Tuesday, November 29, 2011

December 2011 Tarotscope

Hi friends!

I've thought about posting a monthly sign-by-sign Tarotscope for a long time. Like peanut butter and jelly, astrology and tarot are two alchemical magical arts that combine for astounding mystical revelations.

Check out your sign and the card chosen for each. Be sure to read for your Sun, Moon, and Rising Sign for best results. Your feedback is appreciated so I can know how many people enjoy this and whether to keep it up in the future.

To receive a personal reading for 2012, click here for details. For general astrology and tarot reading information, see my astro-intuitive page.

Enjoy and many blessings!
Erin

For a close-up of the card images, watch the little video here!



**Bonus card for everyone!**
INTEGRATION: The World
We are the world! We have it all! Total completion and fulfillment. Everything comes together at last this December. It is all understood. We understand what we have been doing in 2011 and why. This is a fine end of a major cycle. Welcome the incoming of 2012 with wonder, awe, and excitement. No fear and dread to be found. Celebrate!


Aries: Six of Swords

This month, you’ll be focused on letting go of a past wound. Perhaps you’ve been going through a hard time, a difficult situation, a physical or mental malady. It could even have been a depression. Now you’re moving to brighter shores. You’re not totally out of the blues yet, but it’s getting easier every moment. A gentle moving on.

Taurus: The Hierophant
Hello, teacher! It’s time to embrace the inner wisdom you carry. Take the opportunity to participate in education this month, whether teaching or learning – it makes no difference if it is formal or informal, spiritual or practical. Say yes to learning and teaching. You are in your element.

Gemini: Two of Swords
Ha! You’ve been spotted getting caught up in that duality again. Don’t get stuck trying to play both sides, Gemini, or no one will ever win. Allow yourself to drop the battle of figuring it all out. In fact, drop the thinking game all together. You’ll be amazed at the freedom you will realize.

Cancer: The Empress
How Divine! Embody the Inner Goddess or God that you are! Enjoy all the abundance and good tidings of the season! If that means time with a lover or other, friends or family, you are the Queen or King Bee on the scene. Enjoy bee-ing and be glorious!

Leo: Three of Wands
You are getting ready to make your big move, regal Lion. You instinctively know that 2012 is YOUR YEAR and you will be in full alignment with the energy of the upcoming Year of the Dragon. Your plans are all laid out and you see clearly the innovative and courageous steps you must take. Vision!

Virgo: Three of Cups
“Eat, drink, and be merry!” This month, that’s you, Jungfrau-Virgo. This is a month for you to kick up your heels and have a good time celebrating. Especially plan a celebratory New Year’s. Come on Virgo, you can let your hair down a little this year. Your friends will love you for it!

Libra: Queen of Pentacles
You will be entertaining in the home this holiday, oh fair Libra. Get a new frock or fancy shirt, make a big pot of something, and enjoy being the queen or king of your own fabulous fortress. You can shine best and look great on your own turf this season.

Scorpio: Three of Swords
It appears you are letting go of something painful this month, Scorpio. It’s okay if you feel a need to cry – we aren’t always meant to be chipper at this time of year. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, remember a loved one or childhood memory. Your heart will open – and therefore, love even more.

Sagittarius: Seven of Cups
Hoowee, Sag, it looks like you’re totally prone to excess this holiday season! Be sure you know your limits and pace yourself with food and drink. That way, you’ll be able to last until New Year’s! Definitely looks like you’ll be enjoying the good life. Remember: all things in moderation, including moderation, indulgent Sagittarius!

Capricorn: Seven of Swords
It looks like you need some time away, Cappy. Even though it may be the start of your birthday season, this December you need some retreat and quiet time away from the hustle and bustle. Maybe you need time away from your job responsibilities. Getting away from it all for just a few days can give you a new perspective. You need it.

Aquarius: Five of Cups
It’s a month for you to feel your losses, your sorrows of letting go of people and times you may long for. Take the time you need to be quiet, go within, and let go. You already know the tides will shift soon, so use this time to feel and heal. You’re on your way! By Solstice time, December 21, the coming of the light will warm your heart anew.

Pisces: Ace of Swords
Tell the truth, fishy Fish! Stand tall in words, voice, pen, and email this month and say what must be said. Decisions are clearly made and boundaries set. You are clear as a bell and have the power to express it. Go, Fish!

Monday, November 28, 2011

On Grief, Love, and Loss (Part Three - Raw Emotion)

How does grief feel?

