Tis the season for setting resolutions, or the more modern term: intentions. In theory I like intention setting. I even went out and bought a planner just for intentions and spiritual work. As always, buying the helping hands is the easy part. But once I sat down to write out what I wanted to focus on for the year I had nothing. So I cast it off to the side until I felt inspired.
This was 2 weeks ago.
As of today I was still not inspired.
This had led me to meditate on why I wanted to do this in the first place. We have the ability to set big goals but it’s the little pieces in between that get messy and unclear. I can write down I want to save more money in 2020. But then what are my action steps, my accountability steps that hold me responsible. If I keep them unclear then I don’t have to hold myself accountable if I fall off track. This is a perfect plan for the ego, a less perfect plan for making real life changes.
This brings us back to what do we really want. It is both exhilarating and terrifying to say out loud what we really want. That realization can uproot life and set us on a track for the unknown. It can shake up our friendships and our home life. It is much easier on everyone involved if we only choose surface things that can easily be dismissed.
I remember when I decided to quit drinking last July. I knew this was a change I wanted to take on so I could open deeper into my spiritual practice. Still, daily, it is a choice I have to make. My friendships adjusted as I got more comfortable with says “no, I don’t drink, it’s a lifestyle choice”. At this stage, 6 months later, I am still in limbo between going to the bar every Friday night and the big unknown lifestyle I haven’t quite figured out.
When we think of intentions and change we think of easy transitions into our “new and better” lives. But instead, it is a slow journey of one change after the other until we no longer remember that habit we had before.
Realizing this I sat down to write my 5 intentions for the year. I invite you to do the same. They can be as big or as small as you’d like, as serious or as frivolous. But really take the time to meditate on the 5 things you want to add or take away from your current life. Listen to not only your thinking mind but also your unconscious self. When you are done, take this list and break down each goal into mini goals and action steps you can bring into your daily life. Then test them out. Don’t worry if your action steps fail, you can make new ones that are more workable for you. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself.
I know in my heart of hearts I will never be a meal prep person. At least not in the stage in my journey I am now. Instead, I try my best to have oatmeal and fruit for breakfast. Yes, I probably eat more egg and cheese bagels in the morning than I would like to admit but instead of beating myself up for it I accept it as my choice for the day. Because of this habit one of my mini resolutions is to find a breakfast recipe I like so I’m less likely to buy an egg and cheese. Again, it’s a work in progress and that’s ok!
Your work in progress is ok too! Your life is a beautiful one. It is filled with wild twists and turns that help you better understand who you are. Intention setting is only there as a tool if you seek change. You could even set the intention to not have intentions to change your life at all. To accept it just as perfect and messy as it is. To say every day “I love my life” is a beautiful and difficult intention just in itself. This is part of the beauty of connecting with our inner selves. Our dreams and goals are already within us, we just have to listen.
My friend asked me about good restorative poses to do after her hikes. As a big lover of restorative and yin practices I was excited to help her out.
I will admit I have not been hiking in a long time. Living in the city with no car I don’t get out to the wilderness much. The hiking I do now is the long walks around the city on various weekends. Instead of weaving through trees up and down winding hill paths, I get lost in the mazes that are Central Park and SoHo. But like her I know when my legs and feet hit exhausted and are in need of some loving care.
Restorative yoga is a practice that focuses on long held poses that are supported by props. When I first started going to restorative classes I would call them my “Lying on Pillows” classes. The props are there to hold the body so we can switch from our sympathetic nervous system (active state) to parasympathetic nervous system (rest state). Not only is this meant to help with agitated mental states but it also helps with calming the body and aid in tissue repair. All around it is a great inclusion to your weekly routine, especially if you find yourself always in the high energy work mode. This is also the case when you’ve gone through some strenuous exercise, like let’s say, hiking a mountain or two.
1 eye pillow or eye mask
Yoga props are super handy but sometimes you are like me and don’t have space to store them. Thankfully most items lying around the house can easily substitute for the traditional yoga props. For these poses I used a throw blanket, a yoga towel, and a large pillow. The thing you are looking for is something you can fold or roll up into shapes but isn’t so large it becomes bulky. Large size towels will work just as well as throw blankets. For bolsters look for a larger pillow that has some firmness to it. Don’t be afraid to get creative.
