Returning to Daily Practice

by Marianne in , ,

I'm back from my little jaunt up the coast, and the bustle of the season has already swept me up. Beltane is definitely in full swing down here in Australia, because opportunities to socialise and otherwise fill my calendar are abundant! I'm rather more interested, though, in getting back into my private pursuits - tarot, reading, journaling, yoga, and art. It's tricky at this time of year, the beginning of summer party season and Christmas craziness, to find much time and energy for quiet workings, but I'm determined to do it! Thus, I've been ruminating a lot this week about how to fit it all in. 

I'm super behind on my blog reading, but I did manage to catch a great post over on Dharma Eyes Tarot, featuring a spread for daily practice. I really loved reading about Emily's tarot explorations of her daily meditation practice, and it got me thinking - what am I doing every day to fill myself up? Travel, work, and social commitments have turned my regular routine upside down and got me feeling more like lying face down on the couch in my spare time than doing anything meaningful or productive. I'm ready now to put some intention back into my routine, and make sure I'm carving out a little time for mindful self-enrichment (so, scrolling endlessly through one's facebook feed does not count!).

The catch is, I'm undecided about how to proceed. Being a multi-passionate person, I always struggle to stick with one habit for very long, because there are always so many other things I am equally interested in. When I commit to daily meditation, I get quickly frustrated that I don't have time to journal, but when I commit to journaling daily, my yoga practice falls by the wayside and my body rages against me! I know now that trying to get all my spiritual engagement and fulfilment from one activity is not going to work for me. Any daily practice I commit to must be multifarious in nature! Perhaps it's more about setting aside a block of time and using it intentionally, than it is about committing to any particular path? 

This is a tarot blog, and so it should come as a surprise to none that I am going to explore this question and look for some clarity with... a tarot reading. Or, actually, with an oracle card reading. I've been carrying the Earthbound Oracle around in my bag for weeks now, and it's time to put it to proper use! I hope Emily won't mind that I've borrowed and slightly adapted her wonderful Spread for Daily Practice, and put my own desires and habits under the oracular microscope. Here we go!

Apologies for the tiny, crappy photo here. I've been back and forth, trying to get it to display at its proper dimensions, and it just ain't working! I give up. 

1. Where should my intention be in my daily practice? Abundance

So I think I was right in saying that my practice has to be multifarious! I should set an intention to make my practice broad and dynamic, responsive to my interests and passions, and accept that for now, that’s what works best. If I do kirtan meditation one day, and spend that time drawing the next, and then the following day read a book, that’s fine! This card also calls for a more expansive mindset – I know I have been falling into the trap lately of saying, “There’s not enough time! I don’t have the energy!”, and that only reinforces and justifies a pattern of not fulfilling my daily practice. Abundance says, I do have the time and I do have the energy! I need to be more mindful of how I apply it, certainly, but there’s more than enough available for me to work a little on my own projects every day.

2. Where can I find joy in my daily practice? Healing

The pleasure of daily practice will come from putting a focus on self-care. I love this time of the year (as a Christmas baby, I’ve always secretly believed all the brouhaha is just an elaborate warm up to my birthday – who else’s birthday gets an Advent, after all?!), and I love spending time with all the amazing people in my life, but I do need to remember to replenish my energies and do things that are just for me. The real joy will come from making my daily practice restorative and curative, an antidote to all that summer busyness.

3. What are the hindrances to my daily practice? Perseverance

Ahh, that ol’ chestnut! Obviously, the real hindrance to my daily practice is the challenge of sticking with it. I’m a Capricorn, so you’d think I’d be great at sticking to habits, but then my Pisces rising comes along and makes things like commitments, shall we say, a little more fluid? (On that note, get your birth chart done, it’s very illuminating!). I think the antidote to struggles with perseverance can be found in the first two cards: firstly, it’s ok to take the abundant approach and vary the practice itself if I’m struggling to stick to it; and secondly, remember how refreshing it feels when I’ve taken time to do my own stuff each day. Sticking with it will always be a challenge, but hopefully not an insurmountable one.

