The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck: The Bear

“…Ask now the Beasts
And they shall teach thee;
And the Fowls of the air,
And they shall teach thee;
Or speak to the Earth,
And it shall teach thee”

-Job 12: 7-8

I recently got the beautiful Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck from an amazing friend (which makes it even more special in my books).  One of the wonderful things about the deck is that you can add a lot of your own personal meaning based on your experience with the animals you draw and also by learning more about them.

Kim Krans, the illustrator, explains that, out of all the many many animals, she focused on wild animals and has split the deck into earth, air, fire, water and spirit.

To get to know the cards better, I am hoping to work my way through them all, adding my own knowledge, my understanding of the animal and what I feel like they are telling me.  I will not be regurgitating the accompanying book, buy that yourself, it’s great!  Some of the animals I’m familiar with, some less so and in another animal spirit deck (also from a great friend) there are animals I’ve never even heard of!  It’s the Animal Dreaming Oracle Card deck by Scott Alexander King and I’m planning on doing a similar thing with that deck as well.

These are the earth cards, how beautiful are they?! I love them!

Bear

I like bears, quite possibly stemming from my love of teddy bears which I do realise are very different to the wild kind!

As I approach these cards, I think about what springs to mind when I think of the animal.  When it comes to the bear, hibernation is a big part of that mental construct I have.  I also bring to mind the dichotomies of the bear; on the one hand you have creature which eats mostly vegetation and nurtures her* cubs for a couple of years; on the other hand you have an animal which is fierce and aggressive (mostly when she or her cubs are being threatened it must be said).

In terms of the card, one of the most powerful messages I got was that you can have two seemingly opposing energies or forces or feelings within you and still be one.  I know that sounds obvious to a lot of people but it has taken, and is still taking, a lot for me to be able to reconcile feeling moments of joy against a backdrop of pain.  I am only just reaching a point where I can hold this polarity of feelings without one invalidating the other.  We are all made up of a range of emotions and the way we express that is also diverse but often the root of our actions comes from the same place – our values.  In the case of the mother bear, she nurtures and loves her cubs and is compassionate and gentle and it is that love which drives her to aggression when her beloved children are threatened.  She is gentle and she is strong.

Physical qualities

Bears have a strong presence – they are tall, they are well built and I imagine if you see them in the wild you’re probably going to be rather intimidated!  For me, the bear spirit animal is about stepping into your power, standing tall and standing your ground.

Other than mothers with their cubs, bears live alone.  Is this card a reminder that you need to retreat (into your cave for hibernation) and spend some time on your own?  Literally going within, taking space for introspection within your own cave or den which brings us back to…

Hibernation

Given that this is the first card in the earth “suit”, I think it’s important to think about the cycle of hibernation.  The bear spends spring to autumn in her active phase eating a lot of food, wandering the woods, mating and generally doing what bears do.  She’s out there living her life.

Next comes hyperphagia – lots and lots of eating and drinking and preparing the den.  This is followed by a transition period in which their bodies start to prepare for hibernation; metabolisms fall, heart rates fall and the bear becomes much more lethargic.

Then comes hibernation when the bear is in a dormant state, using her stores of fat as energy.  Changes from the transition period become more extreme with heart rates as low as 8 beats a minute (as opposed to 80-100 during the active phase).  The waste created through the “feeding” process, such as urea, is reused rather than being expelled.  It is during the hibernation period that eggs are fertilised (they are kept away from sperm until the bear knows she will have enough fat stores to ensure a successful pregnancy) and cubs are born in late January/early February.  It is probably this period of sleep and retreat that has resulted in bears being associated with the subconscious.  They do after all spend up to 100 days wandering the land of dreams.

There is a final phase, the bear does not just wake up one day and move into her active period.  This phase has been referred to as a waking hibernation and is when the transition activity is reversed.  Mother bears tend to be the last of the bears to venture back out.

It is this phase in the cycle, almost a rebirth, that I feel is particularly relevant to this card.  As the first card in the suit, the bear is emerging, starting her journey, and a natural place to start is the coming out of hibernation.  Perhaps at different times and different situations, I will relate this card more with another phase, listen and feel what is right for you, now.

