Monday, August 17, 2015

The Omily Tarot: You Can Do it in with a Beer, You Can Do it with a Peer...

I just gave my favorite kind of tarot reading! It was for an awesome person, it was in a bar after tasty beers and snacks, and we didn't use a stiff pre-ordained spread for the cards.

Specifically, my wonderful friend Jessica asked me to do her yearly Birthday tarot reading for her, and I was all too happy to oblige!

Since she reads tarot as well, we had a rich discussion, comparing notes of our own personal significances and patterns in the cards, and noticing patterns within the reading itself. A few main ideas popped up over and over, and I was able to see several rich examples of Jessica's personal archetypal imagery and mythology leading to different ideas and insights than what I found in familiar cards.

She was really into my miniature Waite-Smith tarot deck: the one I use most frequently. While I wasn't initially drawn to the imagery of this deck, it was given to me as a gift by my best friend, which was a clear enough sign that this was a good deck for me. Now that I've explored it more thoroughly, I've really grown to appreciate the beauty and clarity of this deck.

Spoiler alert: I'm paying the magic forward by giving Jessica her own miniature Waite-Smith deck as a late birthday gift tomorrow!! :-D

If you've been reading my tarot posts for a while, you may recall that I don't believe there's anything wrong with buying tarot decks for yourself, whether it's your first deck or your fiftieth, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the extra level of significance that comes with a deck that's a gift. Maybe I'm flattering myself by thinking that receiving the deck from me will make it a richer source of symbolism and meaning for Jessica, but it can't hurt...and it will likely mean she'll get it into her hands sooner. I know I take forever to buy things for myself.

I think that when we're new to reading the tarot, we might gravitate toward reading for people who know nothing about the tarot. We may feel nervous, or embarrassed to read for other tarot readers, especially if we perceive them to be be better at it than us. I find that, inevitably, you learn so much from reading for another tarot reader, of doing a reading together, so you can compare notes. I think the biggest lesson you'll learn is that your own insights, no matter how new to the tarot you are, no matter if you have to check the book for every single card, add to the conversation, and provoke the interest of your more experienced partner. This can be a great confidence boost for the beginner, but it's an equally worthwhile experience for the more experienced reader. As the Buddhist saying goes:

"In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind, there are few."

Two experienced tarot readers can also read for each other, or do a reading of a character, or famous person, and interpret the spread together.

And if these activities take place at a bar with tasty beers, wines, or cocktails and snacks, so much the  better!

Might I recommend 61 Local (pictured above)? Right off the Bergen stop on the F/G, the expansive space is full of big, shared tables, with lots of real estate for readings, the menu features only local beers and wines, and a couple simple beer/wine cocktails, including a tasty treat made with local vermouth, and local chardonay, lemon juice, and juniper syrup, and seriously delicious food. Again, there's a strong emphasis on local flavors, and you can take your pick from small plates to big meals, both hearty humane meat dishes, and awesome vegetarian options. Can you see why I love this place so much?

What better way to suggest doing a reading together with your pro reader friend than after a few glasses of liquid courage? The Victorians all drank during seances! Why not you??

I mean, it's not like booze is essential for tarot reading...I've just found that it usually enhances the experience. Give it a try, if that's your thing!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Eating Omily: Hot, Sweet Summer

After an incredibly easy summer of highs of 79-82, we finally got properly blasted with that first real heat wave: nothing like trying to make intelligent choices about produce when you're baking in full sun on a 95 degree day.

Just keep breathing! And maybe buy gelato from Mother Hubbord's milk stand...

Another solution for handling the heat? Imagine how much worse off you could be! You could, for example, have just popped one of these into your mouth.
I'd like you to take a moment, and notice, not only the deeply absurd warning (don't touch this pepper? Holy shit!), but the scoville units it has to its name: 2,009,231. That's two MILLION, folks.

For a bit of comparison, consider the habanero: the hottest pepper any of us mere mortals are ever likely to consume. It's got quite a fiery reputation, and for good reason. I don't know anyone who just pops one of these into their mouths, even on a dare.
The scoville units are a bit less clear, having been written in marker, but you can still make them out. That's 300,000. Three-hundred-thousand. Not to be confused with over TWO MILLION.

