  Today I drew "Nurturing".  From Christine Astell's companion book:

"My soul is nourished as I cherish myself and others.

There can be immense satisfaction in caring for loved ones, but make sure you do not forget to look after and nurture yourself, too.

The Angel of Nurturing reminds you that you need to take time to care for your whole being - the emotional and spiritual aspects as well as the physical.  Ask the Angel to show you an appropriate way to feed your soul - perhaps by drawing your attention to a good book, inspiring you to meditate regularly, or bringing a pet into your life that you can walk with, or sit and stroke.  When you feel good in yourself, you will be able to nurture others with no need for a reward.  Your loving energy will radiate from you like sunlight, enriching everyone and everything around you."

Given I've got a hacking cough and am worried I've given it to my son, this card certainly resonates for me today.  Not the bit about radiating energy like sunlight, but the bit about taking time to care for myself and others!

I also notice that the angel is wearing a beautiful, blue dress.  This colour is associated with the throat chakra.  This feels relevant both because I have a sore throat, but also regarding the idea of care being shown through how we speak to ourselves and others, too.  A reminder that criticising, blaming, or just gossiping in an unfriendly way all do harm to both ourselves and those we speak badly about, and of the importance of positive self-talk.  So, I shall try not to blame myself if my son has caught my cough.

Given how much he objects to me going away, if I distanced myself from him just because I was ill that might do as much harm as him catching a cough.  At least if he gets ill it builds the strength of his immune system in the long run, even if it's not much fun in the short term.  Although there's also a part of me that thinks my going away should be no bad thing, teaching him a bit of independence, so far this hasn't proven to be the case, merely making him more stubborn and clingy - the joys of a Capricorn child! 

There's also something about the way the angel is stroking a mouse that touches me.  Perhaps highlighting the connection with all of nature, not just humans.  There is something, too, about divine love being available to all, no matter how small or unimportant we may feel.

Likewise, it seems appropriate to draw this card today, on Saint Nicholas' day.  All around Europe, children are receiving small presents and sweets - gifts to feed their bodies and souls.  Well, leaving aside the issue of teaching children to associate sweets with special occasions and treats!  The idea is to give them a nice surprise in the depths of winter, to nourish them through the darkness.

Here's wishing a day of being nurtured to all!

Image from the Angel Insight Pack by René Milot and Christine Astell.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Go For Your Goal Spread

Barbara Moore recently wrote a blog post about the C25K program - from Couch (Potato) to running 5Ks.  In it she described how thinking about the elements as expressed through the tarot suits inspired her, and suggested someone should create a spread around this.  So, I decided to rise to the challenge.

Her premise was that Wands lend us inspiration, Cups help us commit emotionally, Swords are about planning towards our goal, and Pentacles are about the practicalities of manifesting what we want.  To this I added a fifth card, for the higher purpose or spirit of the goal.

The spread therefore looks like this:
1) What will help inspire me?
2) What will help me commit emotionally to this goal?
3) What will help me plan well?
4) What will help me actually do it?
5) What is the higher purpose or spiritual aspect that will help me achieve this goal?

I decided to try it out with the goal of losing weight, and used the Hezicos Tarot.  The cards I drew were:

1) What will help inspire me?  The 3 of Cups

My friends, and other women generally, will help inspire me.  I see this in three different ways.  Firstly, there's the support I hope to get from my friends and family.  Secondly, there's the inspiration I hope to get from other bloggers, teachers and writers who focus specifically on weight issues, such as Andrea Albright of AmazingBodyNow, or Deanne Jade who teaches Counselling for Eating Disorders and Obesity, who focuses not just on psychology, but also on physiology, motivation and learning.  Finally, there's the inspiration from women who have managed to lose weight, and from beautiful women whom I aspire to be more like.

These categories aren't mutually exclusive.  Many of the most inspiring bloggers, writers and teachers are also women who have gone through their own weight issues.  Likewise, some of my friends are beautiful, powerful, inspiring women in their own right.

2) What will help me commit emotionally to this goal?  The 4 of Rods

This cute little house seems full of love, and underlying that is transformation in the shape of a purple butterfly.  So, getting some emotional stability and a degree of happiness and trust in being surrounded by love will help me commit emotionally to losing weight.

Hmm, this isn't an easy one.  Once again, I don't see this being a quick fix question.  Sounds like I have to sort out a lot of things in my life before I will be able to fully commit to losing weight.  Certainly, Deanne Jade said in her course that she never recommends anyone try to lose weight when they have other big emotional issues in their life.  But what is a big emotional issue?  I've got a few, I think, but I'm not convinced I will ever not have some. 

Interestingly, Andrea Albright talks about coming to love and accept yourself as being the path to weight loss, rather than vice versa.  Likewise, there's a part of me that hopes that tapping into spirit and love will help me not mind the other difficulties in my life.

