Daily Card: Island of Four Fences

Today’s card is the Island of the Four Fences. An island divided by four enclosures; a king holds a rod of power, a queen holds a cup, a maiden holds a looking-glass and a warrior a spear. Here’s the background:

This island shows the four estates of humanity: gold represents material desires, silver represents artistic attainment, brass indicates strength of arms and crystal means spiritual attainment. The food of maidens from the crystal enclosure is too strong for Maelduin’s crew.

The Meaning

Inappropriate behaviour. Failure to recognise where you should be or which direction you should take. Vocation.

The Challenge

Are you envious of other people’s attainments and their possessions? Discover your own specializations and needs. Are you in the right job or situation?

I had two strong thoughts about receiving this card today. Firstly I have to admit that, yes, sometimes I am envious of other people’s attainments. It happened not so long ago with a fellow pagan who left the coven I am part of and struck out on her own. At the time I was seething with envy yet also ashamed of it. My envy was a human reaction but not a spiritual one because it was filled with ego. Once I’d been able to put my ego in its proper place the envy dissipated. However, it took active work on my part to enable this and a lot of self-reflection. The strange thing is, well perhaps not so strange, is that my envy manifested as anger towards this person. I had to take a good hard look at myself, which wasn’t pleasant at all. The thing is maintaining any kind of spirituality means constant work on yourself. There’s no time to sit on one’s laurels so to speak. The moment you think you’ve ‘got it’, that’s the moment when hubris enters and it all collapses into a big messy pile of dung and the shadow side enters and has a play day.

The second thought is that sometimes we are just not ready for certain spiritual mysteries. As in the case of Maelduin’s men, they couldn’t stomach the spiritual food they were given to eat when on this island – it made them drunk and was too strong for them. When learning deep spirituality we have to imbibe it slowly and in small portions otherwise it too will make us sick (metaphorically speaking). You see spirituality has to be seen with spiritual eyes, not physical ones, a spiritual mind not a physical mind. To a physical mind a lot of deep spirituality seems nonsense and it is only when you are able to cast aside the ego mind does it all become as clear as crystal. Of course this takes time and that’s ok. No-one has a handle on it straight away – after all how long did it take Buddha to receive enlightenment? He journeyed for many years didn’t he. Even the prophet Jesus had to learn about his role and the depth of meaning to his life, and he also spent 40 days and 40 nights struggling with his shadow side in the wilderness.

In fact, the wilderness is a wonderful metaphor for the time we spend searching for our spirituality and for Universal truths. It feels like we are in a fog and cannot find the way out. At times we might be beguiled by lights in the dark, and these sometimes are false lights that can lead us even further astray. At these times we need the spear of the spiritual warrior to fight our demons (shadow). It can feel like being in hell!

Sometimes we are just not ready to understand the mysteries and paradoxes of life. This is ok too because the Universe has a wonderful if not uncanny way of presenting the right lesson at the right time. All we have to do is keep an open mind and try to be receptive. We can do this by watching our ego and making sure that we are coming from a place of spirit rather than ego. If we trust in the Universe and that all things happen for a reason, even if we don’t get it yet, we will move forward and learn, and gradually be able to stomach the food of the Spirit.

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Daily Card: Island of Sorrow

Today’s card is apt for it is the Island of Sorrow. Right now I feel deep sorrow and I know my closest friend is feeling it too. Both of us have arrived at this island but for very different reasons I think. It is the way of life to visit this island more than once in our lives, for it is part of life. In the card we see a pillar stone on which is an image of extreme grief, with a woman lamenting. Here’s the background:

Many Celtic stories juxtapose regions of happiness and sorrow, which are not seen as positive or negative conditions. Irish musicians would play three kinds of music – the sleep strain to bring dreams, the joy strain to bring happiness and the sorrow strain to bring tears. All three are necessary for a balanced existence.

The Meaning

Primal misery or angst. Sorrow. The gift of tears. Mourning. Inability to express sorrow. Sharing pain with others. Loss

The Challenge

Social convention bids us hide away pain and sorrow. It is permissible to mourn. Do not allow yourself to get out of touch with your feelings. Are you living in the past?

