Friday, November 28, 2014

Peace on Earth Begins with 'Me'

Oh, the holidays…….

Never has there been such a mixed can of nuts as the events, activities and emotions that arise during the holidays.

Having a few dozen seasons of experience behind me, I’ve come to learn a thing or two about this special time of year.

In no uncertain terms, I would describe the holiday experience as both a blessing and a curse. Now, before you start throwing rotten vegetables, and calling me ‘Mr. Scrooge,’ let me explain.

For the record, I love the holidays for all the good it brings. We have beautiful music and breath-taking decorations. There are gatherings, and contact between people who have not seen each other in a year or more.

Overall, people are more generous at this time of year. They are more willing to go out of their way to help someone, and they also tend to be more reflective.

I have to say I love all these things.

What I don’t like with the holidays is the fast-pace, go-go-go, ‘have-to’ atmosphere that accompanies it.

You know what I am talking about. It’s the scheduling and the demands surrounding the responsibilities of the holidays. They sound something like, “I have to get so-and-so a gift.” It could be, “I have to attend so-and-so’s party.” Perhaps it is, “I have to do such-and-such because it is a tradition.” Trust me, there are lots of them. And, I can’t stand it. Yes, as the length of my to-do list gets longer, my ability to see the wonder of the season decreases.

Despite a not-so-subtle undercurrent of people who recommend a boycott-mentality of Christmas, I don’t think that is the answer. Doing so is like throwing the baby out with the bath-water. Christmas and the holiday season are beautiful, wonderful events.

I love the generosity of people this time of year – whether it comes wrapped in beautiful packages or appears as time well-spent during a visit with dear friends. I don’t think we should ever lose that, and I believe we need to let people share their ideas of the holidays in the ways they see fit.

In this month’s A Fool’s Paradise, we encounter The Hanged Man in all his glory. The Hanged Man represents an individual on the cusp of evolution. He is like the person who has grown from the child in awe of the splendor of the holiday season, to the behind-the-scenes adult who serves as an integral part of the magic-making.  He moves forward physically in these tasks, because he understands logically this is what he is supposed to do. But spiritually, he is struggling because he realizes perhaps some of these traditions no longer suit his purpose. The Hanged Man knows something needs to change. He is just trying to figure out what it is, and how he can make it work for his higher self.

And that is why we are here on this earth plane. This is a beautiful place to be, and there is so much to experience and enjoy. It would be a shame to waste this opportunity. However, our souls know we are here to use these experiences only temporarily to learn and become more enlightened. If we stay in a situation that no longer serves us at a soul level, our growth slows to a crawl and we can even backslide. This explains that nagging feeling we get in our chests that urges us on when it is time to make a change. Even though it might be familiar or comfortable to have things stay as they are, we know that can’t happen if we are to evolve from one season of our life to the next.

It is at these points in our lives, we become The Hanged Man. Just like a child’s experience as he matures to see the real magic of the holiday season, we must mature on our paths in life. If we don’t, we cannot grow and we will never assume our true power.

As you head through the holidays and into 2015, use the reflective energy of this month to see exactly where you need to grow, and identify ways to become an active participant in your progress so that you can reach greater heights, and can live the live you were truly meant to live.

Happy holidays! Blessings to you so that you might experience a healthy, positive and powerful 2015. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Keeping it Simple during the Holidays and Beyond

I had planned to write a special column all about gratitude for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. I had great ideas, too. I would cite the wisdom of ancient sages and modern mystics. I would add profound quotes and detailed segues with enriching examples of the value of appreciation. Ah, yes, I had it all mapped out in my mind.

Don't take anything for granted
But then I gave it more thought, and decided in keeping with the wisdom of this month’s Tarotscope and its warning about not getting lost in the grandiosity of our ideas, ADD LINK HERE a less-is-more approach would be much more effective - especially at this busy time of year.

So instead of adding a bunch of superfluous and unnecessary fluff, I will very simply provide an explanation of the importance of expressing gratitude as well as some easy ways to do it this season and throughout the year.

With that in mind, here goes:

Why should we show gratitude all year - throughout the good times and bad?

1. Regardless of how bad things are, there is always something for which to be grateful. Don’t believe it? Look around. You may think you have it bad, but chances are you would not change places with 95% of the people whose life you observe on a daily basis. Why is that? Most likely it is because at some level you realize the extent of the blessings in your life.

      2. Studies show that people who express gratitude regularly are better able to handle stress, have healthier immune systems and feel mentally more alert. So, if you can’t be appreciative for simple reasons, then do is with selfish motives. I have faith that eventually, you will start to feel its power.

      3. Gratitude activates positive thoughts within us and raises our energy vibration. When we elevate our energy, this allows us to attract better situations into our lives.  It’s a positive revolving cycle.

