Sunday, 23 May 2010

Eight of Swords and Yoga

I was thinking this morning about how I could combine two of my passions: tarot and yoga. Of course, there's the whole thing about adopting the position of the person on the card, but for the most part that might be meditative or give you physical insights, but it won't be yoga. What pose might best represent the energy of a given card, I mused.

For some reason, the Eight of Swords popped into my head. At first I thought of some kind of bound pose, to represent the idea of feeling trapped, but that the ties are of your own making. Then I considered how many people are stopped from doing yoga in the first place because they say they aren't strong or flexible or fit. As one of my teachers always said, "Start where you are!" This thinking that we can't do something most certainly stops us from actually doing it, rather than any of the specific objections.

There is a moving story of a child in India who was quadriplegic. His mother took him to a guru, who would physically adjust him into each position throughout the class. After several years of this, the boy was actually able to move for himself. So, start where you are now, and you will get somewhere. If you let your thoughts stop you trying, you will never move. And this is definitely my take on the Eight of Swords.

However, it's not just for those who don't want to start, it's also about what to do when you get stuck in the middle, and about the power of not thinking, not trying. I'll give two examples from my own practice. The first time I practised yoga was when I attended a yoga retreat. The teacher was amazing, so flexible and strong, while I couldn't even touch my toes when warmed up. At one point she did this move where she jumped her feet forward beyond her grounded hands, and then dropped down to the floor - kurmasana, turtle pose. I laughed at the notion that this was possible for a normal human being, gave it a bit of a go, but couldn't even get my feet to my hands, never mind beyond.

So, nine years later, and I've been practising off and on, but with quite easy video classes. I go back to the same retreat centre, and a different teacher guides our classes. I'm in the flow, and she says, "jump your feet up just beyond your hands", and I do it, without thinking. Then she says, "sit your bottom down and stretch your legs out", and suddenly I'm there, I'm a turtle! In the intervening time, I hadn't thought about this pose, or attempted it. But all the other things I had done had made me stronger and more flexible by increments, without me really paying it much mind. And now here I was, a turtle! This is what can come of not (over)thinking something - the direct opposite of the "analysis paralysis" so often associated with the Eight of Swords.

Next problem: how did I get out of it?!

Once again the Eight of Swords comes to mind. I got myself into the position without thinking, but once I was there, that voice started up in my head. "This is all well and good, but what are you going to do now? You're stuck!" In the Eight of Swords mindset, my thinking ran, "I got into this one way, I have to get out the same way, but in reverse". It took flexibility to get into the pose, but it took me a while to figure out that to exit it with even a modicum of elegance, what I needed was strength. Once again, yoga showed me the solution to the Eight of Swords mindset is to think outside of my assumptions or what got me into that position to start with. To stop being a turtle, I had to turn into a fire fly - titibasana. Softening my legs a little so I can get my hands under my shoulders, I lift up and fly!

So, peeps, what get's you stuck, and how have you found to get out of those situations?

By the way, the image is the Eight of Swords from the Shadowscapes Tarot. I love the shadow aspect, the swan trapped, yet the smaller bird able to fly free. Would love to hear your thoughts on this variant of the Eight of Swords!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Twilight Realm Page of Swords

I was in New York recently, and had a couple of readings. One of the things which both said (though Derren Brown would probably dismiss this as a Barnum statement) is that I should get back in touch with a creative outlet. Since then I've tried to be more consistent in my tarot journalling. And now that I have, finally, started a blog, I thought it only right that I should share my musings here.

I'm writing an article comparing the Shadowscapes and Twilight Realms tarots for the next TABI Ezine, so I've been picking cards from one or the other for the last few weeks. Today, the Twilight called to me, and I drew the Page of Swords.

My first impression was, "Oh no, can't I draw another card?" All the more reason to stay with this one, I guess. The artwork in this deck is sometimes rather amateurish, and the perspective here looks a little "off" to me. Overall, I haven't found much resonance with the majority of the Court cards here. So, I'll just have to dig a little deeper, especially as I once claimed I could read with anything, even cereal boxes!

