Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Omily Tarot: Pop Tarot–Call the Midwife

I was watching Call the Midwife last night, and it featured a tarot reading! Yay!!! It was a really bad tarot reading! Boooo!!! What do I mean by bad? Not so much that it depicted doom and gloom, though it did, but that the querent had absolutely nothing to do with it, and in fact, when she tried to add some input, she was firmly put back into her place of passive listener, and told to accept the inevitable.

To be fair, there was a relevant character dynamic being shown here, so Call the Midwife was not tarot-bashing...but it was presenting the tarot in an unfavorable light, which is always a big bummer. On a side note, (ever so slight spoiler, but I'm still on season one, so you should be fine) that episode would have been soooo much more satisfying if Maeve (or was it Meg?) had gotten punched right back by that sassy librarian nun with the secrets...

So, these twin sisters are decidedly old school, and are depending on a very old book, and lots of herbs to get prego twin safely delivered. The well-meaning midwives try to sway them, but aren't having any luck for most of the episode. The domineering non-prego sister breaks out the tarot cards to provide some insight, and lays out:

The Empress,  the ace of swords, the Tower, a card I can't remember or find a record of on the internet, the High Priestess, and the Devil.

Her interpretation: "The Empress reversed...I don't like that." Turns up the Ace of Swords: "Blood! Surgery!" The Tower: "Destruction!" The High Priestess: "Death approaches!" The Devil: "Sky darkens! It's the end!"

Um, forgive me but, what the shit? Do you secretly hate your sister and want her to miscarry? (Well, shit gets complicated later, so maybe...).

Of course, her poor sister is terrified. She wants the cards recut and read again, but she's told, "You can't change the cards!" Which, um, again, epic fail. Because the future is always malleable, and a second take on the same situation (within reason) is totally legit.

It doesn't take a tarot expert to see all the issues with this reading. The more interesting question is, what if this reading was being done well? What messages would a real pro find in these cards? I'm going to try and find out! Of course, I can't be truly objective, because I saw the rest of the episode, but it'll still be an interesting exercise. If you haven't seen the episode, turn away from your computer! Get out your cards, and do your own interpretation of the reading, knowing only that this woman is pregnant, afraid because her mother died in childbirth, and unsure whether to seek outside medical help, or trust her old herbal ways. This reading was done with a Waite-Smith deck.

The Empress, reversed: This card represents the querent. She's at a time when she should be connected to her body, and to nature, but her fear is strangling that connection, making it difficult for her to get in touch with her instincts about what herbs she may need, and if those herbs aren't enough. She needs to take charge of her situation, and get back in touch with herself to find the answers she seeks. Meditation would be very helpful!

Ace of Swords: Objective intellect is your greatest alley right now. The querent's sister loves her dearly and wants to protect her, but she doesn't have what the querent need moving forward. Seeking the advice of professionals would be very wise.

The Tower: Life as the querent know it is due for a great, big change. If she doesn't embrace it, it's going to come in a dramatic, and scary fashion, and preparing to give birth is not the best time for a thunderbolt of insight. On the other and, giving birth itself is a Tower event, leaving behind one way of life for another. If the querent can spare the emotional resources, she should try to work through the big changes at hand. If she can't, she should just focus on preparing to give birth, and trust that the Tower will work things out for her as part of your birth adventure.

The High Priestess: There is a place for intuition, and secret knowledge here. A cup of herbal tea never hurt anybody, and seeking advice from the tarot is of course very in line with the High Priestess' ways. Choosing to move forward into the modern century, and into a different phase in the querent's relationship with her sister, doesn't mean abandoning everything she's ever know, or had with her sister up to this point. There will be opportunities to honor your sister's opinion, and involve her in the process in a way that helps her to accept the changes at hand, and allay her fears regarding this birth.

The Devil: The temptation here is to surrender all control and agency so that the querent can absolve herself of all responsibility for the outcome. At this vulnerable time, she wants to trust her sister utterly to take care of her. Perhaps the card I don't remember would provide a clue as to what would happen should she take this course of action, but the rest of the reading has made it clear that this is not the best path for her to take.