While you’re in the below poses you can play with breath exercises. You can begin with even counts, an example is a count of inhale for 4 and exhale for 4. If this feels strenuous you can reduce the count to 3 but I wouldn’t go below 2 as 1:1 count can be extremely agitating. Find a breath count that feels comfortable on both the inhale and exhale ie. not taking sharp inhales or multiple inhales to catch up with the exhale. Once you find this breath sweet spot you can stay here or you can begin elongating your exhales for deeper relaxation. I personally like an inhale count of 4 and exhale of 6. You can also experiment with 3:6 or 4:8. Watch your breath and find a spot that feels easy and meditative. If any time this feels uncomfortable resume normal breathing. No one knows your body like you know your body. Breathwork, like any exercise, is a trained skill. Long breath counts aren’t necessarily the better breath counts. Find a place where you are now and work from there. The two rules of thumb to remember is longer inhales than exhales is energizing and longer exhales than inhales is relaxing.
Now on to the poses.
Gentle Heart Opener:
This pose is great to counter all the hunching we can unconsciously do while walking. This is certainly true when hiking with heavy packs on our backs. This gives the back an opportunity to stretch in the opposite direction.
Begin folding the blanket in half the long ways, then fold it in half again hamburger ways. Place this blanket near the center of your mat.
Next take your 2nd blanket and fold it as many times as you would like for neck support. Since mine is a yoga towel I folded it in half 3 times to get a nice pillow measuring about 6 inches across. I place this closer to the top of my mat so there is a gap between the two blankets. You want to be able to place your shoulders in this gap.
Come to lay down with the lower blanket under your hips and back and the head pillow supporting your head and neck. Bring your arms out wide in this pose, I like to cactus my arms like in the photo here. You should feel a slight backbend while your chest opens up across the collarbones. From here you can choose to send your legs out long in front of you or use a bolster under your knees for extra support. If at any point the blankets seem too high you can unfold the blanket as far flat as you like. Just remember to keep the shoulders off the blanket so you still get the benefits of the chest opener. You can stay here for 5-10 minutes. When you are ready to come out roll to your right side and use your arms to slowly lift up to a seat, bringing the head up last.
Legs Up the Wall:
This is a slight precarious pose to get into but I love it for blood drainage/renewal in the legs and some good ol relief of pressure on the legs to counter all the walking we do. For this pose I have two setups.
The first setup I fold the larger blanket once more and place it against the wall. I then take my bolster (pillow) against the opposite side of the blanket so it goes long ways away from the wall. To get up come to sit on the edge of the blanket facing the right with the left leg against the wall. Then come to lay back onto the bolster while simultaneously bringing the legs up on the wall. You want your butt as close to the wall as you can. Depending on the flexibility of your hamstrings you might have to scoot slightly farther away from the wall so your legs can lengthen easier. For extra support you can take a strap around your thighs and tug it snug. This will allow the legs to do less work to stay together when against the wall. Here you can cactus the arms again or let them fall in a t shape. You can stay here for 5-10 minutes. When you are ready to come back out undo the strap if you have one, and roll back down on to your right side, bringing your legs to the ground. Come to sit up bringing the head up last.
Set up two is similar to the first but this time place the bolster against the wall width wise and place the blanket on top. Or I would suggest stacking 3 blankets, experiment with the height. Then take your second blanket and place it farther away from the wall to be used as a head pillow. Getting up the wall is the same by sitting on the edge of the blanket against the wall. Begin leaning back as you swing your legs up the wall. This variation brings your hips up higher than the 1st and allows for not only new blood circulation in the legs but also elevation in the hips allowing for a more inversion experience. Again you can add the strap here for extra leg support.
When you are ready to come out, it is the same as before. This pose can be rather awkward when entering and leaving. Take it slow when transitioning. You can always hang out in fetal position for as long as you like after you come down. There’s no rush in relaxing.
There are so many ways to set up savasana with props. Here I’ve placed the bolster under my knees and the larger blanket under my head and neck. Additionally, I rolled up the yoga towel and placed it under my ankles for extra support. An eye pillow is also highly recommended here for extra relaxation. After you are set up begin to scan down the body to release tension starting with the face muscles. Get as intricate as you like. Can you release tension in each individual finger and toe lets say. After this, come back to your breathing. You can stay in this pose for as long as you would like. I recommend at least 5-10 minutes.
When you are ready to come out take a deep inhale and exhale. Then begin wiggling the fingers and toes. You can then take the arms overhead and full body stretch out from your hands to your feet. Roll to either side and slowly sit back up bringing the head up last. Take a moment after this to sit with your eyes closed, just feeling the different sensations in the body. When you are ready, go ahead and close the practice. I like to close by giving thanks to my body for all its hard work followed by a single sound of om. You can do this or find your own way to close your practice before moving into the rest of your day.
