My Tarot Card Journey and How I Found the Perfect Deck for Me

July 25, 2021

Culture and Society / Roque Recommends / Self-Care

I have had Tarot readings done for me at different times of my life, and I dismissed it as a new age kind of novelty that I should not take all that seriously—categorizing it as something fun to do with a friend and nothing more. I had a deck that a dear mentor gave to me as a gift many years ago that I had tried out a few times, but even then, it did not resonate with me in any deep and substantive way.

Fast forward to 2020, the tumultuous year that will go down in history as the year that a global pandemic put the entire world on lock-down. It was a scary time. People were getting sick and dying everywhere. I was scared for myself and my friends and family. In my adulthood, I do not consider myself to be a formally religious person. I have my own personal beliefs that I keep to myself which gave me some solace, but I started to think about how I can be more grounded in life amid all of this death and fear. I put all of my energy into my filmmaking and creative work, and I did my best to exercise and eat healthier foods. Even so, I found myself needing something more.

Fast forward again to March of 2021, I had lived through a year of pandemic hysteria (and a stressful presidential election) by then. I had this random thought that if I had a tarot reading could it tell me if I would get Covid and die? Does it even work like that? Paranoia was getting to me, and I wanted answers. I started to browse online to read about Tarot cards. I quickly found out that there is so much more about them to explore.

To my surprise, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different kinds of Tarot card decks out in the world. They each embody their own theme and sensibility. I dug deeper to find out that they are all adapted from the original deck called “The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck” that is comprised of 78 cards divided up into major and lesser arcana groupings. I also discovered that I could actually do readings for myself without involving another person.

Along with my research, I asked my friends on Facebook if they had any Tarot card recommendations. I was expecting to get maybe a couple of responses, but I got almost 30 recommendations! I did not know that so many of my friends were into this. I looked up all of the decks that they suggested, and while there were some extremely awesome decks among them, none of them resonated with me.

What I was looking for was a deck that focused on self-care and healing, and nothing had quite hit the mark. I decided to start with my own set of the Rider-Waite deck. I worked with it for a couple of weeks after it arrived in the mail. I started a practice of doing a one-card reading in the mornings, but I found the deck to be a bit clunky and hard to understand. It definitely has an old-world feel to it that was both Eurocentric and almost medieval. Neither of these characteristics connected with a brown Asian boy who grew up on an island in the South Pacific.

Then, I used a deck called “The Wild Unknown” that was fairly popular and featured gorgeous artwork. These days, my life is oriented around nature and the outdoors. I take lots of walks outside. I live out in the woods, and I actively care for a half-mile long driveway. As such, its use of animals and elements found in nature appealed to me. I purchased it and also used it for a couple of weeks. Even then, something about the experience felt lacking. I found myself referencing the Rider-Waite deck that I had along with various Tarot card websites online just to get a better sense of what the cards were suggesting to me. I wondered if there was an easier way, outside of giving it up as a failed experiment.

Finally, I found a deck called “Neo Tarot.” Here was the description that I found for it online:

With a beautifully illustrated 78 strong deck included alongside relatable explanations of the profound symbolism of each card, this modern guidebook and deck is a mixture of revealing insights, practical wisdom and actionable exercises that readers can incorporate into their self-care practice instantly, and watch their self-love flourish.

Along with its rave reviews, the booklet that comes with the set includes descriptions of each card along with suggested activities that are contemplative and explorative in nature. The emphasis on self-care is a big deal for me. So, I decided to try one more time and bought myself a set.

In this case, the third time was an absolute charm! “The Neo Tarot” deck has met all of my needs and gone beyond my expectations. It is written in a tone that is gentle and thoughtful. The artwork features images of people with various skin tones, body sizes, and genders. The entire package is skillfully designed. I absolutely love the artwork. This deck was constructed with an awareness of inclusivity and the importance of self-care and healing.

Both the creator (Jerico Mandybur) and the artist (Daiana Ruiz) hit this out of the ballpark in terms of how its visual design and thematic elements integrate with the written content. One significant complaint about this deck from various reviews is that its booklet is attached to the box that holds the cards. As such, one has to hold the entire box in order to read about each card. This does make using this set feel a little clunky, but I have gotten used to it. It’s also not as easy to pack into a bag when traveling because of the thickness of the whole box. To me, these are minor complaints. The benefits of the deck far outweigh it significantly.

I use this deck every day in the early mornings. I do a one-card reading followed by writing down my thoughts and reflections in a journal that is dedicated to this purpose. What this ritual allows me to do is get me outside of my regular thinking patterns and to contextualize different aspects of self-care and healing into my daily existence. Each card prompts me to explore parts of my life that might need tender mending. As of this post, I’ve been doing this morning practice now for almost four months, and I now have a deeper awareness of what I need to do to protect, nurture, expand my wellbeing.

