Posted in interviews, journal prompts, journaling, Jung, personal transformation, self improvement, spirituality, Writing for healing

Journaling Tarot, an Interview with Mary K. Greer


Mary K. Greer2016-Mary Greer


This week I’m excited to introduce you to Tarot expert, Mary K. Greer. She’s the author of eleven books and has been a tarot teacher for years. I use her Tarot for Your Self, a Workbook for Personal Transformation regularly. I recommend that all memoir or journal writers take a serious look at tarot as a tool for self-discovery through symbolism and metaphor.

greer books

Some keywords defining the tarot journey are

  • perspective
  • imagination
  • spirituality
  • discernment
  • symbolism
  • process
  • theme
  • Jungian psychology
  • personal transformation

My personal story with oracle cards began around 1986 when I bought my first deck. I started with a non-traditional oracle deck, The Medicine Cards. Then I purchased the classic Rider Waite Tarot, and the Crowley deck intrigued by  the illustrator Pamela Colman Smith. The Jamaican-American woman artist who created the original tarot images so well-known today, supposedly was not mentioned for her work when the deck was published. Unfortunately, they say she died in poverty and obscurity, but her work is beloved by many through the ages.

the hermit sue rowland copy

      my collage  tarot card – the Hermit

Tarot is about the human saga. For brevity’s sake you can look up Tarot here. It’s uncanny how spot-on the card pulls can be as a fun tool for writing.

Aside from the twenty-two Major Arcana or Trump cards there are four suits with general associations making up the lesser arcana. When you read the cards you look at the relationships generated by the images and their meaning.

  • Cups represent emotions and water
  • Wands represent action and fire
  • Swords represent thinking and air
  • Pentacles represent materials (coins) and earth


  • What I want to explore for journal-keepers and seekers in this segment is the excavation of symbols and metaphors that help you, as a writer, discover your own personal story.

Please join me in talking with Mary K. Greer below:

SR: What got you started in the tarot path?

MKG: I was in college in Tampa Florida in the late ’60s and my best friend got Eden Gray’s Tarot Revealed for Christmas but no cards. I was fascinated and asked everyone if they knew where I could find Tarot cards. Someone told me about a “metaphysical” bookstore on the other side of Tampa. I borrowed a car and went on my first magical “quest” to find a deck. I discovered not only the cards but the whole world of the occult and metaphysical at that bookstore. Within a year I decided I would teach Tarot in college and that someday I would write a book on the subject. I had found what I never knew I was looking for. What really drew me to the Tarot was my interest, as an English/Theatre Arts major, in “archetypal criticism” involving a Jungian approach to symbolism and Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, all things I was just learning about then. I soon discovered that the stories I would spontaneously tell about the cards were easy-to-interpret metaphors for what was happening in someone’s life. To me it seemed as natural as breathing, although it could be disconcerting when potential boy friends nervously complained that I knew too much about them after they asked me to read their cards!

SR: How did you decide to write about tarot?

MKG: I had been teaching Tarot in colleges for several years and started doing large lectures and wrote an article. About this time I started going out with a travel writer. We went off to live in Mexico for a year and he encouraged me to write a book. I started it there and continued it when I returned to my teaching job in San Francisco. My college had a degree-completion program for returning adults. We required students to keep a journal recording their work and life experiences. I taught the journal writing workshops and also directed the school’s “learning skills” program for which I had found a workbook that was highly effective. So my first book addressed the then-taboo that one should never read tarot for him or herself. (I love to break taboos!) I used journal techniques and the workbook format to help people overcome the so-called “problems” with reading for oneself and use Tarot for personal insight and creativity.


SR: How would you advise new students to examine their lives by using tarot?

MKG: There are so many ways I can’t even begin to describe them all. Definitely keep a journal in which you write card meanings, your own readings and what is happening at that time, plus make up spreads, gather info on related myths and symbols, and so on. Do a reading at the beginning or major turning points of everything in your life. Note the patterns that appear: certain cards for certain people, when a card keeps coming up and what it finally means for you. You can go back to these readings later and write what actually happened—revisiting them again and again as you gain more insight. Write about the cards particular to you based on your birthdate numerology, astrology and so on. Dialog with these cards as if you were characters in a play, figures in an “active imagination,” asking advice or answering questions posed to you by the Tarot “archetypes.” Explore the many spreads and other processes that are found both in my books and in so many other books today. Try a variety of decks. Each will require that you look at your life from a different, perhaps totally new and fresh perspective. Create Tarot art. By the way, your “journal” can be a public or private blog, a computer file, a ring-binder, an artist’s notebook—whatever works. Start with what interests you most and go from there; you have your whole life with Tarot as your companion and your relationship with it will develop over time.