I always find December a good time to clean and reset. Not only are we in a time of looking back on the past year but we are also looking ahead at the year to come. Who we are at the beginning of the year is never who we are at the end. So why should the stuff we carry be the same? We get bogged down with all the things we got at such a good deal, spent too much money on to let go of, or forgot we even had.
Not only is this true with just material items. It is also true with relationships, jobs, hobbies, or even feelings. I like to start with the easy stuff first, material items. I work in fashion, which feeds my slight clothing obsession. I am blessed to get many things from work but this always results in me taking home things that may or may not align with who I am and how I want to be seen. Once my closet stops being able to breathe I know it’s time to declutter.
To begin: take every article of clothing (or whatever you would like to organize) and place it all in one centralized space. I like to throw everything on my bed like so. This way I have to finish if I want to sit on my bed again. Trust me, this wasn’t everything and I ended up with a mountain to sift through.
Next: I go piece by piece and decide if I still like it, wish to donate it, or need to toss it. Part of the fun is many things I try back on. If I put it on and can’t wait to wear it for real, it stays. If I still feel neutral about it, it stays till the next clean out. If I try it on and feel anything lower than neutral, it goes. This can go as quickly or as slowly as you like. As someone with a complicated relationship with her body, figuring out what sparks joy (a-la Marie Kondo) and what doesn’t took some time. You can’t throw out everything if it all makes you feel uneasy. If this is the case it’s a good time to journal about why you’re feeling this way and some action steps you can take to change this.
If it’s a style that needs to be changed, ask yourself what aesthetics you want to incorporate. What does your perfect wardrobe look like? Once you answer that question you can go back and pick pieces that you can build off of into the direction of your ideal wardrobe. Look for similar silhouettes, colors, fabrics, or detailing. From here you can begin to add pieces in the upcoming year that can further build into your ideal wardrobe. As you add, take away items that are less in line. You are the curator, don’t be afraid to make changes as you go.
If it is a body thing, this is a more complicated task. Our bodies are like puppies, they just want to do their best to love us. They unconditionally support us, no matter how we think about them. Also like puppies, bodies come in all shapes and sizes. You wouldn’t buy clothes for a poodle if you own a golden retriever, or vise-versa. With clothes we got to get real-real with the puppies we own.
With this in mind, pick items that fit now. Think not about how you look but how you feel as you go through your stack. What colors bring you joy and which ones you actually can’t stand. Which items just don’t fit right, feel itchy, or make you uncomfortable. Before discarding, ask what could be changed in the garment that would make you like it. If it is a blazer with an odd cut, you can instead look for ones with a better style to it. Or if it is a fit issue, can it be something that can be altered by a tailor?
Sometimes I like to make a list of items I would like to add to my wardrobe. This way when I’m out and see something I can better assess if I want it in my closet. This also helps with wardrobe building. The main goal is to have only things you enjoy in your closet. It is ok to let your closet breathe. Don’t worry about the new trends or the big sales. These traps aren’t made to enhance you, they’re made to make other people money. Instead, look at your closet as a sacred space. Every piece reflects an aspect of you. When we connect like this to our clothes we can better decide what pieces work with us and which pieces have done their job and are ready to find a new home.
The Minor Arcana is broken down into 4 suits, much like a playing card deck. These are generally called the “pip” cards and mostly relate to day to day events. When reading I look at which suits are more prominent and which are absent, that will give you the overall feel of the reading. Each suit has its own story and journey. In general the elements stay the same from reader to reader but seasons and “time reading” is really how you interpret it. Time is the most difficult thing to read as the cards are only a snapshot of the path you are on in that exact moment. Consider predictions a bonus instead of a goal. Now onto the suits:
Suits by Seasons: my own interpretation. As you read you will connect to your own.
Wands: Spring Cups: Summer Pentacles: Fall Swords: Winter
Wands: The Idea With the element of fire this suit relates to knowledge and new ideas. I see this card a lot when relating to learning and figuring out goals in your life path. This can also relate to passions and work growth. When looking at multiples: i see this as not only very firey energy but also big growth, knowledge, and decision making to some extent. Different from the swords, which is cooler energy, this is anything that stokes a fire in your belly. Too much fire and you could get burned out quickly. The new ideas could burn so bright they are out in an instant and you are on to the next.
