Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tarot and Quantum Physics

The beginnings of a thought that’s been puzzling in me for a while:

When you shuffle the tarot deck, you can think about the resulting order of the cards in at least two different ways. First, you can say that the order is predictable, because if you track the position of each card as you shuffle, you could tell where every card in the deck would end up. That’s real-world physics, where the outcome is measurable.

The second way you can look at it, though, is through the lens of quantum physics, where the state of a thing is unknown and actually does not exist until and unless someone observes it. In that way, the top card of the shuffled deck can literally be anything at all.

The tarot version of Schrödinger’s cat, IMO, is what allows the tarot to be so incredibly useful as a tool for guidance.

And yes, of course, there’s the matter of subjective interpretation and all that—but for the moment, all I’m puzzling over is the way the cards end up in the stack. I consciously and deliberately invoke quantum physics when I shuffle.

So, says the skeptic, you’re saying that as soon as you turn the cards face down they could be anything at all on the other side, right? Well, yes and no. I think that our minds, depending as they do on our “real”-world experience of linearity and causality, can’t accept that. But I do believe that the more we practice this other view, the easier it becomes to turn off our measuring devices when we want to.

Anyway. Just rambling on a Sunday morning.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Seeking Balance

The last few years, I’ve been more aware of the lunar cycle in my life. It started when I began to notice major events clustering around the New Moon or the Full Moon. Now, I use those times consciously, as a moment to step back and assess. The New Moon is a time to consider what’s being “seeded” or “planted,” to grow and develop over the next two weeks until the Full Moon. When the Full Moon comes around, I stop to see whether I like what’s going on, and evaluate my course of action.

Last week was the New Moon. What has been manifesting itself in my life lately is chaos. Craziness—renovation at the house; a new program at the Ranch starting up and needing to be organized, tended, nurtured, guided; a horse with not one but two abscessed front feet needing to be treated daily with duct-tape “boots” or hoof casts.

Chaos and busy-ness. I’ve felt stressed and strung out, racing (driving, actually) from one must-do to another. Getting home after dark, exhausted, with no energy to cook or dance or do anything more than barely keep my head above the water. Doing, doing, doing.

So finding balance seemed to be what I most needed to focus on. My intention was to plant the seeds of a more balanced life for myself: a better awareness of my own, legitimate needs, and a balancing of those with my “work” (volunteer) requirements and the needs of others.

Re-reading my journal entries this morning, I was struck once again by the level of “guidance,” if you will, that shows up even in the midst of the craziness:

That New-Moon morning was spent doing some writing, including this entry on my blog (though I didn't post it at the time). In the afternoon, I sat down with my tarot and Horse Wisdom decks. My question was “What comment do you, my Guides, have on my New-Moon intention: more balance in my life?”

The opening card (in my readings, the one that “sets the stage”) from Linda Kohanov’s The Way of the Horse deck: Kairos.  “Horse time,” waiting for the perfect moment. Learning to recognize the perfect moment for anything, and being able to act appropriately in that moment. Knowing that things take exactly as long as they take: no more, no less. Now, what was that “lesson” I was just writing down? Something about Horse Time?

The King of Wands, reversed, came up as the Situation, expressing my frustration, uncertainty, and self-doubt. Challenges/Opportunities brought the Queen of Swords. She is mistress of balanced thought, of understanding, of writing and communication. What had I spent the morning doing? Writing….

Advice was The Tower, reversed. This scary card always announces a sudden, unavoidable change of some kind, usually not a welcome one, in the moment, at least. Reversed, it often means “the same, only less intense.” Or it can mean fighting change, despite the fact that it’s already happened. In any case, it’s a STRONG statement, and one that I have to heed. I asked for clarification and received the Four of Wands: “the soul of fire,” according to Rachel Pollack in Tarot Wisdom.

My interpretation, in retrospect, is that I MUST change the way I’m going about my life, or it will be done for me. The old two-by-four upside the head. Nah…I’ll fix it myself. Really, I will….

