Begin with a Tarot Map

Depth Tarot Work
The Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Losche

Before setting out on a journey in unknown terrain it is useful to have a map. In my Intensive Journal Writing class, I provided a diverse selection of Tarot decks and after talking about the range of experiences we can encounter as we journey I asked participants to choose a deck and carefully make a map of the Major cards.

We quietly meditated as we took in the details of our maps and chose two to three cards that ‘called’ to us, that symbolically expressed experiences we have had. Then, using what is called stream of consciousness or free writing, we speed wrote, without consciously thinking or worrying about grammar or spelling, for twenty minutes.

The results were staggering! After drawing the Tower from the Thoth Deck I wrote personally while others began writing fiction and came up with base ideas that could lead to rivetting novels.

Deeply Listen to an Upaguru

“The Hindu word Upagaru means the teacher that is next to you in this moment. And so, my teachers include the wind, the stranger, and the broken bit of glass in the alley” – Mark Nepo

The word Upaguru means the teacher nearby. Since everyone and anyone that crosses our path does so for a reason, they all should be looked upon as an Upaguru with something to teach you.  

Some of our Upagurus flit through our life for but a moment; literally, minutes.  Others seem to stick around until we have caught on to the lesson and maybe then they move on.

Set aside thirty minutes to an hour and walk in silence. It can be an urban or rural setting that you enter

As you walk, slow your pace and your walking

Breathe deeply and follow what you are drawn to. It might be a branch, a tree, a smell, an expanse of water, a birdsong, a broken window or a dirty brick.

Welcome whatever draws your full attention. It is your Upaguru.

Settle near it and listen, deeply listen.

Sit quietly beside this small teacher of the moment and begin by writing down its details – what it looks like, smells like, how it moves.

Sit quietly and imagine and journal its history.

Inhale deeply, and in silence, without words or thoughts ask it for its wisdom.

Beathe before it in silence for a few minutes

Now begin to journal your dialogue with this small teacher. Write down what you sense it has to say to you.

After a time, close your journal and bow as you leave.

Wait three days and read what you have recorded.

from Seven Thousand Ways to Listen – Staying Close to What is Sacred – Mark Nepo (p. 238)

Samples:

Wendy found that a humble stalk of parsley drew out lots of memories and provided her with insight.

Self Imposed Cell

Jerry Gorovoy, Louise Bourgeois’ personal assistant for 30 years, stated: “She had psychological issues, of course, a lot of anxiety, awe, fears, depressions, and a great remorse for not being a good mother… but she knew that art helped her survive, all her creative process, not only the cells, were a therapy for her.”

Louise Bourgeois once said that “art is a guarantee of sanity.” These are words that explain her strong desire to pour her mind in art as a way to heal her past and inner pains. Even though she denounced Freud and his psychoanalytical theories, it’s clear that she was a person who explored and materialized her fears.

I drew Louise Bourgeois from the deck of Art Oracle Cards. Like Bourgeois, I found myself limited by my mother’s possessiveness. Likewise, I know that the creative process and escaping into an interior world has quite literally saved my sanity. Since I was very young I have spent a lot of time alone and I am finding that Bourgeois’ work on ‘Cells’ is resonating for me.

Bourgeois began to make her self-enclosed structures known as Cells in 1989 and they became an important part of her output for many years. In these works she explores themes of being trapped, anguish and fear. The word ‘cell’ can refer to both an enclosed room, as in a prison, as well as the most basic elements of plant or animal life, as in cells in the body.

This week, within my journal, I am spending time thinking about a room/space I spend a lot of time in and the ways in which I have confined myself to a cell. I may also give some thought to designing a mock-up of an alternative cell I would be happy to confine myself to, consider found objects that I would surround myself with.

Stand on Shoulders of Art Giants

Art Oracles by Katya Tylevich and illustrated by Mikkel Sommer, is the first pack of oracle cards to offer daily mantras from some of the world’s greatest artists. Be guided and inspired by Henri Matisse, Grayson Perry, Gilbert & George, Yves Klein and many more with this hilarious creative set.

