Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Lenten Diary 9

On Packing Up for Retreat

      Of the many things I dabble in, one of the longest-lived is the study of Tarot. I learned to read the cards in 1975 from the late Rusty Smith Carnarius and have worked with them on practically a daily basis ever since.
      One card I pull frequently is The Chariot. In fact, I pulled it just this morning. Most people would recognize it, even if they don’t know Tarot. It shows a virile warrior figure driving a chariot drawn by two steeds, white and black. In my deck the steeds are sphinxes.
      Most “tarotologists” interpret this card as “victory.” Some add that the victory is material only, as if the charioteer has a ways to go before attaining spiritual maturity.
      But my favorite interpretation of the card comes from the classic occultist Paul Foster Case. He sees the chariot as the physical vehicle for the spirit, represented by the charioteer, and interprets the card as a reminder that we are all capable of serving as vehicles—conduits, channels, proxies—for what he calls “Universal Will” in one place and “cosmic forces” in another.
      Such powers cannot be used for destructive purposes or they will implode and destroy their user. The point Tarot makes is that they exist, and human beings can learn to express them with miraculous results, if only they will it so.
      So why, over the past few years, have I drawn this card so often?
      This question becomes material because The Chariot lies on my desk from this morning’s draw as I prepare to leave tomorrow for that weekend Buddhist retreat I mentioned in Lenten Diary 6.
      The purpose of a Buddhist retreat is to connect—or reconnect or simply refresh—the individual mind with the vast universal forces which sustain it. This calls for several sessions of meditation, long periods of silence, including at meals, and group discussions of Buddhist principles.
      Meanwhile, I feel—that is, my personality feels—that this retreat isn’t coming at the best time for me. I’m all caught up in events for National Poetry Month. I even have an event on the retreat’s last day and will have to leave early to get back for it. My mind is filled with endless details I have to remember to take care of before we go. I also have performance pieces of my own I definitely ought to practice. Will there be an appropriate time and place for that?
      Clearly I’m feeling a conflict of duties between spiritual well-being and worldly obligations. And I pulled The Chariot.
      Also, it’s Lent. There is solace in knowing I’m supposed to feel this way in April, at one with the calendar clock.
      And finally, looking more deeply, I realize my life has gotten crazy without my even noticing it. I need a Buddhist retreat!
      This will be my last entry before I get back. Just in time for Easter. 

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