Temptation and Temperance
I’m experimenting with some weekly spreads instead of the daily three-card spread I’ve been doing for a while. We’ll see how it goes.I found this simple four-card spread somewhere on the Web.The first card is the one at the bottom, and then the reading goes clockwise. The cards are supposed to form a “tree” but I set them out straight for the sake of the photo:
The Past of the Situation: Ten of Wands Reversed
Traditionally, the Ten of Wands in reverse signifies blame, overwork, burnout, lack of productivity, lack of focus, dissipation, and lack of control because tasks are too numerous and not prioritized. Upright, the card shows a hero – a shining knight on a white horse, golden. But power and this workhorse, in reverse, means something has wormed its way in and corrupted the situation. This has indeed been the case at the office. My workload has been ridiculous. My perfectionism doesn’t help matters. A wolf in sheep’s clothing has been involved, just as this card also warns. I’ve taken a deep breath and started digging out while also letting go of inessential responsibilities. This includes dropping some dharma and sangha aspirations. I’m just letting everything go but the few roles I need to fulfill and the few people I need to fulfill them for. This is a time for quieting down, coming back down to earth and the body, and going into my everyday life with full simple presence.
The Current Outgrowth: The Devil Reversed
The Devil is major arcana, so this is significant. This card is about personal demons. In reverse, it indicates, specifically, weak will power, addiction, and unhealthy attachment. Like the Ten of Wands Reversed and like Temperance, another major arcana card in this spread, it is about the masculine principle, power, but reversed, meaning weak, worn down, succumbing to unhealthy habits. This may be my perfectionism and lack of thrift in sorting priorities.
What to Do: The Three of Wands Reversed
This is the third card in this spread to signify energy blasting down the spine and the lust for knowledge, enlightenment, or power creeping up the spine. The caduceus is two snakes winding together and apart around the chakras. In reverse, this card is telling me to patiently wait the situation out; to refrain from making it bigger than it is in the full scheme of things; to refrain from perfectionism, ambition, and obsessions; and simply dispense with the list of details in short order and move on. I need to sort the small stuff that has piled up in my life before any more big plans can be made. I still haven’t recovered from the year I spent virtually all my free time working on MCTB2, buried in it while my ordered life disappeared. In a sense, I need to pull away from all things dharma and simply feel into my humanity, send down roots.
What Following the Advice Leads To: Temperance
The painting on this card is the masculine tiger completely swamped and engulfed in the soft yin waters. This card is about uniting the feminine and masculine. Again, the caduceus is mentioned in Marie White’s description. This is the unraveling of a knot, its release, which brings balance back into my life. This is regeneration, redemption, born of moderation, letting go, balance.
Ways to Stop Sidetracking Buddhahood
Get a Highly Qualified One-on-One Teacher
In this past Thursday’s intense talk with my teacher, I gained more understanding of the variety of ways nonduality, in the domain of perception, can manifest in a given student. Catching the ways someone can go off too far in one direction requires a teacher with extensive knowledge of the tradition, extensive exposure to all kinds of student personalities and contexts, and true talent for teaching. I’m blessed to have such a teacher. You cannot go further with just books, maps, and dharma friends. The path becomes extremely individualized at this point, and navigation is a delicate undertaking.
Get Over the Delusion That You Are “Done”
At this point on the path, after one has slipped out of the suffering of individual consciousness and the tyranny of attention (as opposed to awareness, rigpa), one can easily believe one is fully awakened. The seeking has stopped, after all. If this is you, then the first point is to understand that you are not done. For example, MCTB fourth path attainment is not done. There is still far to go. The good news is that this next leg of the journey requires none of the striving and suffering that the earlier phases did. The true agent of awakening has been recognized, so all one has to “do” is be open and undistracted. You might practice just 15 minutes in the morning, a very simple sit, and then take that into your day. Awareness beyond individual consciousness will to the rest. But see my next subsection – on getting out of your own way.
Let Go of Maps, States, Stages, Siddhis, and Highly Artificial Techniques
This being the truth, why do some with MCTB fourth path not go further? Well, there are plenty of ways to get sidetracked from the natural state:
- If you keep micro-mapping every state, experience, stage – sidetrack.
- If you start cultivating siddhis – sidetrack.
- If you start employing “techniques” to gain lucidity in dreams – sidetrack.
- If you chase after visionary experiences – sidetrack.
- If you meditate with artificial means, as in jhana practice or even liveliness-of-rigpa practice – possible sidetrack.
Accept That the Natural State Is All You Need
Artificial meditative activities and map mongering disrupt rather than stabilize the natural state. Keep to the Prime Directive: Ride the natural state to enlightenment, which is buddhahood.
There are three phases students go through with regard to Dzogchen:
- First experiencing the natural state,
- Coming to believe that the natural state is all that is needed, and
- Stabilizing the natural state so that it is the way of life every moment.
Get Out of Your Head and under the Feminine
What you need to do, after the subject perspective of individual consciousness has dropped away for good, which is where Dzogchen begins, is stabilize rigpa, the crystal clarity aspect of nonduality. But it is easy to overshoot fruition precisely by trying too hard from within your head. If you are living in your head still, as many very masculine partly awakened practitioners do, you are likely to get stuck and stay stuck until you begin relating to your body and emotions, until you drop down out of your successfully dissociated head and into embodiment. Maybe this is why, traditionally, it is said that women are at an advantage for fully awakening.
More on the fruits of this talk in a few subsequent posts.