Daily practice used to be very difficult for me. I’d forget, or there wasn’t anything that seemed to be important enough to do every day, or my heart wasn’t in it… any number of excuses.
Just this year, however, I’ve finally begun (and maintained!) two daily practices that are often recommended for beginners: meditation and Tarot. And I’ve found that both of them really are useful, separately and together.
Back when I first started — I love that I’ve been around long enough to need that qualification! — meditation practice was very different. Guided meditations were included in many books published in the late ’90s and early 2000s. But how do you actually have that guided journeying experience from a book? Personally, I developed a mental ability to be in two places at once; part of me was reading the words on the page, and part of me was off doing the journey. That’s not as satisfying as participating wholly, but it got the job done.
My alternatives were to memorize what the journey was supposed to be, then put on a CD of drumming (yes, I paid money for a CD of nothing but drumming in different increments of time) and attempt it, or have a friend read the meditation for me. Highly embarrassing. Or I could get out my trusty Walkman cassette tape player and some blank cassettes, record myself reading the meditation, and then listen to it later. (A lot of folks went the tape recorder route, but this is also how I memorized Bible verses for quiz team, so I didn’t want to touch it.)
Or you learned Zen meditation, which was about emptying your mind, and you didn’t need a book or drumming or a friend with a good reading voice to do that. However, you were supposed to come out of the meditation after so many minutes by hearing a note played on a special bowl… and how were you to know how long it’d been without watching the clock? And if you were “back” enough to play the note, did you even need to hear it?
Here in the future, however, we have iPhones and apps. I’m hitting my meditation groove with Insight Timer, which is so much easier. Yes, there is a timer that will play a number of calm sounds when time is up and at intervals along the way, but there are also thousands of guided meditations in many languages available, and — crucially for me — there are milestones shown by stars for the number of days you’ve meditated with the app and the number of days in a row (because daily practice isn’t important for everyone). Some guided meditations help you sleep, some help you ground and center, some help you clear your chakras (or focus on specific chakras), and I’m sure there are tons I haven’t explored. And you can even do the old-school meditations outside the app by recording them on your phone, no blank cassettes needed.
Also, this practice has already borne fruit, less than three months after beginning. I really wanted to keep my days-in-a-row streak alive even though I was fatigued and it was nearly midnight, so I meditated with the timer for five minutes and had some experiences of second sight. In that moment I understood why newbies are told to learn meditation: not only is it important to learn how to focus your mind and keep that focus where you want it for as long as you want it (a skill you need just to cast a circle), but regular practice will also open you up and make you more sensitive to spirit and to altered states of consciousness. And I’ve also used meditation twice now when I was writing rituals to let something bubble up: the perfect activity, a concept to tie the whole thing together, the best order of steps.
Speaking of sensitivity to spirit, my practice with Tarot is also improving quickly. When I started out, I bought a deck or two, didn’t really understand how to read the cards, and the books that came with the decks didn’t clarify things much. I don’t think I had driving divinatory questions, either. I set Tarot aside as “not for me” for a few years. However, sometime around 2008, Tarot struck me as a necessary occult skill to learn, and I picked up the Universal Waite deck so I wouldn’t have to translate image descriptions. I also bought 78 Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack and read it cover to cover, cards in hand. I found Aeclectic Tarot and did many readings with many different spreads. My interpretations gained more depth (and I successfully predicted my first pregnancy, which shocked the hell out of me when I realized), but I was still dependent on the book; I understood the Major Arcana well enough but the Minor Arcana eluded me.
I didn’t read Tarot often when my kids were babies, however. I didn’t like my reliance on the book, didn’t how I’d get past that without investing time I didn’t think I had, and had lost four cards from my Universal Waite deck so I couldn’t read anyway. (Finding them again felt like a sign.)
Becoming much more active in Wicca this year brought back my interest in all of this, though, and I decided two weeks ago — on the night of the New Moon — that I was finally going to learn Tarot in a more structured way. I’d become more confident in reading with Earth Magic Oracle cards, which used a symbol set that I understood immediately and intuitively, and I’d been doing daily single-card draws with Extraordinary Oracle cards, which were much the same. So I began drawing daily Tarot cards as well, and with guidance from Biddy Tarot, pressed a pretty notebook into service as a Tarot journal (tip: steal ideas from bullet journaling, like adding a table of contents and page numbers and pretty headings!). So far I’ve discovered that the two cards work with each other, the oracle card often building on or highlighting an aspect of the Tarot card; for example, today’s cards are the 10 of Swords and Broomstick, which tell me to quit my whining and tackle some overdue housecleaning chores I’ve been putting off because they’re haaaaaaaaaard or they’re groooooooooooss. (And I didn’t even need to get out the book to know that, because I’d drawn the 10 of Swords reversed earlier and had written the upright and reversed meanings in my journal.)
So, one important idea here is that the advice given to beginners is sound. It’s not just busywork or distractions aimed at teens or twentysomethings who are interested in Wicca — these two practices, among others, really will help you later on, so they’re good first steps (and don’t cost much or take up much space). Another key idea is that you can always come back to something that wasn’t important to you at an earlier point on your path, and you might find that it’s important now or that experiences you’ve had along the way can shed light on it now.
Also, just know that Tarot cards will call you out sometimes. It’s way more fun to write 1200 words on reminiscences and lessons learned than to do gross household chores. FINE, I’ll DO IT now, ugh.