3) What will help me plan well?  The Page of Coins

This young chap is practical and grounded, but still full of enthusiasm.  He's a keen student, but prefers things which aren't purely academic.  I have often had the Page of Coins appear with reference to yoga - a continual place of learning through the body.

Yoga is also great for mindfulness, which is being highlighted more and more in academic counselling literature as key in helping people manage life's problems.  So, mindfulness would help me with emotional issues, but it seems I also need some of this to be able to plan my weight loss goals.  Through doing more yoga, and perhaps also through learning in a practical, embodied way about weight loss, I will be better able to plan how to go about this.

I feel part of this is about actually applying the learning I have been doing - making it alive and real rather than just something on paper.  Writing this blog helps with that - I revise the material and try to apply it in practice to my own life.  The blog also helps with inspiration - getting support from others.  It's been great to hear other people's reactions to some of the exercises and ideas I've been blogging about.

4) What will help me actually do it?  The 8 of Coins

Ah, the apprentice card.  So, a message about putting in time and energy.  Perhaps also something about not expecting to get everything right first time.  Deanne Jade emphasises the learning aspect of changing eating patterns.  For me, and many others, there's often a sense of "I've blown it!"  My most common experience of this is when I've been eating sensibly all day and then the siren call of chocolate tempts me in the evening.  For others it may be that sense of, "I don't want to exercise today, I'm so lazy, I may as well stuff my face as well."  Or perhaps not wanting to eat a particular kind of food, be it crisps, meat, butter, but not sticking to your plan.  Deanne talks about seeing such instances as learning experiences, rather than getting down on ourselves for them.

Another thing that strikes me here, and which also goes for the previous card, is that Deanne recommends using a food diary.  This is not just to note down what you eat and when, but also how you feel about it, and about yourself.  This is a practical learning tool, which can help to better understand your eating patterns and how they connect with your thoughts, emotions and what else is going on in your life.  Despite knowing this is a great thing to do, and having scanned one in and printed it out, I never seem to find the time to actually fill it in.  Can anyone say "Resistance"?  There is no way to work towards weight loss without working on it!

The image on this particular card also makes me think of the Michelangelo quote about simply chiseling away at a block of marble until he set free the angel that was already there.  However, unless I take up my chisel and actually use it, the lump will remain unchanged.

5) What is the higher purpose or spiritual aspect that will help me achieve this goal?  The Ace of Cups

This seems to return to part of the message of the 4 of Rods.  It is through getting in touch with a sense of love, an acceptance of emotion, that I can be spiritually supported to lose weight.  I often see the Ace of Cups as being about overflowing love, which fits well with the idea of divine love.  It is getting in touch with this love, with spirit, as Andrea Albright argues, that will help me achieve weight loss.

The higher purpose for me in trying to lose weight is also perhaps about learning to love myself, and about being able to love life and those around me.  I'm not sure I see love and acceptance as being the same, but there may be aspects of both here.  As in the question of emotional commitment, unless I can accept the situations that surround me, unless I can learn to love myself and my life, or at least accept them, I won't be able to move forward.

This strikes me as being rather existential.  Kierkegaard spoke of the Knight of Faith, who chooses to trust in the divine while accepting that he can never know with certainty that this leap of faith is justified.  Trusting in this way, he accepts his life and the limitations imposed on him by existence.  Through this faith and acceptance, although nothing changes outwardly his attitude to the situation changes entirely.  Instead of railing against his situation, he embraces it.  I'm not sure I'm capable of this kind of leap of faith yet, but perhaps trying to find the love and higher purpose in all that is will help.  And if this brings a sense of calm, that cannot help but improve my eating habits and so my chance of losing weight.

Overall, one thing that strikes me about this reading is the lack of Majors.  I think this reflects the fact that it takes day-to-day work and inspiration and planning for this goal.  There's no big idea stuff here, it's all just the practicalities and getting on with things.  It can be easy with tarot readings to focus on spiritual ideas, and certainly adding in the fifth card in this spread highlights that aspect.  But in this reading there is a message about keeping it real and working towards my goal one step at a time, a little every day.  This is back to the fact that there is no quick fix, no magic wand.

I'm not sure how much this Go-For-Your-Goal Spread will help me work towards weight loss.  The idea of getting support from others, of focusing on practicalities and just getting on with things all seems very applicable.  However, the areas around emotion and higher purpose are somewhat more complicated.  I'll keep you posted...

Hope someone else will try out this spread, and let us know how it goes!

Images from the Hezicos Tarot by Mary Griffin.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Lifestyle and food

I've taken a look at some habit factors (here and here and here) which make losing weight more difficult, but another important part of our life which can affect this is lifestyle.  Most people think, "If I just had more willpower..." but actually there are a lot of very strong influences that make healthful eating harder.  And lifestyle can be one of them.