      4. Gratitude pulls us away from a “me-centered” approach to life and into an outwardly-focused life. When we are grateful, we realize life isn’t all about us, our wants and needs. We then connect with a reciprocal energy that shows us how others experience gratitude, and reminds us of our power to bring happiness to others.

      5. It’s just the right thing to do because it connects us with the productive energy of the Universe.

How can we connect with gratitude in everyday life?

      1. Remember the little things are really not that little in the big scheme of life. We tend to prioritize our careers, our possessions and the things we think we need to make our lives better. We forget that the real reason we want these items is to enhance the true gifts of life – our family/friends, our inner spirit, and our health.

2.  Create gratitude moments throughout the day where you stop what you are doing and thank the Creator for the things in life you often take for granted. These can be big things like our well-being and our loved ones. It can also be less-obvious things like a safe trip to work, a warm-bed to sleep in or a walk on the beach on a pleasant afternoon.

3. During stressful situations, attempt to shift your focus to any possible underlying gift this issue may bring. For example the loss of a job could be an opportunity to begin a new career path that fuels your true passion. Or, helping someone combat an illness may allow you the chance to slow down and really get to connect with that person on a deeper and richer level. This is not meant to be a ‘Pollyanna’ and unrealistic approach to dealing with a problem. Instead, connecting with gratitude this way allows you to experience some control over a situation that may cause you to otherwise feel very powerless.

      4. Remember the Law of Attraction tells us that we attract that which is like ourselves. In order to attract ‘good’ things, we need to stay positive and show appreciation for something – anything - regardless of how horrendous the circumstances may appear. Our ‘attitude of gratitude’ is exponential, and is a powerful tool for bringing promise into our lives.

      5. Contact someone who needs a pick-me-up or who would benefit from kind words, and tell them how much you appreciate them. It could be as simple as a text, a phone call or email. If you want to be extravagant, go to the store and grab a card. When you talk, give a specific example of something they did that meant a lot to you. Your sentiments will be a nice surprise and are sure to produce a ripple effect in the world.

      6. Create a gratitude jar. Everyday list one thing for which you are grateful and put the paper in the container. At the end of the week, review the comments and feel a renewed appreciation for all you have been given.

      7.  Be open to the wonders of life, and observe things from a new perspective on a daily basis. Allow a childlike enthusiasm to swell in you as you look for, and discover situations you have never experienced before.

      8. Make every stranger a friend. This does not mean letting your guard down and walking blindly into trouble. Rather it means to greet people in the eye. Smile at them. Say hello. Realize that the vast majority of people are just like you – trying to make their way through the struggles of the world; grateful for any kindness and assistance that is offered to them. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Stress, Schmess... It's No Big Deal

It was 7:28 am when I reached for the bottle of Advil. A Monday in late October, I rode to work feeling as bleak as the leafless trees worn bare from the turbulence of the recent rough weather.

Actually, their stark appearance against the grey sky seemed an accurate reflection of my inner landscape. It is safe to say I wasn’t feeling so hot.

Now, before I explain the source of my angst, please know this is not going to be a “whine-fest.” Rather, I draw attention to these experiences as a way to connect with you, the reader.

My guess is many of you will relate to what I am about to say. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if some of you wave your finger at the screen and say, “Honey, that’s nothing!”

Regardless of where you stand in your personal perspective, my goal in telling you this story is to show how our problems have the ability to strengthen us – both internally, via our resolve, and externally, through our connections to each other.

So, with that in mind, let me explain what had my panties in a bunch that day.

Some of the issues were simple. That morning I overslept, started my day rushing around, and was late to work. In addition, I hadn’t slept well and was feeling the aches and pains associated with the combined effects of a poor slumber and the onset of mild aging. On that same note, I was frustrated with my appearance. In the last year or so, I had added some extra, stubborn weight which I hadn’t been able to shake. My clothes weren’t fitting like they used to and I was frustrated by a persistent lack of energy that prevented me from getting any regular exercise. In a nutshell, I just felt yucky.

Some of these issues were a bit more complex. These included financial worries associated with personal obligations and college tuition for my children, stressors within the dynamics of family relationships that threatened to compound themselves with the approaching holidays, and mounting responsibilities resulting from the juggling of a variety of different tasks associated with my house, my career and my future. Overall, these situations made me feel anxious.

Still, one issue – the major one – had me completely out of sorts because it was something over which I had no control. That morning, I knew my long day at work would be followed by an even longer evening at the local funeral home attending a service for a friend who passed away quite unexpectedly. This was the third unexpected death I had experienced in as many months, and I was struggling to wrap my head around the ‘why’ of it all. If truth be told, this was not just about my friend’s death. For me, this was about accepting the fact that there are just some things in life over which we have no control. The more I tried to ignore this topic of mortality, the more tension I felt all over my body.

 You would think at my age (that’s 47, but let’s keep that a secret, okay?) death would be something over which I would have a better handle. But it is just not the case.  Actually, these three deaths had really rattled my cage and left me feeling emotionally and physically unsettled.