Last bit of advice: When in doubt, simply describe the card! It’s amazing where you will naturally go from there.


Thank you so much, Mary! What a treat to talk with you.  Readers, you can find Mary in the links below.

Bio: Mary K. Greer is an independent scholar, writer, teacher and professional Tarot and Lenormand consultant. She has an M.A. in English from the University of Central Florida where she first taught Tarot in 1974. With more than ten books and nearly 50 years experience in Tarot, Mary pioneered many of the Tarot reading methods used today, including reading Tarot for yourself and methods that are interactive, transformational and empowering. She leads intensive workshops every year at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck NY and travels internationally teaching Tarot. Visit Mary’s blog and on-line courses. Check out the “Tarot Magic Tour in Merlin’s Britain” that will take place in June 2017.



Journaling prompt: find yourself a tarot deck and try a reading. How do you like working with Tarot? What Tarot card do you resonate with?  Write about your experiences.

Discussion: A note to people who are afraid of divination or who might fear Tarot study, or are concerned that oracle decks are dangerous. (They’re not). Briefly, people are often afraid of the “occult” and imagine robed devil worshippers dancing around a fire encouraging making human sacrifices. Not true. I’ve never met any such characters.

With any study group one has to follow one’s intuition and if something or someone makes you uncomfortable, then don’t pursue it. There are times when I use “lighter” oracle decks such as Fairy Tarot or Guardian Angel Tarot.

Yes, there are cards that represent the archetypes of “the devil” and “death” etc, but these cards about symbolism rather than a literal event. Breaking the chains of addictions or illicit behavior (devil card) or the need to  change behavior or look at things from a new perspective (death card) are only indications of elements in life. Find a good teacher. Do research.

Each person who chooses to work with oracle cards or the tarot can choose a deck that isn’t frightening. There are all kinds of decks available that do not use these classic “negative” images. I will devote another blog entry to this topic.

Copyright © 2016 by Susan E Rowland

Posted in Gandhi, inspirational, interviews, journal prompts, profiles, spirituality, Writing for healing

Learning Peace From the Inside Out, an Interview with Arun Gandhi

arun gandhi for int


Dear Readers,

Today I am honored to introduce to you author Arun Gandhi, the fifth grandson of India’s legendary spiritual and political leader, Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi has written a children’s book, Grandfather Gandhi with co-author Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk.

I was so excited to be able to talk with Arun by email. He exemplifies the caring and wisdom of his grandfather. However, as he shares in his book, patience was not always his strong feature. As a child he had to compete for attention among the many people who daily surrounded his grandfather. Arun struggled with childhood things such as occasional fights with other boys on the playground and learning to write Gujarati. Life in India was different from South Africa where young Arun dreamed about Western movies.

Recently I have delved into the etiology of negative emotions such as anger and frustration. Why is violence so prevalent? One wonders how spiritual teachers such as Mahatma Gandhi,  Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and Thich Nhat Hanh could endure ridicule, hostility, even exile, yet be so unpretentious and truly peaceful.

The answer seems to lie within ourselves. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The interview is below:

SR: What made you want to write a book? Why a children’s book?

AG: I was twelve years old when I went to live with grandfather and some of the lessons he taught me were life changing. For more than 30 years I have been sharing these lessons with adults and they have always told me how important and inspiring these lessons have been. About 20 years ago I incorporated these lessons in a book for adults called Legacy of Love which was first published by a small time California publisher who went out of business so I took over the publication through my non-profit Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute. I sold over 50,000 copies of the book and the income is used to rescue and rehabilitate impoverished and exploited children in India.

I always felt these lessons should be shared with children but I don’t know how to write for children. Then 9/11 happened and the Unity Church in NYC invited me to come and speak and give New Yorkers a positive message. They had over 700 people packed in the auditorium, among them was a young lady called Bethany Hegedus. I shared the story of anger and how grandfather had always maintained that it was a good emotion to be used constructively rather than abuse it the way we do and cause grief. Bethany was impressed and some months later she wrote to me asking if I would consider working together on a book for children. I said yes. For 12 years we could not find a publisher then Simon and Schuster bought the manuscript and Grandfather Gandhi was born.