What in the world does one do with one of those crazy hot peppers? You can't touch them. You SURELY can't eat them! I think they solely exist because some people like to watch the world burn. And knowing there's a pepper out there that can burn your bare flesh that you aren't currently touching can make a day with a heat index of 100 degrees feel just a tad more bearable.

On the other hand, that whole ploy of 'Hey, it could be worse!' has always sort of annoyed me. Of COURSE it could be worse. Does that mean I'm not allowed to ever be unhappy with my situation? Jeeze, lay off! So, maybe you'd prefer a different method for dealing with the heat. It may seem equally unorthodox as exploring your local hot pepper options, but this one is actually very common in other parts of the world: have some tea!

And no, dudes, I am not talking about iced tea. Grow a pair, and get yourself a HOT tea, coffee, whatever floats your boat.

Whaaaaaat???

I was first introduced to this seemingly wack solution back in Summer 2010 when I started taking classes at Namaste Yoga and Tranquility Center: the guiding light of my practice to this day, despite the fact that they exist now only in the collective hearts and memories of some very special people, and a handful of baby wolf howling at the full moon t-shirts.

One of the very many things that made Namaste such a special place is that post class, everyone would sit down in the corner and enjoy cups of herbal tea together. There were many elements of this ritual that made it feel sacred and special: the wicker basket of assorted, mismatched cups, the electric kettle hissing away as you got settled at the beginning of class, the fact that the tea was blended by the head teacher, measured out using a sea shell, and brewed in a thermos for the whole length of class, the fact that tea took place in the corner of the studio, preserving the sacred space and energy we had just created together...it was a great opportunity for students to talk about aspects of their practice they were struggling with, and to talk about other things going on at the studio. It was awesome. I would not have missed it for the world. So, in spite of that hot Brooklyn summer, in spite of the lack of A/C, I sat down for my cup of hot tea after every single class.

Some students would opt out, unable to even consider drinking a hot beverage after a sweaty yoga sesh, but one of the teachers, and I wish I could remember which one, pointed out that in some eastern cultures, people drink hot beverages when its hot out on purpose, to cool off. By making your insides hotter, you balance your internal and external temperature, making that hot weather feel less extreme, and more normal. You also stimulate your body to activate all its cooling down mechanisms, making you feel cooler. It may sound a little crazy, but I'm telling you, it works!
If you need a little extra incentive, then keep in mind that whatever kind of pastry your heart desires...you need to forget that shit and get this one. Oops, that's totally not what I meant to say. What I meant to say is that there are no less than four vendors offering pastries and treats on any given Farmer's Market day, and you are guaranteed to find one of your favorites...but yes, you do need to try this one. It's crazy. And if you've got a pastry, and you've got a nice cup of tea with milk and sugar...then you've got afternoon tea! And afternoon tea is awesome!!!

But why is this particular pastry the one you should choose? Because, the best description I have of this edible is that it's like a croissant, and a brioche had a love child, and that love child fell in love with you, and did everything in its power to be irresistible to you. That is what this pastry is like. It is all the things. And I can't remember the name of it because it's words I'm not familiar with. BUT ITS AT THE FARMERS MARKET!!! Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from the amazing bakers with the black tent, the off the hizzle lemon tarts, and the incredible gluten free options. Of which this is not one. Sorriez. I'm not sorry it looks a little explicit in this picture, though. That is exactly what this pastry should look like.

So, that's it: the hot, the sweet, the summer! Enjoy it while you can! The seasons just keep rolling on...and in all seriousness, do pick yourself up some, maybe slightly less intense hot peppers. I love to pickle them for throwing on pizza, in eggs, or anywhere else you need a little something-something.

Nom!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Maybe We'll Remember What Happened to August!

This happened in the mad whirl before August: I explored Greenwood Cemetery with my family! But you shouldn't need photographic evidence to remember your life, right?
Happy August! I have no idea how that happened so fast, do you? I find myself saying things like that, and hearing them from the people around me, a lot! Why are we so disconnected from the passage of time? Probably because we spend so little of it actually being in the present moment.

