I recently spent time on a trip with an old friend who introduced me to Animal Spirit cards, which are basically Tarot cards with animals. I must admit I was skeptical. I thought it might be a fun activity but wouldn’t be particularly meaningful to my life.
She asked me to think of a challenge I had been dealing with recently and to choose one card that would be my path out of the challenge and one card that would represent the obstacle. She made me close my eyes and take a few deep breaths, she had me visualize the problem, cut the deck and pick the cards with my non-dominant hand. To my surprise, the cards were perfect.
My path was the ‘Black Egg’ which is considered one of the creatures of the spirit and my obstacle was the ‘Nightingale’ a creature of the air. It turns out the ‘Black Egg’ was all about speaking from an authentic voice–the truth. And the “Nightingale’ was about having a fearless voice and when out of balance (my obstacle or problem) the nightingale is ‘shy, with a lump in the throat’. Pretty obvious message there!
I came home from my trip, back to my work as a therapist in Washington, DC, and family, and couldn’t stop thinking about those Animal Spirit cards. I finally ordered my own set. I have been using them almost daily since they came in the mail. It’s interesting that despite my original skepticism, these cards have given me a daily mindfulness ritual, and I love it.
Below are my three reasons why a mindfulness ritual can boost your mood, organize your thoughts and connect you to what you value/how you find meaning.
Mood Boosting: Any time we take deep breaths, slow down, get grounded, take more deep breaths and give ourselves a quiet thoughtful moment, we are sending a message to the brain that we are okay. That message helps activate the brain’s mood boosting neurotransmitters. When I close my eyes, take deep breaths and pull a card, my whole body relaxes.
Organize your thoughts: Armed with those mood boosting neurotransmitters, a mindfulness ritual can help you narrow your focus to questions like: “What is really bothering me right now? How can I find a solution to this problem? What do I need right now to help me through my day/week/month?” Regardless of what card I pulled, I had already done half the work by narrowing my thoughts towards what was most important.
Values/Meaning: Once my thoughts are organized, I can pull a card and find some meaning in the message of whatever animal spirit I have chosen that day. I can then apply that meaning to my own values. Some cards are more meaningful to me than others, but it’s the ritual that has given me that sense of well being we all hope a mindfulness practice can provide.
So, take a moment to look at where you could bring in a mindfulness ritual to your daily life. Mine takes 5-10 minutes. For example, I just pulled the ‘Panther’ card which calls for ‘annihilation of the unnecessary, purging’. I think the panther is on board for my plans to clean out all my closets and make some runs to Goodwill. We can find meaning anywhere!