Recent Past/Daily Lesson: The Moon. Powerful emotions and feelings stirred up, the influence of the unconscious, a difficult time in one’s life, and/or something cyclical. All of those seem to apply in the current situation. Not only that, but this was a reading concerning the lunar cycle in my life.

Near Future: The Chariot, reversed. “The will fails,” says Pollack. “It may be painful, especially if that Tower appears….” Um, yes…. She suggests that “this card, reversed, can indicate a situation where a person has tried as hard as she can, and no longer has the will to continue.” Do I have the strength to make the hard choices and changes? Do I have the strength or will NOT to make those changes?

The closing card, also from the Way of the Horse deck: Bonfire. A sudden shift (The Tower, anyone?), clearing and releasing, fuel for transformation.

Anyway. Here’s some of what Linda Kohanov talks about in the write-up for this card: “It is no small task to stay present during intense outbursts of power—whether human, equine, or divinely inspired. Be ready to face areas of resistance that have grown into a volatile source of fuel for the fire.” Wow—and I can feel just how strong my resistance is to so much of this.

One thing that comes to mind is the tremendous effort I’ve put into the new program at the Rescue Ranch in its development, and now in its infancy. Can I sustain that level of intensity? It has completely taken over my life in recent weeks. Without me, it wouldn’t exist; but is that same level of involvement necessary to its continued development?

As I thought about this reading, I could feel tears welling up. Balance: what would that feel like? I can’t even imagine it any longer. What do I have to give up now? What now? I've already nearly given up dance. The Ranch? My horses?

My practice? What about that? That pathetic, thin, sickly little attempt to make a difference in people’s lives through my psychological knowledge and ability, and my knowledge of horses. That just refuses to thrive. Do I move on from that, too?

But even if I say, “Yes, I can move on,” then what? I have no idea what else there is for me to do. That is terrifying….

The first step is always awareness. So maybe that’s my immediate task: Awareness of the need to change. That is certainly tough enough.

So I went back Kohanov. Quoting Andrew Harvey, who’s quoting Rumi, she says on p. 195:

Rumi encourages us to “follow that desperation right to its home which is in Divine initiation, Divine transformation.” He asks “desperation to ‘take a torch and burn down’ all our concepts, limitations, fantasies, and banal solutions.”

And again, on p. 197, she says, “‘Light the incense!’ Rumi advises. ‘You have to burn to be fragrant, to scent the whole house, you have to burn to the ground.’” OMG…. What does that mean, here, now?

Oh my…. Conflagration!? Burn it all?!

By this point, I was getting really scared. I had all but talked myself into chucking everything and starting over, whatever that meant. But I decided to try one more thing, to ask for one more piece of guidance.

My Pacifica dinner-and-conversation group, meeting this coming weekend, will be talking about what it means to be an Elder—a wise, older man. I had awakened that morning from a dream about talking with an older, male mentor—that sense was all that remained of the dream.

So I decided to see if Professor Jung had anything to add to the “conversation.” My copy of the Red Book was on the desk. At random, I opened it to page 203, the first column, about halfway down. There, Shamdasani (the translator) describes Jung's work on the Liber Novus:
After completing the handwritten Draft, Jung had it typed and edited it…. It appears he gave it to someone…to read, who then commented on Jung's editing, indicating that some sections which he had intended to cut should be retained.
Well, if that wasn’t a “comment,” I’ll eat my hat. Thank you, Professor. So it seems we’re not talking about a complete break here, or a total re-write of my agenda. What a relief! Just some editing.

Sheesh. But at least I’m not without guidance! Thank you, Everyone!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crossing the River

Last week I drove into north-central Illinois to attend the memorial service for my Aunt Doe, my father’s younger sister. My brother and I used to spend a couple of weeks or more with her, and with my grandmother and grandfather and aunts and uncles and cousins from various generations, pretty much every summer when we were youngsters. Since my nuclear family moved around often, the little town where they lived was the only stable place for us kids. If you ask either of us now, as adults half a century later, where “home” is, we’ll both give you the name of that little town.

