Five of Cups with Temperance

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Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Indulge me for a moment while I briefly discuss sports. American sports. Specifically, American football. I promise I’ll make it brief.

In 2008, the New England Patriots went to the Super Bowl, facing the New York Giants. New England waltzed into the Super Bowl having not lost a single game in the entire 16 game regular season, giving them a 18-0 record going into the big game. New York was facing this undefeated team after squeezing into the playoffs as a wildcard with a regular season record of 10-6.

Needless to say, the Patriots were heavily favored to win the Super Bowl. Yet New York was able to beat them in the big game 17-14.

Here’s my belief in the outcome of that game. Had the Patriots lost a game in the regular season they would have probably won the Superbowl.

Nobody save the psychological masochist or the celebrated victim likes to lose. Losing rends from us the last shred of self-confidence we clung to for survival during our final battle. The higher the stakes of the contest, the harder the gut punch we receive with a loss.

The biggest losses we experience, or let me be so bold to say nearly every loss we experience, comes through necessity. When we experience defeat it is a defeat that is necessary and often overdue. The loss tells us that our current trajectory of growth has plateaued, that there was really nothing more for us to gain with a win, and that it is our destiny to rediscover ourselves.

Does a win compel us to look inward to the degree that a loss does? Does one win create as great of an appetite for victory as does our most recent defeat? Now mind you, this is not to say we should make sure we lose or that we should deliberately lay down our swords in the midst of combat just for the sake of experiencing a loss. Au contraire, we should play to the hilt even knowing the odds are stacked against us, for when we lose in light of this, our loss creates an even greater opportunity for us to grow, beyond where we would have otherwise.

Eight of Pentacles with Five of Swords

Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans
Witches Tarot by Ellen Dugan and Mark Evans

Right now the US Open is being held in my backyard. Just a mere nine miles from my house four golfers are about to have a ball smacking showdown over a purse of $1.8 million.

For all of you golf non-aficionados, let me explain a bit about what makes this course and this Open noteworthy: Chambers Bay Golf Course is the youngest course to host a US Open. It is modeled after the Scottish styled links, with less of that lush baby pampering pristine magazine cover golf courses that are standard to our American sensibilities. It’s comprised of fine fescue grass, a grass that does well here in the perpetual blanket of gray and dampness indicative of Pacific Northwest Puget Sound weather. It’s a grass with super thin tight blades that you’ll find in many lawns around here, preferred by type-A landscapers who like their lawns to resemble an active Marine colonel’s haircut. The result in golf is a tight, frictionless, unforgiving turf that offers more bounce and less spin for golfers.

Bear with me… there will be a little more golf talk before going into the Tarot meat…

So here is what we’ve had to contend with from the golf pros competing in this year’s US Open. There have been grouses and complaints about how this course is not up to par for hosting an Open. Yep, I took liberties with that joke. I can hear the eyes rolling like an overshot putt on a double-cut green. Anyway, the pros have remarked on how awful and unreasonable and inelegant and nonsensical this course is for this level of play. With some slight exceptions, the coincidental correlation has been in the scores. The degree of grievance from each pro seems to be directly proportional to the number of strokes they ended up with in each round. Read: the worse they did, the more vocal their criticism of the links.

So here’s the point in all this golf talk and how it correlates rather interestingly to the two cards I drew at random: In order to master any endeavor, one has to practice. One has to apply themselves to a task with so much repetition that it becomes second nature. Think of Mr. Miyagi employing the car waxing technique when training young Danny Laruso in The Karate Kid. Increasing a skill is all about developing technique into an automated response, about making what was once intensely challenging into a fluid and natural exercise.

Once we’ve reached that state of expertise, at what point do we say we cannot possibly get any better? For the best of the best, there is no such thing and there should be no such thing. They know the state of perfection is perpetually out of reach, it’s a brass ring that is really the proverbial carrot-on-a-string. Yet it must be pursued. Once the expert finds themselves on autopilot in employing their demonstrable skillset, they should yearn to find out what can snap them out of their zen of expertise. What better to do that than to face a challenge that rattles them profoundly, that throws the caltrops of the unexpected in their path?