Yes, as I grabbed that bottle, I was hoping against hope those little green caplets would be the elixir by which my exhausted body and soul could find peace. But that was not to be the case. I knew deep down, that all the Advil in the world could not do battle with those yucky, anxious and unsettled feelings.

That is because I knew the reasons for my maladies sat at a level no pill could ever reach. The prescription I needed to ease my discomfort had to come from a much more powerful place – a place of reasoning that could only be found within.

In this month’s A Fool’s Paradise, we get a good look at the Justice card (Major Arcana 11). Among her many attributes, we see that Justice is a conduit of balance – both internal and external. She reminds us that external balance is the direct result of our internal peace. It is not the other way around.

Logically, I already know this fact. But, when caught up in the issues of every-day life, this lesson can be difficult to apply.

As I reflected on the instability around me that morning, something buried underneath the distraction of this chaos began to surface. It was the realization that I would never be able to find peace by attempting to control my outer world. Doing so is tantamount to playing a real-life game of Whack-A-Mole – constantly waiting to pounce on the next problem.

Instead, I was reminded that true peace comes from the self-trust and inner knowledge that we already possess the skills needed to maintain balance and peace in our lives regardless of what the external world sends our way.

By the time we hit mid-life, one starts to realize life does not always work out as planned. While I could hope, because I worked hard and am ‘good’, that everything would be all sunshine and lollipops for me, that thinking is not very realistic.

The truth is we are here to experience all facets of life on this physical plane – that means the good, the bad, and the ugly. If everything went smoothly all the time, our souls would never evolve.

These, the lessons of this life – like the idea of the Justice card – remind us that the only thing we can control is our response to the circumstances and not the circumstances themselves. Instead of panicking in the midst of instability, we are better off asking what we can learn from these situations and how we can grow.

So, the next time I feel yucky, anxious and unsettled, I am sure I will still reach for the Advil. Hey, I am only human after all. However, I won’t expect too much from those little green pills. At best, I will hope they provide enough relief so my pain fades and my head clears long enough to allow me to regain an internal balance and an understanding of the lesson life is offering me at that particular time. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

It's Called Intestinal Fortitude. Get Some.

When I originally wrote my Fool’s Paradise column for The Wheel of Fortune, I was – ironically – in a bit of a ‘Fool’s Paradise’ about the precarious nature of life and the uncertainties of fate.

I wrote the column less than a month ago, and – from a very emotionally safe place - explained the nature of the card. In summary, I stated how it dealt with fate, the ups and downs of life and the impact of the ‘seasons’ we experience in life.
Al at the Marine Corp Marathon

This was approximately one week before a dear friend of mine was killed in a sudden, freak accident at the tender age of 48 – that is less than a year older than my current age. But I don’t think it was his age at the time of his death that upset me so much. Rather, I believe it was the suddenness of it that alarmed me. Well, that and the huge impact his passing had on just about everyone who knew him.

Add to that the guilt from having lost touch with my friend due to family and work responsibilities in the last few years, and you have a dangerous witches’ brew of intense emotional turmoil.

Oh, there were many comments like, “I should have made more of an effort,“ and “If only I had known,” and “I would give anything for one more chance…”  But I knew this thinking was just my conscience seeking a way to sooth itself. I also knew this ‘logic’ was a complete waste of time.

The fact of the matter is there were no more chances, there was no more time and there wasn’t any way we could have known what that day would’ve brought when we woke up that morning.

When I heard about Al’s death, I sank in my seat and wondered why he was chosen. He made this world such a bright place. He was fun. He was adventurous. He had a great sense of humor. He never let things get to him. He was the type of person everyone loved to be around – as evidenced by his memorial service.  The fact is I will never know the reason. I can let it torment me or I can accept what happen despite the sadness I feel.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately and I realized a huge reason I am so sad at Al’s passing (other than the obvious reasons) is because I feel like a part of me died with him. I am not talking about the type of bond one shares in an intimate relationship. That is not how we rolled.

Rather, the loss I feel with Al’s passing is more like the death of a piece of my life – a part of my personality. I hope that doesn’t sound selfish or insensitive, because it is not meant that way. I thought the world of Al and I (will) miss him for all his many wonderful qualities. However, my friendship with Al was forged at a time when we were both young and innocent. Even though we met in our late teens, it is safe to say we grew up – into adulthood – together.

Our friendship connected us both with a time when we were adventurous and carefree. Somewhere along the road – probably around the same time we lost touch - I stopped being adventurous. I started playing it safe, being a mom, and embracing the predictable and comfortable.

Al, on the other hand, was able to maintain that zest for life he always had. He was able to do all the things I did plus keep his passion for living. He didn’t waste time, he didn’t pass up good opportunities and he didn’t mince words. I can actually imagine him reading this column and almost hear him now saying, “Okay, Scannell. That’s enough. Get to the point.”