The five-hour drive was fairly easy except the bit between Springfield and Bloomington, where I got sleepy. But the turn to the north onto I-39 always feels so good, as I get to see all those familiar place names—Minonk, Wenona, Lacon, Streator…. As I drove, I had the painful realization that I might never again have a reason to visit those places: Aunt Doe was the only one left of that generation, and now she’s gone.

Our ancestors on that side of the family have been there for well over a century and a half; they were mostly Quakers who migrated there from Pennsylvania. Many of them are buried in a little Quaker cemetery near the old homestead, and the Meeting House is still the site of Annual Meetings for the region. Since I was a child, I’ve felt the presence of those old folks, especially when I’d visit Friends Cemetery or the little stretch of wooded land they used to call Wolf Hollow, along the Illinois River.

That day last week, as I drove across Illinois on I-39, I felt the familiar tug toward Quaker Lane—almost a physical pain, as though I have, somehow, a compass needle attached to my heart that points home.

Then, as I crossed the Illinois River north and east of there on I-39, I had an even stranger sensation: it was one of “recognition,” but not a recognition of the way the river appears now. In fact, I’m not even sure I noticed how it appears in waking life, at that moment.

Rather, what I experienced was more like a remembrance: a sudden sensation of the wildness of the place—the majesty, the density of the woods on either side, the strangeness of the lush, forested landscape two centuries or so ago, before “civilization” arrived.

I don’t know who it was who visited me. There was definitely more than one presence—ancestors, I expect, or close friends, who came in the early years of the nineteenth century. I wonder if the river crossing struck those Old Ones so strongly because of the vast prairies they’d have come across on their way. Or maybe, after those unfamiliar prairie landscapes, the riverine forest reminded them of their own home. I don’t know. But it was definitely not my own emotion that I experienced.

How do I know I wasn't just imagining it? Well, of course, you can explain it that way. But as always, I look for that element of surprise that often characterizes a visit from the imaginal world. I wasn't even thinking about the river at that point; I was more focused on how I was going to find the hotel in Peru once I got there. But then, suddenly, there was the river....

Somehow it made me feel closer to those who departed this life so many years ago but whose presence is invoked (Latin invocare, to call, by name) by place and an open and receptive heart. I feel connected to them and, still and forever, to Aunt Doe.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A New View of "Reality"

Wow. I haven’t posted anything here in six months! All that moving of “furniture” didn’t leave much energy for writing, and it’s still going on. But it’s cool and rainy today after a blistering-hot summer, and it’s past time to update the blogs.

So, what has changed during this time?

First of all, both my skill level and my confidence in my own abilities with the horses have increased dramatically. Now, when I have a horse on a lead line and she challenges me, I laugh and just keep making the request. People repeatedly tell me how “graceful” and “effortless” it looks when I’m working with a horse on the ground—and I feel it, too. The horses respond better and quicker, and after the work they relax with me, heads down, snuffling my arm or my rib cage.

I notice that I’m no longer afraid to go work with a volunteer or a potential adoptive owner when they need a little guidance. I’ve grown into my title: “Lead Intern.” I still know my limitations, but what I know and do well, I’m happy to share.

But the change is not quite that all-encompassing. This became evident yesterday, when my trainer friend “Jay” and I were discussing an volunteer award application that a fellow intern had submitted to his company. To me, it seemed to be a self-congratulatory piece of fluff, with miniscule grains of truth spun like cotton candy. I was offended; even though those grains were real, how dare he submit such a thing?

Jay had quite a different take on it. Though he recognized the fluff, Jay felt like the entire document was well written and perfectly acceptable. We argued back and forth for an hour or so, as we worked with the horses. I got upset to the point where I had to walk away for a bit. When I came back, he had me read some of the offending parts aloud, with my own inflection.

He waited patiently until I was finished, and I commented, “For his next trick, he’ll walk on water!” Jay laughed out loud and said, “But it’s all true!” I just stood there for a minute with my mouth hanging open. Then two things happened.