This Page wears a chain of office that reminds me of a mayoral insignia. He has pleated white at neck and sleeve, while his overtunic is of a dark burgundy. He fingers his blade with a very pink-nailed hand, gazing at it with a dark look. It feels to me like he is testing the point while thinking evil thoughts, thoughts of death and mayhem. So, although this Page looks young, still he has a brooding and blood-thirsty edge to him that I would more normally attribute to the Knight of Swords in a dark deck like the Bohemian Gothic. As I look at him more, I think perhaps he is a little perturbed by the turn his thoughts have taken.

Thinking about it, this is perhaps quite an apt card for me on the day I've posted my first ever blog. Something around the double-edged sword of expressing my thoughts in public. While so far the reactions I've received have been very positive, it's also true that I chose for my first post a rather political topic - World Tarot Day, and the corporate power plays that have surrounded it this year. Being neither a born conformist nor a politician, I tried to cut through to what I see as the spirit of the day. However, perhaps my blade is not as sharp as it should be, or perhaps I will cut off more than I can stomach. The joys of self-expression against the dangers of being misconstrued and creating bad feeling, or being sued. I am yet a novice in this world, and should beware how I wield my sword.

So, does this Page chime for you? Do you see him as innocently examining a new way of thinking, or going for the jugular? And how do you feel about your own self-expression today?

World Tarot Day

This morning I had an epiphany about the whole World Tarot Day debate that has been going on this year. It suddenly reminded me of Shrove Tuesday, known in the UK as Pancake Day.

Back in the late 70's/early 80's, Jif Lemon (a lemon juice in a bottle product) came up with a series of ads with the tagline: "Don't forget the pancakes on Jif Lemon Day!" and for me, as a kid, Pancake Day WAS Jif Lemon Day.

Now, to put this in context, my mum only used to make desserts on special occasions: birthdays, Jif Lemon Day, and maybe Christmas! So, it was a special day for me, as a child. However, looking back on it from a more adult standpoint, I think about what the true spirit of the day is intended to be. Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent, is the day for using up all your tasty food before giving it up for 40 days. Basically, then, there's an aspect of counting your blessings, and a forethought to abstinence.

So, what's all this got to do with World Tarot Day? Well, some might say that only Christians should celebrate Shrove Tuesday. Others might mention the bastardisation of the day in the UK, where it has become Pancake Day and many people don't really remember why you eat pancakes, but just enjoy the fact. Then there is the Jif Lemon aspect, where a company took over the day to try to sell a product.

Looking, then, to World Tarot Day, what's my point? For one thing, I find it bizarre that in this day and age it is actually possible to Copyright a day! Jif Lemon, anyone? On the other hand, if I think about the spirit of the day, to quote it's founder, Den Elder: "I wanted a day of "celebration"... A day everybody could just come together and have some nice fun and make an effort to help those unfamiliar with tarot to realize it has a lot of positive attributes."

Fundamentally I think that, as in the UK where it has become Pancake Day, or during my childhood when it became Jif Lemon Day, it isn't possible to control a day. I'm sure Roman Catholics might be quite shocked at what has been done to Shrove Tuesday. But is it wrong? Should only Christians be allowed to celebrate on that day, or only pancake eaters, or only people who buy Jif Lemon? The spirit of that day is to count your blessings, and the spirit of World Tarot Day is to celebrate tarot. The rest is just window dressing and politics.

So, on May 25th, I hope you draw a card, or get a reading, or join in the World's Largest Tarot Reading, or do anything else that for you and anyone you know is a celebration of the wonderful, beautiful, insightful images that are Tarot.

For anyone who has no idea what I'm talking about, here are a few links:

Den Elder Interview
Original World Tarot Day
Tarot Professionals
Non-branded World Tarot Day
TABI thread