4. Where can I find encouragement/admonishment in my daily practice (see Emily's original post for some more notes on this excellent and very Buddhist card position!)? Protect

I need to make my daily practice sacred! The time I set aside, however I decide to use it each day, has to be protected from busyness, laziness, sleepiness, and other impediments. Protecting my daily practice from the incursions of everyday life will ultimately be a supportive act for the practice itself, and for me, too. Similarly, when I fail to protect that commitment, I know I’ll feel suitable admonished when I start to feel off centre, tired, and out of touch with myself. I like it, too, that this card is a verb – I need to actually DO what it is telling me. This is not about mindset or philosophy, but about action! I must actively protect my daily practice in order to reap its benefits.

So where does all of this leave me? I feel validated in my belief that I need to vary the content of my daily practice, and chastened about my flakiness and lack of commitment! I know that I need to set aside a little time every day to be used intentionally – be it five minutes of silent meditation, or an hour of tarot. Daily practice, in whatever form it takes, replenishes my energy, refines my craft, and enriches my spirit! Now, I’m off to do just that.

How does daily practice feature in your life? What are your go-to practices or habits for enriching your day-to-day? Let me know in the comments!

The 1st of November - A Southern Hemisphere Beltane (or something)

by Marianne in ,

I wrote a little while ago about an idea that had been percolating in my mind, born of a weird dissonant feeling of being psychologically and spiritually out of alignment with the flow of the seasons. In my own spiritual practice, I'm really craving more mindfulness and connection to the natural world, and so I'm learning more about the Wheel of the Year and its attendant festivals and observances. 

 If you're a regular visitor to this blog, you're probably aware that I reside in the Southern Hemisphere - in temperate Sydney, Australia, to be more specific, and that's where I often run into trouble! I get the majority of my media, information, and spiritual community time from the internet, and I shouldn't be surprised to discover that the majority of the citizens of the internet reside in the Northern Hemisphere. When it comes to celebrating the seasons, if you're an Australian on Instagram or Pinterest, things are bound to feel a little upside down! Right now, all my social media feeds are saturated with Samhain altars and ghoulishly awesome Halloween decorations (which, by the way, I am totally in favour of - Australia doesn't really have a tradition of Halloween, and whether we do it at the right time of the year or not, I really wish we could get our creepiness on more often!). If I look up from my computer and out the window, I'd notice that the sun is shining, the days are getting longer, the cicadas are hatching and singing and Summer is definitely in the post. Bit of a disconnect!

So, what to do about this? I don't identify with any particular earth-based tradition (or indeed, any particular tradition - I'd say I'm an eclectic, whim-based spiritual practitioner!), so the more pagan aspects of this are foreign to me. Add that to everything feeling a bit upside down and back to front, and you have me feeling really stumped! I certainly don't feel like I have the knowledge or authority to write a blog series about seasonal observances when I'm hardly familiar with them myself. Thank goodness, then, for the helpful comment of SJ from Witchling in Flight on my previous post, with the suggestion to turn to intuition. Feel your way through it, and see what comes up. Thus, this series is not intended to be instructional or authoritative, so much as a document of my personal experimenting. If you happen to reside on the bottom half of the earth, I hope some of this resonates with you! 

So, I'm beginning where I am, and fumbling my way through. I thought about waiting until the new year, or at least until the Solstice, but why put it off? The 1st of November is practically now! In the Northern parts of the world, this is Samhain, the season of Halloween and All Soul's Day, the thinning of the veil and the coming of the darkness. We knew that already! Down here in the South, though, the 1st of November is Beltane, the festival of fire, fertility, abundance, the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and Midsummer. I had to ask myself, "Ok, what does that actually feel like?" To be perfectly honest, I don't feel any particular, personal resonance with what I've learned about Beltane in my brief research - maybe that's because it is a traditionally Gaelic festival? Although there is Irish and Scottish in my ancestry, it's not something I feel particularly connected to.