Far beyond sadness, far from depression or a general malaise.

Think of words like “wretched.” Wrenching. Tearing. Opening. Wreaking. Wrecking. Racking.

Sobs of sorrow that arise like a tumult of thunder, through the heart.

A small baby in sincere pain – raw, egoless pain – crying for the warmth of its mama’s breast.

Earthquakes. A quivering lower lip.

A cavalcade of tears dripping continuously down the cheeks, in the nose.

A wail. A whole-body shivering with energy, with emotion, with release.

A loss of appetite. A loss of joy. A loss.

Yes, a loss. It is a Death.

Then, there is the anger. Anger arises because there feels to be no tenderness, no understanding, no arms to comfort.

(from November 2009, six weeks after my teacher's death)

Because most people haven't had the experience of having a guru-master in the first place, let alone having one die, people tend to not know how to respond to my grief. I’ve heard some harsh comments through this, for example:


1. “Haven't you had anyone die before?”

Like that would make it easier! The fact is, NO, I’ve never had anyone so close to me die before. And, even if I had lost a sister, a mother, a brother, my father, a child, would that conceivably make it less painful?


2. “You are being selfish for grieving.”

What the...? Selfish because my heart is broken and I’m in pain?

The person said this because, “I should be so happy” for my Teacher going, since we know he was in physical pain, but c'mon here - set aside rationality and let me have my pain! It’s become so clear to me that the tears of the survivors are not about ‘the one who died’ (they surely are fine!). The tears are the human emotion experienced by those who are still living, for their own loss.

It’s just a feeling and I know Time will heal and transform but it does NOT help to minimize it. I loved my teacher and we did have an intense closeness at the end. It wasn’t more close or less close than any other student. That’s each person’s experience. I’m saying I loved him, and, his death is showing me just how deep that love goes.


3. “I don’t want any gurus near me.”

Or, "A guru is for people who need a father figure."

Or, “You don’t need a guru anyway.”

Sheer ignorance. First of all, unless you’ve had a guru relationship, you can’t possibly know, or judge.



4. “Still?” was one person's reaction when I mentioned I was grieving. This was a few weeks after he died.

I know the Guru is within, that the impersonal Guru has entered my heart and it is firmly lodged there, but it doesn’t mean that in this real time experience I don’t have pain of loss to heal from.


5. "He would have been disappointed in you."

Sitting in a cafe, I noticed an Aussie bloke reading a book by my grand-guru, Nisargadatta Maharaj. I saw the book sitting there, and I knew I was risking it by opening my mouth. "Oh, you're reading a book by my teacher's teacher," I said, grasping for a bit of connection.

The guy replied, “Ah Ram Balsekar,” giving Ramesh a nickname.

"Yes, Ramesh was my teacher. I miss him. I’m still integrating his death. I miss him still."

The Aussie replied, “He would have been disappointed in you. He spent his life teaching there is no individual. He would have been disappointed in you because you missed the point."

What a jerk. He has no idea what it means to love.

Screw all the intellectual understanding. I’m still in the body, I’m still human, and even if I know the Truth of impermanence, I am still having a human emotion. Screw your judgment, that I’m attached. Screw all of your concepts.

When my teacher Ramesh was still alive, tears arose when speaking of his own guru, and tears arose upon mention of his own son who passed. “It happened,” Ramesh said.

Even with total understanding of impermanence and no separation, emotions happen.

Emotions arise. Joy arises. Sadness arises. Anger arises.

And grief…

Arises.

Let It Flow.

(Six months later - April 2010)

By the grace of the Guru, I came across the following passage in my teacher's book, It So Happened That… The Unique Teaching of Ramesh S. Balsekar. Exactly what I needed to hear.

Ramesh writes on loss and death:

A friend of mine lost his wife after fifty-five years of marriage. When I went to see him after ten or twelve days, he was again overcome with feelings. And he had the idea that he had the Understanding, that he knew what It was all about. He had been reading books for forty years.

So he told me, ‘All that reading, all that knowledge of forty years was found useless when the chips were down.’ When his wife died he was overcome with grief, and every time someone came to sympathize with him the emotions overwhelmed him again. He said, ‘Now, when you have come, it is still there, after nearly two weeks. And I thought I was a jnani [an enlightened sage]. I thought I had understood.’

At that time to speak to him on this matter would have been to add insult to injury. So I didn’t speak to him then. But when I went home somehow I went straight to my desk and wrote him a longish letter. I concluded by saying, ‘I presume you have read this. Please forgive the impertinence, and just throw it away.’

