Category Archives: Control

#augustbreak2013 Day 17


wildunknownmailI bought my first tarot deck 20 years ago. I love all kinds of divination practice — I Ching, tarot, Q-Cards. I know there are those who consider it a dark art, of the devil, but I believe it’s a way of communicating directly with God (whatever name you use for this wise and compassionate energy). It’s like prayer, opening my heart and listening deeply for answers to my questions, a way of requesting guidance.

I spent a lot of time choosing my first deck, researching different styles, considering image and color, meaning and origins. It even mattered to me where I bought the deck, it had to be the right place. I ended up with a Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, drawn by illustrator Pamela Colman Smith from the instructions of academic and mystic A. E. Waite, one of the most popular decks, a good one for beginners. I bought it in Boulder, Colorado at the Lighthouse Bookstore on Pearl Street.

me with that first deck, maybe even the first reading, 20 years ago

me with that first deck, maybe even the first reading, meaningful enough that we took a picture

I only used them a few times before a friend asked to borrow them. Now I know better, that your deck has to be yours, that it’s a sacred relationship and you can’t loan that out. At the time, I said “okay,” and I never saw that deck again.

It’s taken 20 years to get another. In the meantime, I used the I Ching and my Q-Cards, or sometimes would even use a book — making a request for guidance, some kind of sign, opening the book to a random page, reading a line or paragraph and considering what truth it contained for me.

With my new deck, I’d seen it around for awhile. People I love and respect use it, and there was just something about it that spoke to me — the dark hand drawn lines, the bright colors, the story of the artist, The Wild Unknown, “founded on the belief that there is a place of wonder, gentle beauty, and clarity within each of us.”

wildunknownfirstcardI pulled my first card this morning. I asked the deck what message it had for me and took a card without even shuffling — because this was the card the deck came to me with, brought to me of its own accord, no shuffling necessary, it came ready to tell me what it had to tell. I pulled it, the Eight of Swords, and recognized it right away, felt a “yes” deep in my belly. This cocoon metaphor has been with me for awhile, the transformation from one manifestation to another that requires a complete melting of everything into a soup of nothing, eventually reconstructing as something beautiful with wings, tender and fragile but possessing the power of flight.

Even so, at first I was disappointed. The message is “trapped, powerless,” believing yourself a victim, “no way out, no available choices.” This touched a nerve, a raw and tender spot in me, and at first I resisted it — I am not a victim, I always take personal responsibility for my experience. I propped the card up on my desk and set my meditation timer for 15 minutes, contemplating what it might mean for me that “Your perceptions keep you from opening your wings and taking flight.”

The card asks if the suspension is because of you or others, and the more I looked at the card, the better I understood its message — I am the one holding myself still, the reason I am not free. This is why there is a Ganesh on my writing desk and why I sometimes chant his mantra, Remover of Obstacles, knowing that I am the only thing in my way. It is me creating the trap. I placed each of those swords, believing they would protect me. What I didn’t understand when I made that tight, sharp circle is that I’d also trapped myself. Any attempt to spread my wings, to move from that spot, and I’d slice my wings to bits. Stuck.

wildunknowneightofswordsUnderlying this desire to protect myself is a fundamental confusion, not just that THIS isn’t a safe place, but that safety is even possible. There is no safe place. No matter what I do, change is inevitable, impermanence is real. The only true freedom is to accept that, surrender to the truth that safety and control aren’t possible, to let go of certainty altogether. I can’t keep myself safe. I can’t keep Sam or Eric safe. I couldn’t keep Kelly or Obi or Dexter safe. I can’t keep anyone or anything I love safe, ever. I have no control, no power over what happens. There is no secret, no protection.

We have so much fear of not being in control, of not being able to hold on to things. Yet the true nature of things is that you’re never in control. You’re never in control. You can never hold on to anything. That’s the nature of how things are. ~Pema Chödrön

In allowing this truth, I’m able to see situations as workable, able to be of benefit, to do what I can to ease suffering. To do so requires a simple and yet almost impossible choice, “Real safety is your willingness to not run away from yourself,” (Pema Chödrön).

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: Being highly sensitive is both a blessing and a curse. I was born completely porous, raw and naked and open wide. I had no defense, no barrier between myself and the world, myself and others. What you felt, I felt, and I felt it deeply. For years, I wore heavy armor (invisible yes, but heavy and hard nonetheless) and masks, cocooned myself, padded my body with extra weight, distracted with smoke and mirrors, hid myself away, anything I could to do to protect myself.

What I didn’t understand yet is that this sensitivity, this keen emotion, acute intuition, deep knowing, this tenderness was something that others spent their lives trying to achieve, that there were many ancient practices to teach one to be so openhearted, so present, spacious and awake. I had what others wanted, what they worked so hard to experience. I have slowly allowed my gentle self to peek out, have been working with being vulnerable and brave, keeping my heart open, but it’s so hard sometimes–the beauty and the brutality, the tenderness and the terror can be so overwhelming.

2. Truth: “You should put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help someone else with theirs.” I was chanting this silently last night as I tried to fall asleep. My worrying about Dexter wasn’t letting me rest, mind or body, and I was exhausted. That phrase was the thing that kept coming back to me, the only thing that was helping. No “he’s fine” or “everything’s going to be okay” or general allowing or accepting of reality or releasing of attachment would work, but the awareness that I needed to take care of myself or I wouldn’t be of any help to him did.

3. Truth: I can’t control everything, and perfection is impossible. I know this, deep down know it, and yet I keep acting as if it’s not true. I keep Dexter home from hiking, thinking I can keep him safe, and he hurts himself chasing after a squirrel in our backyard. I feed my dogs the best possible food, provide the best health care, give them tons of exercise and affection, take better care of them sometimes than I do myself, and still two of them have been diagnosed with fatal cancers. I obsess about Dexter’s physical therapy and medications and various appointments, thinking I can fix him, keep him safe, when no matter what I do, he will eventually die, as all mortal things do. I try to be so careful and prepared and diligent and alert, but bad things still happen. Things break, feelings get hurt, mistakes are made. I am not always responsible, and even when I am, I am forgivable, still loveable. I am trying to do as Karen Salmansoh suggests and, “Let go of what you can’t control. Channel all that energy into living fully in the now.”

One Wish: That we can approach our experience, our struggle and suffering, with great gentleness and a loving presence. That when we despair, are afraid and sad, we can experience some ease, remember our innate strength, have confidence and find comfort in our fundamental wisdom and compassion. And as Hafiz says, “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”