200. Tempérance

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ainikkiThis post marks my 200th on this site. A look back at the subjects I’ve most written about are atheism (no surprise there), Christianity, community, relationships, religion, depression, fundamentalism, acceptance, experience, and family. These are all things I’ve been pondering since my first post on this blog on April 19, 2009.

“I am many things,” I wrote in that first entry. “An artist. A composer. A writer. A some-time cook. A fan of public radio. Irish-American. A Christian. I’m also gay.”

Two years after writing that, two of those ended up not being true anymore.

Last night I decided to do what many have been advising me to do lately: meditate. That word has always brought up negative connotations, especially since coming out as an atheist it’s basically become a synonym for “prayer.”

Merriam-Webster defines meditate thus: (1) to engage in contemplation or reflection; (2) to focus one’s thoughts on: reflect on or ponder over.

As I’ve been writing about the last few weeks, there’s been a lot to reflect on and ponder over.

Last night I made sure everything was put away (so I wouldn’t think about it), lit candles in the living room on the coffee table, and laid out the cards. There’s an app on my iPod called Altered States that uses “advanced binaural brainwave entrainment to stimulate brainwave frequencies associated with different states of mind.” I used a setting called Mindful Meditation, designed to “create an aware, or awakened, meditative state.”

Here are some reflections that I had while meditating on the cards. This entry will be a little longer than the usual thousand words. But not too much longer.

1. Ego: Three of Cups

This is representative of friendships and collegiate, harmonious relationships.

Despite my hermetical tendencies, I’m surrounded by wonderful people who, even though I have difficult believing it, actually desire my company. This card also reminds me to take stock of the good things—and the good people—in my life right now.

Wikipedia says of this card: “It can also signal that this is the time to reach out if things have been particularly rough in the past.”

2. Crossing: Eight of Wands

This represents a very focused kind of motion and activity.

This reminds me that there are active opportunities to seize, especially relating to the first card. More on this later, but persistence is essential if I’m to make it to the Nine of Wands. One site interprets this card: “You might not realize that your efforts are out of the ordinary.” I’m adept at underestimating my own abilities and strengths, and believing the lie that I’m powerless and inept has, historically, held me back from confidence and going after what I want.

3. Unconscious (Id): Ace of Cups

This represents the beginning of love, happiness and compassion.

I contemplated this card for a while, trying to think back to some of my motivations and sources of joy and pleasure as a child. Thinking about my current career crossroads conundrum, my first love really was writing. I used to spend hours in the closet (oh, irony), writing stories and plays. I also tried to think about some of the blocks getting in the way of reconnecting to that joy.

4. Past: Five of Swords

This action is the foundation of where you stand now. If your life is in shambles, understand that compromising your integrity may have been the source of your undoing.

It hit me last night that a cause of so much trouble has been letting the expectations of others steer my life. The main reason why I chose music composition to major in was because my father thought that I showed promise and talent as a composer—and didn’t think much of my interest in writing. This summer, a good friend of mine suggested I try applying for a master’s in composition. I didn’t want to disappoint him, my friends who’ve expressed that I have talent in music—or my father. No one led me astray per se. They seemed to have a better idea of what I’m capable of and should do—but I failed to listen to my own voice.

5. Superego: Six of Pentacles, reversed

This can suggest that you are not aware of the potential sources of assistance available to you.

So much here. I need to follow up with a director friend of mine about a workshop of my one-act opera; contact friends who’ve expressed interest in singing and helping out with this project; contact a woman I met at an LGBT networking event about a job possibility. This goes back to the first and second card, of seizing opportunities I know are right there, but also recognizing the people who have generously offered their resources.

The image in the card is of two beggars (from the Five of Pentacles) kneeling before a wealthy man. I’ve often said that I don’t really know how to let people help me. To be brutally honest with myself (and you, dear reader), it comes from my pride getting in the way. I fear feeling indebted or powerless to others, even to those who have no ulterior motives. My bloody lizard brain, however, hisses that by accepting assistance, I’m proving myself a failure—that everyone sees me as a failure. So I shut down, secretly resenting the man offering help and hating myself.