For instance, do you have a kitchen with a supply of doughnuts or pastries where you work?  Or a dispensing machine with snack foods?  Is there a culture of taking clients to lunch?  Or an after-work drinks ethos?

Do you always go shopping on the way home, when you're tired and hungry (though eating little and often would help with half of this problem)?  Is there some really nice shop near your home or on the way there that sells some treat you find hard to resist?

Do you live with someone - parents, spouse, partner, kids - who likes to have some yummy food in the house, so you always open the cupboard and see it?  Or just know it's there?

All of these represent lifestyle factors that can make losing weight very hard.  You're having to fight yourself and those around you, as well as your local culture.

Some therapists, Deanne Jade among them, might ask you to take a long hard look at these lifestyle aspects and see how you could change them.  Do you really enjoy your job, or could you move to a different firm?  The current economic climate seems to make the idea of quitting a good job just to lose weight a bit extreme!

As for local shops, you're not going to close them down, but could you walk a different route so you don't go past that particular shop?

The people you live with is one of the toughest ones.  On the one hand, if you care about them then you may also want them to eat more healthily.  However, I know from personal experience that this can be pretty tough, and have unforeseen consequences.  My mother was into very healthy food, but it just meant I ate unhealthy things round my friends' houses and considered them all the more delightful because they were forbidden.  And I tried to guilt her out about depriving me of a "normal" life - the joys of children!

Still, my diet now is largely healthy - I enjoy cooking things from scratch, I love fruit and veg, and generally prefer wholegrain foods to white.  This pattern was set up in my childhood, and although I've had the odd rebellion, and am a bit of a chocoholic, in other areas I like healthy eating.  So, my mother did have a positive effect.

Persuading others, like a spouse, or perhaps even worse a parent (who may think they should know best as they are the parent) that eating more healthily and not having snacks and treats in the house would be a good idea, can be an up-hill battle.  Perhaps the best approach is to communicate clearly what you want to change and why.  If they care about you and can clearly see it isn't in any way an attack on them, they may find it easier to be supportive. 

Another important question is whether you can find other ways to treat yourself, besides special foods?  Making a concerted effort each day to do something nice for yourself can be a good first step in making you less susceptible to these lifestyle problems.  For example, wear your nicest perfume just because, or treat yourself to a massage or pedicure, or buy yourself a new CD, or go to the cinema or theatre.  Or even just insist on getting a nap and maybe a nice bath with essential oils and some candles (mothers of young children, I mean you)!  We're back to the L'Oreal bit here - do something nice for yourself, because you are worth it.  And because it may help you not reach for those crisps or chocolate or biscuits or coke, or whatever food is calling to you with a siren voice saying, "I'm here, come and get me!"

Image: 3 of Cups from A King's Journey Tarot by Chanel Bayless and James Battersby.

Monday, 29 November 2010

TV Dinners a previous post I talked about how habit affects our eating patterns.  Watching TV while eating is another factor here.  Not only do we get into the habit of eating while watching, but studies show that TV viewing has a number of effects that make eating more problematic.

Firstly, if we're watching TV (also reading, surfing, etc) while we eat, studies show we will eat more.  This is because we're not being mindful of our eating, and so are less likely to pick up on the signals our body sends us to tell us we're full.  These signals are, in any case, much weaker than hunger signals.  After all, in the grand scheme of things, if you didn't notice you were hungry and do something about it you'd die, whereas not noticing you've had just about enough simply means you store a bit for later, which the body doesn't think is necessarily a bad thing.

Secondly, watching TV changes our brain waves to a more relaxed state, which slows our metabolism down.  So, eating while viewing TV we not only eat more, but process it more slowly.

Thirdly, sitting in front of the TV contributes to a sedentary lifestyle, which also slows the metabolism. 

So, a treble-whammy making eating in front of the TV a weight-gain combo! 

What, then, is the alternative?  Fritz Perls, in Ego, Hunger and Aggression suggests paying attention to what you eat, to the flavours, textures and tastes.  Deanne Jade talks of mindful eating and makes some suggestions to help make it feel more of an occasion, such as eating off your best plates, wearing something nice while you eat, and being aware of the presentation of the food to make it as appealing as possible.  There's a bit of a L'Oreal feel here - because I'm worth it :-)

However, especially if you eat with others who are also in the habit of eating in front of the box, changing this may meet with a lot of resistance.  Deanne suggests trying to make just one meal a week mindful to begin with, and see how that goes.  Personally, I have found this quite tricky, in part because of the emphasis there is in our culture about being productive.  Just eating seems like a waste of time, when I could be doing some thing else at the same time.  If I watch TV with dinner, it leaves more time after dinner to do "worthwhile" things.  Or else I read something work-related while having lunch, and surf and answer emails while eating breakfast.