Grief shows itself through many emotions – sadness, fear, anger. Neither one is wrong…they just are the manifestations of grief and just as we show our joy through smiling, laughter and happiness so too we need to show our grief through equally important emotions of tears, anger and sadness. At times we feel wounded to our utter core and it quite often feels like a huge blow to the solar plexus – our breath is taken away and nothing happens except we feel utterly ripped open. The important thing is to not allow our grief to turn inwards, we need to let it out. If we don’t allow our grief to flow freely outwards then it becomes stuck and hardens – I always think of this rather like a glacier, yes it moves but extremely slowly and does a lot of damage to the underlying ground – scraping and scoring the earth and leaving great scars across the countryside. This is how sorrow can be for us if we don’t give it some outlet.

As hard as it can be for us to do it, we do need to share our grief. No man is an island – as the old saying goes. Of course there will be no answers to your grief but sharing it does help. It won’t lighten the load but it can take the sting out of it. however, what if you don’t have another person with whom to share your grief? Such is the case with me right now but I am not alone. I share my grief with my patron deities and with my spiritual guides. While this means I don’t actually have physical arms around me, I do have spiritual ones and I can feel them supporting me. It’s not much different from physical ones but can take some getting used to if you’ve never done this kind of sharing before. You see, in our anguish and sorrow we are never alone. There is always someone there to listen and support you, even if you can’t actually see them with physical eyes.

Grief and sorrow is part of life – we all will visit the Island of Sorrow in our lives; some of us perhaps many times. However, there are important lessons to be learnt from visiting it; you may not see them immediately but in hindsight you will.

Daily Card: Island of the Mill

Today’s card is Island of the Mill. Here we see people bearing sacks on their backs as they approach the mill. Oh boy, another moment of synchronicity. Talk about humping a heavy sack around! Here’s the background:

The Otherworldly mill is where the spectres of our greed are fed to us. What we desire binds us with unbreakable links so we are enslaved to it.

The Meaning

Niggardliness, possessiveness, scandalmongering, anger, jealousy, selfishness, co-dependency, grudges and feuds.

The Challenge

What are you holding on to that is unnecessary in your life? Let the gift of generosity come into your heart. Let other people live without your control. Lift burdens from others backs.

This is a timely reminder about control, or rather how it becomes a huge burden. We all like to control don’t we? ‘I don’t have a need to control!’ I hear you say. Yes you do, we all do! It’s part of human nature to want to control, part of the workings of the ego. We want to control others, ourselves, our lives…and so forth and etc. Even if we think we aren’t trying to control we are doing it unconsciously. controlling ourselves or others soothes our own inner sense of fear, of the unknown, of righteousness. It might work for a time but in the end it usually becomes too much.

And what a heavy burden it is, rather like those people in the picture humping their heavy sacks to the mill. So how do we get rid of those heavy sacks; the need to control, especially outcomes. Well, Buddhists advocate the idea of non-attachment. We only try to control what we are attached to (or as the book says ‘desire’). We invest emotional energy to things. By practising what the Buddhists call non-attachment we can free ourselves from the curse of the need to control. When I manage to do this I find my life going far more smoothly and feel a lot more together and calmer inside. It’s not about ‘not caring’ or having no compassion but rather just letting go, and not operating from ego.

Of course one has to be honest with oneself and it’s not easy to admit that we are operating from ego and attaching ourselves to something or someone. It makes you squirm actually but in order to free oneself from attachment you have to be really honest with yourself and do some hard self-reflection. But it’s ok and there’s no blame attached in realising that is, in fact, where we’re coming from. It’s all part of a human’s spiritual evolution. Next step is being mindful, living in each moment and being aware of each moment. We cannot live in the past because it’s gone, and we cannot live in the future because it has not manifested yet. The only place we can truly live is in the present…in the NOW.

Second thing is to give it up…give up the attachment you have…I do this by imagining myself on a high mountain top surrounded by alpine flowers. It is cool and the wind blows around me fresh and clean. The sun shines from a cloudless azure blue sky. I encapsulate whatever I’m attached to, whatever my ego control is, in a glistening iridescent bubble and allow it to float away. The Spirits of Air catch it and take it high up into the sky, up towards the sun. you could try this and see if it works for you. Of course I’ve had to practise this and have to continue to do so. holding on to things seems a natural thing for humans to do so it does take practise and maintenance but gradually it becomes easier.

So next time you feel as though you are carrying a huge burden on your back try climbing the mountain and giving that burden up to the heavens, and see what happens. Oh yes, and don’t forget to be mindful!

 

Daily Card: Island of Giant Cattle

Today’s card is Island of Giant Cattle. In this card we see, beyond a fiery river, a herdsmen watching grazing cattle. Here’s the background:

In Celtic tradition, the giant herdsman of cattle is a well-known guardian of thresholds. Often surly and unhelpful, he will give advice and warning.