Wow, it was incredibly easy to craft an empowering and insightful reading out of cards that had been used as weapons to bully the querent into submission. Which just goes to show what I'm always saying: there are no bad cards. Any card could be very positive or very negative. While you never want to hide an unpleasant truth from your querent, you do always want to empower the querent. Sometimes that requires drawing more cards, or asking an additional question, but in this case, all it took was some know-how, and a lack of vision-clouding fear (and, ok, some outside knowledge that everything was going to work out for the best once the midwives were involved).

What were your interpretations of these cards in this context? Was your reading more dire than mine? If so, how would you empower your querent to handle the situation? Let's talk in the comments! I'll (hopefully) update with more pictures soon!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Aerial Omily: 'How Do I Get Started?' And How You Keep Going

Circus is hard. That's something most of us grasp intuitively. It's part of the reason it's so amazing to watch. But it isn't just that it takes soooo much strength, or that you have to be soooo brave. You don't actually have to be all that brave in many instances; you just have to know what you're doing. If you understand what you're doing, then you'll know why it's safe. Aerial encompasses a set of skills that there is just no shortcut to learning. You can see by looking at the pros that these skills are a interrelated set that allow you do a wide variety of things once you've acquired them, but there is no class that I've heard of that attempts to teach the skill set the way that you would learn something like, piano, where you start with the tools, and then learn to play songs.

Quite the contrary, when learning to fly, you spend months or years learning 'songs': bits and snatches of sequences, different 'tricks' and 'moves', until one day the separation between these tricks melt away and you see how they're interrelated, and you grasp the theory for yourself. One day you try something funky, realize you're in a knot, and intuitively back yourself out of that knot without giving it a second thought, because you understand how silks work on a visceral level.

Aerial work is taught this way, because, really, it's the best way to teach it. Most aerialists are naturally kinesthetic learners: they learn by doing. They love moving their bodies; it's why they're on the silks, lyra, rope, etc. in the first place! If you sit someone like that down and try to talk to them about  how a hipkey holds you in place, or why you can't come out of full monty the easy way you come out of half monty, she or he is going to be completely lost. Believe me, I've tried it on the husband! Even if the person in question is an auditory learner who really wants to understand this stuff before getting her or himself off the ground, she or he will have absolutely no frame of reference to build this new knowledge onto. I'm not prepared to say that a setup like that could never ever work for anyone, but I'm confident such a success story would be the exception rather than the rule.

To learn aerial, you have to do aerial, and, aerial is hard. So, how do you start? And, the burning question of the ages, once you've started, how do you get good? Aside from praying to the Patron Saint of Flying? You get up there, and you do it. You start low and simple, and you just keep going.
Seriously, this is a thing. There's also this guy, who made friends by doing juggling and acrobatic shows, praying before and after
And, you want my advice (I mean, that's why you're here, isn't it?)?

You're going to see a more advanced student do something, and think "I can do that..." You're going to ask your teacher to talk you through it, and she or he may very well oblige, and maybe you'll do it and you'll think, "Yeah, man, I'm as good as that person!" But, you're not (probably), and if you saw a video of the more advanced student doing the trick, and then a video of you doing it, that would be clear. Learning a bunch of fancy wraps does not a badass aerialist make. You have to make every second in the air look effortless, smooth, and flowing (depending on your character, etc., but in general, unless you're an aerial clown, you'll want some of those traits in everything you do), and you know why? Because it looks good. And you know how you get to that level? By doing the things you already know over, and over, and over, and over, until you can do them in your sleep: until the muscles are there, and the neural pathways are there for you to effortlessly (or apparently effortlessly) move from Point A to Point B, and beyond.

This was first articulated to me in a blogpost by Laura Witwer, after I had figured it out for myself a couple years too late: it isn't about learning tons and tons of new tricks. It's about developing fluidity and style in the air. Four years in, I'm still working on this! Sure, learning 'tricks' is the only way you get yourself onto an apparatus: a climb or mount, a shape, a locked position...but once you have a couple variations on those down, don't push for more before it's given to you, and once it's offered, don't stop working on stuff you've already learned. Don't believe simple stuff has a place in an aspiring professional's toolbox? Think that a move is going to look like itself no matter how you try to gussy it up? Check out these two incredibly different performance photos featuring super basic moves:
I'm rocking a gorgeous basic climb in this performance in September 2012. I look sexy and strong, and you can, too!
I look super cute and spontaneous in this basic fake key from a performance in Spring of 2014! Once you are super comfortable and familiar with a shape or sequence, styling it to make it your own is super easy!
It's so, so tempting to put the latest bad-ass drops and moves you just learned into your choreography, but those moves are not going to show you off to your best potential, because you don't own them yet! Lots and lots of time doing something over and over and over is crucial to the process. This is where open workouts come in. They are essential, and super fun, and the earlier you incorporate them into your training, the faster you'll grow as an aerialist. They're also cheaper than classes, which means you'll be able to spend more time training without dropping a ton more money.