I think perhaps I need to reframe this.  Spending time on eating mindfully is a way of saving time spent in the gym or agonizing in clothes shops, or just feeling bad about myself.  So, productive in a less obvious but still very real way.

Do you eat while watching television?  How would it feel to try to change this habit?  Looking forward to hearing your experiences, I could do with some help on this one!


I recently got a new deck, a little different to a normal tarot or oracle.  It's called the Dharma Deck, and contains 52 square cards.  On one side they have a black and white image taken in India, while on the other they contain quotes from Indian sages.

The first draw I did from this deck revealed this image.  Friendship is something I've been thinking about quite a bit of late.  For one thing, my Dear One's fortieth is coming up, and thinking of an invite list made us stop and consider the friendships we've developed, kept or lost over the years.  For another, having moved country several times I notice differences in the speed of getting to know people in different contexts, and the kinds of friendships I've created at various times in my life.  Then there's the fact of internet connections and communities of various kinds, be it Twitter, Facebook, forums, blogs, or just plain old email.

Amazingly, my oldest friend, who I've known since I was four, is still one of my best and closest friends.  At times we have grown apart a little, but our paths have always converged again.  Other friends who once were very close have disappeared from my life entirely.  Then there are people I would like to consider friends, yet do not know that well still.

Generally, friends I have made more recently match my current interests better than older friends (except for my oldest friend, with whom I still share many common interests).  However, with newer friends the level of trust isn't always the same as with people who I have known through thick and thin.

I guess most of this seems commonsensical.  Still, it's interesting to ponder the nature of friendship.  How do we form relationships with people?  Is it like falling in love, that sometimes you just click and it's as though you've known one another forever?  What does it take to build a friendship?  And what, for instance, of internet friends?  Does it make a difference if you have met them IRL too?

Even when you read someone's blog, or their posts on a forum, it's often the case that the subject matter is limited, the context narrow.  So, you only get to know a few aspects of that person.  Meeting in real life there is the possibility for much wider contexts to be drawn in, through happenstance, other people, different activities.  On the other hand, some people only meet in very specific circumstances, so their friendship even in the flesh is still restricted.

There have been notable cases of the unrealistic nature of internet relationships, be it romances or Facebook friends.  But isn't this partly the nature of the media - we are more often made aware of where and when things go wrong, rather than the myriad ways in which they go right and enrich our lives.  I feel a lot of care and affection, as well as interest and stimulation, with respect to my internet friends.  We communicate because we have common interests, and do so quite regularly, but each when it suits us.  Does this make these relationships more or less selfish or real?

Another aspect of meeting people face to face is the fact that appearance then makes more of a difference to how we assess the person.  I notice that among my old school friends I am the least heavy, while among my friends made in Spain I am the heaviest.  The friends I am making now are more mixed.  Does this say anything about me, about them?  Does it matter at all?  What about if all your friends are constantly on diets?  Or if they're all slim and don't seem to have to work at it?  How do these things make you feel about them, and about yourself?

You see, friendships are important not just because they connect us with others, but also because they help us to define ourselves, to get to know ourselves as much as we are getting to know the other.  We create ourselves every day in what we do and say and think, and we do this through our relationships with other people.  So, who we choose as friends affects who we are as people and how we feel about ourselves.

And what of bad friendships, like the earthen jars of the quote?  Do you stay in touch, just because you always have?  Or allow yourselves to drift apart, thinking of them sometimes with a touch of nostalgia?  Are there any with whom you've made a definitive break?  If so, what prompted you to do it?

I broke with one friend because it felt like the relationship was one-sided, and I felt drained when I was with her.  I started to dread her phone calls, and began screening all calls.  I realised if I felt that anxious about having to speak with her, there was something really off with the friendship.  I've wondered occasionally if I should have tried to talk to her about it.  However, part of our relationship was that we'd have these long conversations - mainly about her problems - which seemed to come to some kind of resolution, then she'd go and do exactly what she'd done before.  So, it felt a bit pointless.  After all, it was always just talk and never made a difference!

How do you feel about your friends, both internet-based and other?  How do you make friends, and do you ever break with friends?  And what makes a good friend?

Images from Dharma Deck, published by Mandala.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Treats, temptations and cravings

Following some of the advice Deanne Jade gives in her courses on eating disorders and obesity, I've changed a lot of things in my diet and patterns of eating.  I try to eat little and often, have more protein, and don't worry so much about eating before exercising (well, I wouldn't eat a steak, but then I never liked steak anyway!).

However, one thing Deanne emphasised over and over was how much of an effect something incredibly basic has: habit!  That's why she focuses so many exercises on change, because if we can become more flexible in any area of our life, that acceptance of change will also help us fight bad habits.

This question of habit, though, is a tough nut to crack.  Despite having made some huge changes to the more conscious areas of my food routines, the bit I'm finding really difficult is the question of habits around treats!