Cups: The Emotions The cups are ruled by the element of water. These cards can get really dreamy and into feelings and imagination. In multiples I generally see this as a person’s feelings more so than outward manifestations. This can relate to be emotional shifts and growth in the psyche. Any decisions are going to be decisions of the heart. This is also a super psychic area so prepare for a lot of dreams, deja vus, and altered realities.
Swords: The Mind Of course ruled by the air element: this suit relates to intelligence, thinking, movement, and decision making. Different from the wands, this relates to decisions that are coming from your mind instead of your gut. These are probably the most challenging cards but it is only because our minds are the most difficult to separate from. If it wasn’t none of us would need meditation. It’s a good thing to remember when working with swords energy. When seeing multiples this relates to big mental activity or swift movements and decisions. Sometimes it points to being trapped in the mind as well with no external decision making. When this happens it’s good to find ways to step back into your body to let the mental chatter dissipate.
Pentacles: The Earth This suit relates to all things material and is generally looked at as the financial cards. This relates to work for money vs. work for passion (ie. the wands). This suit also relates to the physical and the body. Multiples relate to material growth and manifestations that can be seen and touched. I like to think of it as “this is what I have” or “this is what I’m building”. Too much earth and you could become dispassionate and complacent. You might also get stuck in doing things out of duty or other external pressures instead of your own internal desires.
I remember a friend reminding me a little while ago of a time when we were back in college. I think I was turning 20 and I turned to her and said “I should be married by now”. Nearly 10 years later, still no ring in sight, I am in constant struggle with my own failure as a woman in not being married. I am not the love of someone else’s life. I am not the queen of my own domain, as society paints wife-hood. Instead I am displaced in a holding period, as if I’m not meant to build a life because if I do I will miss the chance of having my ideal life being created. As if another person does indeed come trotting in on the white horse to give me the life written and talked about by everyone else. I just have to wait for my time and it’ll come. Then there are the people today giving advise about giving up waiting and living your own life; it mostly entails just do what you love and then you’ll meet someone and blah blah blah, happily ever after. What nonsense and yet we all feed into it. If it’s not a love interest, it’s a job opportunity, a business partner/investor, or simply “happiness” and “wholeness”. But to find wholeness within ourselves we must first accept that we have a hole. We must mourn the life goal that could not be brought to fruition, whether it be from the past or in the here and now. It has been since the beginning of this past Cancer season that I have been dipping into the goals that weren’t meant to be. Instead of quickly moving onto what goals are more appropriate I have instead begun to ask myself “Am I ok that this didn’t happen? Am I ready to let this go?” And then I sit and wait for the answer without judgement. The goal of asking these questions isn’t to be ok with every loss a la “positive vibes only”. Instead, it is to let our pain selves be heard. It is when we have fully heard, accepted, and embraced the pain that we can then move through it and release it.
Goal Mourning Meditation:
Sit in a tall comfortable seat and place your hands on your thighs, close your eyes, and begin inhaling and exhaling for a count of 4.
Feel your breath moving through your chest all the way down into the base of your belly.
As you continue to breathe begin thinking of a goal, dream, or even old lifestyle that feels dead in the water to you.
Something you know in your heart you must let go of but you haven’t had the strength to.
Now hold that goal gently and ask yourself “Am I ready to let this go?”
Without judgement allow any thoughts and emotions come to you.
Feel into those thoughts and emotions, what do they like feel in your body?
In what areas of the body do you feel them. Send more breath to those areas, see them being filled with a bright green light.
Continue to ask yourself “Am I ready to let this go?”
It doesn’t matter what your answer is, just hold space for it. Continue to breathe at a 4 count and see the bright green light filling up your body until it surrounds you in a peaceful glow.
Say to yourself, I accept you. I accept you.
Repeat this till your mind finds stillness in the words. I accept you. Feel the light around you, holding you in love.
When you are ready, begin opening your eyes and breathing normally. Say to yourself one last time, I accept you.
Growing up in the midwest, even in the psychic community, we didn’t have much exposure to yoga. It wasn’t till I went to college that I was exposed to the practice. It first started with my roommate finding youtube videos of yoga sequences for us to practice in the dorm. I got my official taste of yoga as part of a spirituality course my sophomore year. Afterward I did a video here and there but it was mostly set aside and forgotten.
It wasn’t till years later, when filled with stress and anger from work, that I found yoga again. I knew some of the poses from before but it was quickly clear I was not up to snuff compared to everyone else in the room. This didn’t prevent me from showing up though and every time I showed up I learned something new.