Terri Windling has written about the bear, following her seasons of inward and outward, activity and rest, introversion and extroversion.  This idea of dualities has helped me think differently about my own periods of activity and rest.  All things have their time, to flow with this is much easier than to struggle against it:

“There is a perfect time for everything.  If the tulip surfaces in heart of winter, the bitter winds won’t give her a chance.” – Rebecca Campbell

Note: apparently, according to the wisdom of the internet, bears do not truly hibernate as there are specific conditions which are required for this however there is agreement that they do have a long winter sleep!


*For me, this card feels like it has a feminine energy and the messages I am taking are all related to the mummy bear.  Perhaps looking at the different sexes would give interesting depth to readings.

Tarot: The four suits

Week 2 of the Alternative Tarot Course looks at the four suits; Wands, Cups, Pentacles and Swords.

I’ve read a lot about the suits but I thought it would be helpful for me to brain dump, or free write, what the suits mean to me.  Partly as clarification for myself but also because being able to explain something to another person really helps you understand what you do and don’t know.

There is no one ‘good’ suit.  Like most things in life, it is about balance and moderation.  Too much of most things can be harmful.  It also depends on what else is around – the way the different suits and their corresponding elements interact.

Wands – Fire

This is the suit I have less of a handle on which I think is appropriate as it is about things which aren’t tangible.

It is a suit of energy, of passion, of ideas, of inspiration.  Things which aren’t yet real.  Beginnings.  It is what fuels us.  That spark of excitment when you get an idea.  And like fire, it can be creative or destructive.  It can fuel or it can burn out.

Cups – Water

This is the suit of emotion, love, relationships, the inner world. The depiction of the water or the cup can represent how you’re doing emotionally -is the water stuck, flowing freely etc?

For example, the five of cups is sometimes shown as someone upset looking at spilt cups but not seeing the river behind them. They are focussed on their pain so tightly that they miss the positives.  The mother of cups in the wild unknown deck has her wing above her cup. she is protecting her emotions but she isn’t stiffling them.

This suit is also associated with creativity and expression through arts, music etc.

Pentacles – Earth

The nitty gritty, day to day stuff.  The things you can actually grasp.  Like money, resources, jobs but also less tangibly, health and the body.

The eight of pentacles is all about craft and honing your skills and using your hands (whether that’s literal or not) to create real things.

Concerned with the material world, this is sometimes called the coin suit instead.

Swords – Air

Thoughts. Where the cups are the inner realm, swords are the mental realm. They are knowledge, truth, communication.

They are often linked to construction and destruction.

Interactions

Looking at how the suits play with each other has been a really helpful part of my readings over the last year.  I always look to see if a particular suit dominates and if so, what other cards are in the mix.  How do they interact?

As an example, you may have a wand and a cup, fire and water.  Now fire and water can interact in different ways; fire can heat the water or water can put out the fire.  In terms of the suits, this could be read as the wand adding energy and excitment to the emotional cups card, or is the cup too emotional and that’s causing the idea to fizzle out?  This was something that took a bit of thinking out for me and whilst it isn’t always relelvant to a reading, it is a useful tool.

You might also notice more than one element portrayed in a tarot card, if so, look at how they are interacting in the image.  This can tell you a lot about a card and its meaning.

Alternative Tarot Course: Take 2

At the beginning of the year I completed the wonderful Alternative Tarot Course from Beth over at Little Red Tarot.

As I mentioned back then, it’s a great course which Beth provides at a very accessible price.  I got a discount through her newsletter so only paid $20 but full price it’s only $25.  It’s designed to cover 8 weeks but as a learn at your own pace course, it’s obviously very flexible.  And you get possibly life long access.  At least I can still access it now!

So, it’s been one hell of a year.  My life looked so incredibly different when I first started the course back in January.  It was my first venture into learning about tarot in detail.

And I feel like it would be interesting to work through the materials again, in this new permutation of my life and with the tarot knowledge I have developed throughout the year.

I had intended, the first time round, to blog about the course but time and life meant I didn’t really do this, or at least not as much as I’d have liked.  Perhaps this time will be different.

Week One: What kind of tarot reader do you want to be?

I answered this in part in my 10 questions every tarot reader should answer post.

The main answer is that I use tarot as a psychological tool and a way of communicating with myself.

Beth provides a number of prompts and questions to help us explore our journey with tarot, our thoughts around the possibilities etc.  How did you find out about tarot, what is the purpose of tarot etc.

The reason I want to learn tarot is… as a tool for connecting with myself, as a method of self care, as a way of meditating and being mindful, as a way of listening to myself and of caring for my mental health.