The point is that Al taught me – both in his life and his death – about the precious (not precarious) nature of life.

Al’s life was a living testament to the energy associated with the Wheel of Fortune card. Al had his ups and downs but he never let either define him. For instance, he arrived into this world welcomed by his family under happy circumstances, but as an adolescent things changed, and he had to learn to depend on himself. These early hardships only served to strengthen his resolve about leading the life he had always dreamed. His wife Tami recently told me one of Al’s favorite quotes was, “Life is hard. Wear a helmet.” I love that because it really epitomizes the veracity of his spirit.

Al was never afraid of the turning of the wheel. He understood at any point, his ‘luck’ could change. That knowledge never deterred him. If anything, it inspired him to ‘seize the day.’ Al was too busy living to worry about dying.

And that was probably Al’s final gift of friendship to me. His passing reminded me that I should dust off that adventurous, fun-loving spirit I packed away years ago. Just like the message of the Wheel of Fortune, Al’s life reminded me that our experiences on earth should not be feared. Rather they should be accepted despite the fact that they can fluctuate wildly between every day joys and unanticipated painful acts of fate.

Al knew that rather than cowering in fear of what might happen, it would be best to embrace each moment for what it brought. This philosophy is the essence of the Wheel of Fortune. Living this philosophy is about being alive and brave in an existence marked by complete uncertainty.

I have thought a lot about my friend in the last few weeks, and I have wondered how he would’ve responded if the tables had been turned – if it had been me who died suddenly in a tragic accident. I wondered what he would think; what he would say as he looked at my pictures during my memorial service. Obviously I can’t know for sure, but I do suspect he would’ve been feeling pretty sad about my death and maybe feeling a little guilty, too. He wouldn’t have liked the situation, but he would’ve been accepting of it. That is the kind of guy Al was – he rolled with the punches.

I know if I had the opportunity to speak with him now, he would tell in no uncertain terms to suck it up and continue on with my life. I think his exact words would be something like, “It’s called intestinal fortitude, Scannell. Get some.” And that is what the Wheel of Fortune reminds us to do: Enjoy the good times, Accept the bad times and Be brave in the face of the uncertainty we call every-day life. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Theresa Caputo a Hermit? Shut up!

On August 18, I was lucky enough to see Theresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, at one of her two shows in Albany, NY. I really enjoyed “The Experience” as she has aptly named her tour.

I went to the show with my teenage daughter, Bailey, who is also a fan. While neither one of us were specifically looking for a message, there was an inkling of hope that maybe – just maybe - my grandmother or one of her paternal grandparents might come through.
Theresa Caputo during "The Experience" tour.
They didn’t. But that is okay. We had no pressing “need” for either of us to receive a message. When we discussed it in the car, we actually said we hope the people who need the readings most are able to get them. 

Interestingly, as I walked out of the theater “empty-handed” for lack of a better term, I realized that indeed I did receive a message from ‘Spirit’ that night.

Before I explain what I mean, let me first talk about Theresa herself. Love her or not, she is a very special person. Despite claims of “plants in the audience” or charlatanism by mainstream reviews, I saw none of that. Really.

What I saw was a woman who believes in herself and in her mission. Like the Hermit in the Tarot, which I write about in this month’s Fool’s Paradise, Theresa is a person who has spent time getting to know herself, her gift and her purpose in life.

Believe it or not, the Hermit and Theresa Caputo are a lot alike. Okay, stop laughing. It is true. Take away the big hair, the polished nails and the bling, and what you have are two individuals who specialize in the delivery of messages.

The Hermit’s messages come when we find a stillness within ourselves. When we quiet the mind and remove ourselves from distractions, we are able to hear the whisper of our inner voice guiding us in the direction we need to move.

Theresa, on the other hand, is anything but quiet. Her classic exclamation, “LARRY!!!!!” is an example of what I mean. However, that doesn’t mean she can’t be a beacon of light for people immersed in the darkness of emotional pain.

As I watched her work, I actually saw a person delivering messages to individuals who either did not know how to quiet the mind and hear them independently or who were too disconnected to realize they had the ability to directly receive these messages themselves.

And therein exists the main difference between the Hermit and Theresa. While Theresa relays the messages for us, the Hermit teaches us how to hear these messages ourselves.

Prior to her actual readings, Theresa spent about 15-20 minutes discussing her background. She pointed out three things she wanted us to know about “the Experience.” I am sure there were more, but these are the ones that really resonated with me.

First, she talked about how she came to know and develop her gift after years of denial. She talked about her fears – both the overt ones we see on her TV show and the more subtle ones which have to do with accepting unfair criticism. She talked about the discomfort that comes from the latter and how she used that as a spring board to develop more confidence about her skills. Her first message to the audience was to never apologize for your gifts.

