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

Mandalas


A filter manipulation of a bouquet of lisianthus and mint. Not a mandala, but yes, a mandala.

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
—Mary Oliver
*
“Arm yourself with love and knowledge, and let’s work together for justice.” —Regina Shands Stoltzfus
*
“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
*
“Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest, and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy. For when we betake ourselves to the extreme opposite of the ego, we can behold a situation from the aspect of God.”
—Abraham Joshua Heschel
*
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
― James Baldwin“
*
The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible — and achieve it, generation after generation.” —Pearl S Buck
*
“May the sun bring you new energy by day;
May the moon softly restore you by night;
May the rain wash away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk through the world
and know its beauty all the days of your life.”
—Apache blessing


Gratitude List:
1. This kid, who is taking days and days to transfer our photo files from the old hard drive onto the cloud. I just kept saying I would do it some day, and now it’s just getting done!
2. Storms. Good solid, soaking rain.
3. Meeting another mostly-FB friend, and finding a real kindred spirit
4. Mandalas
5. Looking at old videos of the boys when they were babies. Reminiscing.

May we walk in Beauty!

Strength


The word itself, you know?
That single vowel that holds
the whole thing together.

It could go straight or striped or stringy,
but that itself is the strong one,
holding the word for the full length.

Like you, it may seem to carry
the whole world on its shoulders.
Like you, it has the necessary strength.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
Tomorrow, the Fool goes to meet the wise one in the wilderness. Call him the hermit. Call her the witch in her cottage–Baba Yaga, perhaps? Or one of the Abbas or Ammas of the desert. Tomorrow, the Fool visits the wise elder who has left society behind in order to concentrate on that which is sacred and holy, to walk an inner journey. The hermits and crones, the Abbas and the Ammas, carry their lights with them into the shadows. They know that the pathways lead inside the seeker.

Gratitude List:
1. A day off. Time out of time.
2. Fire. One boy spent hours building and maintaining a fire this morning.
3. Sand. Another boy spent hours playing in the sand today.
4. Spring. Sometimes I don’t realize how hard winter has been until spring comes. I realize that I have been living as though I would always be in the shadows and chill of this past winter. I don’t think I realized how deeply November dragged me down. But spring is here, finally, and I can live outdoors again.
5. Walking. A boy and I walked two miles this afternoon–down Schmuck Rd. to Canadochly where a small flock of sheep and baby lambs was grazing, and back up to the top of the ridge where Schmuck meets Mt. Pisgah and a horse and three cattle-folk watched us pass, then back down to home again.

May we walk in Beauty!

Finding Your Fire

Today’s poem is for several of my friends, women of strength and courage, who inspire me with their continued dogged pursuit of the truth of their own voices: When no one seems to be listening; when others actively deny and twist their truth; when they doubt their own courage. They keep walking, keep speaking, keep wrestling. May they find their fire.

My lovely wanderer, my lonely pilgrim,
I have watched how you place your feet
so gingerly on the burning coals,
walking this pathway you never intended.

I have heard how you wrapped yourself
with the voice of the wind, and raged, like Lear,
in the cruel embrace of the storm.
I would have been your Fool in that lightning.

I have witnessed you wrestle the truth
from the burning jaws of the dragon,
standing your ground when no ground
seemed there to support you.

Oh Friend, may your voice be born of the flames,
may your spirit enkindle and blaze up,
born from the pain and the truth
you have bought with your grace and your courage.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
Ah, well isn’t this just about perfect? Today the Fool found her fire. Tomorrow, she learns about Strength. Not the strength which is synonymous with force and violence, not strength which shows itself in the vilest threats, with the biggest bomb, with the fiercest snarl. This is the strength that knows itself, the power that calms the raging lion and gently closes its mouth, the protester who places a flower in the barrel of a gun, the lone figure in front of the tank on Tiananmen Square, the tulips that emerge after the late March snowstorm.

Gratitude List:
1. Berkeley Breathed
2. Another osprey. Yup. Four in a week.
3. Bleeding Hearts. All sorts.
4. Finding Fire
5. You. You have such strength and courage. You inspire me.

May we walk in Beauty!