I wrote that in January and to be honest, my reason for wanting to read tarot hasn’t changed.  I still use it to connect with myself, to check out if my needs are being met, as a way of listening to myself and a way of carving out a space and time for my emotions.

In learning tarot, I hope to… find a way of listening to myself, and of hearing myself, a way for me to validate myself and acknowledge and act on my needs

I do think I have found a way of listening and hearing myself through tarot. However, I know that I often listen and then don’t act on what I’ve heard.  So I might realise I need to get out the house more but then I willfully forget that discovery and not actually get out the house more.  That’s a rubbish example but I hope it illustrates the point!  I also know I need to look at ways of using the cards to validate my feelings and experiences.

I think my main challenges will be… maintaining a routine, reading and putting in the effort on bad days when my depression is worse, physical challenges because of my hands.

But I will try to overcome them by… keeping the cards nearby, working through this course, signing up for newsletters etc about tarot so that there are lots of reminders and reading isn’t a hard thing, letting other people handle the cards whilst I read them for myself.

Having retired, some of the physical challenges have lessened as I am no longer using my hands all day at work.  I have been reasonably good at using the moon cycles as a way of maintaining a tarot routine.  I do read at other times but I almost always do a reading on a new or full moon.  I have also recently started drawing a card a week, a sort of riff on the Memento Mori that Carrie Mallon is doing.  My tarot cards are in my eye line when I’m in my living room chair and given that I spend most of my time there, this works as a helpful reminder.  It also means I don’t have to put much effort in to getting cards out etc.  I have subscribed to a number of newsletters and as well as the Alternative Tarot Course, I have done Susannah Conway’s 78 Mirrors this year.

The beautiful Lumina Tarot

lumina

An amazing fellow 78 Mirrors student very kindly gifted me her Lumina tarot deck after I feel in love with it.

One of the first things I do with a new deck is interview it… For me, it’s a fun way to start using the deck and get familiar with the cards.

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My full moon spread using Lumina and the Wild Unknown Tarot decks
not my interview spread*

What is your most important characteristic – Maiden of Pentacles

This beautiful card is about possibilities and potential as well as blossoming dreams and inspiration.  Given the gorgeous art work, the deck is definitely inspiring and I find it quite energising.  I feel like they are gently nurturing but also pushing me out of my comfort zone.

What are your strengths – 5 of Cups

The book which comes with the deck says this card is about healing or self destruction.  Given the context I’m going with healing from self destruction which tends to be how I read the five of cups anyway.  The card is also about being stuck, having difficulty accepting something or letting go of it.  Tying yourself to your pain means you can untie yourself.  I see this deck as being helpful in that process; helping you to see where you are causing yourself pain and then releasing it.

What are your limits – Judgement

The cards alone cannot change things.  I need to step into my power, I need to work on my understanding.  Further, if I am not open to hearing the truth, I can limit my interpretation of the cards and hence limit the role the deck could play.

How can I best learn and collaborate with you – Temperance

The book actually says “this is a card of practice”.  It doesn’t get more blatant than that!  Further, it’s about taking the wisdom from the readings and actually melding it into my life.  Consciously choosing to take what I discover and use it to harmonise myself and create balance in my life.  I’m good at getting insight from the cards and then not really doing much with that.

What is the potential outcome of our relationship – Knight of Cups

A new venture which ignites your heart and soul. Following your heart over head.  Creative action and passion.  Sounds exciting!


*apologies for the strange photo and lack of interview photo – my tablet smashed and I can’t use the right hand side of it which includes the click button for the camera…

Learning tarot, the low cost way

Taking up tarot can be expensive. There’s the cost of the decks which vary dramatically (my beautiful Wild Unknown deck was £34 and I felt I had to get the book as well as i was a beginner, another £16); the cost of books for general information as well as specific books for specific decks; the cost of courses ; the cost of getting readings (which can be a helpful way to learn).

Before you know it, you’re down a few hundred pounds…

This blog post was prompted by someone finding my blog by Googling “alternative tarot for someone with no money” so here are my thoughts on ways you can learn and practice tarot without the high price tag.

Deck

Some decks are cheaper than others but you can also download and print some decks eg from Dark Tarot, through Etsy or David’s Tarot. Print them on card (or glue onto card) and you have a very cheap deck.

If you want a professional printed deck, you’ll find Rider Waite Smith decks cheap online or even in second hand or discounted book shops.