After a hard day, I love to sit on the sofa and indulge in some tasty chocolate.  But rather than just having one piece, and even though I've just eaten dinner, my habit is to have quite a few treats.  I find it reasonably easy to control my eating at other times, but I guess there's a sense of "I've had a hard day, I deserve something nice!"

The problem, though, is summed up very nicely in this delightful card from the Oracle of Shadows and Light: Carnivorous Greenhouse.  The price of giving in to a little temptation is that my desire gets out of control.  Very reminiscent of "Little Shop of Horrors" ;-D  Instead of being eaten by carnivorous plants, though, it's me doing the eating.  Or, I sometimes think of it as being devoured by my own bad habits.

I try to eat "good" chocolate - dark and without too much stuff added.  After all, I agree with Andrea of Amazing Body Now, that one of the problems in modern society is the number of chemicals in our food.  Not just that, I read a while back that if we actually prepared all the food we ate (even cookies and sweets) we would lose weight.  I'm not sure if the person who wrote that was thinking of chemicals that you wouldn't put into home prepared food, or the fact that it takes a lot longer to shop for ingredients and bake cookies from scratch than it does to just buy cookies, or the fact that smelling baking cookies may already satisfy part of your desire.  There are probably aspects of all three at work.

I admit, though, that I buy cookies ready-made rather than baking my own - who has time, right?  And that's probably a big part of the problem right there - I don't feel like I have time for a lot of things.  How many people in our modern societies feel that life is hectic and there's always more to do than time in the day?  And how does that affect our sense of satisfaction with life?  Chocolate is so satisfying...

Anyhow, I decided to draw a card from the Oracle of Shadows and Light asking, what do I need to balance the energy of these two aspects - Candy Cane Angel (feeling I deserve a treat) and Carnivorous Greenhouse (the price of temptation)?

Seemingly surprising, given my reading earlier this week, the card I drew was Angel of Alchemy.  In the earlier reading this card figured in the position of "Now is not the time for...", but I often see this position more as "Now is not YET the time for..."  Nevertheless, I'm not going to suddenly start believing in miracles, so I decided to dig a little deeper into the symbolism.

Alchemy was originally a system attempting to turn base metals to gold and create an elixir of longevity.  However, many nowadays, following Jung, see it more as a philosophy for self-actualization.  One important aspect of this highlighted particularly in the Thoth Tarot is the need to join opposites, such as masculine and feminine energies  So the energy of the Angel of Alchemy is a perfect match for what is needed to unite two opposing forces (and an interesting match to the Chariot in another reading last weekend).

According to Jung, this form of alchemy was a psychological process of digging into the darkness of the unconscious, unearthing opposites to what was acknowledged in daily life, and gradually integrating these aspects into consciousness. 

The message I get here, then, is that I need to do more work on the roots of my issues around treats, to unearth where these started, and how they've grown and developed over the years.  Once again (drat) it's not about a quick fix.

Deanne Jade recommends an interesting exercise, which could be done alone though it's certainly facilitated by having someone who can ask questions, listen and reflect.  She calls it the lifeline.  On the x axis you put the years of your life, from birth to the present.  On the y axis you put your approximate weight, be it in lbs, kilos, dress sizes, a combination of these, or just a measure like "too thin, thin, normal, fat, too fat".  Then you mark on particular events and situations in your life and track them against your weight.  For example, when you started menstruating (for women), when you were bullied at school, when your parents divorced, when you got interested in sex, when you had kids.  These are fairly generic situations or events, but everyone will have their own important life moments, not all specifically related to food or weight.

When I did this I found it fascinating to see the patterns that emerged, and the events that I remembered and which seemed relevant in retrospect.  And it isn't a one-off thing, you can add to the lifeline as you notice different things.  Around the question of treats, for instance, I realised last night that my TV/sofa/treat pattern started before I was a teen.  My mother was very into "healthy" food - we never had white bread in the house, and only had desserts for birthdays or dinner parties.  So, once I started getting pocket money I would buy chocolate and eat it while I was unsupervised in the living room.  An aspect of rebellion as well as pleasure, an assertion of my difference from my mother!

So, dear reader, what are your temptations and treats?  What unhelpful habits do you have around food?  And can you think when these first started?

Images from the Oracle of Shadows and Light by Lucy Cavendish and Jasmine Becket-Griffith, published by Blue Angel.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Friday Oracle

Having been delighted with the Oracle of Shadows and Light, I decided to use it to do a draw for the day.  The card selected at random was Voodoo in Blue: Back off!

Here we see a sneering, dark-winged fairy in stripy tights, with a strange voodoo doll in her lap.  Her message seems to be, "Don't mess with me, or I'll mess with you!"  She's certainly full of attitude, and not willing to take any sh**. 