I could not tell you how many times in one of my classes the teacher would come around and step on my back foot in warrior 1. I didn’t understand it then but now I know she was trying to get me to press into the outside edge. 4 years later: every warrior 1 I do I envision her coming by and stepping on my back foot and I say to myself, press into the outside edge, engage the back leg. This is how my yoga practice continued, by taking one piece of information at a time and observing it into my body.
We are unable to change everything at once, although modern society makes us think we should. I remember reading in Yoga for Emotional Balance that the human brain and body patterns are like grooves in a record. The grooves of how your brain thinks and how your body moves have already been engraved into the disc over the years of your life. If we want to create new grooves we cannot do it with just one class, one lecture, or one retreat. We create them by constantly coming up against the old groove and choosing to adjust. It’s constant reminders to press into the outside edge of the back foot. Eventually the reminder becomes second nature. Till then we show up and we practice; even if we’re the stiffest, most uncoordinated person in the room.
I promise it is a lot less spooky than the movies and some readers make it out to be. The first order of business depends on how you acquired this deck. If it is brand new from the store it shouldn’t have too much energy attached to it and you can proceed to the 2nd step. If you picked it up from a friend, a used book store, another reader, or lying on the street you probably want to cleanse it the first few nights. Take a clear quartz and place it on top and let your deck hang out for a few days like this. You can also light some sage or a candle and pass the cards through the smoke (just don’t set them on fire). Envision the smoke picking up all the energy residue and taking it away. Do this till you feel the cards become neutralized, as if you could use them to play a good game of gin.
The next thing you want to do is sleep with your deck. You can place it under your pillow or next to your bed. The important thing here is they pick up your energy and you can start to begin to connect to them. You can also start playing with them, shuffling and looking at each card if they pop out. Feel free to ask simple questions like “what will today bring?” and see what pops out. I’ve also read people talk about interviewing their deck, asking questions like what questions can you help me with and what energy do you have?
Every deck has it’s own personality. I’ve owned 4 and they are all very different when it comes to readings. It’s good to know your deck’s personality, especially when it is tired of your questions and starts giving bogus answers. Trust me, they do this. Even the universe gets tired of answering questions.
The thing is to explore with your deck along side reading the booklet. The books can give you the author’s meaning and this can be helpful, especially with more artistic decks. But the way to connect to your deck and your own intuition is by first interpreting what you see and then check with the book.
I would recommend starting a tarot journal of and begin with daily pulls. You can write down in the morning of what you believe the card means and then check back at the end of the day with how the day went down, meanings from the book and how they relate to each other and your own interpretation.
I promise this is going to be nonsense in the beginning but the further you go along the more you will see patterns and start connecting the meanings to the cards. For every card there’s 10,000 and 1 meanings. If you begin diving deep into the meanings you will get lost and suddenly every pull is telling you that you must be pregnant and your partner is cheating on you and you may just lose your job today. All in one card. It is both the joy and pain of Tarot, 78 cards – an infinite amount of meanings. So start small, ask about your day, your lunch, your business meeting, then forget about it.
When you come back at the end of the day you’ll have the power of hindsight to evaluate how the card did or didn’t fit. Intuition is a practice just like playing the piano. If you never done it before you’re going to make a lot of mistakes but if you keep at it you’ll get stronger and more savvy with the keys you have to work with.
No one knows where exactly the Tarot deck came but many people trace it back to card games in the 1600s. To say what came first, the card game or the divination, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. We take these past 10-15 years for granted with the age of the internet and the sudden popularization of the occult. Back even when I was young no one talked about tarot. You found many a few decks in Barns and Noble: mostly Rider Waite Tarot for Idiots. Before then it wasn’t even sold in stores. It was passed along from person to person and never talked about. I implore you to start asking the older generation about tarot. There will be a shocking number of people who will reply “Oh yea, I own a deck. I never read it but…” and then they will proceed to tell you how they acquired such a deck. This how Tarot spread, through word of mouth. Then eventually books were written and now there is a full display of tarot cards at Urban Outfitters for anyone occult curious.
So what is Tarot?
It’s in short a card deck made up of 4 minor suits and 1 set of major trump cards. This is referred to as the major arcana and the minor arcana. The major arcana, the 22 trump cards, relate to big picture items in a person’s life whereas the minor suits relate to the day to day. Reading them is a dance between big picture and small picture, just as our lives are a dance between the little things and the important overarching lessons.
There are 3 schools of thought for Tarot: The Rider-Waite, The Thoth Deck, and the Marseille deck. Each deck has its own set of meaning and rules but many overlap. The key to picking a deck is pick the one that speaks to you then go from there.