Divination as Dharma Practice

Recently, after a long period of infirmity, I was called to resume my morning practice of prayer and contemplation. It’s not that I had stopped these practices but that I was unable to do them in the same way. I was unable to sit on the floor which is where my altar resides, tucked into the corner of my study. Once I was as able to easily sit and rise, I set about refreshing my altar, hanging some new pieces on the wall: a Tibetan banner embroidered with Om Mani Padme Hum, a photograph of my father, and two photographs of Amma, the “hugging saint,” who was my teacher for many years before I was introduced to Trillium through Waking Down in Mutuality. The other and most influential addition was my Trillium Awakening Self-Inquiry Deck.

My practice is this. I sit on my pile of pillows, light a tealight candle that rests in a small, handmade bowl embraced by a feminine figure. From that candle, I light a stick of incense to wave around the divine figures on my altar: Quan Yin, Shirdi Sai Baba, Amma, my parents, Ganesha, the Dali Lama, and a small, antique Buddha brought from Thailand. As I wave the incense, I offer a silent prayer that I may be guided by their divine wisdom and that all beings may be well and happy and free from suffering, with a special prayer for those who are dear to me.

These prayers set the field for what is to come, drawing a card from the Trillium deck to contemplate. Here’s the thing about using a form of divination. It requires a great deal of trust in Being. Because my altar space is small, I don’t have the room to spread out the cards. I discovered that it worked just as well for me to thoroughly shuffle them, then draw the card on top. Just recently, I drew the Core Conditioning card. Often, the card I draw sets off a small charge in me. In this case, it was sort of a deep hmmm. Do I have aspects of core conditioning that are still running me? I closed my eyes and contemplated this question as well as those in the booklet that accompanies the deck. I could see quite clearly how elements of my early conditioning were still buzzing around in my thoughts throughout the day. I felt some deep relief at this contemplation.

Later, Sugandhi and I were planning our bi-weekly women’s group, and I mentioned Core Conditioning as a possible theme. It proved to be a fruitful conversation and topic for the group. The next morning, I sat at my altar, thoroughly shuffled the cards, and drew the top one: Core Conditioning! Again! I had to laugh at the way Being will continue to show us what we need if we are willing and able to engage it. So I closed my eyes and once again contemplated this element of our Dharma. This time, my contemplation took me deeper and revealed to me how my governing sentimentalities can tend toward what one might call fatalism. I call it the I hate everything mood. My mornings are full. I rise, open the shades to let in the winter light, take out the dog, bring in kindling, start a fire in the stove, and prepare my breakfast to cook while I do my practice. On this particular morning, I could see in my contemplation, I had dropped into that conditioning, hustling around beetle-browed, trying to get done with my chores so that I could do my practice!

Of course, in contemplation, I realized that those morning tasks are a practice in the vein of chop wood, carry water. On the cushion, I ask to be of service. In the kitchen, I am of service. Whatever I am doing, it is an opportunity to be present with what is. To feel it, to live it, to be it in the fullness of embodied consciousness. The Trillium deck helped me to remember this. It showed me that whatever card I draw, whatever my mind cooks up when I see the image, it is for me. This morning, I drew the Divine Feminine card, the message of which is just that. Whatever is, is for me.

The secret to divination is trust in Being. If we ask, we must be willing to hear the answer.

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