In our journal writing sessions, we are being guided and inspired by artists. Each week we draw out a card and consider the insights into how to live, work and gain inspiration. Everyone was surprised by the diversity of artists represented in this deck of cards and were eager to learn about someone who emerged who they had not heard of. The mantras on the cards we draw prompt very lively discussion.

Louise Bourgeois 1982, printed 1991 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00215

The first card I drew was Louise Bourgeois and there is no doubt that I can learn from her. Louise Joséphine Bourgeois (25 December 1911 – 31 May 2010) was a French-American artist. Although she is best known for her large-scale sculpture and installation art, Bourgeois was also a prolific painter and printmaker. She explored a variety of themes over the course of her long career including domesticity and the family, sexuality and the body, as well as death and the unconscious. These themes connect to events from her childhood which she considered to be a therapeutic process. Although Bourgeois exhibited with the Abstract Expressionists and her work has much in common with Surrealism and Feminist art, she was not formally affiliated with a particular artistic movement.

In the class, after reading the advice about life, work and inspiration we applied the technique of freewriting and I found myself, contemplating what Bourgeois would make of me if we were to meet. If this first session is any indication there is no doubt that the artists will stimulate our thinking about how we live and work as creatives.

Maman 1999 Louise Bourgeois 1911-2010 Presented by the artist 2008

On my first foray on the internet, I found an extensive biography on the TATE website.  Subsequently, I put ‘Louise Bourgeois Tate‘ into the search engine and found some wonderful stimuli that I might explore in my journal this week. For example, on the children’s site, they write about spiders as artists and suggest writing a spider poem. Another great suggestion was to design a cell or cage and decide what to put in it, to think about how you would feel about going inside it.

This week I will research more about Bourgeois and I am looking forward to the feedback on the artists that members of the class drew from this wonderfully creative set of cards.

Invoking the Support of a Female Mystic

Mother, mother, what illbred aunt
Of what disfigured and unsightly
Cousin did you unwisely keep
Unasked to my christening, that she Sent these ladies in her stead
With heads like darning-eggs to nod
And nod and not at foot and head
And at the left side of my crib?
-Disquieting Muses 1957 Sylvia Plath

Back in the day, when I began running writing classes, I used to invoke the Muse by setting up an altar, burning sage and having everyone actually imagine they could hear the rustling of gowns as the muses came to join us. Ask anyone who participated at that time and they will leave you in no doubt that the Muses were responsive. These wild women were overjoyed to be invited, having felt that they had been all but forgotten for centuries.

At this same time, I was establishing the Soul Food Cafe and one of the early sections I built was The House of the Muse. As a part of this feature, I gathered a collection of hymns to the muse. Then, when my late husband and I travelled throughout Europe for six months the absolute highlight was finally reaching Delphi, Mount Olympus and other sanctuaries in Greece. At Delphi, I called upon the Delphic Oracle and all but plunged myself in the famed waters of Castalia. I bought back bottles filled with water from the Castalian Spring, decanted the magical water into smaller bottles and gifted these to those willing to anoint themselves and experience a heightened sense of creativity.

Time has passed and I have never forgotten these big-hearted muses who were so responsive to my call for support. Perhaps it was these heavenly spirits who gently reminded me that there is a whole cast of female mystics who would willingly give their time to massage the creativity of those who feel that it has waned a bit.

Little wonder that, seemingly by chance, I came into possession of Mirabai Starr’s ‘Wild Mercy – Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Female Mystics’. It is the perfect text to introduce early in my Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing Class.

So, in the first session of the Intensive Journal Writing Class, we drew cards from the Goddess Knowledge Card deck.

Then we sat quietly with our eyes closed and allowed ourselves to contemplate our strengths and weaknesses as we begin intensive journal writing.

We each, silently considered how the Goddess who emerged might help us harness our strengths and mitigate our weakness.

I set an alarm and we began a twenty-minute free-writing session where we introduced ourselves and called for support as we begin this work.