However, if you can, I would recommend waiting for a deck that leaps out at you and asks to be taken home. My wild unknown deck was expensive but I use it most days and I love it more than all my other decks and connect to it much more strongly. So for me, it has definitely been worth the cost. I wouldn’t have got anywhere near as much insight if i’d started with the Rider Waite Smith deck and possibly wouldn’t be so into tarot.

Other tarot readers are a good source of second hand decks – they’re so tempting that often people buy lots and don’t click with them all.  Indeed one of my fellow students on 78 mirrors has offered to sent me their Lumina tarot deck which they’ve not clicked with.

Another way to dramatically reduce the cost of tarot is to get a tarot app instead. There are some good ones and a few do a free tester version so you can see if you like it.  Galaxy Tone seems to have a good reputation.

Books

Other than the Wild Unknown book, I didn’t buy my first tarot book until a few weeks ago. There is a vast amount of great information online so I haven’t needed to.

A few of my favourite sites for understanding cards, getting ideas for spreads, finding out about decks etc are:

The book I have bought is one which I’ve seen recommended over and over again, Carrie recommended it when I asked for her suggestions and its come up again in 78 Mirrors. It’s 78 Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack and seems to be a bit of a tarot bible.

My copy is 350 pages starting with a bit of history before moving onto the major arcana, the minor arcana and then readings. It was first published in 1980 in two parts. I’m onky up to page 73 (the strength card) but so far it’s very informative, very readable and very helpful. She goes into a lot of detail about each card and looks at the imagery and symbolism (predominately that in the Rider Waite Smith deck which is helpful for other decks as well). I don’t know much about myths, religion and symbology so I’m finding it quite illuminating.

My copy was about £5 from amazon but given its popularity I would expect to find it in charity shops as well (side note, I would prefer more charity bookshop shopping but so many of them round here have steps or are too tightly packed to get a wheelchair round. If you run one, check on how accessible you are).

There are other amazing looking books out there about tarot that you might really want, but if you’re strapped for cash, you really don’t need them.

Courses

Again, you don’t need to do a course but they can provide a structured approach and possibly other learners.

Little Red Tarot ‘s alternative tarot course is $25 and gives you 8 weeks of lessons and exercises. I actually got the course for $20 through a discount code Beth sent with her newsletter. There is also the alternative tarot community which has a section for people following the course to talk. The course itself is one you do alone at your own pace and because it’s very reflective, I didn’t feel I missed having course mates

I haven’t done it but Susannah Conway’s Daily Guidance course is supposed to be very good, although it is pricier at £67. Her second tarot course, 78 Mirrors is £117 and is very good so far. These do have an optional Facebook group for peer support and Susannah has posted a lot in there herself. If you sign up to her newsletter you get alerted to new courses and often a discount code.

There are other courses available free via regular emails etc including learn tarot and The Tarot Lady.

7/9/16 Edited to add: Beth has written a good post about starting to learn tarot – http://littleredtarot.com/start-youre-tarot-newbie/ 

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? …

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do…

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– Marianne Williamson

A lot of the time when you mention power, people think of authoritarian power, of dictators, of control but we all have power.  Power is not good or bad, it’s all about how you use it. You can use it to oppress people or use it to empower yourself and others. The key is you and your intention.

Side note: I have just been through this post and added in the word me where I had been using you or a general term.  This is one way I give away my power.  I distance things from myself.  I had a job interview a few years ago for a management position.  I spent the whole time trying to remember to say me instead of we.  As a team, us sharing the power instead of me claiming it worked really well but in the job interview, it was going to devalue what I had done.  Similarly, in this post, all about reclaiming my power, I need to speak specifically about me.

My short journey (so far) towards embracing my power

First step, acknowledge that I surrendered my power.

I surrendered it to my eating disorder, my depression, my pain, my mother, a lot of people around me, to my circumstances.  To be honest, I gave my power to whoever or whatever would take it.  I was not forced to give my power away.  I chose to.  Perhaps not consciously, but the key is that I surrendered it so I can reclaim it.  We all have power (except in very extreme situations), even if we’re in a difficult situation with lots of external forces at work and we have very little say in our lives, we have the power of our thoughts and how we approach a situation.

Second, consciously decide that I want to reclaim it, embrace it.  

Parts one and two happened for me during a new moon ritual which was going to be about letting go of bad relationships, including anorexia, and stepping into a world of creating, learning, of balance and rhythm, of logic and intuition. But I guess this was where I needed to go instead.