But, what is the purpose of this if not nurturing personal connections with the world around me? I don't have to call it Beltane to feel it. So, in the spirit of investigation, I'm writing this post from my front step, feeling the cool breeze meet the warm air, listening to my neighbourhood birds sing and squawk and argue with each other. A small ginger cat just strolled across the gateway, which reminds me - it's kitten season! If that's not the perfect Beltane signifier, I don't know what is! (Fellow Southern Hemispherans, consider donating to your local animal rescue, because they'll be swamped! Here's one I like). I can see blooming bougainvilleas, and the jasmine plant I did my best to kill with winter neglect showing its resilience again. Abundance is definitely in the air!

The most obvious way to mark any seasonal festival is to make an altar which captures symbolic objects, images, ideas, and energies relevant to the time of year (or indeed, to anything you want to focus on). A cursory glance at google images will give you plenty of ideas for a green, leafy Beltane altar. I must admit, I'm not sure if I'm at the altar-making stage with this yet! I do maintain a couple of altar spaces, but in the spirit of being an eclectic-whimsical-spiritual practitioner, they're deliciously ad hoc, and I don't know if I want to mess with them. One way I will mark November 1st, though, is by spending some time in the garden, giving my plants (especially that resilient jasmine!) some love. That seems appropriately symbolic and Southern Hemisphere to me! 

All that said, I am still going to a late night screening of Evil Dead II on October 30th, because it's Halloween somewhere! And YAY, the Jezebel annual scary story thread rides again! Wherever you are in the world, I hope you're enjoying the season! 

How do you feel about all this seasonal observance? Do you mark any seasonal festivals? Are you in the Northern Hemisphere, or the Southern? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Books, Oracles and Spring is Here!

by Marianne in

Today, a behind the scenes peek from the pen (ok, the laptop) of Two Sides Tarot. What's been shakin' round these parts? 

Books, as ever - I've just started Mark Nepo's extraordinary Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, and it's knocking my socks off! I go through phases with spiritual literature; sometimes I can't get enough and I love filling myself up with it, and other times I feel bloated on well-meaning advice from all those gurus and I need to take a step back and read something else for a while. After having stuck mostly to novels and memoirs for the past couple of months, I picked up Nepo's book and found myself ripe for his way of thinking. If you're looking for some inspiration or a reminder to engage with the numinous, I recommend it (and as ever, if you can, consider purchasing it from your local independent bookseller)! Other excellent recent reads include Michelle Tea's How to Grow Up and Jesmyn Ward's Men We Reaped. I do love a good (if harrowing) memoir! Any recommendations welcome!

I've never been much of an oracle card reader - for some reason (Capricorn, hello), I prefer to have the structure of the tarot as a foundation for my readings. I am beginning to open up my cold, hard little heart to one oracle deck in particular though. The Journey of Love oracle deck is a really warm and thoughtful piece of work, with rich and mostly abstract illustrations. I'm not sure yet if this will ever make its way into my client offerings, but I am enjoying incorporating it into my personal practice. It's a good one!

Since returning from my American holiday a couple of weeks ago, I've been having a total incense moment. I've always been a fan of some casual Nag Champa, and after weeks of being afraid of setting off hotel fire alarms, I must've really been craving it because when I unpacked, I realised I bought a WHOLE lot of incense on my travels! My haul included a variety of aromatic magics from House of Intuition in LA, two truly special blends from The Sword and Rose (thank you to everyone who encouraged me to go there, it really is a special corner of the world!), a variety of stick incenses, and that pinon pine brick incense pictured above. Needless to say, I've been burning up a storm since I returned! Life smells good! 

Finally, I'm just enjoying the shifting of the seasons. I missed most of the first month of Spring, since I was away in the US, but now that I'm back I can definitely feel that change in the air. We've had some very warm days, the light is shifting, daylight savings has begun, and the pollen count is off the charts (achooo). Meanwhile, most of my tarot community, online as you are, are getting ready for Halloween, mainlining the pumpkin spice, and embracing the shorter, cooler days. I've been thinking a lot about this lately, about how I would like to incorporate more observance of the Wheel of the Year into my personal practice. It does feel challenging, as a citizen of the Southern Hemisphere, when most of the information and observance on offer on the internet comes from the opposite season to what one is actually experiencing. Even before I was actively witchy, I'd always experience a sort of cognitive dissonance, as the bloggers I read and the tumblrs I followed got me all in the mood for hot chocolates when I was moving into summer, and for lazy summer afternoons by the pool when I should've been drinking hot chocolate under the doona!