She seems to me to have been afraid in the past but now, with her doll, she starts to feel she has some means of defense.  She is realising that she can change things.  She makes me wonder: What would it feel like to acknowledge your power?  How often have you let others push you around?  Can you tap into an inner sense of capability?  Fighting back doesn't have to be aggressive, merely an acceptance of your own inner strength, whether others see it or not.

So today, don't let others tell you what you should or shouldn't do.  Be it friends, family, people from work, or anyone else, they have no right to decide your life.  Think about what you really want, and go for it.  Put on your freakiest clothes and go out dancing all night.  Or snuggle up on the sofa in some sweats and ignore the world.  Whatever, do it on your terms.  And if someone tries to tell you to do something different, tap into this fairy's sense of strength and, with a smile or a sneer, get them to back off :-)

Image: Voodoo in Blue from the Oracle of Shadows and Light by Lucy Cavendish and Jasmine Becket-Griffith.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Oracle of Shadows and Light

This morning I received this delightful oracle deck authored by Lucy Cavendish and illustrated by Jasmine Becket-Griffith.  It comes in a lovely oversize box with a very nice little book with black and white illustrations, card meanings, and three fairly basic spreads.  The deck itself is full of cute, big-eyed and yet somewhat sinister characters.  It reminds me a little of the Tarot of the Magical Forest :-)

So, I decided to do a reading with it to see if we'd click.  I thought about my life in general at the moment and drew three cards.  Given my previous post, the answer seemed very relevant!

Now is the time for... Angel de los Muertos

It's time to change, to transition to a new way of living.  In particular, it's time to look at things from a more spiritual perspective, but also to live for the moment.  A bit of Carpe Diem here.

Now is not the time for... Angel of Alchemy

The subtext here is "Miracle".  But now isn't the time for that, for trusting in some higher power to do things.  Although it's time for a change, that won't just magically happen.

Guidance... Nautilus Princess

Growth comes through personal development.  Working on intuition, listening to my own inner guidance on what I need and what will help.

Overall, the reading reminded me of something I read recently:
I asked for wisdom...
And God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity...
And God gave me brains and the strength to work.
I asked for courage...
And God gave me danger to overcome.
I asked for love...
And God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for favors...
And God gave me opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted.
I received everything I needed.
My Prayer has been answered.


I guess this sums up where I'm at right now, as shown by these last two posts.  I believe in a loving divinity, but I don't believe that I can merely surrender all my problems to this higher power.  I feel I need to work for what I want and find my own answers.

I imagine some might ask if reading tarot and oracle decks isn't also just trusting in something outside myself.  However, I don't think it is.  I trust that I will intuitively be able to read the message that I need to hear right now from the cards, which isn't the same as letting them tell me what to do or what my future is.

So, what do you think of this deck and this reading?  And where do you stand on higher powers and intuitive readings?

Images from the Oracle of Shadows and Light.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A Higher Power?

In my last post I said that, although I believe in the divine, I don't seem to be able to offer up my problems to be taken from me as both the AA and Angel Therapists recommend.  Which made me ask: what would help me let go of my problems to a higher power?

Given the type of question, I decided to turn to one of Doreen Virtue's decks - Magical Messages from the Fairies, whom Doreen defines as nature angels.  The card I received was "Love Life".  I have to say, at first glance this made little or no sense.  I live with the father of my son, who I love very much, still feel passionate about and have lots of fun and laughter with.  I'm definitely not in the market for someone else!

However, taking some more time to think about this card in a less direct and obvious way, I wonder whether there is a message here about needing to believe that I deserve love, that I deserve to be supported in changing for the better?  Related to this is the question of whether I believe this to be a fundamentally loving universe?  If love underlies everything in life, why shouldn't I trust that I deserve to be loved absolutely?

On the down side, however, I agree with much that Donald Michael Kraig says in his blog on fluffy bunnies.  There's something about all the positive thinking, everything-is-divinely-guided-and-good stuff that doesn't ring true for me.  The idea that there is a shadow to everything and everyone seems more real.  So, if the universe isn't just love and light, why should there be a loving divinity willing to take my problems if I surrender them fully?

Even if I don't believe that everything is rosy and good, that doesn't mean that love isn't important.  Returning to the card, another idea that popped into my mind is that I need to express my love to others and to the universe more.  In part this is a reminder of James Ricklef's recent explorations into the healing power of expressing gratitude.  This falls into the realms of Positive Psychology.  It is healing to express gratitude, to explore values and beliefs, to work on self-efficacy.  This isn't just fluffy bunny stuff as it doesn't deny the bad or the dark or the difficult, but tries to access and increase the positive.

Another question this card raises for me is how my priorities should reflect my love.  For example, last weekend I spent time donating tarot readings to raise money for Children in Need.  However, I also felt I should be spending that time with my own son, instead.  A choice between two seemingly loving acts - what a dilemna!