Third, how the hell do I actually do this?!

This step involved a tarot spread which turned out to be quite an intense, interesting spread with some super strong synchronicities going on.  I’m going through the process of writing it up and collecting journal prompts based on my observations and ponderings.

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The spread considers:

  • what my power is (ten of wands, wheel of fortune and the moon)
  • what holds me back from embracing my power (mother of cups)
  • what can help me overcome this (father of cups)
  • what can help me to embrace my power (two of wands)
  • what can I do right now (ace of wands)
  • what does owning my power look like (the world)

I think these would all work well as journal prompts on their own, without the tarot, although the cards do add a good starting point and help me think about things which I wouldn’t get to without them.

Uh-oh…

Then came a glitch. My mother visiting.

My reaction to her visit could easily been seen as disempowering; I hid a lot of what makes me who I am (tattoos, tarot, crystals, art work, reading material etc) and I became quite passive whilst she was here.

However both of these things are currently really important for my self protection. I know that I am not ready to have her pick my life and identity apart. Maybe one day I will be. In the meantime, I did make some small progress; instead of lying to avoid difficult conversations, I just didn’t respond to questions or comments that I knew would go down a bad route if I responded truthfully. And yes, she did say some hurtful things and I didn’t stand up for myself but I do feel I maintained more integrity that I have on previous occasions.  Small wins are still wins!

And life is full of times when it is harder to do the thing you want to do, ideally these are challenges which you can overcome, the thing which tests if you’re really embracing your power.  But it’s also ok if you aren’t ready to face that particular thing.  For me, I weigh up how far back doing something will set me.  Facing my mother would probably put me back to where I was pre-therapy right now.  Not a good plan.  Let’s keep building my foundations and once I have a more firm standing, then maybe we’ll try that.

Getting back on track…

See where my power currently goes.

For me, my power currently goes to my neighbours, my care agency, my disability, organisations/buildings etc which are not accessible, the government who are taking my money.  It still goes to my eating disorder, my anxiety and my depression but a lot less than it did.

Is your power going to your depression, to your partner, to your narcissistic mother? You can’t reclaim your power till you know where it is. Examine the relationships you have. It’s not always obvious when someone is sucking your power. It can be in the form of blatantly putting you down. It can also be treating you as if you aren’t worth much but in a much less obvious way. It can be through constant moaning or expecting you to be there but never reciprocating.

Tell my story (over and over again).

tell your story

In my case, and a lot of other cases I think, my eating disorder and depression kept their control and power by keeping me silent. Talking hurts. It makes you feel horrible and vulnerable. But it also is a huge fuck you to whatever it is that’s oppressing you.

And as yukky and self obsessive and whiney as you may feel, talking does help.  But part of talking is having to face the vulnerability hangover as well.  But that’s the sign that it’s working.  It’s the sign that your eating disorder or whatever it is for you is in panic mode.  They’re losing control or power over you and the nasty feeling is a way of stopping you from talking again so that they remain in control.

Brene Brown talks a lot about shame and vulnerability, if you’ve not come across her, do watch her TED talk.

Listen to my needs.

This means all my needs; emotional, physical, spiritual… We all have needs and shutting them off and not hearing them is a way of invalidating yourself. Meeting your needs is a powerful act. Especially in this world where we’re told what we should want or need and when and how and even if to meet that need.

What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Or good, or powerful.  Look at what makes you feel good or powerful and do more of it. Make it a regular part of your life.

For me, this can be advocating for someone or something. Sharing my opinions in consultations etc.  It can be finishing a piece of art or writing. Doing something which stretches me a bit. Doing something that I’ve tried to stop myself from doing.

I’m full of “valid” excuses (accessibility, weather, pain, energy) and I know I use them to avoid doing things. But I’m getting better at noticing and calling myself out on it. This doesn’t mean I always do the thing but at least I’m being more honest about why.

Look at what messages my surroundings are giving me.

Surround yourself with people, things etc which empower you. My Twitter feed is a mix of friends, activism, body positive people, eds people, tarot people and such. It’s not all sunshine and roses and I don’t want it to be. That would really irritate me.  But equally I didn’t want it filled with body shaming, gossiping, backstabbing and hurting people. The same goes for things i read and watch and listen to.

I talked a bit about this over in my post about peace including some examples of newsletters etc which I find support my re-embracing of my power.