Aside from being your opportunity to cultivate stamina, ease, comfort, and style in the air, open workouts offer the delicious bonus of hanging out with like-minded people! People who, trust me, will nine times out of ten think you are adorable, and will be falling all over themselves to offer encouragement, suggestions, tips, tricks, variations, and new stuff you can try. Just smile, and when in doubt, ask.

That said, it is never ever wise to try a trick you learned from another student at an open workout. Make a note of how this person is explaining the trick to you, thank them profusely for taking time out of their training to share with you, and take your notes back with you to class, where your instructor can decide if you're ready for this move, and then safely walk you through it. The pros learn from each other all the time, and someday you will, too, but jumping into this practice is a good way to wind up with an injury. If you think you might be ready to learn from a peer, first, ask yourself if you feel that you have something at an equal level to teach your potential learning partner. If so, talk to your instructor about it first. On the other hand, if an instructor offers to show you something at an open workout, you can give it a shot if you think you're ready. As with all aerial, you're assuming a risk, so trust your instincts.

That's how you begin. That's how you keep going. And someday someone will say to you, "Wow, that's amazing! I wish I could do that!" And you'll smile and say, "You can do it!" Oh, what a journey we're all on together, and thank goodness, there's always room for one more.

You're in for a long flight. May you enjoy every minute of it!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Twist and Shout (or Just Breathe)

When you think of twisting poses, what comes to mind? Lying on your back at the tail end of class, hugging one knee across your body? The quintessential seated twist: Half Lord of the Fishes pose? If so, you probably think of twists as very pleasant easeful poses, and if I announced twists would be the theme for our class, you might look forward to a gentle asana sequence.
And you'd be wrong! I made just this mistake years and years ago. I had somehow managed to block poses like seated prayer twist, and prayer twist lunge completely out of my head! Maybe that's not such a surprise. I mean, are those your favorite poses? They're hard.

So a regular student who's been busy moving was in the Zumba class I take on Tuesdays before teaching my class, and she was excited to get back into my yoga class again. When she explained that she'd spent a week drinking beer and moving boxes around and an interest in detoxing, I assured her I had just what the yoga instructor ordered, and her face fell. "You are going to kick my butt!" Apparently she remembered the full repertoire of twisting poses better than I did.

You don't have to be a yoga guru to know that twisting poses are supposed to detoxify the body, but you might think that's an esoteric thing, and not so much a physical reality. And you'd be wrong! It's true that our bodies aren't as simple a washcloth just needing to be wrung out, and while twisting may move peristalsis along a bit, your body's going to keep up its own internal elimination rhythm, but twisting helps us in other ways.

When you move your body into a deep twist, you literally put the squeeze on your organs, particularly the organs in your abdomen: liver, stomach, intestines, etc. Hold that squeeze for a couple breaths, and when you let go, a rush of fresh blood is going to flow into those organs, helping all of them to function a little better.

Another aspect of a detoxing yoga class is just to keep moving. Breathing is a crucial detoxifying system for humans, and so is sweating. The more you heat it up on the mat, the more your body is able to eliminate the toxins that build up in the body.

And remember, this isn't just about that non-organic salad you grabbed for a quick lunch, or the extra drink (or three) that you had last happy hour. Everything you eat and breathe has stuff in it that's good for you (at least hopefully) and stuff that if allowed to build up, would be toxic. The occasional session directed at supporting your body's waste elimination channels is never a bad idea.

If your yoga instructors don't take requests, I'd find some who do, though sometimes it's only a matter of making that request in advance. Mention it at the end of class for next week, instead of at the beginning of class for that day, if your teacher doesn't ask for requests at the beginning of class.

If you're not able to get to a yoga studio, or just prefer at home yoga, then heat it up, sweat it out, and then twist and shout! (Ok, shouting is optional, but who knows, it might be fun!) You can do a series of sun salutations and warrior sequences of course, but if you'd rather crank up the music and dance, go for a run or bike ride, or anything else that gets your heart rate up, that's fine, too. Make sure you twist equally to both sides, and it's best to start with the right, and then twist left.