First, I started to cry. Fortunately, Jay knows me well enough (and our relationship is good enough) to take tears in stride and not try to fix anything. Second, I realized that the reason for the tears was the realization that in fact, it was all true, and true of me, too. It is true—and yet I would never have considered saying it, much less putting it into writing.

Parabola Magazine posted a quote on their facebook status yesterday. Here’s part of it:

When we see, the world enters us. And, contrary to what we may assume, it does not flow from eyes to brain as a stream of purely objective data. We build the gates that receive the world… (Trebbe Johnson in "Where's the Temple?: Seeing Behind the Foreground," PARABOLA, Fall, 2011).
Just the day before, I opened Greg Mogenson’s Greeting the Angels: An Imaginal View of the Mourning Process, and read this:

Living out each day as if it were the eternal recurrence of some yesterday we could not grieve, our fundamental adaptation to life gradually becomes more and more antiquated until, at least, we ourselves become outmoded (p. 9).
The premise here is that what we experience, and particularly (according to Mogenson) what we ardently desire but cannot have, or that we lose, determines—not just influences—how we perceive the world. It takes a huge effort even to make a crack in the blinders, the filter, that creates our version of reality.

Realizing this, it’s easier to understand why I initially saw my fellow intern’s material as “spun” to the point of falsehood, and perceived it as malicious or even threatening:  because I would never allow myself to toot my own horn in that way. No matter that it was true; I was unable to see it. To do so would violate my perception of reality, based on my long-ago experiences.

As a child, I developed the conviction that no matter what I did, I was never going to be good enough to satisfy my parents, much less the world at large. That filter, that gate, has been so effective that only now, in my seventh decade, can I even begin to question my conditioned version of reality. That someone else, doing largely the same things as I do every day, would interpret his own importance so differently was a huge challenge to me.

Well, there’s something to be said for a shock to the ego—and this shock was a positive one. I’m going to have to challenge my own worldview here, starting right now.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Moving My Psychic Furniture

I’ve been trying to figure out why my internship with the horses at the Rescue Ranch has been so psychically and emotionally difficult and so exhausting, despite how much I love it.

I think it’s the rearrangement of my psychic furniture—things that have been in place for fifty or sixty years kind of get stuck where they are, and it takes tremendous energy to move them around, much less to contemplate getting rid of them.

I’m finding that a lot of things make sense these days that didn’t before. Some of this understanding started with the seminar on Jungian typology that psychologist Mary Ryan gave last month to our local Jung Society. Afterwards, I realized several things:

First, it’s no wonder that my Dad and I were at loggerheads all the time. Growing up, I was an INFJ; Dad was ESTJ. Not much in common, there! Mary explained that the “J” types meet the world with their rational function—the T or the F, Thinking or Feeling—and that becomes their dominant function. So Dad and I saw the world differently, and had totally opposite ways of making decisions. No wonder we had problems!

She also explained that the Auxiliary functions—for Dad and me, Intuition and Sensing—are both accessible to the individual, but one may be favored more than the other. Dad was a Sensation type—if you can’t see, feel, taste, smell, and touch it, it ain’t real. Intuition, which one supposes he had, was certainly downplayed. I had/have intuition in spades, but because of my Dad’s example (not to mention his demands), I learned to pretty much hide or ignore—and distrust—my intuitive knowing.

I already knew the what of all of this, but Mary Ryan helped explain the why. And now I can understand why my otherworldly Coaching Staff actually had to use a physical means of contacting me the first time: If I hadn’t heard their initial messages with my physical ears, I wouldn’t have/couldn’t have believed it, because I’ve shut down the intuitive part of my psyche over the years. It also explains why I have such a hard time cultivating my intuitive side—I’m still battling my internalized father figure, who doesn’t believe in such nonsense.