But I wrote because it was almost compulsive. What I wrote to him was this: ‘Your reaction to the death of your wife was a perfectly normal reaction for the body-mind organism in question. You love your wife; you miss your wife. That’s all there is. So the reaction to the death of your wife is perfectly natural, perfectly spontaneous. What is perhaps wrong is your reaction to that reaction. You are reacting to that reaction saying, ‘I thought I was a jnani and here I am groveling in grief.’ So that reaction is what is incorrect.’ And that reaction really proves that his understanding was not deep enough.

So I wrote and said, ‘If you had not loved your wife as much as you did, then probably her death would not have affected you as much. And then you probably would have thought, “I know what it’s all about. I am a jnani. The death of my wife doesn’t mean so much. I accept it.” But that reaction would not have been because of being a jnani, it would have been because you didn’t love your wife!'


On Grief, Love, and Loss (Part Two - Divorce)

Friends: This is a multiple-part grief series I wrote two years ago, in November 2009. It was raw, unedited and emotionally messy material I penned in the weeks just after my spiritual teacher died - during a time I felt utterly alone in my grief. I've always wanted to post these, but the time has never been right and I don't know if it ever will be. I'm preparing material right now for my second book (the follow-up to Bindi Girl), in which I'll be delving deeper into my spiritual journey in India. Therefore, I've decided to rework this grief material and post it here first. Also, I never know if my readers may be going through similar passages in life; therefore, I like to share these writings in case they offer insight or inspiration during one's time of need.
Love, Erin

(Continued from On Grief, Love, and Loss: Part One - The Guru Dies)

Grief is a difficult emotion to write about. It seems so much easier to write about love. Even anger, or sadness, seems easier.

I can’t put my ‘thoughts’ together. I keep waiting for the day I wake up, like I used to, and some story or missive or vignette will flow forth and I will know for certain, “This is the entry to share with my friends. This is the piece to post.”

But it’s not happening.

Instead, I feel more constricted and alone in my grief. I know there are a few people who are ready to hear it, who can hold me through the tears. It's just so hard to know how to reach out, and how to receive.

How do I know this is the emotion called grief? How do I know it’s different than mourning, depression, or mere clinging to the past?

It feels different. Grief just feels different. And, I’ve been here before – a few times. I’ve been through something called D-I-V-O-R-C-E, so I know this is a similar emotion.

GRIEF AND DIVORCE

My first marriage was monumental, even though it only lasted seven years. It was the real-ationship and male-female partnership where I’d felt truly my-self, for better or for worse. We were truly friends, and I trusted my husband with full exposure.

When the Tower came crashing down at the end, I knew it was merely Life acting through Death, that we were being sent in separate directions in order to keep growing, evolving… and we could not do it together.

With 100% certainty, I knew it was for the Highest Good of All Concerned for my marriage to end. No matter if it was the right thing: even if you know it's gotta go, it's like losing an arm. Needless to say, it hurts like hell.

It took a good year for the most wrenching, intense waves of grief to quell. I was working a super-intense job at the time, one in which I had to be ‘on’ with a happy face, and it was evenings and weekends that I’d sit on balcony overlooking the San Francisco skyline, slowly puffing one cigarette, feeling the ache of the let-go of my married life, the departure of the dream, the passing of an intense love relationship.

And yet, and still, it hurt like a mother. It hurt so bad I’d cry and cry and cry. I never once “wanted him back.” I did wish for his – and of course, my own – ultimate peace and happiness. I knew the past was the past, and it was clearly over. Sure, nostalgia arose – the missing of joyful times, like cross-country skiing in the winter, breakfast in bed and making love on Sunday mornings, having someone to spoon with. Having someone to sing with, to cook for. Someone to have on your team.

It took about two more years for me to stop wondering how the ex was getting on. Slowly, new life entered the fold. The ex got remarried, rapidly, and had children before I’d even had a proper date, let alone boyfriend steady.

I went off to India, Europe, New York City, grad school, and the cosmos, refilling my coffers with adventure, passion, growth – and, eventually, boyfriends, too.

Slowly, slowly, over the course of the next several years, I forgot about my ex-husband, though I never stopped being grateful for the seven years we shared together.

But I was talking about grief, wasn’t I?