I tell you, I really connected with this one. As a Tarot card reader and Numerologist, I have run into people who dismiss my abilities because of the intangibility of this skill. I can’t tell you how many times, particularly when I was younger, that I felt as though I had to ‘prove’ myself or defend my gift. It took me a while, but I finally realized that was a drain on my energy. Most of these ‘Doubting Thomas’s’ didn’t want to be convinced. They just wanted to criticize something they couldn’t understand. When you entertain this kind of energy, it is nothing more than a struggle for power. Someone will come out feeling drained, and as though their energy has been taken. I have learned it is best to respectfully disagree and walk away.

Next, Theresa made it very clear that when she reads for people, it is for the sole purpose of healing. Her goal is to ease the pain people feel and clear up the confusion associated with the concept of death.

As a result, Theresa delivered messages with sincerity, humor and, at times, a hard-to-swallow truth. Despite a sold-out crowd of more than 3,000 people, she was able to focus in on specific individuals and deliver important messages. She made direct connections with many people who had lost spouses, parents, children, etc. She brought a sense of peace to them they didn’t have when they entered the theater. Did she always connect? No. Was that always her “fault”? Definitely not.

One difference I noticed about the people with which Theresa was able to deliver messages and the ones with which she struggled to make a connection was what I would describe as “openness.” This is not gullibility I am talking about. What I am describing is awareness. Awareness is a state of mind in which you are fully present and open in thought and action.

The people who successfully received a message from Theresa were individuals who were willing to listen and hear what she had to say. This does not mean they liked the message. It only means they were willing to receive it. Conversely, the people who stood with arms folded across their chests, with their bodies turned in a different direction, with a doubtful look on their face or a rigid structure struggled to find any meaning in her message. When I saw that, all I could think of was, “What a shame. Why are you here if you didn’t want the message?”

And that leads me to Theresa’s third point of the night. This final message – in my opinion - was the most important. It served as a reminder of the power we each hold within ourselves. I will paraphrase her words here as I don’t remember them verbatim. It went something very similar to this, “You know, you can connect with your departed loved ones any time you want. They aren’t waiting for you in the cemetery, and they aren’t following me around. I have my own dead people following me. They are with you all the time. They send symbols and signs to you. Look for that.”

I really liked that final message because it served as a solid reminder to stay present in life and be aware of the power that exists within and around all of us.  Despite my lack of direct communication with Theresa that night, I walked away from her show with what I believed was a personalized message from the Universe.

That message was to stop looking outside of myself for the answers. When I left the theater that night, I was reminded of my ability to access a power much greater than my own; a power that already exists within me.

Interestingly, that is also the message described by the Hermit card. It is about the ability to silence the mind and tap into the divine flow of the soul. By doing so, we receive messages from our higher selves that help us find our best paths in life and create “The Experience” we are meant to have right here on earth. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Let your Inner Light Dispel your Darkest Fears

I don’t know about you, but I have an inner “demon” who knows just the right buttons to push to make me think I am losing my mind. She taunts me with uncertainty when I have a dream in the works. She whispers in my ear that I am not as physically fit as I used to be, and am in need of some dieting help. She turns my mirror into a magnifying glass and feeding from the trough of vanity reminds me that I am not as young as I used to be.

You know who she is, don’t you? You have probably met her  yourself from time to time. What false beliefs does she use to torment you?

Perhaps it is an uncomfortable sense of inadequacy when a neighbor comes home with a brand new car – again. Maybe it is a sense of frustration about a job for which you have little passion or maybe it is this intangible sense of animosity that sits within you, and you are not even sure why it is there.

For what it is worth, everyone struggles with this “demon” to some extent. In case you don’t believe me, this “demon” is your ego. Everybody has one, and it is not the tradition definition of “ego” with which we are familiar.

The ego exists within us almost as a separate entity. Its purpose is to keep our focus on the easy road in life. It draws our attention to “pleasure-seeking events.”

So what is wrong with that?!?! I know that is probably what you are thinking. However, that is not your idea. That is your ego talking.

The problem with that approach to life is that it inhibits our ability to connect with our higher selves. We need to remember we are spiritual beings having a human existing. We came to this earth school to grow spiritually at an accelerated rate. While it is important that we experience many joys and pleasures of this plane, we must also connect with our spiritual side, and grow at a deeper level.

Like the Lion in the Strength card, discussed in this month’s Fool’s Journey, the ego exists only in relation to your outside circumstances. The ego attempts to control your exterior world and convince you that your happiness is dependent on the alignment of outer situations. It is the ego that says, “If only I could lose 30 pounds…”, “If only I had more money…”, “If only I was younger…” The list goes on and on.

The ego is actually quite fragile. It cannot exist on its own. It creates these false outer ideas to convince you the only way to happiness is to avoid challenging, frustrating or upsetting situations in your everyday existence. That alone makes it exist.

If you think about it, a lot of energy is put into avoiding that which we don’t want in life rather than what we want in life. Our focus is on controlling our outer world in an attempt to make our inner world better. The problem here is we need to experience challenges in life to grow. In addition, all this outer chatter blocks communication with our inner, higher self.