So. Back to the Ranch. The horses are challenging me to open up again to the non-verbal, non-rational side of things, and that’s the very part that I’ve spent nearly sixty years suppressing. There are times out there when I feel just raw—not with emotion so much as feeling—I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s still below conscious level, but it’s there, and becoming stronger. Sometimes I can feel what the horse is feeling before he reacts in a way that expresses it.

That happened the other day when we had Duffy out in the arena—we tried to get him into the trailer first, and when he was balky (though he got his front feet in without any resistance at all), Jay took him back over and through the “trailer tarp” system. As he came back through the second time, I said to Jay, “Oh, look—he says, ‘I remember this now!’ He just got the image.” Just as I said that, the horse dropped his head and snorted, obviously relaxing all of a sudden. So Jay could see it, too.

Anyway. There are days when I come home just shaking with fatigue. Yesterday I had to go back to bed, and once there, I slept for four hours without even moving.

This reminds me so much of the Pacifica experience—another time when my psychic furniture got radically rearranged. Well, onwards and upwards, I guess….

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Blessing

Wow. How’s this for synchronicity:

I just re-posted to my facebook page a link to a piece on my Alchemical Horse blog from last September. The article was on Mia, a little rescued filly who touched my heart. You can read that post here.

One friend responded right away, saying that it had left her in tears, and asking how Mia is doing now. (Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to that.)

I had just finished posting a piece on that blog about how I’m glad to be able to contribute a little to world peace by doing a week’s worth of writing for and about the Rescue Ranch where I volunteer, because we’re getting the word out about our work with relational horsemanship—a way of working with horses that’s based on relationship, not on dominance.

As soon as I returned to my email, that very instant, a email was delivered from the Red Cross (to whom I have not donated this year, alas…):
Dear Kay,
Today, many hearts are happier and lives are better because you chose to put compassion into action. This Valentine's Day, may your heart be filled with joy by stories of lives changed and hope restored from around the world. From my heart to yours, thank you for making these stories possible.
Tears in my own eyes, now….

Monday, January 31, 2011


This life is a funny place. Saturday I took one of horses for a walk on the trails near the barn. The temperature was in the 40s, and for the most part there wasn't much snow left, just a little slush and lots of mud.

Horses, especially those wearing shoes, tend to get snow packed up into their hooves in the winter. These ice balls can be uncomfortable and dangerous--it's kind of like the horse is walking on hard, lumpy baseballs--so you have to stop frequently and chip them out.

The first time I took old Midnight out in the snow and he got ice balls on his feet, it took me quite a while to figure out what was wrong--why was he fighting me and stumbling on flat ground? I hopped off and saw that three of his four hooves were off the ground by a couple of inches. The packed ice was so hard that a stick wouldn't budge it. Instead, I had to search for a pointed rock and bash the ice out. You can imagine how much Midnight enjoyed that!

The tool of choice is a hoof pick, and most of us (including me, now) carry them in our pockets when we're on the trails. Saturday I thought about taking one, but decided there wasn't enough snow left to be a problem.

All was fine until we turned off the main trail and onto one that leads through a flat, open stretch between patches of trees. The sun doesn't reach that part of the path, and yes, it was still snow-covered and perfect for forming ice balls under a horse's hooves.

I started cussing myself out for not bringing the proper tool, and began to look for a suitable rock. But wait--what's that? Oh my goodness: a blue hoof pick, right there next to the trail, within easy reach.

I just stood there with my mouth open for a bit, thanked the Guides, or Providence, or Whoever placed it there for me, then picked it up and chipped the ice out of Midnight's hooves.

Yup. Life's a funny place.

[Cross-posted on The Alchemical Horse.]

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Thin Time

A few weeks ago I woke from a dream:
An old boyfriend is getting ready to move into an apartment—he is going back to school. He calls me to meet him at a friend’s house, where there are several other people whom we know. I assume he is going to ask me to move in with him. In the bedroom he tells me that he doesn’t really love me as much as he let on, and that he’s sorry he led me on, but that he just didn’t know how to tell me. I am so angry—how dare he do that to me? It turns out that everyone in the house knew about this except me.