The Meaning

Biting off more than you can chew. Provocation given or received. The goal is before you but you are prevented from attainment. Over-confidence.

The Challenge

There will always be some things that defeat you, however hard you try. The inability to trust those who may know better could be preventing you from reaching the right decision. Concentrate on learning more about yourself. Perfect your skills.

Sometimes we are confronted with a problem, or challenge, that seems completely overwhelming and we just don’t know what to do about it. It seems everything we try turns out badly or just doesn’t make any difference. What to do? It’s quite often a good idea to share the difficulty with someone else…sometimes a different perspective is needed. But what if you don’t agree with the perspective given? Well, that’s ok too because we all have different perspectives on things. After all we are all individuals with different life experiences. However, another person’s perspective might just give you insights that you’d never considered before. It doesn’t mean you have to follow their advice although trying something a different way can be good too.

Sometimes we want to ‘fix’ something but cannot, not because what we are doing is right or wrong but because we just have to allow things to play out. This is often very difficult to do because our egos want the upper hand. Our egos want control over something, someone or a situation in order to make us feel better about our own inner feelings of guilt, anger or whatever. When this happens we have a tendency to block out anything that doesn’t fit into our mind-set at the time. The way to move through this is by being open to all points-of-view and not condemning something as unhelpful. In the long run another’s point of view might be unhelpful to the given situation or problem but considering it is always a good thing to do.

There are times when people give us advice or perspectives that really go against what we believe to be true…but again there’s no right or wrong…just different view points. And sometimes, another’s viewpoint can be the most helpful but because of the ego, who wants to exert control, we dismiss this viewpoint. We look for others who will sooth our own sense of right and wrong, which can be dangerous for ourselves and lead us astray. There are times when we have to challenge ourselves, or allow others to challenge us – not easy at all but often it can make all the difference between solving a problem or making a situation a bit easier to deal with.

Daily Card: Island of Black and White

Today’s card is The Island of Black and White – a landscape divided by a fence with sheep on either side, the shepherd heaves one across. On one side of the fence the sheep are white but as soon as they are heaved across the fence they turn black. Here’s what the book says about this card:

In the Otherworld everyday reality is reflected by its opposite as though in a mirror. Where black becomes white and white becomes black, it is difficult to know just where we are. The only person who can regulater this change is the shepherd who knows the reality and powers of both worlds.

The Meaning

Reversal of good fortune to bad luck or bad luck to good fortune, a shock, startling change. A chance to appreciate the mutability and natural rhythm of life. Challenges to deeply held beliefs.

The Challenge

Are you clear about what you intend and the changes they will bring about? Only by appreciating your current position can you judge. Look at the opposite side of the agreement.

I think for me today this card comes as a bit of synchronicity – I just love it when that happens! We do tend to see things as black and white don’t we, I mean it’s rather human nature to do so – we see things in polarities, either one thing or the other. The truth is nothing is either one thing or another, in fact all things are what they are depending on one’s perspective. For me a situation can be black but for another it could be white but each person’s view is not the only view of reality. We could say some thing is wrong, or right depending on our deeply held beliefs and our experiences but for another person it could be the complete opposite. So who is wrong and who is right? Neither and both at the same time. What a paradox! But life is chock full of paradoxes isn’t it.

I’ve heard it said that life is not black nor white but varying shades of grey. At first I kind of dismissed this as being rather ‘sitting on the fence’ kind of thing but in fact it has more truth to it than you can imagine. Of course grey sounds bland and boring doesn’t it and who wants a bland and boring life. That’s one of the reasons, I think, that we as humans polarize things; black or white, good or bad – it’s far more dramatic and interesting isn’t it. However, polarizing life leads to all kinds of difficulties and stress. Nowadays I tend to look at it as Yin and Yang – there is lightness within the dark and darkness within the light and the two in union fit together perfectly into a whole. This is what the yin yang symbol actually means – no one nor the other but a union of both – life is what it is… all and nothing…nothing and all…not right nor wrong but both at the same time yet neither. It’s kind of hard to get your head round isn’t it.