This may not be the last set of Tarot cards I will ever use, but at this current stage of my life when I am seeking to heal and prioritize my personal health and wellness of my mind, body, and spirit, this set is perfect for me.

Roqué’s Sunday Book Review: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

July 18, 2021

Culture and Society / Reading Books / Roque Recommends

Writer Kazuo Ishiguro is as accomplished as an author can get. As a winner of the Nobel Prize in literature (among several accolades), he has written novels such as The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go that have resonated with audiences all over the world.  Each novel submerges the reader completely into the mind and sensibilities of its characters. Ishiguro’s writing is self-assured and crystalline in its delivery and style.  In his new novel just released this year entitled Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro is in mighty, top form.

The story of this novel takes places somewhere in the not-too-distant future. Ishiguro incrementally unravels what this future world looks like, and it is striking to see how believable he makes it all feel. Klara, the titular character, is a robot—one that was designed to act as a companion and confidante for children and teenagers. She is an incredibly sensitive and highly sophisticated piece of machinery that can engage with humans in, well, very human-like ways. 

Klara conveys empathy by remembering every nuance of behavior that she observes around her. She aggregates all of the data she compiles to inform how she interacts with the child who keeps her. Internally, she actively questions all she sees and any contradictions she comes across. Her mission is to support the child and his/her wellbeing as completely as possible. The sun and its solar energy are her power sources, and as such, she is a robust and efficient machine that can run itself for as along as possible.

This premise alone is fascinating, but the story itself is incredibly well-crafted. I found myself sighing at the end, which I will not give away here. What Ishiguro offers up in this book is an analysis of the shortcomings of humanity, despite its blistering ambition and technical powers. 

If you are looking for an absorbing book that is as tenderhearted as it is disturbing, this book may be right up your alley. Ishiguro, once again, schools the rest of us over how it’s done. He builds depth and complexity out of subtlety and nuance. What appears to be a gentle slap to the face is actually a tight-fisted, forceful punch to the gut.  You won’t know what it you.  

This book is masterful indeed. 

—Roqué

Roqué’s Sunday Book Review: The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno

July 11, 2021

Culture and Society / Reading Books / Roque Recommends

I keep stumbling upon books written by Zen monks. I keep purchasing them, and then I keep them nearby for quick reference when I need them. I do not know how or when I started to need the perspectives of Zen monks. This is where I have arrived in my life, and quite honestly, I am supremely happy about it.

The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno was published in 2019—on the eve a global, life-altering pandemic. How could anyone have known how prescient a book like this would be? As Covid-19 aggressively descended upon the masses, we all had to scale back the pomp and circumstance of our lives in order to be safe, thereby imposing upon ourselves the mentality of simpler living like staying home, shopping less (and online), severely limiting social interactions with people outside of one’s household, avoiding large crowds, and so on.

I cannot imagine that this book’s author would have wanted the world to accept simple living in this forced and unsettling way. Luckily, we, as any and all readers, have the ability and choice to accept a book purely for what it offers, regardless of the circumstances of the world it was thrust into.

At 399 pages, Masuno has written a guidebook on how to cultivate a simple and more stress-free life. He addresses daily practicalities like how to arrange one’s home as well as mental health and personal self-care. This book is ambitious in its scope but elemental in its presentation and design. It provides 100 techniques that virtually anyone from any walk of life can implement immediately. Each technique comes with an adorable little illustration and takes up two to three pages.

Here are the polka-dot pros:

  • Steeped in Zen Principles and Japanese Culture
    Each morsel of sage wisdom in this book references Zen practices and longstanding Japanese cultural sensibilities. The result is a tender and gentle portrait of a way of life that has been molded together across generations of people. This is not some stuffy academic tomb nor is it cheerful self-help fluffery. One gets the sense that there is great richness here.
  • Gentle Tone and Quirky Storytelling
    Masuno is more of a teacher in this book than someone simply doling out advice. His writing is clear and focused and uses simple examples to support each technique.
  • Reader-friendly design and structure
    You can open this book at any random page and find something useful to read. While it is formatted in a linear way and is divide in three distinct sections, it’s content can be received in any order that the reader see’s fit. Start at the end and work your way toward the beginning. Read one random passage per day. Or simply read the book in a traditional, sequential way. The book’s simplicity allows for much versatility.

Regardless of the forced simplicity that Covid-19 has imposed upon us, there are actually numerous benefits to living a simple life, particularly when we allow ourselves the choice and preference to pursue it. This book is useful at any age and with all genders and ethnicities. Its underlying goal connects to a worthwhile need—to live a meaningful, uncomplicated life. All 100 techniques may not apply to every reader, but that does not seem to be the point of it all.

Every ready has something to gain by reading this little, quiet gem, along with the power to use its wisdom in whatever manner feels best. With subtlety and nuance, Masuno hands us this power completely.

—Roqué