If we find ourselves complaining about not being able to set our cruise control and effortlessly glide through a new challenge of which we believe ourselves to be excellently excellent in meeting, we should instead be thankful. We should have tremendous gratitude to receive the opportunity to challenge ourselves beyond our rote masterdom. We should recognize that if we are being offered a glorious reward for our achievement, we ought to demonstrate that we are able to figure out how to traverse the unanticipated field of barbwire and broken lightbulbs beyond our lauded masterful talents and skills. If we are the best, we have to prove it by meeting the dragon we’ve never met face-to-face.

So to the pros at Chambers Bay (as well as each of us) that are blaming a challenging course for their poor results, I remind them in my best John Houseman mid-Atlantic accent; whoever wins today will have made their money the old fashion way… they will have earned it.

Seven of Wands

Seven of Wands
A man stands elevated in defense against the onslaught of several attackers below

The process of manifestation begins by knowing what we want to attract into our lives. Once we are on the path to creating our desired outcome for ourselves, it is not uncommon for us to have our intentions challenged by others who question our desires.

As we find ourselves working toward our given goals, we may find ourselves having to defend our intentions in the face of external criticisms and doubts. Others might consider our choices foolhardy or unrealistic. They might feel that they have a better idea than we do as to what might be a beneficial outcome for us. When this occurs we may feel that we do not need to defend ourselves against these onslaughts, only to find our silence merely welcomes continued criticism. Continue reading Seven of Wands

Two of Pentacles

Two of Pentacles
A man juggles two pentacles in an infinite loop, two ships ride large rolling waves in the background

If we follow the ideas behind the Law of Attraction, manifesting our desired outcomes in life should be simple, right? Yet all too often it seems to be anything but simple.

We learn that we are supposed to focus on our desired outcome and believe we will receive it unquestionably. We are taught to show gratitude for every thing that comes into our sphere of experience – good, bad, or otherwise. We receive wisdom that stresses the importance of maintaining a positive attitude in order to foster positive results. Yet in the meantime the challenges continue, the struggles manifest, the strenuous effort required of us does not seem to ebb. We begin to wonder if none of these tips on manifestation are working.

The fruits on trees are not the result of a string of unending sunny days. The trees welcome the rainy days, knowing the water from the sky is required to plump its fruit. Several blossoms wither and its petals fall to never bear fruit, giving way to other petals that will produce a greater yield. Strong winds come to strengthen the tree’s trunk, roots and boughs, and some limbs crack and give way to provide necessary rebalancing of weight and energy.

The fruits of our endeavors function the same way. The juggles and struggles create the necessary momentum to bring our desires to fruition. The adversity we encounter strengthens our tenacity and determination, reinforcing our certainty in what we want to manifest. If a given desire falls away during a specific challenge, that desire was meant to expire to ensure the success of an even grander goal.

To use a belabored analogy, life is indeed like a roller coaster. In order to experience the thrill of the exhilarating descent of the car, the air rushing past our face, gravity and inertia pulling the blood into our heads as our endorphins swell with the acceleration, the car first has to make that laborious climb up the steep grade, requiring greater effort with each foot gained as it works against gravity’s relentless demands.

Each obstacle yields a reward, and with each reward received a new obstacle unveils itself. This is the rhythm of life. When we sit beneath the tree feasting on the fruits of our labor, the fruit is that much sweeter when we know it will only last so long. The tree bears only so much fruit, and that which it does bear will fall into decay well before we can consume it all. At that point we must work to help foster a successful crop for the next season, having only the memory of the sweet fruit to sustain us until then.

Five of Wands

Five of Wands
A group of boys brandish a set of sticks, raising them in what appears to be an act of showy bravado

When we are actively pursuing our goals and dreams there are times that we will encounter adversity. This adversity sometimes comes in the form of challenges from other people, where there may be a battle of wills, where another person is competing against us for a favorable position in pursuit of the same goal.

It is during these times that we may feel we need to fight harder, to be more aggressive, to be on the offensive a bit more. We believe we need to show our adversaries that we are determined to win, and whatever is thrown at us to keep us back will only make us more determined to become the victor in our battles against them.

This is when we need to be careful not to lose sight of our objective, of what our goals are. The determination to win can become dangerously precarious to eclipsing our actual objective. It can become more important for us to defeat our adversary rather than to accomplish what we set out to achieve. As a result, the energy we put into becoming a fierce competitor ends up siphoning off the energy required to accomplish our goals.