So, to that end, I'm considering doing a series of posts for the Southern Hemisphere practitioner, to get those of us down here who are sneezing and shedding our cardigans in the mood, considering that we've just had our Vernal Equinox and we're heading towards Beltane. Can you dance around the maypole in November? I guess you can in Australia! With all of that said, I'm not an expert on the Wheel of the Year, and I don't identify as a Pagan or Wiccan or really with any other earth-based religion. In some ways, I think it's sort of odd to want to adopt these festivals in the Southern Hemisphere, since they grew from the spiritual traditions of Europe. I do think, though, that we owe it to whatever land we live on to pay attention, and observing the turning of the year is the best way I can think of to do that. So, more to come on this! And a shoutout to any other fellow Southern Hemispherans - is this something you also feel a lack of? Is someone already doing this (no doubt better than me!) and I just haven't found their website yet? Is this something you're interested in? Let's talk about it!

That's what's been stewing in my mind. What have you been up to? Got a great book recommendation or favourite incense blend to share? Let me know in the comments! Oh and remember, you can subscribe by email so you never miss a post!

Bits and Bobs from Behind the Scenes

by Marianne in

In lieu of a strictly business tarot-related post, today I thought I'd share a little update about what's going on behind the scenes at Two Sides Tarot. I'm a busy beaver, but of course it isn't all toil around here! This post really is just a recap of what I've personally been up to - sometimes I just have to give in to the impulse to talk about myself! You've been fairly warned.

On the bookshelf, I've been slowly making my way through Deborah Lipp's new book, Tarot Interactions. It's refreshing to find a tarot book that goes beyond explaining card meanings to look at how to synthesise multiple cards into a cohesive reading. Although this book is aimed at the intermediate practitioner, I think in some ways it would benefit tarot beginners to start with Lipp's exercises right away. When you start learning tarot, it's easy to get bogged down in memorising card meanings, but what you really need to give good readings is an understanding of how those meanings interact with context. The sooner you can work that into your tarot practice, the quicker you'll be able to give really meaningful, relevant and detailed readings, so I highly recommend readers of all levels check this one out!

In non-tarot related reading, I've been on a bit of a YA binge, getting myself up to date with Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series (ALL THE FEELS) before the fourth volume is released on September 1st, and indulging in the always dark and delicious Holly Black, with her recent-ish book, The Darkest Part of the Forest. I do love me some tricksy fae folk! I also read another book by my beloved Natalie Goldberg, Long Quiet Highway, a volume of memoir that explores Natalie's zen practice and early writing career. Love, love, love, as always. If you're a fan of Writing Down the Bones, I'm sure you'll love spending more time with this inspired teacher. Finally, I almost always have some poetry on the go - this month's read, Mules of Love, is by one of my favourite poets, Ellen Bass. As ever, reading her poetry is like eating some kind of rich and magical spirit cake! Get it in you immediately!

It would appear that when I'm not reading cards, I'm reading books - that is almost true! In the rare moments I don't have my nose buried in a book, I've been playing countless rounds of solitaire with Corina Dross' Portable Fortitude playing card deck. Check out these cards, they are seriously cool! They may be bringing me good fortune in other areas of my life, but I'm sorry to say my solitaire win percentage has not improved. Probably can't blame Corina for that though!

Finally, I just wanted to share some progress from the Agony Augury question I answered for myself a couple of weeks ago about struggling to get back into exercising. Since writing that post, I've managed to stick to a schedule of two gross and sweaty workouts a week without too much difficulty. Just imagining that Page of Swords cutting away any procrastination and avoidance has been really helpful, and I feel so much better for it! I've also been giving a nod to my inner High Priestess, who appeared in a bit of a funny way in that reading, by doing five or ten minutes of seated meditation after my workout. It's a good way to close off the session and to integrate the positive lessons of the experience. I think my body also appreciates being listened to in that way, and it's nice to mindfully enjoy that enlivened post-workout sensation! If you have a question for the Agony Augury, please do write in!

That's what I've been up to. What about you? Let me know in the comments!

