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.

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.