Overall, I am left with a sense that surrendering my problems to a higher power is still not within the realms of what I can do.  However, thinking about examining the shadow side of this behaviour, and also of looking to the positive, to what values and beliefs underlie my issues both around food and around spirituality, seems a fruitful area for exploration.

So, dear reader, what do you think: Will angels take care of our every need?  Is there also a dark side to life?  Is the Universe guided by love?  Hope to hear from you...

Image: Love Life from Doreen Virtue's Magical Messages from the Fairies, published by Hay House.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Are you torn in two?

Have you yo-yo dieted for years?  Are you above the weight you'd like to be, but can't shift it no matter what you try?  Bulimic?  Many things said during Deanne Jade's course on counselling for eating disorders and obesity chimed with me.  One in particular that made a lot of sense after I thought about it for a while, and which I feel is an issue for me at the moment, is what she called weight conflict.  Although it may seem ridiculous at first, it's something I feel is well worth thinking about and exploring.

The basic idea is that, for people who have bulimia, who have yo-yo dieted, or who are above the weight they feel they would like to be, one issue keeping them from their "goal" weight may actually be an inner conflict.  Yes, there's a big bit of us that wants to lose weight, that wants to fit that lovely dress, or not feel embarrassed on a beach.  But there's also a little bit of ourselves that likes being a bit heavier!  There can be a lot of reasons for that - because it means you can demand the space you want, or not have to deal with relationship issues, or have kids, or feel womanly, or eat what you like without worrying, or be seen as non-threatening.  Whatever the reason(s), it is normally pretty personal, and can have a lot to do with what has happened in your life.

However, until we deal with this inner conflict, weight loss will never be either achieved or maintained!

Deanne suggested some questions to explore the reasons around a weight conflict.  You can try brainstorming answers, or just seeing what first pops into your mind.  Or, you could do a tarot reading on it.  During the training course I did the former, and now, realising that I need to dig a bit deeper, I have designed a spread and done the latter.

So, Deanne's questions were:

What are the benefits of being slimmer?
What are the disadvantages of being slimmer?
What are the benefits of being heavier?
What are the disadvantages of being heavier?

I have also added: what is my key learning here?

I decided to use the Deviant Moon for this spread, as the image of the Two of Swords (above) popped into my mind when I first thought about a weight conflict.  Here's the spread:
What are the benefits to me of being slimmer: Page of Wands

Being slimmer I have more energy and enthusiasm, I feel I can take on the world, and that I can tread lightly.  I feel I can go anywhere with a brave face.

What are the disadvantages of being slimmer: Wheel of Fortune

Things change, cycles in life alter, we have good times and bad.  Focusing just on being slimmer may not leave much energy for other things that could be more important.  Being slimmer I constantly worry about maintaining that slimness and so cannot enjoy the abundance the world offers.

What are the benefits of being heavier: Queen of Swords

Being heavier, I have more time and energy to focus on intellectual questions, and also more empathy with others.  I feel more grounded and powerful, settled and in control.

What are the disadvantages of being heavier: High Priestess

Being heavier for me is partly about using food to block difficult emotions.  But that also means I'm blocking access to my intuition.

What is my key learning here: Chariot

This may always be a balancing act for me.  I have used thinness as an armour, protecting me from thinking about anything except exercise and what I ought to eat.  I have used fatness as an armour, too, eating instead of feeling and dealing with difficult emotions.  Trying to find a middle path may feel very exposing and vulnerable, so perhaps I need to develop other forms of protection before I will be able to walk that path.

Similarly, based on traditional images of the Chariot I think I need to find a way to harness both sides of myself in this conflict.  However, the suggestion that willpower alone will do this seems rather hollow.  I am reminded of the sun and moon symbols on the traditional charioteer, and his canopy of stars.  A balancing of illusion and clarity, fear and enjoyment, through the auspices of a higher power?

A friend commented on AA's third step - giving oneself over to faith in a higher power, which can be defined in whatever way is useful to the individual.  Despite my belief in the divine, perhaps I don't trust that offering up my problems will lead to solutions.  Most Angel Therapy practitioners would say, I guess, that my doubt is what stops this being effective.  But how to get beyond doubt...

Overall, I found this reading useful.  It didn't bring up many of the things I had already brain-stormed, so I think the two together would probably be most useful to get a full overview of this subject.

I'd love to hear anyone else's take on this reading, my doubts about divinity, or your own explorations of reasons for a weight conflict.  Does the idea of inner conflict ring true for you? 

Images from the Deviant Moon Tarot.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Children in Need 2010

Children in Need is a worthwhile charity organised by the BBC which raises money for projects to help children across the UK.  Myself and other TABI members are donating tarot readings, so you can donate money to a good cause AND get a tarot reading.

All you have to do if you'd like to take part is click on the image below, donate, and leave me a comment or email me (info at so I know what your question is and who/where to send the reading to!