The ego is like the student who does not want to do the work to pass the class. He is in school to learn but is under the erroneous assumption that he can learn without doing the designated assignments.

As a result, he avoids, makes up excuses, and puts himself through stress in an order to do less school work. The truth is that it is twice as hard to put these avoidance techniques into play. If he would just put his head down and plod through, the lessons would be learned and with help available.

When we give in to the ego and believe the hype, we become that student avoiding our lessons here in earth school. Our spiritual side does not grow. Like the young student, we are wasting time and energy. We are also adding stress because we are convincing ourselves we have to avoid the very lessons we came here to learn. It really would be so much easier if we put our nose to the grindstone and focused on the lessons. It does not have to be as severe a challenge as the ego would have us to believe. The ego just makes a lot of noise that drowns out our Higher Self and Inner guide. The ego is like the lion in the Strength card that won’t listen to the patient young woman (our Higher Self)waiting to show him a better way.

Unlike the ego, our Higher Self won’t fight for attention because it is against its nature. To do so would make the Higher Self like the ego. Rather, she waits patiently for us to tire of the games and useless antics. When we realize there has got to be a better way to live, it is only then that we can hear her.

By silencing the useless cacophony and increasing the pause between the noises of the ego, we can become aware of a peacefulness unlike anything else we find on this earth. And, that is because what we find in those spaces is not of this plane. It is in these moments we hear the voice of our inner teacher guiding us through our lessons on true confidence, strength and divine purpose so that we can make the most of our time here on earth. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Always Keep Your Eye On The Prize

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

In my opinion, there is no better sentiment that so effectively sums up the idea of the Chariot (Major Arcana card 7).

This line is believed to have originated in a poem written by Alexander Pope. The piece, entitled An Essay on Criticism, attacks the literary critics of the day who were so quick to pass judgment on the work of others – while at the same time never quite creating any quality work of their own.

Although other notable figures of our past (such as Edmund Burke and Abraham Lincoln) have used this line to relay messages of caution, I prefer the initial interpretation as delivered in the original work by Pope.

Without getting into a full analysis of the poem, it is safe to say that Pope had little respect for individuals who criticized the efforts of others when they really had no basis for claiming expertise in a given area. His anger was directed at self-absorbed, arrogant pseudo-aficionados who claimed to have a real feel for the literary pulse of the era. One of Pope’s biggest gripes was with the damage these self-appointed demagogues were doing to the young writer’s reputation both within their own being and within society.

Understandably, Pope found the critics’ irresponsible rush to judgment both self-serving and counter-productive.

We all know people like this don’t we? These are the Negative-Nellies of the world. They look for any reason to criticize your progress and effort. Often times, they are cloaked as friends, co-workers or relatives, and offer a feigned-concern for your well-being. They watch as you undertake an activity they are too afraid to complete themselves. Sometimes, they secretly wish for your failure – not because of a personal dislike for you, but because they interpret your success as  a sign of their own inadequacy. They see that you have accomplished something great, and now they have no excuse to give about why they are sitting on the sidelines.

The fact is these people will always be around. Just like the ideas expressed through the Chariot card (from this week’s Fool’s Paradise), critics will always be there and will attempt to drive you in a direction that is really your polar opposite. Rather than perseverate on their negative energy, your focus should be on the goal. There will definitely be trials and tribulations. You can expect to fall and fail as you move toward your plans. However, you will not be defined by your failures. Instead, they will serve as stepping stones, turning points and inspirations.

I believe failures really are blessings in disguise. The purpose of failure is to stop us when we are moving in the wrong direction. Failure tells us what is not working, so we can switch directions and see what does work. Think about it. So many great people in history experienced repeated failure before they eventually succeeded. This struggle made their successes so much sweeter for them, and motivating for us. Don’t believe me? Look up these names: Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Abraham Lincoln, The Wright Brothers, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. Those are just a few.

My guess is these people had lots of naysayers around them, but they did not listen. They embraced the energy of the Chariot and rushed in with the enthusiasm and courage of the Fool. That is how we must live our life. We only go around this way once and we don’t want to have regrets. When we become like the Chariot, our higher-self triumphs. Even if we never reach our targeted goal, our spirit grows because we kept our eyes on the prize. That alone is one of the greatest victories we can achieve in this lifetime.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Greatest Love of All - June 2014

"You complete me.”

Remember that line? It was from the movie Jerry McGuire, a story about a sports agent who was fired after expressing his opinions about the hypocrisy rampant in his chosen career field. The irony is that Jerry was the biggest culprit of this behavior. He was the one that all the other agents tried to emulate. That was because on the outside, he had it all – a great job that had him traveling all over the world and rubbing elbows with the “who’s-who” of the sports world. He had a beautiful fiancĂ©, great wealth, an excellent reputation in his career and the admiration of his peers. From the outside looking in, he was living the dream.
And then it happened.