He is very surprised that I’m angry. He offers to make love to me but I don’t want him anywhere near me. I don’t want anyone touching me. Then I tell another friend that I need to go home now, because I have an early morning with the horses.
This seemed like such a strange dream to me. The sense of betrayal and disappointment didn’t fit with anything I was experiencing in my waking life, and I couldn’t make it fit with what I know of my psychic state; nothing resonated.

That morning, still puzzling over the dream, I went out to the barn where I had recently moved my horse Galahad. I had been unusually busy the week before and hadn’t been to see him in quite a while. In the meantime, I had let a couple of other people ride him, to give him some company.

Galahad’s new home seems perfect to me: fresh grass, a flowing creek, woods, plenty of space to run in, and all the hay he can eat, 24 hours a day. He’s in a herd of six in a pasture, instead of a small dry lot and 20 horses at the place he had been living.

Idyllic as the situation seemed to me, I knew that Galahad wasn’t settling in contentedly. He wasn’t his usual playful, happy, carefree self, and he always seemed distracted. Physically, he was doing fine; it was his emotional state that had me worried. There’s always an adjustment period, but even after two months, he hadn’t settled in well.

That day Galahad seemed especially listless and sulky, and I couldn’t get him interested in anything. When I took him back out to the pasture and turned him loose, he wandered dully off toward the round bale. I watched him for a long time.

The dream kept coming back to me, so I decided to work with it again, this time trying to break it down to its basic, archetypal elements:

There is someone to whom the dream ego has given its heart and its trust. This someone has another agenda of which the dream ego is not aware, and which runs counter to what the dream ego expects. The person keeps this other agenda hidden, then unexpectedly expresses it. The dream ego is shocked and disappointed, and feels betrayed and used.

Disappointment and betrayal—and abandonment, too. Hmm…. Is there humiliation, as well? Since apparently everyone but the dream ego knew about it? No, in the dream that’s not a factor. It’s all focused on the broken “promise.”

Since nothing in that resonates for me personally, is this even my dream? Is it maybe a dream sent to me by the horses? Or is this Galahad’s dream?

I decided to do some journeying, some active imagination, and ask the Horse Ancestors for help. Sitting on a log near the stream, I closed my eyes and waited for a vision:

My Guide, the Cloud-colored Horse, comes to me in the pasture. I climb on his back. He takes me to a vast meadow. Although it’s dark and I can’t see anything much, I can hear the whuffles and snorts of the horse herd. I jump down off the Cloud-colored Horse and stand there, waiting. Dimly, I can make out another light-colored horse in front of me. This horse gets closer, and though I can’t make out much, I realize he is painfully thin. He grazes hungrily on what little grass there seems to be. Then he moves closer and closer to me until I can reach out and touch his thin body. Without lifting his head all the way, he nuzzles me and presses close. Is this Galahad? It doesn’t look like him, but I can’t be sure. Everything is dim—it must be night.
So that’s it, I think. Galahad is a rescued horse: He was so thin when the Humane Society picked him up that they nearly euthanized him on the spot. This new living situation reminds my boy of the “thin time,” especially the nighttime hours now, as it gets colder and as the grass gets thinner and thinner. He misses me. He misses his stall and lots of grain, even though he gets grain in the mornings and has hay to eat whenever he wants it.

Add the dream to the picture, and it seems to spell out the fact that he feels betrayed and abandoned, and is terrified that we will leave him and let him starve again. After all, I hadn’t been coming, and other people had been riding him. Maybe I would just vanish, after all!

Poor Galahad! I took him back to the barn via a patch of green grass where he grazed for a few minutes. Then I put him in his stall, hung out with him while he ate some hay, and fed him a beet pulp mash—nice and warm. He ate with gusto while I brushed him again and talked to him. I tried to reassure him that we will never, ever let that happen to him again.

I don’t know how much he actually understood, but he seemed to get some of his sparkle back. When the time came to leave, I led him directly to the round bale and took his halter off there. Hope it helped….

(Cross-posted on The Alchemical Horse.)