Trimming Borders, New Acquisitions, Podcasts, and More

by Marianne in ,

Today, I thought, rather than posting a lengthy reading or tarot-related article, I'd just stop in and say hi. Hi! I hope you're well. In case you were wondering, and I know you were, here's what I've been up to this week!

I've discovered a favourite new hobby - trimming the borders off my tarot decks! I've long loved the way borderless cards look, but it wasn't until this past week that I had the right gear (and the courage) to give it a try myself. Look out world, I am addicted! Actually, I've only trimmed down two decks so far - a misprinted edition of the Wildwood Tarot I had, and my old copy of the Cosmic Tarot - but it's through sheer force of will that I haven't taken the knife to every deck I own! They just look so good freed from their borders! The art really opens up. Before I inflict it upon any other decks though, I will spend some time reading with these and see if I still like the borderless vibe. Stay tuned!

In case you're wondering, I bought a small photo trimmer from a craft store to do the bulk of the cutting, and I ordered one of these from ebay to round the corners. I did also wind up using a pair of very small, very sharp craft scissors to tidy the edges, because the trimmer was never totally accurate. It isn't a particularly difficult task, but I would urge caution if you are a perfectionist! It seems almost impossible, to me anyway, to get the trimmed cards 100% matchy matchy. I found that a lot of the images were actually printed slightly crooked on the cards, so trimmed down they do wind up being a little different in size. Also, the backs of the Cosmic Tarot don't match up with the images on the front, so do be mindful of that if you are considering trimming a deck and you think it will bother you. I'm not too fussed, but I can see that one more picky than I might drive themselves mad with it! If you are interested in taking the plunge, Seven Card Spread has an excellent tutorial here

In other news, last week, I added a new acquisition to my collection - the Japaridze Tarot. Ooooh! So pretty. I must admit, I was super excited to bring this one home, but I haven't had a chance at all this week to take it out and play. My week ahead is looking far less busy and social than the week just gone, so I look forward to more quiet evenings at home with the cards. I also have two other decks winging their way to me from overseas. Fingers crossed they make land soon and I can start using them all! 

In book reading news, I haven't dedicated as much time to reading as I would've liked this week, but I am slowly making my way through Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion. It's probably unfair to say since I'm only halfway through, but so far the book isn't quite adding up to more than the sum of its parts. It's interesting enough though, and if you like reading about faraway places, it's fun. I will say, too, that her writing about Hawaii, and the experiences she describes with the volcanos, are delightful and moving. If you have any interest in... shall we say, spiritual travel, I think it's worth picking this one up for that chapter alone!

What else has been filling my head? The excellent first episode of the Modern Mystic Podcast - seriously, GET ON THIS TRAIN RIGHT NOW! These gals are major magical babes, and you want to hear what they have to say! I also super enjoyed listening to Elizabeth Gilbert on the Robcast, and I've been epically binging on the inimitable Kelly-Ann Maddox's youtube channel. It's pointless of me to recommend her, because I'm literally the last tarot enthusiast in the known universe to get on board with her amazing, playful, smart, and informative work, so you must know her back to front already. On the off chance you're from some other, as-yet-undiscovered planet, get some Kelly-Ann Maddox in your ear immediately. She's the bomb.

Finally, the last thing rocking my world this week is the Alternative Tarot Network - the most supportive, interesting, and fun tarot community in town! This incredible network is the work of Beth from Little Red Tarot, and I cannot thank her enough for creating this space! THANK YOU, BETH! As far as I know, at the moment the community isn't open for new members, but if you subscribe to the Little Red Tarot Bits and Bobs mailing list, you'll be notified when the doors open again. Trust me, it'll be worth the wait! Plus, Beth's newsletter is great, so you'll want to subscribe anyway!

Before I sign off, I just want to remind you that I am now taking questions for my advice column blog series! If you have a pressing question and want to throw your hat in the ring, drop me a line, and you could score yourself a free tarot reading on your dilemma, right here on the blog! Don't be shy, friends! 

What's rocking your world right now? I'd love to know. Share, if you feel so inclined, in the comments!

Oh, and remember, you can summon me straight into your inbox, so you never miss a post! Subscribe here.