The deepest twists are the ones that take advantage of the architecture of your body to give you leverage to twist against. Those are, for the most part, those favorite ones we mentioned earlier: Seated prayer twist, and prayer twist lunge. The lunging shape is frequently perceived as a little less burny for the thighs, but why not do both?
After a twisty, sweaty, detoxing yoga class, be extra cognizant of drinking lots of water, to help flush out your system, and for even more detoxing fun, add parsley, cilantro, and/or dandelion greens to your next green smoothie.

Will you add some twisting poses to your next yoga practice? Do you feel comfortable making requests of your yoga teachers? Let's chat in the comments!

Live Omily,

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Eating Omily: "Hey, You There! Stop Kicking that Mackerel!"***

Go wild! Spring is here! Don't believe me? The proof is at the market: fiddlehead ferns, ramps, and stinging nettles are all popping up, not to mention spinach and other early greens! Asparagus will be here in no time, along with rhubarb, and following along a month or so behind...STRAWBERRIES!!!! Get excited, folks. The growing season is upon us!

This year, I actually discovered I treat I've never seen before: allium snippets! You see, when onion, leeks, and garlic are started from seeds indoors, it helps the big bulbs we love so much to develop if the green tops are snipped off when they're transplanted outdoors. Those snippets offer a fresh, oniony-garlicky, just a little fiery flavor! They make a delicious addition to salads, the perfect herbaceous omelet filling, and if you don't mind onion breath, are pretty good munched straight out of the bag, too! We're getting a little obsessed with them over here: in a fiddlehead fern saute*? Yes, please! As an extra grassy-oniony note in our broccoli rabe? Absolutely! A quick nibble before chopping up a handful to sprinkle over rice and beans? Oh, yeah!

P.S. The honey in that picture? It. Is. Amazing. And it is fabulous to wash your face with: glowing, clean complexion! You can get your own stuffed-full bag of these special Spring treats on Wednesdays at Union Square. This vendor also offers tons of rad lacto fermented goodies: sauerkraut, kimchee, gingered carrots, and lots more! It's Fermented Foodie Heaven!!    

Last Wednesday when I picked up my allium snippets, it was pouring rain. It's a bit of a hassle, negotiating my umbrella, my insulated shopping bag, my tote bag, my wallet, and the plastic bag to put the food in all at once...but it's totally worth it, because so many of the vendors run rainy day specials in an effort to clear out their stock before the end of the day. You can walk away with bags of super freshly picked produce for an absolute steal if you're one of the few willing to brave the bad weather. Get our your rain boots, and give it a go next time!

Have you heard the bad news about tuna? Aside from the mercury issues, these big, gorgeous predators have been fished to the brink of extinction because of their huge popularity as a sushi fish. If we want these monsters of the deep** to be around for our children to enjoy, let alone our grandchildren, we've got to lay off pronto! So, with so much salmon being farmed unsustainably and un-nutritiously, and mislabeled as wild-caught, what omega-3 rich fish can you enjoy?? Have you tried mackerel? I know: they sure don't have the same fancy connotations, but A.) They are absolutely gorgeous little fish, and B.) since the fillets are so small, they are insanely quick and easy to broil to tender, crispy-skinned perfection. Need a nutritious dinner on that crazy-rushed night? Look no further. Bring them home, coat them in ghee, add salt and your favorite herbs or spices (I'm obsessed with Old Bay seasoning blend, and these are also so amazing if you broil them with a rosemary sprig underneath each fillet. The presentation takes this little oily fish from "Ew!" to "Oooh!!!" You only have to broil them on one side, skin-side up, till the skin is crispy and browned, and they'll be cooked through beautifully...and I can't imagine they'd do too badly paired with some allium snippets for extra flavor!

 Different fish are available each day at the Farmer's Market depending on which fish vendors are present, and what they caught, but mackerel is pretty common because it's an abundant fish. See, they don't take very long to grow up and reproduce, which means they can keep up with the rate they're being fished much more easily than tuna can, and they have a much shorter lifespan, which means less time to eat contaminated foods and accumulate mercury in their systems.