I brought up Le Divorce because it evokes the memory that "I've felt this emotion before," and it's here now again. It is real, and I need to talk about it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just Spell My Name Right

There’s an old saying in politics and entertainment journalism: “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” The line has been attributed to dozens of folks, most notably P.T. Barnum as well as other outspoken figures Mae West, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain. And now I’m saying it, too.

The gist of the saying is that there is no bad publicity: you know you’re making waves and getting to be well-known in the world when you receive reviews, whether negative or positive. Today, I joined the “just spell my name right” ranks as I just received my first negatively slanted review of Bindi Girl: Diving Deep Into the Heart of India, which is a top-rated India travel book on Amazon Kindle soon to be released in print.

I’m still human enough to be pleased they emailed me the review directly rather than posting it on Amazon, though it could happen sooner or later. The reviewer was actually quite kind and sensitive toward my feelings (which I find touching) and politely wishes for me to remove certain distasteful chapters. Reflecting now, a book that makes one think – even if it’s unpleasant – must be effective.

(Ed. note - The comments were a letter to me personally, which I removed from this post per reviewer's personal and most polite request.)

Would I change the chapters suggested? Nah. They are part and parcel of Bindi’s unsentimental and often messy journey into the heart – and guts – of India. Not so many solo western women get to travel as the poorer locals do – third class. According to a 2010 Oxford University study, 55% of India’s population lives in poverty. So my reporting, gross and uncomfortable as it may be to read (for a cozy person living in clean hygienic western standards) is accurate. Kudos, Bindi.

I suppose I’ll never be heralded as a squeaky-clean, holier-than-thou spiritual gal. Shucks. I’m a seeker of the roll-up-the-sleeves, rule-breakin’ variety, and I’ll probably never be embraced by the devout as their spokesmodel. Every single morsel of wisdom has come through viscerally experiencing the Divine directly. And sometimes, that means Bindi boldly goes where the average traveler would never normally go.




Don't have a Kindle and want to read Bindi Girl?
Read it on your PC or Mac with the free Kindle Cloud Reader at read.amazon.com.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Dark Night of the Soul

This article is lovingly dedicated to those readers who are going through difficult times in the life.

Namaste, Erin


Varanasi on the Ganges
Diwali, October 2009

We’ve heard the proverbial term, ‘dark night of the soul,’ to refer to a particularly painful, seemingly hopeless point in the life – a period where nothing makes sense anymore. When we're in such a state, no matter where we turn, it feels like there is only emptiness. But this isn’t the sort of spacious emptiness or soul “spaciousness” we yearn for and aim for in meditative living. No, it is a deficient emptiness. Even to muster hope feels utterly useless and meaningless.

I’ve experienced my fair share of Dark Nights of the Soul in my life, yet it wasn’t until recently that I learned it is a term first used by 16th-century Christian mystic, Saint John of the Cross. The Dark Night of the Soul has at times been referred to as the Spiritual Emergency or spiritual crisis.

I’m here to remind you of something that you may remember the next time you’re way down in those gloomy depths: Believe it or not, The Dark Night of the Soul is a good thing.

Last spring, while in a spiritual transformation process, I went down to the bottom of my soul in a bucket – numb, uncaring, depressed… a pitch-black venture down into the earth’s molten core of my being - ‘taint pretty in there! It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s necessary.

A dark night of the soul primarily occurs when the old self-image is ready to go. This is the outdated identification of who you think you are – the ego structure. When the self-image becomes calcified in any way, a dark night of the soul comes rumbling in like storm clouds. Of course, there are myriad ways we try to push it away, like distractions and self-medication. But eventually, even those stop working, and we can’t resist. It is not just depression, though it can feel like it, and it is a form of ‘low pressure’ internal meteorology situation.

There is apathy, and a near-suicidal feeling, like “I’m just plain DONE.” It feels like an end of life – and, in effect, it is. There is a sense of “I don’t know what could come next and frankly, I can’t muster any feeling to care.”

A Dark Night of the Soul can last months, years, or even lifetimes. Perhaps the time correlates to the degree of ego identification – how hardened that self-image is. Who you thought you were is dying. It is not your physical body passing away.

One of the most curious appearances of the dark night is when it crops up in otherwise truly positive, ‘spiritual,’ healthy folks. How could this occur? Two reasons: first, the positive, healthy, loving, spiritual emanation has itself become a self-identification (even “nice” personas are eventually painful); second, the soul knows you are ready to enter a dark night experience; the soul is strong, aware, and courageous enough to go through this period of consciousness.