Upon completion of the speed writing, we spent time critically analysing what had emerged from our speed free-flowing writing and shared what we had gleaned. It proved to be a moving exercise as each participant found that the Goddess who had stepped up for them resonated in very personal ways.

Certain that in another life I was a Native American, I was delighted when the Native American Changing Woman emerged from the deck to support me as I  adjust to the changing landscape of the field I have worked in. The technique I found myself turning to in the twenty-minute free-writing session was what Jung described as Active Imagination. Changing woman and I began to dialogue and I was touched by her tender-heartedness and motherly approach.

The homework I set was to research further and to work with the Goddess every day.  Working with the Goddess might mean establishing an altar and making a daily offering before calling upon her for some guidance and a message. It might mean spending meditative time calling upon her and then journaling her daily message.

My Daily Goddess is no longer posting but I found her work on Changing Woman and discovered that she has some lovely ideas to explore. If I apply some of her suggestions I can work with these in my journal. Personally, I am looking forward to working with the range of Goddesses who appear to be queued up, ready to help me as I reframe the way I work.

Note: This post will be updated as relevant, supportive material presents itself.

Defining Moments

In a workshop, we work with these mandalas to help formally identify defining moments in our lives. The dictionary definition of a defining moment is an event that influences or changes all subsequent related occurrences.

While these are some common defining moments

  • Getting married or divorced
  • Starting a new job or leaving an old one
  • Beginning a new business partnership
  • Taking a big trip
  • Paying of debt
  • Finishing school
  • Retiring
  • Walking away from current life to reinvent oneself
  • Losing a Loved One
  • Having a baby

they may not be the moments that really define us. The idea of legacy is a difficult concept to grasp, but it is the implicit driving force behind so many of our decisions and actions. What exactly does define us if not a trophy on our mantle or a framed degree on our wall or a ring on our finger? Some say it’s our actions. Or perhaps it’s our intentions? Is it our thoughts, our attitude, or maybe just our day-to-day outlook on life?

As they colour participants spend time contemplating the defining moments in their life, the legacy they will leave. They make notes. As they work they consider  where they are now positioned  on the clock of life and what they hope to have done before it is time to ‘leave the building’.

An Entry Point

The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, by Julia Cameron is a non-fiction book written in first-person point of view about the creative process. The book contains the author’s own experiences of writing and lessons learned, also exercises for the reader.

The premise of ‘The Right to Write’ is simple: No matter what, just WRITE! Write your way to clarity and love. You can do it.

The prompts in this book are pretty much exclusively for getting in touch with your keeping-a-journal, writing-about-your-own-experiences self. Cameron is not offering prompts for fiction but my experience is that the work we do in our journals can be manipulated and become part of fiction or memoir writing.

Kabir says that ‘wherever you are is the entry point’.

Today your entry point is to write about where you are emotionally, physically and psychologically. If you are unsure how to begin, consider doing a body scan first.  I have also made body scan recordings which you will find here. Doing this full-body scan before writing in our journals drew amazing writing from participants in a recent workshop.

Another strategy is to get out your trusty Tarot deck. Corrine Kenner has two interesting books which explore how a writer can use a tarot deck to enhance their writing. For now, using your preferred Tarot deck lay a spread.

  1. Physically I need
  2. Emotionally I need
  3. Spiritually I need
  4. Mentally I need
  5. Currently I feel

Draw and lay your cards out in a spread. Meditate upon the images and then, remembering that thinking is the enemy, just write what comes streaming down your arm, through your fingers, into the pen and onto the page.

Check out more ideas about using Tarot Cards

Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner

Tarot Journal Writing Corrine Kenner

Tarot Ideas Generator

Tarot and the Fellowship of Fools

How to Use Tarot for Writing with a 2 – Card Spread

Using Tarot to Write Fiction

I found the work of Corrine Kenner after working with a Tarot deck to promote journal and fiction writing. On her blog, Corrine Kenner promotes ‘The Magic Cure’ as a sample piece of work written after drawing ‘The Magician’ in one of her workshops.