SR: I see that you are a journalist by training. How do you usually organize your material? Do you outline? Do you keep a personal journal? What is your writing process like?

AG: I am what people would call a disorganized writer. No, I don’t journal but I write from my heart which means I write and rewrite several times until I feel satisfied.


SR: You have been an established writer for many years: did having a “name” help in finding a publisher?

AG: No the name was not an advantage. If Grandfather Gandhi took 12 years, my biography of Grandmother: The Forgotten Woman, took more than 25 years. All the publishers wanted a manuscript on Grandfather but no one wanted to touch the book on Grandmother. Then in 1989 Ozark Mountain Publishers in Little Rock who specialized in spiritual books decided to take a chance on this one. It received no publicity nor reviews and so it was not available in book stores. Once again, I sold more than 50,000 copies over the year by selling them wherever I went to give a talk.

SR: What advice would you give to writers who are interested in publishing children’s books?

AG: I think a good artist is as important as a good manuscript. Publishers of children’s books like a book with a message but delivered in a subtle way without being preachy. The success of Grandfather Gandhi is shared by the artist Evan Turk. He was just 12 years old when we started writing the book and this book happened to be his first upon graduating from art school.


Thank you so much, Arun. Reading Grandfather Gandhi and speaking with you has been a privilege. I’m sure others will gain new insight into your grandfather’s life as well as yours. I feel that Grandfather Gandhi could be considered a spiritual memoir as well as a children’s book.

INFO: Arun Gandhi is president of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute and writes a blog for The Washington Post. He lives in Rochester, New York and travels the world doing speaking tours. You can listen to a wonderful talk by Mr. Gandhi here at the Cleveland City Club. I hope you will be as captivated and inspired by his true stories. I’m envisioning and holding an anger/resolution journaling class.

      Bethany Hegedus lives in Austin, Texas and has a writing school called the Writer’s Barn. Artist Evan Turk lives in New York City, originally from Colorado. See his work at the Mystic Seaport Museum.


Journal prompts:

1) Try writing about your life in a format that would be suitable for a children’s book. How does this feel to you? What would you want to say to the world? Do you find writing from a child’s point of view is cathartic?

2) Do an interview with an author. Describe the process from beginning to end. Include all the details. Please don’t hesitate to share here. All are welcome!

Posted in inspirational, spirituality, Writing for healing


prayers for nepal copy.jpg 2 use

Himalayan hands turning prayer wheels

Sanskrit hope

in shaken purification,

clockwise motion.

Sending boxes quickly.


monk copy

“I am doing my prayers around the world to create a world without war and tension.” – Grandmother Aama Bombo

Above: study sketch of Grandmother Aama  Bombo of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.

Journal prompt: Take a few moments to find solitude and quiet your mind. Have your journal or notebook nearby. Shake out any tension in your hands and do some neck rolls. Breathe slowly to the count of four. Do the breaths four times. Then, listen to the gong at the  following link with Grandmother- Mother Shaman.  Continue just to sit. Imagine your thoughts of support going directly to the people of Nepal.

 When you are finished, write down any images or thoughts that come to you. If nothing happens, that’s ok too.

Discussion: Try the doing this exercise  at the same time of day or night-maybe for four sessions. Add a candle to your mediation, or make a simple altar with flowers and things that help you feel calm. Notice how your body feels and what comes forward for you.

Love and gratitude to you, dear readers!

Posted in blog challenge, blogaday, earth friendly, journal prompts, spirituality, Writing for healing

The Scent and Moods of Mother Earth

Seasonal scents-The prompt is about the scent of summer. I’m doing a freer interpretation…this is a rough draft of my memoir in poetry.

Note: I changed tense in the middle of the poem deliberately…bare bones…
zen tree trunk copy

The earth is a woman.
When I was young the changing seasons reveled my senses.
Hard cold endless winter made brighter by the sun as she turned
my bedroom window gave way to
eager smells from the sometimes open screen bringing life in again
blooms open and trees turned
fields swelled up to the glorious greens.
My woman friend wears an endearing eau de fresh earth and bark.

