Strength

Strength, from The Brightwing Tarot Deck, by me and AI.

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Quest, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the tarot cards. I have been using the tarot as a tool for deep inner understanding and spiritual growth and development since 1992, and I thought it was time to do a public exploration of some of the ways in which this tool has helped me to learn more about myself and my connection to others and to the Holy One.

So much of the work of The Fool in this journey through the major arcana of the tarot is related to deepening the understanding of the ego. Meet this mentor or wise person, humbly learn at their feet, and joyfully integrate this new learning into the ego, building and nurturing your identity as you go.

“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.”
—Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Today’s step on the pathway is Strength. How does your ego integrate the concept of strength? The traditional card is an image of a woman closing the mouth of a lion, not with angry force, but with the power of her ego-engagement with the lion. Her strength does not brutalize or dominate the lion, but meets it head on, trusting that she is a match for the powerful creature in her presence. The Brightwing card shows a woman and a leopard contemplating a mountain, a meeting of daunting and powerful beings, all in balance and equal engagement with each other.

When strength gets muddled with force, our intention to be strong can get focused outward, harming others with our domination and power rather than finding Strength within. Often the people who dominate and force others to their will on the outside are people with very little inner strength, whose egos run roughshod over the lives of others.

What The Fool learns at this stage of the journey is to meet challenges with inner strength instead of outer force, to stand up for her own needs and desires without trampling the needs and desires of others. She becomes a safe space for herself, and for others. Her ego is so intact, so solid, that she does not need to do harm in order to command the situation.


Gratitude List:
1. The Truth-tellers
2. Chicory, day lily, Queen Anne’s lace, buttercup, summer flowers
3. Wise friends
4. Nurses
5. Summer
May we walk in Beauty!


“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” —Richard Rohr


Marc Chagall: “In life there is a single color, it is the color of love.”


“Each of us faces a time when the holy well within needs tending. When we’re no longer able to bestow blessings on others because we’ve overgiven, or when something precious has been taken from us, or life’s demands are too great on our fragile system. But when the moisture goes out of our lives, and we’re no longer able to see beauty or converse with magic, we must ask ourselves how we can replenish our well-ness.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“We never belonged to you. / You never found us. / It was always the other way round.” —Margaret Atwood


“Would you like to have an adventure now, or would you like your tea first?” —JM Barrie


“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” —Zora Neale Hurston


“. . .The knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth…” —Carl Jung


“Listen. . .with the ear of your heart.” —The Rule of St. Benedict


“It’s always the beginning of the world.
Even if you don’t call yourself an artist, you have the potential to be a dynamic creator who is always hatching new plans, coming up with fresh ideas, and shifting your approach to everything you do as you adjust to life’s ceaseless invitation to change.
It’s to this part of you—the restless, inventive spirit—that I address the following: Unleash yourself! Don’t be satisfied with the world the way it is; don’t sit back passively and blankly complain about the dead weight of the mediocre status quo.
Instead, call on your curiosity and charisma and expressiveness and lust for life as you tinker with and rebuild everything you see so that it’s in greater harmony with the laws of love and more hospitable to your soul’s code.” —Rob Breszny

Advent 20: The Last Day to Walk In

If this journey into the December darkness is a labyrinth, today we have come to the second to last turning, the final passage before we turn inward to the center circle. Today is the approach, the last moment in the labyrinth walk, when I am usually asking myself, “Have I missed anything that I need to lay down, to let go of, to relinquish?”

Inanna gave up–willingly–all her symbols of personal power in her underground search for her sister, until at last she came to the deep central chamber naked and unadorned. No pretense, no mask, no tool, could hide or protect her when she entered the chamber to greet her sister, who was all moving shadow, all hidden secret.

What are the last unexamined scraps of our deep selves that we have left unexamined? What personal power have we yet failed to turn over to the guards at the gates?

Yesterday while I was folding clothes, I listened to LeVar Burton read the short story “Navigators,” by Mike Meginnis, about a boy and his father who play a video game whose heroine, instead of gathering powers as the game progresses, slowly gives up her powers. Each item they find in their hero’s journey disables something of the video character’s power. As she lost strength and speed, they began to notice other hidden aspects of the game, places they could hide, and ways their hero could escape rather than fight. It struck me how much this is like the Inanna tale.

So much there is that I want to fight for. I don’t want to enter this next doorway defenseless. If I am going to keep participating in this battle for justice for the children, for those who seek asylum and justice, for the planet herself, don’t I need to keep my fighting powers intact? Don’t I need to gain strength and power instead of letting it all fall away?

And there, I think, I am beginning to come toward the kernel that I might be trying to learn in this year’s labyrinth. In November, I experienced a significant hit to my ego, a sideways blow that made me question myself and my sense of belonging. Trying to respond with vulnerability and yet maintain my sense of safety took a great deal of inner energy. I raged a little bit that fate would keep bringing me this particular lesson–Didn’t I do the chapter on ego back in 2003? Haven’t I been through all the review sessions? Haven’t I already passed all the levels of this test?

There’s always one more test. You’re never really done. I stand here and hold my fragile ego in my hands, my own words from past lessons and tests ringing in my ears: Begin the lesson again. Lay it down. Break it open. One. Final. Thing.


Gratitude List:
1. Punctuation. I put a couple little punctuation jokes on the the board yesterday. Most of my classes smiled politely, but one class suddenly broke into an intense discussion of how we use punctuation in texting and social media these days, how it’s changing, how punctuation has suddenly become necessary to help create the emotional context for digital communication. It took twenty minutes of the class period, but it was such delightful intellectual analysis that I was happy to set aside the plan.
2. Those bright and shiny student brains and hearts. In three classes, we concluded Julius Caesar yesterday. At the end, I asked them to consider their own ideals for their countries. What is the purpose of a government? What should be the relationship of government to people? In two of the classes, more than five countries were represented, and in all of them were students from both sides of the US political spectrum, but in all three classes, the ideals brought forth were the same.
3. Examining the last shreds of ego to relinquish to December darkness. Today is the last leg of the inward journey. Tomorrow is the dark and quiet inner chamber. And then we begin walking toward the light.
4. Breaks from the routine.
5. Pops of color in the grey.

May we walk in Beauty!

Walking Through the Veil of Ego

Cacao

Gratitude List:
1. Last night’s choral concert at LMH.  Incredible music.  My children were singing the opening lines of “Here We Come A-Caroling” all evening: Ba-ba-da-dum!
2. The pottery mural in the chapel foyer. Tiles that reference cultures around the world.  Clay pots.  Vessels.  Diverse colors, textures, designs.
3. Lights at ends of tunnels.
4. Choices.  I can respond in anger and disgust, or I can choose to give the anger and disgust a nod of acknowledgement, and then say, “What does this situation need of me?  What is my work here?”  So often, an available choice becomes clear when I can walk through the veil of my own ego-based response–I don’t manage this nearly as as often or as gracefully as I would like, but I can be grateful that the opportunities to practice keep appearing.
5. Micron and Prismacolor pens: .005 is my favorite right now for spidery little lines

May we walk in Beauty!  <Ba-ba-da-dum!>