This is not to say competition is detrimental to success. Competition can provide us a bit of extra incentive. It can encourage us to uncover skills, traits, and talents we were not aware we had. It can provide the impetus to develop our abilities that much further, enabling us to excel in striving to meet our purpose. We do best, however, when we allow ourselves to see competition as a friendly rivalry, when we recognize that it is really a game, that there is true value in every loss as well as every win. We can benefit most from the value of competitiveness when we see it as a tool for self-improvement rather than an assessment of our own value based on whether we win or lose.

Nine of Swords

A man sits up in bed overwhelmed and unable to rest as nine swords loom over him

Understanding the Law of Attraction is a very powerful way to create the life we want. However, just understanding the dynamics of manifestation does not guarantee a smooth and easy life free of all problems, issues, and challenges.

We can control the direction our life takes, the direction we wish to go, but we cannot always control every circumstance that comes into our life. Sometimes we experience circumstances that are simply beyond our control. There may be little to nothing we can do to influence the outcome of a situation. We may just have to hunker down and wait out a passing storm. As we can do nothing to change the weather, we can only ensure we remain safe until the maelstrom moves past.

When we find ourselves in the midst of challenging obstacles it can be difficult to remain still in the chaos. We may feel that if we do not take action we are not dealing with the problem. The illusion of taking action often comes in the form of expending great amounts of mental energy, dwelling on the problems, turning over the circumstances in our heads in an attempt to find an illusive solution to our challenge. Unfortunately this is energy that has been diverted from dealing with the very moment we are in, energy that requires our attention in the present rather than in a future outcome. As a result, we worry instead of sleeping, we ponder our stressful situation rather than enjoying a nice meal or appreciating the time we have with our loved ones.

Worrying and dwelling on problems we cannot act on at that moment in time not only is an exercise in futility, it moves us toward more challenges. The stress we accumulate can lead to health issues, poor communications and fractured relationships, further compounding our anxieties on top of what we are already facing. As the Law of Attraction states that like attracts like, keeping ourselves in a state of stress attracts further stresses into our life. We can do well to take a step back from the situation, sort the elements into what we can influence and what is out of our reach, take action on what we can affect and wait for the remaining storm to pass. When we remind ourselves that we have experienced challenges in the past and have moved through them eventually, we will recognize that this too shall pass.

Page of Swords

A young man readies himself with his sword, looking over his shoulder for whatever might come his way

When we are creating the life we want, we are often bringing new energies into our life that weren’t previously there. To experience this new life we need to learn to live in this new way.

However, nothing new comes naturally or easily. It’s much like buying a nice pair of jeans. The jeans look very attractive there on the shelf. We hold them out and hold them against our bodies to see how they might look on us. We try  them on and walk about in them to make sure they are comfortable for us to wear, to make sure they are adequately sized for us, to make sure our movement is not at all restricted in them. Then we buy the jeans and take them home. But we still need to break them in. We still need to wear them until they reshape themselves to feel completely comfortable, to form to our unique physical frame.

In this way we also have to break in a new lifestyle, an new way of living, a new perspective on our own lives and the world in general. Once we bring into our lives that which we desire, we then have to get used to living with it. This is not without its challenges. Just like the new jeans, as nice as we believe we look when we are wearing them, we still tug and pull at them. We still wash them round after round while they are transitioning from the cut of the template to our custom form.

There are times we have to try new things that we’ve never tried before. We have to take new actions to move us toward the life we want. These actions may feel awkward and challenging. We might begin to step into our new role and be surprised that it doesn’t feel as wonderful as we had initially thought it might. That is because we have not learned to incorporate the new way of being into who we are, into how we define ourselves.

It is at this stage that we often will turn around, abandoning this uncomfortable newness to head back to what was more familiar, more comfortable. It may not have been our ideal, but it was known to us. We had already established nice safe routines in how to negotiate that way of living. We may not have liked some aspects of that way of being, but we had tools and coping mechanisms in dealing with those annoyances.

This is when we need to ask ourselves which we would truly prefer when we look at it with open eyes; would we rather be awkward but excited and on our way into our new lifestyle, or would we rather be comfortable, safe, but unpleasant? If we remind ourselves that the learning period is temporary, and as we learn to live in the new way it will become more familiar, more comfortable, but that it takes time. When we welcome the idea that there will be challenges, there will be missteps and stumbles, there will be obstacles on our way to the life we want, we can accept them as part of the package of positive change, knowing that we’ve earned that which we want through practice, and through courage to face the challenges we encounter on the way.