I no longer have a TV license because I found I was watching anything and everything including a lot of programmes which made me feel bad about myself.  I now have to make a more conscious choice about what I watch on netflix etc because leaving the channel on and watching whatever comes up next isn’t an option.  I still watch a lot of mindless, cheesy stuff but I’m making the decision to.

“The more aware you are of what you’re absorbing and thinking, the less likely you are to burn out” – Girl Boss Woo

Embracing my power doesn’t mean doing everything myself. Indeed, I can’t do everything myself, I can’t dress or wash myself.  Embracing my power means being able to delegate, letting others help me and asking for help when I need it.

Whilst you’re looking around, take a look at your personal, emotional boundaries.  Are they there?  Are they too strong?  Too weak?  Find your own way to set, maintain or strengthen them. Maybe visualisation works for you, maybe not. We’re all different.  Again, I’ve mentioned this in a bit more detail in my post about peace.

Remind myself that I do not need permission from others.

I am giving myself the permission to do things, I don’t need other people to give me permission to do something, go somewhere or even to take up space.

Similarly, I don’t need external validation. This is a HUGE HUGE HUGE thing for me. But I don’t need external validation.  Instead I’m going to work on finding ways to be able to validate my own feelings, experiences etc.

And the obligatory self care mention…

Yes, I know, it’s the buzz word.  But it’s also genuinely important.  Take the time to look after yourself. Put your needs first. Without your needs being taken care of, you aren’t any good to yourself let alone others.

Self care isn’t just about having a bath.  It’s much much more and you need to find what works for you.

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For me, it’s about making sure I keep some balance in my life, plan in rest time, plan my meals ahead so I eat reasonably well (but also don’t stick rigidly to the plan, flexibility is good).  I know from a lot of reflection that I feel better if I have done at least one thing creative, one thing intellectual, something restful, gone outside and checked in with myself each week.  My friday check ins allow me to keep track and ensure I keep balance in my life.

Make yourself a self care checklist, make some of it habit, that way when things are tough, you’re more likely to the things on your list.  Some of the things on my body image post are ways I look after myself so that might give you some ideas if you’re looking for them.

Recognising who you are, your strengths, your beauty is a powerful act, especially in a world which is set up to make you feel bad about yourself* 

*so you then buy the magic fix…

Peace: 8 month update

My word of the year is peace. Although actually it’s developed into more of a nebulous concept over the year.

My pinterest board keeps me aware of it. I also have peac written in magnetic scrabble on my fridge (the second e has disappeared…!).

In terms of progress, things have become a lot more about boundaries, tarot and spirituality of late.

Boundaries

A big part of this is setting boundaries around my flat. My neighbours continue to be awful people who make a lot of noise. I’m talking two barking dogs, vacuuming 21 times in one week, 2/3 of which was between 7.30pm and midnight. This week they’ve started shouting at each other at 5am. 5AM… And I’ve checked out my options and there’s nothing I can do because I strongly believe if they know I’ve complained about them, they’ll get worse and (at least) verbally abuse me. And there’s no way of complaining without them realising I made the complaint…

On top of the general crapness of that, I really struggle with noise. It really affects my stress and anxiety levels. Having the extractor fan on bothers me, let alone anything else…

But I can’t change things with my neighbours so I needed a new approach (although moaning a bit does help, sorry twitter folk). To do this, I walked through my flat mentally setting my boundaries and strongly imagining a buffer between my ceiling and their floorboards.  This, whilst it won’t change the noise, changes my relationship to it. I now feel more in control. When they make noise, I take it as a signal to take a deep breath and strengthen my imaginary boundaries. I know that all sounds very hippy, witchy, woo woo but it’s working for me. It’s about my intention to let the noise go, to let it brush off me and to be more in control of my reaction to it. Alongside this I keep my fingers tightly crossed they might move. And strategically place leaflets from estate agents so they’ll see them…

Boundaries are also about my emotional boundaries. Especially important around some people, including some of my care team. Again, I’m trying visualisation techniques to help with this as well as being conscious of setting boundaries. On occasions where I know my emotional boundaries are likely to receive hits, I’ve also set the intention to maintain my boundaries beforehand and used a crystal to remind me of this and to help ground me. There’s a guided visualisation by Marthe of the Freedom Experiment which I’ve used although there’s hundreds of others all over the internet.

