A few years ago, I created a Tarot card deck, called Transformational Tarot; this deck was an interactive, online game that I created with the rather esoteric purpose of randomizing the titles to my paintings. By placing images on some cards, and words on others, the game was an experiment on meaning, adjacency, and context.
I never expected my deck to work as a Tarot deck (despite the name) and was surprised when people all over the world reacted favorably — some even told me that it was the best reading they had ever had. The game was created for a person doing their own reading, but a few years after I created the game I found myself reading my cards for people at a cafe.
It was a revealing experience; I discovered a great deal about myself, but more importantly, I discovered a disturbing trend among the people I read. Below is the article that I wrote in response.
When was the last time you felt joy?”
This is a question I find myself asking people on occasion when they come to me for a Tarot reading. They may be asking about a love relationship, or about their job, but under the surface there is an essential sadness, a feeling of disconnection, of disorientation.
I can feel the empty space that they have inside as I read their cards. And the cards reveal the confusion they have: why am I this way? Is this all there is to life? Why do I feel as if I am a leaf in the wind? Where is the meaning in my life; where is the love?
Women in particular are taught to value relationships above all else: their lover, partner, children, etc. They are taught that their value is determined by the health of this relationship, and by the value that this person on the other end of the teeter-totter puts on them. Or rather, what they THINK the other person thinks of them. In fact, their mood for the day is based upon their evaluation of the last encounter with their loved one.
Love in this sense is a mask for a mirror of self-reflection. This kind of love values the time spent in a relationship as an investment, and sees love as a type of keenly monitored exchange. I hear people speaking of “their needs not being met” — as if someone else should be responsible for fulfilling their needs.
What if our happiness were not based upon these shifting sands? What if love were everywhere because joy is welling up from inside? I think that we can all intuit the rightness of this idea; even that we are all capable of feeling this way: in fact, it is our birthright.
I have an idea that the key to finding our love — our passion — lies in redefining what passion means. The heart yearns for passion because it is what feeds our soul; it keeps us young and vibrant. The heart senses this, and so it looks for it in the reflection of what our society calls love.
But before we can feel passion in our lives, we have to clear out all our self-hatred, our internal blocks. In order to do that we have to be still, empty, silent. We are so used to filling our silences that most of us cannot stand a moment without noise and our own internal chatter. A judge sits on our shoulder; when it is not judging other people, it is judging ourselves, which amounts to the same thing. So when I sense this longing, this emptiness in another, I feel compelled to ask: “when was the last time you felt joy?”. I have witnessed how this simple question affects people: they may not be able to remember — it is so far in the past. Or perhaps the judge that sits on their shoulder has blocked the memory. After all, it asks, what have you done to deserve joy? The judge doesn’t think you even have the right to have a memory of joy. Or perhaps the comparison of that memory to the present moment is too painful.
But, because joy is our natural state — our birthright — nearly everyone has had a moment of joy. It may be far in the past, in childhood; it is usually masked by a kind of emotional calcification of some kind. It is my belief that what usually happens is that the moment of joy happened just before an experience of judgment; such as a child who loves to sing and is shushed by an adult or by other children, telling her she sings badly and it hurts their ears.
So the mind in its shame and shock puts up a kind of protective barrier between the memory of the judgment and the person. I was told by my doctor once that the pineal gland — the master gland of the body that controls all the functions of the body and all the other glands — builds up a kind of crust with the experience of emotional stress. As a result, it cannot function freely, and eventually the whole body breaks down in disorder and disease.
When I ask the question, “when was the last time you felt joy”, the heart remembers, but the mind tries to protect the person from the other memory, the bad memory of judgment and disconnection. Most of the time, the answer is very simple: we can feel joy because it is our birthright. We deserve our own love, which is the same as love for life, and passion for what feeds our soul. It doesn’t matter what it is, only that it is ours; no one can take it from us, or withhold it, because it comes from within.
A personal passion is a kind of new kind of internal dialogue, one that is healthy instead of dysfunctional. Actually, at a high level, it is more than that; it is a way of dialoging with a higher source. I feel it when I work as an artist; I feel it when I surf; I feel it when I write, when I read Tarot. It feels like what they call channeling; it is the experience of opening up and allowing something larger to come through.
Why is it that we leave so little time for the things that give us real joy? The bills, the paperwork, the duties, work: these all take precedent. Joy is simplicity itself, it comes from simple things, it wells up inside from a core of silence within wherein resides the speck of energy that holds our portion of spirit. Joy connects us to all the other specks and to the universe of stars. In it we lose our sense of self without losing our identity or individuality. When was the last time you felt joy? What was the cause?
Trace it back to the beginning, and you will have discovered the secret of life and love.
Copyright February 8, 2006 Aliyah Marr