The earth is a woman.
I roamed, I roamed.
Time tended the years, deliberately taking leave of the Southern Ohio balmy woods
I flew to Oakland to explore ivy laden hillside streets and alleyways to grand avenues.
Laced curtains billowed in bus filled streets as sociable angels on bikes dwelled with truth seekers and poets.
A student, lover, attendant, and mother, when the baby is a year old we make the northerly trek
to the mountains of my power days. Mountain woman walks with her friend.
My earthy friend is the duskiest most delicate sweetness and she never leaves me
when tears drop on the ground.

The earth is a woman
my companion is forever a sanctuary, her moods can be soft or rough or raging.
The scent is manzanita, water-kissed pine and redwood, deep and sturdy sphagnum oaks
hold me

in a funnel of comfort as I transformed from young woman to middle age.
Then, as gorges deepened in the meadow and trees fell, so did people and the lines
on my face, your odor is still as sweet as baby’s breath with new spring rain.
I cling to your wisdom, your stories, and searching, searching,
The children leave home all grown.
The summers roll on lovely and lavender, full of jasmine and rose.

The earth is a woman.
My man becomes discontent the quarrels erupt as plump, pregnant summers give birth to
wood-smoked fall. We adventure out, unsure, then make a plan
to move to the sparkled and bright-aura desert where my woman friend throws off
the sent of sage a turning couture of fashionable brevity. She offers newness-the
nascent wafting – sand after the monsoon, blossoms nudge rabbits to hop and lizards to dance.
The desert broom, mesquite and palo verde make a wreathe around my head
as creosote and ragweed change my sinus cavities

and his will to live. Heart surgery. Success.

the drops on creosote bush

The earth is a woman.
I am evolving faster than she, but still my soul opens in quiet gratitude.
Her  sensuous scent is a daily gift of ceremony, sunrise and sunset
accompanied by gaudy displays of color and drama.
How can you smell so darling and then so foul, as when a big saguaro decays?
Later I laugh only after squelching the memory of the nasty rot
Right in the front yard, the odor so bad, I thought there had been a murder in the neighborhood.
Could it be horse in death? No, a giant had fallen.
I become the aging woman, my earthen friend has shown me a thing or two.

the sajuaro silhoutte

She wins, hands down, but bellows out an uncharacteristic command.
I am she on whom you all stand. I feed you, console, bathe, give you lovely teas and coffees, fruits
and vines with bursting melons, medicines for your bruises.
But yet, you trample me, drill me, extract my blood and juice, attacking me.
Stop hurting me and raping me!

Tell your humans to stop.
If you do not stop I will send more hurricanes, and big earthquakes and I will
deliver a rage more devastating
than your puny, tainted interpretations of a wisdom you call ‘God.’
Vengeance is mine, sayeth the earth.
I’ve had enough now. I might leave you all behind, if you don’t change.
The earth is a woman.




Posted in inspirational, poetry, spirituality, Writing for healing

A Single White Feather

little feather copy

To the angel of my childhood innocence:

I asked for a sign
that you’d truly not departed.
Yet I had awakened this morning
in a mild panic at 4:00 am
from a dream where nothing made sense.

So a single white feather
dropped at my door
let me know you were still here,
and that I am resilient
strong until my heart
glistens with yours once again.

Posted in earth friendly, friends, memoir, spirituality, Writing for healing

Fork It, Explained

the old house near caspar


Did I sound critical and dark about her need for adventure?
No, no, no, no!
It’s just the grief talking.
How could I have lost another friend?
My poems are full of it, you know,
seems like I’m supposed to get it,
this thing called death

and a monster disease,

a thief stealing a woman

who was always

a giver.

They say it is “ just a transition” a shedding of the physical body.
Another piece about death?
That’s what it is-evidence-
raw and real…
Not crossing over, not the transition, not passed away,
such are the phrases of pablum, more bland than unsweetened oatmeal…


The last time I saw her,
I could tell something was up.
She was meeting with her son at the local taco stand;
her sparkling eyes seemed so serious.
She didn’t stop to talk or chat, even her red hair
was different that night,
and you could always tell it was she…
a block away,
her coppery hair lit up like her splendid soul.

I can’t seem to get the timeline right but I do know
I was back in Ohio at my father’s bedside, right there…silently screaming
at the ides of March.
He never liked March.
He passed on during that third day of the dreaded month, and when I came home
to California, the redwoods and giant oaks seemed foreboding.
I found she was going too.
How could it be?

Would there be no more adventures to exotic places?
No more post cards and slide shows,
her altruistic voice, far-seeing tiny eyes filled with tales of people.
I always thought she was a reincarnated Chinese sage,
with those hennaed locks
flowing with the energy of an athlete.