For spiritually inclined people, one of the hardest parts of a dark night is that it seems even God (Consciousness, Spirit, Higher Power, Existence, the Universe) has abandoned us.


EXOSKELETON: THE SELF-IMAGE TRAP

The self-image is an invisible shell that comprises who you think you are…

I had a vivid, wild dream last spring around the time of my dark night of the soul. I dreamt I had an exoskeleton – an external shell that was like a human cage. It was made of metal. It appeared that it would protect the soft underbelly and vulnerable human within, but in reality it was uncomfortable, cramping, cutting, and even biting me with its razor-sharp edges like teeth. It was a violent shell, and I couldn’t move about without harming myself in the process.

When I woke, I knew immediately that it was symbolic of the self-image – the body-life mask we wear to protect ourselves, but is ultimately harmful.

The key with the dark night is to not resist; JUST SAY NO to the glomming self-image that says you need to be pretty and pleasant. Be depressed. Hate everything. Be ugly. Do you need medication? Maybe. Maybe not. You and your health care advisor will decide. Most often, I’d venture to say the answer is NO. You can ‘give in’ to the experience. It’s a death process – a part of you IS dying.

THE DARK NIGHT AND SPIRITUAL AWAKENING

Even in ‘awakened’ people, the dark night process occurs. Eli Jaxon-Bear, a non-dual spiritual teacher whom I respect along with his wife Gangaji, faced a dark night that he calls a "resurrection through hell" upon coming out about an affair (Shift Network webcast, spring 2011). This occurred some twenty years after his primary spiritual awakening. Eli admits that even in being awake, there is still a state – the blissful state – that is also a TEMPORARY place. After coming out honestly about his affair with another woman, the whole fa├žade, the self-image of what it meant to be a ‘Spiritual Teacher’ came crashing down: slander, rejection – all of it flew in through the window. Yes, it was hell. And yes, it passed to reveal a new cycle of spiritual evolution. As many spiritual masters have explained, waking up is just the beginning.

THE GIFTS OF DEPRESSION

Author and Christian mystic Thomas Moore has a great chapter called “The Gifts of Depression” in his book Care of the Soul, in which he states, “…we may have to develop a taste for the depressed mood, a positive respect for its place in the soul’s cycles.”

In 2007, I wrote Mr. Moore directly to thank him for these insights. He in turn replied how perfect it was to hear from me at that exact time because, you guessed it: he was going through dark tunnels himself. One does not simply get a 'degree' of graduating; the transformation goes deeper throughout a spiritual life.

EVOLUTION OF THE SOUL IS NOT LINEAR

The cycle of expansion of consciousness is hardly linear; it is more of a spiral. When we grow higher and brighter, the soul has capacity to plunge into deeper and darker territory. When we go further into dark places, it appears (though there is no guarantee) that a growth spurt of fresh awareness and expansion follows. Expand, contract. Contract, expand. When we plummet to the depths, the place where ‘you’ barely exist at all, it is likely you will emerge with a gift. It is like the Hero’s Journey described by Joseph Campbell in the Power of Myth. There’s a grail in that there murky, monstrous place of meaninglessness.

The last time I went through a dark night, the usual raging flame of awareness became a tiny dot, a wee spark of “I.” It was as if “I” might completely disappear into the inky black void, and yes, it feels like borderline madness.

Luckily I’ve experienced surfing of consciousness, and I know that it is OK to dissolve into the Nothingness that is Everything, to release the illusory separation and settle into EXISTENCE.

Remember:
(1) you’re not alone
(2) you’re not crazy
(3) you are okay
(4) allow it to take as long as it takes

Let me reiterate an important point: resistance is futile. Attempting to do anything to FIX a real dark night of the soul may only make it worse or last longer. See, what you are most likely going to try to do, courtesy of the superego of society’s ‘should’ approach, is attempt to DO something. That very doing-of-something will likely help perpetuate the very ego structure, the self-image that is dying.

Guides, therapists, healers and shamans can be useful at this time. Priests and priestesses, monks and nuns who have the understanding may be able to hold space for the unraveling. Yet, if the counselor or therapist attempts to fix things, sugarcoat, or make you feel better, they probably don’t get it, and they certainly haven’t gone through the eye of the needle themselves. Remember that the best source to ‘hold’ you in this dark place is the very Self.

Erin Reese is an intuitive consultant, astrologer, author, and spiritual counselor. She works with her clients worldwide via Skype, phone and email.