What Spring veggies are you excited about loading up on? Have I convinced you to give mackerel a try?

Yeah, Spring!!!

*Fiddleheads frequently carry mild food-borne illness, so before sautéing, or other light cooking methods, they need to be steamed for twelve minutes over simmering water, or you run the risk of feeling nauseous for the next twenty-four hours to three days, which really sucks, not that I know from experience or anything! Seriously, cook those suckers.

**I'm not exaggerating! Look up a picture of a full-grown tuna: they're big, fast, and fierce!

***This is a direct quote from Disney's Alice in Wonderland (the old, animated version), and if you can tell me exactly when in the movie this line is said, there just might be something in it for you! :-D 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Omily Tarot: You Really Think Someone Would Do That...?

I'm a huge advocate of reading books. And when you're studying the tarot, tarot books can be your best friends! There are so many excellent resources out there: not just books, but websites, message boards, blogs, friends who read the with all things in life though, not all of those resources are going to be super awesome. Some of them may just be confusing, some may be based on a different school of thought than the one you embrace, and some are just...not that good. Especially on the internet, the fact is, anyone can publish anything.
Yes, that's right Buster and friends (in case the imbedded video didn't work)! So it's up to you to evaluate your sources carefully. When in doubt, question everything! But how can you, as a novice, do your due diligence, and tell the difference between some yahoo rambling on the internet (which is totally not what I am), and someone who has done their due diligence, and has legitimate insights to offer? Relax, Buster. I'm here to help!

Tip #1: The tarot has a history, and, up to a certain point, we know it. So, anyone who starts off by telling you it's just a great mystery (or worse, it came from gypsies who got it from Egyptians, or who maybe are the Egyptians but the point is, it was totally the book of Thoth...) is probably not your best source. He, she, or they, may have really interesting, thought-provoking ideas about the interpretations of the cards, but keep in mind, if this person or persons doesn't or don't know where these interpretations came from...well, what are they based on?

Tip #2: I'm skeptical of anyone who has a lot of rules. Things like, 'Your first tarot deck must be a gift', or 'you must store your tarot deck wrapped in silk', or 'you just sleep with your deck under your pillow before it will work.' Either this person is just throwing out tarot mythology they've heard someplace, or they have a wholly different understand of how the tarot works (read: Magic powers!) than I do (read: Archetypes, psychology, and maybe a dash of collective unconscious).

Tip #3: If the source you're reading suddenly announces that a certain card, or even better, a certain suit, is the bad card or suit, it's time to question everything this source has said up to this point. There is simply no such thing as a bad card or suit. Every card embodies an incredibly broad range of meanings, from very positive, to very negative, and everything in between.

Knowing these red flags to look for in your study sources is important, because if you accept everything you find as reliable information, that's going to impact how reliable your readings are. The very first tarot book I ever read was called, Tarot for Beginners, and it described the whole suit of swords as being about selfishness and negativity, and the consequences of bad choices. At the time, I had no way of knowing how wack that was, but it still didn't sit right with me. What if I hadn't continued my studies? I could have been doing readings with a whole lot of negativity and judgement in them.

On the other hand, my experience shows you the other side of this coin: just because you aren't sure about a source you've been reading doesn't mean you have to throw it out and wash your brain clean of everything you found there. Just stick it in a mental folder marked 'maybe', and keep researching! If you have a roster of proven reliable sources, you can always turn to them to check out any new sources with ideas that aren't sitting right with you. There are many aspects of the tarot that are quite subjective, so you don't have to agree with every interpretation of a card that you find, though in general, the more potential interpretations you have in your stable, the better.

You can also easily do a little research on the author behind your source to find out how reputable they are. Of course, someone doesn't have to own their own tarot school and have three books published to have worthwhile ideas about the tarot...but it doesn't hurt to have some idea of where this person is getting his or her ideas from, and how long she or he has been working with the tarot.

Ultimately, you should be synthesizing all the information you're taking in about the tarot, and combining it with your own insights to create your own understanding of the tarot. You will probably never write your own tarot book, but over time, you should have a unique enough perspective that if you wanted to, you'd have something worth sharing...and something that would pass all these tests to be considered a reliable source!

Hopefully this information will help you streamline your tarot studies, and better evaluate what you already know, or think you know about the tarot.

Oh, and if you do decide to write a tarot book, definitely let me know!