Jerry had a crisis of conscious. One night, as he sat alone in a hotel room, he had a breakdown – or perhaps a breakthrough depending on how you look at it. Jerry realized that while his chosen career had brought a lot to his 30-something lifestyle, there was something missing in his life. He knew there had to be more to his life than what he was doing. He wanted to believe he could use his profession to make a positive impact on the world. Feeling this great disparity between where he was at and where he should be, Jerry created a manifesto of sorts, mass produced copies and shared it with everyone attending the conference.

Let’s just say, it wasn’t as well-received as Jerry had expected it to be.
Within a very short period of time, Jerry lost his clients, was fired by his agency, and dumped by his materialistic and shallow fiancĂ©. All Jerry thought he knew about himself, his lifestyle, his friends, and his career disappeared. It was Jerry – alone against the world.
You think his crisis of conscious was a challenge before this? Guess what it was like after- when he was caste out from his safe and familiar niche and into a cold and lonely world, naked and afraid. Jerry now had to come to terms with who he really was, and learn how he fit into a world that did not share his ideals. He struggled unsuccessfully for quite a while to identify his path. He floundered because he refused to become the person he knew he should be. He thought it was easier to go back to what he knew.  Instead of going forward, he straddled the fence between the life that was familiar and the life he knew deep in his soul he was supposed to lead.

Eventually, Jerry did begin to walk-his-walk, and talk-his-talk. His “Come-to-Jesus” moment happened when he decided to become the sports agent about whom he wrote his mission statement. It was a painful evolution and there were a lot of bumps and bruises along the way. However, the movie does end happily ever after when Jerry was able to establish a sports management agency true to his beliefs, and eventually win the love of a supportive woman who shared his dreams.

This leads us to the famous line near the end of the story, “You complete me.” It happened when Jerry realized the very thing he really wanted in life had been there all along –waiting to be recognized and appreciated.  Although Jerry says this to his wife, Dorothy Boyd, in an attempt to convince her to take him back, you can’t help but see that Jerry himself had finally come into his own. The epiphany that started that night in the hotel room with the manifesto had finally manifested itself on earth. It was no longer an idea. It became the reality of his life, and Jerry became the person he was supposed to be. When he filled in the missing pieces of his own puzzle, Jerry was able to develop self-love which led him to the love of Dorothy. Her love was merely a reflection of his self love.
And therein lies the big secret of the Lover’s Tarot card. When this card arrives in a spread it will often signal a significant romantic relationship. This is a relationship that shows deep love, commitment and connection between the partners. This is the kind of love for which everyone yearns.

However, what people don’t realize is that if you want that deep “once-in-a-lifetime” kind-of love, you need to first give it to yourself. You need to complete yourself before anyone can complete you. Think about it. If you go into a relationship with “holes” in your being, then you will look to the other person to fill them. This is not only unfair to everyone involved, it is damaging to the other person. If you don’t love yourself enough, from where will the other person get the energy to fill your holes? By expecting them to complete you, you are taking away from their essence. You will suck the love from them without returning a healthy love in return.
This may be an unpopular statement that annoys people, but it is true.
The only way you can hope to ever have a “complete” relationship with another is to have a complete relationship with yourself. Read that line again!

To be part of a healthy union, you must be comfortable with who you are. You must enjoy your own company. You must have your own interests, and believe your own truths. That is the only way you will attract people who share the healthy patterns you desire in your life.
Your other option is to live an existence like Jerry had at the beginning of the movie –nice on the outside and hollow on the inside. While that may seem okay for a while, it gets old quick. You realize the questionable people around you are merely a reflection of the relationship you are choosing to have with yourself, and it becomes impossible to look at yourself in the mirror when you know the biggest betrayal in your life is the one you are choosing to inflict on your true self.

Let Your Light Shine - May 2014

Human beings are such creatures of habit. Most of us have a daily routine we follow religiously – we wake at a certain time, have a specific morning ritual, go to work by a specific route, come home by a specific route and usually try to follow a comfortable evening schedule.

Even within our days we have mini-routines. For instance, at work we may have a very clear approach to how we handle a specific task, organize a project or run a meeting. As a species we tend to gravitate toward the familiar and shy away from change.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. I am willing to bet this habit was learned via thousands – possibly millions – of years of evolution. You stick with what you know and with what works. As a result, you survive.

Our attachment to the familiar has also created an enriched environment where celebrations and milestones distract us from some of the more turbulent episodes that mark our life journeys. We have baby showers, baptisms, birthday parties, proms, graduations, weddings, anniversaries and vacations. We even celebrate the completion of a life well-live through the ceremony of a funeral.