This card is reminding me to confront these issues in my superego, the thoughts and attitudes buried at the seat of my subconscious. It’s the disapproving voice of my parents, and anyone who has judged me in my life.

6. Application: Death, reversed

You may be reluctant to let go of the past or you may not know how to make the change you need. Let go of any restrictive, oppressive, limiting attitudes and beliefs.

This card reminded me that life is short—so why am I letting these petty inner voices hold me back? What about my past am I holding on to? Is it really just the cold comfort of being a victim? Of my inner child still believing that God will solve all my problems?

7. Self-image: Four of Swords, reversed

This can suggest that you are feeling frustrated with the lack of progress and change. Part of this lack of change, however, is as a result of your passive approach.

This felt connected to my reflections on the Six of Pentacles. Rather than pick up my sword and go after what I want, I’ve relinquished my power for the time being and opted instead to lie down. I’ve let those negative, judgmental voices crowd out positive thinking. I want things to change, but need to truly accept that no one is going to change them for me. I have to get up from the slab, stop playing dead, and dedicate myself to going after what I desire.

8. Surrounding: Seven of Swords, reversed

This suggests that you may be finding it difficult to take the first step in a new direction.

Usually, this card is about betrayal, deception, or stealth. I had a different thought while meditating. Like the Ten of Wands, the man in the picture is trying to carry too much. He’s hauling five swords. Two are left in the ground, and his gaze is fixed on what’s behind rather than what’s ahead. The group in the background is often interpreted as the “thief” being found out. What I saw is a man going it alone, apart from the group, trying to do it all on his own.

9. Hopes/Fears: Ace of Pentacles, reversed

Your goals may need to be re-aligned to something more realistic. You need to plan and have more foresight and consideration into the aspects that align to your passions and career interests.

Aces are often about seeds of potential. As I contemplated this card, I focused on the garden in the background. The element associated with this card is Earth, and that theme is present throughout the pentacle suit. I pulled out the Nine of Pentacles, which portrays a young woman in a verdant garden with a bird lighted on her hand. I also pulled out the Page of Pentacles (in the court cards, pages are also associated with Earth), and the Ten.

I pondered what might be keeping me from going through the entrance into the garden. The answer seems obvious. In addition to silencing the negative inner voices, I need to apply myself like the man in the Eight of Pentacles, and not be discouraged by the lack of progress in Seven.

10. Summation: Temperance

You are seeking balance between your inner and outer selves, searching for a higher meaning and purpose in life. Throughout this transition, you may experience a clash between the old and the new you, or confusion about which direction you ought to take and what is really important to you.

If we’re talking about a destination for the journey I’m currently on, this would be it. I’m doing at thirty-one what most people do in high school and college—figure out who they are and what they want out of life. For most of my life, I’ve been the figure in the Eight of Swords: blindfolded, bound, and trapped by the thoughts and beliefs of others. Now, I’m finally realizing that the way out was clear all along; and, like Dorothy in Oz, the power to return home was always mine.

In listening to music this past week, trying to figure out what is “progressive” in Classical music right now, and even in trying to get my head into the mindset to compose something more “academic,” I started to remember what turned me off from music academia in the first place. Trying to be clever and “cutting edge” never felt like being creative. Far from it. Do I really want to return to that world, to posture myself amongst other composers who are trying to be ahead of everyone else and jockeying for tenure and pay raises?

I think of the composers I admire: Purcell, Bach, Mozart, Robert Schumann, Britten. They were innovative by fully dedicating themselves to pursuing their passion. The innovation took care of itself.

I also reflect on how I’ve enjoyed getting back to writing, and the positive feedback I’ve received so far.

Perhaps the way forward is to focus on becoming a writer who also composes, rather than the other way around. After all, that’s where I began.

Look at what you want,
Not at where you are,
Not at what you’ll be—
Look at all the things you’ve done for me.

Moving on.

Celtic cross

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