She said “you were the first people I met when I moved to town.”
She told that to everybody because we made her feel at home.
We felt like family, because our hearts united for simple honoring
That was before I’d had enough and had to leave my kid’s dad
for all the fighting and verbal demise.
It was I who had bitten the dust. She understood.

It was easy to make anyone feel at home because she was so friendly and vivacious,
making people feel welcomed was simple for that’s the way we were raised.
Only later I found out there was a name for it….codependency…she could see that there was a jagged edge
in my marriage, that the hurled barbs of word attacks hit me when company departed
and my hurt was starting to show.
She knew.

Everywhere she went, she rallied for others…for the earth, nutrition, and good causes,
attending to the forgotten, women, children, and others.
She was outspoken about formal religion,
It made her feel like an animal in a cage.
“Don’t give me that Jesus stuff” was the underpinning of the message,
and here’s why:
She lived the real word of the gospel
by doing right,
but that girl just would not sit tight.

When she went to Nepal
we lent her Johnny’s leather suitcase, perfect for her voyage.
It had pockets on both sides, with an inside zipper and storage places.
She never forgot to bring us little trinkets, shiny red and glittering
tokens of those places she acquired on her voyage list…
but it was so far away this time, we made sure her itinerary was printed clearly.
We knew she’d be back with tales of adventure, talking of
of fabulous foods served on floors, and statues of Buddha mixed with
mountains of foreign language
and new friends.

Posted in forgiveness, journal prompts, spirituality

Silence and Play: Happy New Year 2014!

                                                      Happy New Year 2014!

                                                     One Earth by Shay copy

                                                          Collage by Shay, age 8

I feel like I’ve been away so long and have missed you all in the blogosphere.! Wishing you all the best with much writing,  art-making, storytelling or whatever it is you do for 2014. If you’re in the cold Northeastern states, wishing you much safety and warmth.

My focus in 2014 is to continue doing what I did last year and that is helping others learn to read, and to gain access to education.

2014 is about completion and follow through on projects. I’m continuing my work as a steward for the earth. Look for upcoming articles.

No regrets!

I don’t do the year in review summaries that are on the news and in most blogs and in every magazine. However, I do feel reviewing is a great journal technique and self-evaluation tool.

Recently when Mandela made his final crossing I decided not to speak for a moment. My aim was to go 48 hours in silence. I didn’t quite make it the full two days. The takeaway from not speaking was a sense of otherworldly peace and a renewal of confidence.  Silence helped to calm my mind and go into a deep state of meditation. I found myself immersed in the concept of forgiveness. I pondered the life of those who have been in, and still are, in captivity. The images of  school shootings and the rage of isolated, mentally ill individuals haunted me. The issue of contempt by an individual for another human being, engulfed me. I wanted to continue on in reverie and go more deeply.

I found that thoughts go full circle.  How we treat ourselves is usually how we treat others. There is always something to learn; we are never finished. How can I do better in my own life?

During my silence I felt the ultimate lesson is that the mind and heart are free. Humans are animals yet we are burdened and blessed with the capacity for intellectual prowess and the ability to control….to an extent. We cannot control raging winds, fires, water and drought.

My concern as an older person is about what we are doing with our world and how we are leaving it for generations to come. Will we be known for making the necessary changes for the Earth?

I write to write and that’s it.

This year maybe more people will decide to use their dollars as votes. Maybe solar power companies will expand. Maybe people will decide that NO GMO is a valid cause.  The health of the planet is directly related to our own lives and health. Lay down the contamination and warmongering and replace it with dialogue, healing, and action.

My point is that no longer are the opinions and approval of others as screamingly important to me. Yes I need feedback, we all do. But,  I have to stand for something, to be a role model for what is good and whole. My quest as an artist –writer is to keep working on what matters to my soul and for my authentic self, and to be of service to others.

2014: The sheer joy of being a witness to innocent creativity is enough to keep me happy. My one resolution is to take time to play!

Enclosed are my granddaughter’s New Years art collage cards. Have a great week!

                                                    play by shay 2014 January copy

                                                              Collage by Shay

Journal prompt: Do you celebrate New Year’s? What about resolutions, the year in review and other traditional activities. Free write about what the New Year means to you. If you have a symbol, a favorite phrase, power animal or goal for the New Year, please feel free to share it here.