So let’s give a little example from my own experience. I have mentioned a few times on this blog that I suffer from mental health difficulties, I am diagnosed as bipolar and have a severe borderline personality disorder. In the past I used to self harm by cutting myself. Not nice you might think, and some might even feel angry and say that was wrong. At the time it was a useful coping mechanism for the intense pain and rage I was feeling inside. It was the only way I knew of to show people how much pain I was in. It had a purpose! I couldn’t talk about those feelings you see because I didn’t even understand what those feelings were. It’s only in hindsight that I now realise that the feelings were pain, rage and abandonment. But at the time I had no idea. I know I hurt a lot of people by my doing it. They didn’t understand and were scared for me and also angry with me. Did I care about this, was I aware of how my actions were impacting on others at the time? No! I was too wrapped up in my own pain and anger and couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

Was my self harming wrong? Was it black? No, I don’t think so. I agree that it wasn’t a very constructive way of dealing with my problems and moreover it was very dangerous. It hurt a lot of people especially my mother and my daughter. But neither was it ‘white’…it was neither, it was what it was at the time. From my perspective (at the time) I guess I’d call it white, but from those who loved me and were trying to help me it was definitely black. Here you see the polarities. Were they helpful? No not really but both sides were on different sides of the fence so to speak. So polarity has to do with perception also doesn’t it? How we see things and view things is about our own perception, which is always coloured by our own life experiences. But neither is wrong nor right, it just is what it is.

Does that phrase ‘it is what it is’ sound like grey to you? Does it sound like sitting on the fence or is it rather coming from a place of integration. Because life is about integrating the opposites isn’t it.

 

Daily Card: Island of the Cat

A lovely bright sunny morning brings us to the Island of the Cat…one of my favourite animals, being mother to two very funny, loving and affectionate cats although very different from each other. I think all animals are therapeutic in their own way but cats are especially so. also, they have got Mindfulness down to a fine art – they absolutely live in each moment perfectly (or is that purrrfectly). If they’re sleeping then they’re sleeping, if they’re stalking then that’s what they’re doing, if they’re eating they are thoroughly absorbed in that…cats are a really good example of mindfulness. anyway, what about today’s card? Here’s what the book says:

The rules of Otherworldly hospitality entail respect for people and property found therein. Because we may be in unusual situations does not mean we can act discourteously.

The Meaning

Caution is needed, respect, stasis, entrapment, restlessness and dissatisfaction, impulsiveness, theft, appropriation of other’s things or resources, honour, integrity.

The Challenge

Have you violated the rules of society by your actions? Your thoughtless actions affect others and sometimes hurt them. find out what the boundaries are in this situation and abide by them.

It’s so easy to step across the boundaries isn’t it, and I bet we all do it from time to time in an unconscious fashion. However, it is important for self-evolution to bring the unconscious to consciousness. I know that my thoughtless actions have affected others and still do at times. When I think, act and speak from an unconscious level I overstep the mark and blunder about stepping on toes and making a mess of things, which not only hurts me but hurts others too. That’s where Mindfulness comes in – mindfulness is not only about sitting in meditation but is about actively being mindful in every moment whatever we are doing. It’s about entering into each present moment with awareness. If we are truly mindful we will be aware of what we are thinking, speaking or doing. This does not mean we never get angry or frustrated or sad or any of the other normal human emotions but it means we are consciously aware of them. When we are consciously aware we do not need to step over the boundaries and we can manifest respect and integrity in any situation. It means we can express our emotions in an appropriate way rather than allow them to rule us. Of course mindfulness takes practise but it is one that is very well worth doing. It is the difference between getting on with those around us or living in a maelstrom of hurt feelings and anger. I know which I’d rather have.

Of course boundaries are really important for humans. Even in the natural world there are boundaries. We tend to think wild nature has no boundaries but it definitely has, which is why there is cohesion in nature. Each plant, animal and insect has it’s place within the Web of Life and acts accordingly. It only seems to be human beings that have trouble with boundaries and that’s really because of our egos. We tend to think of ourselves as having ‘rights’ when in fact most of the rights we think we deserve are just ego. If we don’t maintain healthy boundaries with the people we interact with then chaos reigns and we don’t know where we stand. We become selfish and self-righteous, angry and disrespectful. We may not believe the same things as each other and have different life-styles but we can still accord each other respect and hospitality and kindness.