We have gone so far as to structure our society in a way that encourages the honoring of these rituals. We have governments created to maintain order and protect the people from potential dangers. This keeps the physical body safe. We have schools set up to educate the youth about important concepts that will help them be successful in this well-ordered society. This cultivates the mental faculties of the individual. Finally, we have churches. These institutions are here to guide the soul in its earth-bound journey until it is able to reunite with its original source.

Yes, ritual has been a natural part of life for much of human existence and we often cling to them. While these structures were set up for noble reasons, there can be a very dark side to their existence.

We must be careful not to use these rituals, and the organizations that support them, as a place in which to hide from our true life purpose. We must remember that we did not come to this earth simply to physically exist, regurgitate memorized facts, and proselytize beliefs that don’t truly resonate with the core of our being.

The sad fact is that too many of us are doing this. We are afraid to stand up for what we know at our soul levels to be true. We are afraid of criticism and ostracism, and the consequences these types of punishment bring. We forget why we came to this earth and abandon our true gifts. As a result, we hide our inner light from the world and lose connection with our higher selves. We must realize that this type of follow-the-herd existence is far more empty than any life where one chooses to blaze his or her own path.
In this month’s A Fool’s Paradise, we discuss The Hierophant. His is a role of teaching and guidance. He reminds us that there is a time in everyone’s life where it is important to be the student; to learn from those who came before you.

But, The Hierophant also reminds us that there is a time for every one of us to lead; to bring forth our gifts and make this world a better place because we were alive in it. Yes, we do have rules that must be followed, and we do have organizations within our world that help us maintain order and structure. However, we must remember these structures are here to make our experience on this earth easier so that we can do what we really came here to do – share our inner light and make this earth-plane a bit more like heaven simply because of our existence.

It’s Not Easy Being Me - April 2014

I like who I am. It took me more than half my life to come to that conclusion, but I finally arrived at this point well past the end of my childhood.

When I say “I like who I am,” it is not an arrogant statement. Rather it is a courageous one. That comment is born out of years of soul-searching and self-examination. It follows a period in my life – many years ago – when I didn’t like myself so much. I didn’t like the way I felt, and as a result, I said (and did) some pretty stupid things. Many of my actions were the result of lack of direction, immaturity and foolish pride.

Sometimes it is hard for me to look back at my past. There is a lot to survey. Much of it is good. I have accomplished a lot, both on my own and with the help of others. I am very grateful for that.

However, I – like many people – have messed up on my path through life. I won’t air the gory details here, but trust me, I have some stories that are real whoppers! It is funny how we tend to glance past the moments of greatness and focus on our moments of weakness. I am not sure why people do that. Maybe it’s because often many of the mistakes we make are ones that can’t be unmade.

Whatever the reason for this need to obsess about our errors, the goal is to move beyond this skewed thinking, forgive ourselves, and let it go.  Maya Angelou put it most clearly when she said, “Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better.”

Let’s face it, we didn’t get a rule book to follow when we came into this world. Aside from the basic laws of society, we did not have anything to guide us as we moved along life’s path except of course our inner voice. And what good is that voice if we had never been taught to listen to it. The truth is a lot of our lessons were learned via trial and error.

Just like the Emperor Tarot card (discussed in this month’s A Fool’s Paradise), we need to learn how to make responsible decisions that enhance our personal power. The Emperor is a person of action. He puts emotion aside to make the right decisions. He wasn’t born an emperor. He became one through trial and error. The Emperor is not always right. However, his actions are ones he can always defend.

That is how I got to where I am today. I am not sure at what point I made the decision to shift my focus to a higher, less-selfish thought process. I am guessing it was sometime around the birth of my first child. Prior to that, I was often operating from a more me-centered thinking. This is a very difficult point of view because it is insatiable and it is hard to justify.

Regardless of when it happened, I do know how it happened. My metamorphosis occurred when I finally stopped obsessing about how I felt the world viewed me.  When I accepted that I cannot control other people’s opinions and beliefs, I found an immediate sense of peace. My decisions were made like the Emperor. I weighed the facts, compared the benefits with the drawbacks, listened to my inner voice, and made choices I felt were best – ones I could defend.

Now, this isn’t to say I didn’t cultivate the softer, Empress, side of me. I most certainly did embrace her finer, gentler qualities. Actually, I tried to morph both the Emperor and Empress to create a person who could make decisions that touch upon the more subtle nuances of everyday life. The Empress qualities helped me feel the impact of my actions on others.

Despite this attempt to blend the two, there have been times when I had to assume the role of the Emperor. I don’t always like having to do that, but I am okay with it. That is the beauty of my past mistakes. By having to accept and live with them, I have constant reminders of what not to do; of how not to make bad choices. 
And that is why I like myself now. I trust myself to make the difficult decisions for the right reasons. This doesn’t guarantee success every time, but it does promise me that any future mistakes will be honest errors resulting from an unpredictable outcome despite thoughtful and considerate decision making.

Is it a perfect scenario? No. However, I am comfortable enough with myself to say I am pretty sure I can live with that.