Monday, May 28, 2018

Creative inspiration and guidance using Alana Fairchild's Rumi Oracle

I have collected tarot and oracle cards for about 10 years now, and these days I have rather an enormous cupboard full of them. Now, some of them are right up the very back and may not see the light of day for years at a time. Other decks, however, are very much more loved and used and are kept on the filing cabinet right next to my desk. Right at the very top of these sits Alana Fairchild's Rumi Oracle, with illustrations by Rassouli.

For some reason I just find that this deck feeds my creativity, and I use it in different ways according to my mood. On reflection I think I can probably break those needs down to:

1. Inspiration

2. Direction

3. Story intervention and

4. Tomorrow's work

We'll go into detail with how I do that in just a moment.

I came to this deck through sheer luck - I was actually given a copy of the deck by a publishing friend, and as soon as I opened it I realised I was in possession of something really special. I had known of Alana's work around Kuan Yin, and even had her deck and CD and DVD of that work, which I liked, so I was very interested in seeing something else she did. I couldn't know that very soon we would be thrown together professionally and that I would be lucky enough to work with her on several occasions.

As always, I began working slowly with the Rumi deck, taking it out whenever I felt like it, or noticed it in my room. Shuffling it slowly, drawing out a card and looking at it before returning it all to the box and putting it aside. I almost never launch myself into a deck, looking at every card and reading the guide book cover to cover. I want the pleasure to last longer than that!

What struck me was the occasionally enigmatic names of the cards and also the flowing, almost dancing, artwork of Rassouli. And then, wouldn't you know it, someone gave me Rassouli's book about Rumi and his book on creativity, and I was suddenly immersed in the work of this man who was responsible for the visual side of the Rumi Oracle. Rassouli, originally from Iran, is a lifelong student of Rumi whose artwork has been inspired by him since he was a young man. Alana Fairchild's profound interest in the poet and his messages found a perfect partner in Rassouli, and the two of them have put together a very powerful tool for writers, painters, mystics and all kinds of creative people.

It wasn't long till I began using this deck in my teaching work. I found that students, who I allowed to draw a card each (and keep it, meaning I went through a number of decks quite quickly), responded really well to the images and the poetic names of the cards. They also seemed to take students really deep really fast, which is always useful when you are leading a creative writing workshop.

Seeing the effect it had on my students, I became interested in using the cards with my own writing. Once again they seemed almost like the perfect companion, always providing me with an answer, a point of reflection or an action-based task that could keep me going and lead me perfectly to the next section of the novel I am currently writing.

There is nothing complex or sophisticated about the technique I use. I simply come up against a problem in my work (resistance, hopelessness, confusion, a headache...) and then I draw a card asking what Rumi has to tell me, by way of Alana Fairchild and Rassouli.

So, to go back to the little list of questioning techniques I apply in using this deck creatively, here goes:

1. Inspiration - Sometimes I am just plain stuck. I may have lost any energy to keep writing, I may be questioning my own right to even claim to be a writer, or I may be telling myself  that I am simply incapable of writing a novel. I need something, something outside of me, to give me a little nudge and offer me some hope. So I will simply pull out a card without any specific intention but to search for a metaphysical pick-me-up. And I always get one. So today I drew the "Commitment" card. I couldn't ask for a clearer message!  Commit myself to this project and to seeing it through to the end. Have some tenacity and persevere. The accompanying quote from Rumi, to be found in the guidebook that comes with the cards is really quite firm, and perfect for this message:

The awakened heart is like a lantern.
Keep it sheltered
from the turbulence
of the winds of desire.

2. Direction - Writing comes in fits and starts. Some days I know exactly where I am going, and the passage and structure of the novel seem to all be in perfect place. And then suddenly, I am being plunged down a vortex of uncertainty and feeling lost and totally in the dark. This is when I will get the deck out and ask myself: "What is my direction here? Why the hell am I doing this? What is my reason to continue?"

Asking this, I pulled the card "The Human Gift." In the image an angel of inspiration, of remembering, seems to be paying a visit to a woman in despair. When I sit with this card I realise what it means to me. I have been given a gift, and if I don't use it then what am I even doing here? My human rebirth is absolutely precious and I should make the most of it - not even wasting a single hour.

Part of the verse from Rumi that is offered in the guidebook to accompany this card reads:

Such kindness is offered by the beloved,
yet so much defiance and resistance comes from you.
Such grace is offered by the beloved,
yet so much fault and failure comes from you.

This isn't a guilt trip, and it is not about beating ourselves up and feeling even more miserable. It is about acknowledging the precious gift that we are, and the gifts that are offered us each and every day. It's about turning hopelessness into sweetness.

3. Story intervention - This is where it comes closest to actually cheating, but all writers do this in one way or another and so I am simply being honest. Sometime I reach a place in my work where I have done everything, and it is all  there, down on paper, except the spirit. I could read over it and think: "Well, that is perfect prose, but why am I so damn bored reading it?" This is where I know I need to inject  a little extra, and for me it is a sense of spirit. What might my character be thinking, or where might she be heading. What quality is at work here, or should be? If the actual text won't offer up its mysteries (and after a couple of hours it can be a stubborn beast!) I know I can open up my lovely box of Oracle cards and see what the Universe, by way of Rumi, might have to offer me. Then I can go back over the chapter I have written and make a change, or an addition. Sometimes it is the tiniest thing - just a word or two, and yet the entire piece is transformed because of it. no mystery of course. I have just allowed a greater force of spirit into my writing.

So I drew the card "I surge on the  uprising wave of love" and I almost gasp at the beauty of the idea, and of the sense of reassurance. But of course, at this moment it is not about me - it is about my character. I am applying this to her. And what do I do? I keep writing knowing that the outcome of this situation I am describing, until now unresolved, will in fact be a positive, even an inspiring, one. It will prove the love of this universe.

Alana's advice for interpreting this card reads:

"What we always have at our disposal is choice as to how we respond to these affecting movements and cycles."

My character has a choice to employ her power.

An interesting side-note: I always draw this card. It is obviously a message I need to hear over and over again.

And finally....

4. Tomorrow's work - I always like to finish somewhere tidy in my creative work - normally right at the very end of a chapter. This helps keep things organised, but one of the downsides is that I am left in a state of high excitement. How am I going to resolve all of this? What is going to happen in the next chapter and how can I possibly relate it to this one I have just finished?

My answer is often to pull a card and give me a bit of an overview as to what might be swaying things tomorrow. I will keep  this card out, propped up against my computer screen to remind me: you have a message from the Universe. make sure you keep writing.

For this one I pull "The all-encompassing hand," and even looking at the exquisite artwork helps me to understand jut what tomorrow has  to offer, and why I am engaged in creative work in the first place. I do feel led to this, and when I am really in the flow I feel exactly right - as though I am cupped in that exquisitely soft and comfortable all-encompassing hand.

When I look at the guidebook to see what channeled guidance Alana has brought through after I have gazed at this beautiful picture, I read:

"This sacred grasp pulses with love divine, and there is one hand, holding and held, one being, loving and loved, though we may appear by less ecstatic angels to be two."

Naturally, you don't have to use this deck to achieve the same results. I just wanted to use it as an example because it is one of my own most-used items of creative inspiration. Any oracle deck will do - you will know yours when you find it. But I can vouch for the efficacy - and beauty - of the Rumi Oracle.