So, for a one-card Twitter or email reading donate ₤5 (go on, it is for charity!), and if you want a three-card email reading donate ₤15.  The offer's open all weekend...
Sponser Today!

Image: The Sun from the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

What's your magic number?

Almost every woman has one.  A magic number.  That number in your head of your ideal size or weight.  It might be measured in pounds or stones or kilos, in dress size or in inches or centimeters.  But most women have one, a magic number in their head: "If I was that size, my life would be great, or at least better."

The weirdest thing is that it's so specific.  It could be 9 stone 2, but not 9 stone 3 or 9 stone 1.  Why 59 kilos, rather than 58?  If you have a magic number, take a moment to think about "Why that number in particular?"

I know part of my "reason" for that particular number is to do with official BMI tables and government sponsored ideas of my ideal weight, as told to me by my doctor.  And that's not really as rational as it sounds, given that everyone has their own personal set weight range which their body will try to keep them within, influenced by genes, body make-up, age, and dieting history.  Yes, dieting history.  If you've dieted a lot in your life, your body compensates by raising your set weight range.

Another factor in my magic number has to do with my history, with my life experiences and how they track with my weight.  This still probably isn't very helpful.  After all, what was good for me when I was in my twenties and single is probably not entirely relevant to me coming up to age 40 and after having given birth.

So, if you have a magic number, have a think about how realistic it is, and about what it's based on, and whether it serves you to have that number in your head, or whether it just makes you feel worse about yourself.

I chose the Magician card for this post because he represents bringing thoughts and wishes into reality.  Another part, though, is choosing your desires wisely before you apply the full power of your intent.  After all, what's really important in life?

Image: The Magician from the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The E Word

Anyone who has ever even thought of losing weight has heard of the energy equation: energy in must be less than energy out. I'd like to take a little look at the second part of the equation.

Many people, when they think about upping their energy expenditure smack straight into a wall labelled EXERCISE!  Personally, I really enjoy exercise and can attest to its mood-improving benefits as well as its contribution to weight loss. Still, I completely empathize with people who can think of nothing worse.

For one thing, I too shudder at the idea of going to a gym. Loud, bad music, too many mirrors, lots of men potentially staring at me while I'm hot and sweaty, as well as seeing myself in that state from every conceivable unflattering angle (see comment on mirrors), not to mention the smell of sweat!  All these things make going to a gym a distinctly unappealing prospect.  Jogging is no better: hard on the knees (well, the whole skeleton really, but that's where I always feel it first), having to brave the weather, and out in public, I tried it twice before saying "Never again!"

However, there are several things most people don't know about their energy burning which I'd like to share here.

Firstly, two thirds of the energy you burn is due to just staying alive, breathing, even sleeping.  The second most important factor in burning energy is eating itself!  In particular the heat you kick out when you eat regularly.  Eating little and often not only stops your body feeling like it's starving by maintaining a stable blood sugar level, it also burns more energy as you keep yourself constantly warm.

Thirdly, comes the energy used in activity. Note, I didn't say the E word :-b Think about a common way of life these days. You get out of bed and sit down for breakfast. Then you sit in your car or on some kind of transport that takes you to sit at work, with perhaps a break to sit down to lunch. You go home and sit watching TV or surfing, then you go to bed.  Sit, sit, sit!

Recent studies show that people would burn 7lbs worth of weight if they just had to get up to change the channel rather than using the remote! Even if you do a half hours exercise a few days a week, if the rest of the time you just sit you will be classified as an "active couch potato".

Small changes make a huge difference in the long run.  The idea of parking your car a little further from where you're going, getting off a stop early if you're on a bus, train or tram, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, are all really worthwhile.  But if those feel impracticable or just a drag, what about simply starting with getting up and walking about the room you're in for a minute, every half hour?  Even this small amount of activity breaks the sedentary cycle, and will make a real difference.  After you've done that for a while, one of the other activities might seem more appealing.

With all types of activity, take it slow.  If you half kill yourself the first day, your motivation to try again a couple of days later will be very low.  Also, think about trying different things.  If you don't like going to the gym, what about a yoga class in a local community centre?  Or getting a DVD to try at home?  If you don't like a particular style of exercise, or a particular teacher, try another.  If you don't like jogging, what about getting on a stationary bike?

If all that sounds like too much work, what about getting a dog?  Sound stupid?  It's been shown that getting a dog is a great way to lose weight, as it encourages you to go out for a walk every day (that or get slobbered on, barked and panted at, and subjected to mournful stares until you do).

Any kind of physical activity will improve your body's ability to burn fat, will build up your strength and stamina, and will help lift your mood.  Well, at least biochemically.  Jogging in the city, breathing fumes, harassed by street vendors and almost getting run over by a cab may cancel out any endorphin benefits ;-D

Image: Youth of Coins from the Gay Tarot.