It's not practical, or wise, to live in the present moment 100% of the time. Taking a vacation, savoring sweet memories, learning from past mistakes, avoiding problems in the future...it all involves taking a trip to a time and place different from the one we're in, and we'd have a really tough time being humans if we didn't do those things!

But, in our culture, the pendulum is swung pretty hard to rehashing the past and planning the future, to the exclusion of experiencing the present, more often than not!

Don't believe me? How many times have you posted a picture of your perfect brunch to instagram, super psyched for those likes and comments, but five minutes after leaving the table, you can barely remember what you ordered, let along how it tasted? How about the last time you had an important conversation in your future: how many times did you go over what you would say and how it would go before the big moment actually arrived? If you remember your last embarrassing moment, do you then spend at least several minutes berating yourself for whatever part you played in its occurring?

I'm not saying it's inherently bad to share that perfect frittata with your friends, or to consider in advance how you'll answer questions or share important information, but if you're getting a bigger pleasure surge out of your friend's approval of your order than the taste of it in your mouth, your wiring could use some tweaking, and those extra five-hundred mental dry runs of your meeting are just a big fast waste of your time!

To put it simply, if you have to do something unpleasant in the future, you're only extending the unpleasantness by focusing on it before it happens, and if you look for pleasure in a place where your'e not, you're missing out on actually experiencing it!

But there's a good chance you already knew that. The fact is, it's easier said than done. And, it's not helpful to beat yourself up for your lack of presence. So, what do you do?

Here's an idea: pick an experience: a weekly class you love to take part in, a phone chat with a friend you don't touch base with enough, your favorite pastry and coffee on a slow morning. Keep it to an hour or less, and make it something you LOVE. Schedule it. Let yourself look forward to it all you want to. When it arrives, turn off your push notifications, set aside your to do list, and just experience it. When you notice your attention is on something else, invite yourself to enjoy this amazing thing you're doing! If you realize it's not really that amazing...maybe you just thought it was, chalk it up to a lesson in the difference between anticipation and reality, and try something new next week.

Whatever your chosen experience for next week, when you find yourself fantasizing about it before hand, invite yourself to check into the now instead. Even if you're doing something you're way less than thrilled about, challenge yourself to just sit with it and experience every facet of it for just one minute. You may find you want to try for five, or even longer, but if not, no worries. A minute is just fine.

Along the way, take the time to really observe your reactions. This is an experiment, and you are the scientist. This is your chance to learn about your own tendencies, and whether your current way of functioning is serving you, or whether a new way of doing things is in order.

If you're enjoying the experiment, you can take it even further. Pick something you do regularly that you feel pretty meh about: you don't dread it, but you're not excited about it. Does your experience shift if you're present for that experience? Maybe it's actually more boring to pay attention than it is to let your imagination run wild. That's ok! Being present isn't always the answer, but you won't know when it is and when it isn't if you don't give it a shot. You can go really hard, and choose something you do dread doing. How does being present, even for just little short bursts, shift your experience?

If you really struggle to be present long enough to even get a bead on how you feel about that experience, it would probably behoove you to get some practice in. There are moments when we all want to pay super close attention, and lacking that skill can hold us back. There are lots of apps, websites, and books to help you sort out meditation, and there are lots of posts on this very blog, too! Just click the meditation tag to the right to get started!

If you find that being present is a great alternative to your usual mode, meditation can help you get better at it, so you can do it as long as you want, whenever you want...not overnight of course, and it's crucial to remember that a huge perk of the practice is the self compassion it encourages you to cultivate as you peel back the layers and learn more and more about yourself and your mindfulness skills (or for more of us, our lack thereof!).

Remember, it's possible to get trapped in the same old out of the present mode even with meditation: looking forward to when you can FINALLY sit down on your cushion, and totally spacing on that e-mail you've been meaning to send for days, getting so frustrated with yourself for mentally checking out of your spin class that you suck down you don't really hear the conversation you're having with your mom...and when those moments happen, being able to laugh at yourself is the difference between a downward spiral of frustration, and committing to giving it another shot next time and moving on.

No one has to meditate, ever. Lots of people go their whole lives barely ever being in the present moment. They're not bad people, and for the most part, they aren't miserable, either. But, I'm just saying, it's your life. Wouldn't you like to be there for it?

Live Omily,
~em