The Hungry Ghosts

the hungery ghostsToday’s card is The Hungry Ghosts from Collette Baron-Reid’s beautiful deck Wisdom of the Hidden Realms. Who are the Hungry Ghosts? Anything that keeps you from being in the present – thoughts, memories from the past, attachment to things gone, attachment to things you haven’t yet got, worries concerning your future, feelings of lack, striving for unobtainable things etc. The list can be long but I hope you get my drift.

We all suffer from these hungry ghosts and yes, the word is suffer. By not allowing ourselves to be fully present in the moment we suffer as these hungry ghosts do their work. We keep them alive, feed them with our sorrows, our depression, our anger, our negativity. We feed them and thus empower them and then become trapped in their web. Sad to say we are our own worst enemies aren’t we. But you knew that didn’t you. Quite often we just throw up our hands in despair and ask ‘but what can I do about it?’, while the ghosts gorge on our sufferings.

But oh, they do look pretty don’t they? That is the trick of our minds. We become lovers to our suffering; to the point that we think it’s natural and real. We don’t want to let them go do we? We say ‘oh but it’s not easy’ and that’s our excuse for allowing them in to wreak havoc on our lives.

I speak from experience, and yes, I do allow these hungry ghosts to sup from my table at times, It is the human condition to want to engage with them. However, I know from experience that when I’m fully in the present, without thinking about the past or the future, I send these ghosts away for a while and allow my true self, spirit, to be present and then the joy and happiness is revealed. Of course it still means I might have lack, or sorrow or whatever, but I sit with these things and accept them just for what they are. They have no stranglehold on me.

Performing the Despacho ritual the other weekend was an important step in letting go of the food that feeds the hungry ghosts. Of course they are still there but they have no hold on me, at present. And I have the power to allow them back in or not and I choose NOT!

There is always a possibility that I will feed the hungry ghosts again but being aware of this allows me the power to not feed them – a choice. We do have a choice in how we walk through life. There is always a choice.

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The Keeper of the Scales

the keeper of the scalesWho is the Keeper of the Scales? The Goddesses Maat, Isis and Themis are all personifications of fairness and balance, associated with scales of justice. Weighing things up, good or bad, right or wrong. The thing is to achieve a balance in our lives and that’s not easy. When we are out of balance, either too high on happiness or contentment – this can lead to us to becoming ungrateful and taking things for granted. The other way, when we are bowed down with the heaviness of sorrow, or just plain stress leads to depression and the giving up of joy and hope. Both these are unbalanced.

I know when I become unbalanced and can feel both these extremes at times. The lesson is to bring myself back into balance with the universe. How do you do that? And what does being balanced ‘feel’ like? Well, it’s not easy, at least I haven’t found it so. For me it meant becoming aware of myself and the world around me, dealing with my ego, which is a hard thing to do and brings up aspects of myself I’d rather not look at thank you very much. But it has to be done. I HAVE to look at my selfishness, my jealousy, my sorrow and my anger. I HAVE to learn to accept the past and truly know it IS the past. Nothing can change it – it was what it was! So acceptance is very important.

So is forgiveness. however, forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending it’s all alright. It means letting go. People have done wrong to me and I’ve done wrong to others too. I am truly sorry. I cannot speak for those who have done wrong to me but I forgive them. Mainly because they were not aware. How can you be held responsible if you’re not aware? I’ve learnt valuable lessons from the hurt and disappointment and I’m actually grateful for that. Through becoming aware I can see the lessons now.

I can forgive myself for the hurt I’ve caused others. Yes, there will always be a certain amount of guilt and sorrow that I will always carry with me and that is my karma but I no longer have to wear a hair cloth shirt and beat myself up continually. If I’d been aware in the past I’d have done things differently but I was not aware.

What does balance feel like? It feels like a calmness, an inner serenity, a mindfulness. Of course mindfulness is a daily practice and if I don’t do this with awareness then the serenity and calmness diminishes. Bring myself back to the present moment – what needs to be attended to? What do I need to direct my undivided focus on? Everything you do, do it with awareness and mindfulness, do it with beauty and joy in mind. Even if feeling sorrowful, honour your sorrow – your tears are precious. Are you happy? Then honour your laughter too.

Allow the universe to guide you in all things. When we forge ahead with our ‘ego’ wants we can become unbalanced. The ego tells us it needs such and so forth but in reality we don’t need this. We only think we do. Get out of your head and into your heart, for that is where true balance lies.

The Eagle King

the eagle kingI decided to use a different oracle deck. I’ve been drawn to use Collette Baron Reid’s Wisdom of the Hidden Realms and pulled The Eagle King today.

Rather pertinent I think – about seeing the bigger picture, a vaster perspective, just like the eagle does. Sometimes I do feel like I cannot see the wood for the trees and feel as though I’m going around in circles, both in my mundane life and spiritually. Really I suppose this is sometimes necessary, so one doesn’t miss the lessons and gets another chance at mastery but it’s also good to just allow Spirit to fly like an eagle and know that one’s prayers are reaching The Source, the universe. We, as mere humans, just cannot see all – we’re too puny, but Spirit can and does. At times things might be hidden from us because it’s just not the right time, or we are not ready for the next step but rest assured that time will come, at ‘just’ the right moment.

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.

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.