I’ve been thinking about EDS* and boundaries; people with EDS often have poor proprioception** so don’t really know where their physical edges are. A lot of people with EDS also have anxiety and I wonder if there’s a link between proprioception and anxiety. As my anxiety rises, I find it harder to feel where I stop and the world begins. The converse is also true; if my proprioception is bad, my anxiety rises. So one thing I’m trying to do when anxiety hits, is re-find my physical boundaries. I’m very early on in exploring this. So far i have had a carer rub moisturiser into my arms which helps (and probably helps more of you can do it yourself),  covering myself in heavy blankets or my beanbag style heat packs and mindfulness body scans (which didn’t work for me but might for someone else).

*Ehlers Danlos Syndrome

**Proprioception refers to the body’s ability to sense movement within joints and joint position. This ability enables us to know where our limbs are in space without having to look.

Tarot and peace

How does tarot bring me peace? Or more accurately, help me find my peace. Well, it helps me see what I’m feeling, worried about etc. It acts as a mirror, showing me what’s going on in my subconscious. And once I know what I’m feeling, rather than hiding it away in a clenched jaw or general irritableness, then I can try and process it and if needs be do something about it.

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The actual process of getting out my cards, sitting down, shuffling and drawing the cards is also a way of pausing all the daily nitty gritty stuff. I take a deep breath as I’m shuffling and ask for guidance. I know a lot of people have bigger rituals around tarot but small works for me and marks a divide between normal time and tarot time.

Rituals and intentions

Which brings me to rituals.  Rituals are helping me feel more peaceful, they give me anchor points which is important when all your days look the same.

My Friday check ins are a form of ritual. But I’m also starting to follow the seasons, moon cycles etc. This gives me lots of chances to think about what I want to embrace, release, be thankful for etc.

Different points in the moon cycle or year also focus on different things which I may not have considered on my own, for example Lammas at the start of August focuses on harvesting, looking at what you’ve grown and being grateful. I didn’t do much for it, I lit a candle, did a tarot reading and had a think about what I’m “harvesting” (mentally, emotionally, physically eg new friendships, financial ventures, skills you’re learning etc) as well as what hasn’t grown, or is still growing.  Doing this helps me be more aware of where in the year we are, anchoring me to time and tuning me into my SAD tendencies.

Rituals can also be a way to consciously set intentions such as the intention to try and remain grounded in a tough situation, the intention to embrace your personal power etc. Stopping to consciously decide and tell yourself what you want is much more concrete than vaguely thinking something to yourself.

Intention setting may simply involve you saying out loud that you want to pursue career opportunities or it might be more involved and you might include planning as part of your intention setting. However you chose to do it, I find the act of acknowledging to yourself means that your mind is more attuned to relevant things or interprets your world through a lens related to that. Using the career example, once you acknowledge that’s your intention, you are likely to notice job adverts, networking opportunities etc more often.  If you tell other people about your intention they may bring opportunities your way. I guess in a lot of ways intention setting is about consciously focusing on what you want.

This is my little alter type corner. There’s crystals, candles, shells, stones, twigs, fir cones, feathers etc. I love crystals, they’re beautiful objects and the twigs etc are little bits of nature which is especially nice to see when I’m having a bad day and can’t leave the house. Framed above my desk is a feather a friend found and sent me. Next to the large glass bowl there’s a salt lamp, a little shrine type thing to my Granma and a painting I did earlier this year to process and mark my move from working to retirement.

Creating an encouraging environment

My inbox is filled with daily, weekly, monthly reminders about being true to myself, about self care, about finding your way. I don’t read them all but i read a lot more of them than I do emails trying to sell me possessions which promise true happiness… Some of the newsletters or blog post emails which I look forward to receiving are:

I’m sure there are more but these are a selection of emails which make me feel empowered, excited, understood etc.  Some days I am not in the right head space for them but other days they tell me exactly what I need to hear.

My Twitter world is a mix of the above mentioned newsletter senders, cheerleaders, shoulders to cry on, people to celebrate with as well as people talking about things which are important to me, and perhaps even more crucial, no people who just focus on stuff which makes me feel bad (gossip magazines, diet companies etc).

And there goes the vacuum upstairs; I’m taking a deep breath, re-visualising my ceiling boundaries and refocusing on what I’m doing.  I’m not zen, I’m not an embodiment of peace, but I’m an awful lot more peaceful than I was at the start of the year.

How are you getting on with any words of the year you set?