How do we set healthy boundaries? Well I used to have a great problem with boundaries because I didn’t know what my boundaries were and nor did I know what the other person’s were either. If you don’t know what your own boundaries are then how can you know and respect another person’s? It starts with you as an individual. Another important aspect of setting and maintaining boundaries is communication. If we truly communicate and listen to the other then we begin to get an understanding of that person’s boundaries. I had to work really hard on my relationship with my daughter to set healthy boundaries, and so did she. As a result our relationship went from being one where the two of us tended to merge and we never knew where each of us stood, into one of mutual respect and healthy boundaries. For me it meant dealing with my ego and also working on my unhealthy ideas about who my daughter was and is (no, she is not my mother and neither am I her sister!). So now, our relationship has really moved into a much better place where there is mutual respect but also a lot of love and affection. I realise that when I make the Freudian slip of calling her ‘Mum’ it is because I’m coming from a needy place and I need to pay attention to my inner wounded child. Of course those Freudian slips are far less now thank goodness but they still happen from time to time but I’m working on it. The point is my daughter and I have managed this because we communicated honestly with each other, remained mindful while doing so, listened and also worked on ourselves as individuals. From the storm came something even better and far more healthy.

It is definitely possible to have respect and integrity, have healthy boundaries and live harmoniously with others – but it starts with us as individuals – it starts with YOU!

 

Daily Card: Island of Fiery Pigs

Today’s card is the Island of Fiery Pigs and is a rather apt card for today as we have a few neighbour problems where I live. Here’s the background to the card:

In Celtic tradition, pigs are animals of the Underworld, and the gift of the ancestral world to our own. Birds are normally messengers of the Otherworld. Here, both sets of animals eat of the trees in an orderly fashion. The two worlds are shown to be in harmony with each other.

Meaning of the card ~ Timeliness or kairos (the appropriate time), being in the right place at the right time, expectation of news, renewal, realisation of goals, adequate provision of needs, harmonious partnership, ecological balance.

The Challenge

If you find it hard to achieve your desire, do not envy others. Are you using the abilities of others to achieve what you want? Try to work harmoniously with others.

It’s sometimes difficult to get on with our neighbours isn’t it? More often than not we cannot choose who we have as neighbours and we all get lumped together in a street or neighbourhood; very different people all living next to each other. It’s no wonder that tempers fly at times, or irritation occurs and resentments arise. Then suddenly you might find yourself giving your neighbour the cold should, or they do it to you and before you know it communication breaks down completely. It can be a dangerous time at worst, and downright awkward at best.

For me, the emphasis of this card, is being in harmony. This does not mean we all have to think and feel the same way, or believe in the same things. The card speaks of two very different sets of animals from different realities (the Otherworld and the Underworld), yet they both eat fruit from the same tree in harmony. How can we as mere humans follow this example? I think healthy boundaries and good communication are two important tools for achieving harmony with neighbours. I’m not talking about physical boundaries so much but our inner boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others. But if someone over steps the mark in some way we really do need to communicate that in a reasonable way. Obviously it’s very hard if you get met with abuse or the other extreme of a door slammed in your face. What to do then? Well, it really depends on how important the issue is. After all you cannot make someone communicate with you if they choose not to. But sometimes we have to bite the bullet and take the first step. Maybe we have to take a good hard look at our own actions, which might not be very pleasant for us but is necessary in order to evolve into better people.

In my experience, neighbourly fallings out are usually to do with egos – theirs and mine! We wait and expect the other to back down and when they don’t we get angry and frustrated. It’s like two mountain goats locking horns and not moving. Have you ever seen that? They lock horns and then nothing happens until one or the other backs down. Of course this is the natural way for mountain goats but we are human beings and we really don’t have to do that do we? Sometimes we need to have a bit of humility when dealing with neighbours. now, humility is NOT weakness – far from it. Humility is about not allowing one’s ego to run away with you. Also in humility there is great strength. Consider these two phrases:

1) What the fuck are you doing? I told you to keep the noise down but you just blare it out constantly and I’m bloody fed up with it!

2) Excuse me but I have asked you before to turn your music down. Do you think you could do so again please?

Which neighbour would you rather deal with? I know I’d be more willing to listen to neighbour (2).

It’s more a case of ‘how’ we speak rather than ‘what’ we speak isn’t it. Also choosing the right time to speak to neighbours. Don’t go round when you’re angry – allow a cooling off period when you can better think straight and are calmer.

Now, I’ve not always been the nicest neighbour in the world, in the past I could swear and shout with the best of them. But I’ve learnt to be more diplomatic and consider all options before I go wading in. Even if I don’t agree with what my neighbour is doing I can either choose to ignore it (assuming it isn’t something diabolically illegal or abusive), or I can do something about it. But I’ve found that trying to be reasonable often proves the better way. If I don’t get anywhere with that I can turn to other means which may mean getting someone else involved like a landlord or the police if it’s that bad. But trying to communicate in a reasonable way is always the first, and often the best, option.

There is enough bad feeling in the world, so let’s all try to get along with each other in peace and harmony today.