Karma and a dog named Leonard Cohen

I was in Halifax on vacation for the past two weeks. One day, I walked to a coffee shop and as I exited, I met a dog who stopped to say hello. Its owner said, “Her name is Leonard Cohen. We just said it one day and laughed, so we kept it.” I liked the idea of a dog laughing at its name.
The dog came to mind today when I took out the zen koan cards, partly because of the rhyme and partly because the card that I drew seemed to be about the idea of karma, which reminded me of that old “karma ran over my dogma” joke.
The card-koan was “The seeds of the past are the fruits of the future.” I’m choosing to read that as a fairly on-the-nose metaphor. If you do something good or bad, it will have consequences later on. So I thought I’d ask, “What are the seeds from my past trying to teach me today?”
I drew three cards: Judgement, 6 of Cups and the Pope. I chose to follow the Pope’s eye line and drew a fourth card: the 4 of Swords. Then, going along with the idea of these being like seeds, I thought I’d draw a few more cards to represent the idea of growth, which led to a pyramid shape. I decided that each row would result from the cards below (e.g., the Hermit results from Judgement and the 6 of Cups). I also followed the eye lines of cards that looked off to sides.
Here’s what I ended up with:
  • King of Swords (looking at the 5 of Coins)
  • 9 of Coins, Death
  • Hermit (looking at the 9 of Swords), 2 of Swords, 5 of Cups
  • Judgement, 6 of Cups, Pope (looking at the 4 of Swords)
So, there are four Sword cards, two Coins and two Cups, no Wands. There’s one court card, and I’ll read that as a significator for me. There are four trumps: Death, Hermit, Judgement and the Pope.
I like trying to do quick interpretations. First, some context: The question and cards made me think of an experience involving some classes I took, which started well but ended on a bit of a sour note. I learned what I’d set out to learn, so the experience was good overall. However, some hard feelings remained, which I think have been affecting my attempts to move forward.
So, given that context, the first answer that comes to mind is this: It’s time to lead, not to follow. The seeds of the past are trying to teach you that it’s time to stop seeking fulfillment through others. Cut your ties to the past, take what you’ve learned through introspection and self-fulfillment and lead yourself towards your goals.
Here’s a longer interpretation:
Starting with the bottom row, which are the seeds from the past, I’m seeing something about looking for guidance and purpose (Judgement and the Pope) alternating with 6 Cups that turn into 4 Swords. You looked for something bigger than you, something that would lift you, and that led you to teachers.
It’s like that old saying (falsely attributed to Buddhism), “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I’m reading the 6 Cups-4 Swords as representing the situation of finding your way to a teacher (here it’s the Pope), which at first can feel like a fulfilling journey, but which also has a limit. Here that’s the 4 Swords.
That’s certainly how I felt. After a while, the situation began to feel small (represented by shrinking from 6 to 4) and closed off, or overly insular (the way the 4 Swords encircle a flower), and even though I learned things, it felt time to step away (like the Hermit).
In the next row, there’s the Hermit resulting from Judgement and the 6 of Cups. This is the sense of renewed searching and introspection that followed the first bit of successful learning. The Hermit is looking off towards 9 Swords, which I can read as being either more conflict in the future (i.e., it’s what I could foresee happening if I stuck around), or it could represent the sense of conflict coming close to an end. Either way, the Hermit would seem to be me, stepping back from the situation and reassessing what I was looking for.
The 2 Swords results from the 6 Cups and Pope below. That would seem to represent the ongoing bad feeling that ended the first bit of learning. It’s central to this spread, and seems to be the focus of everything in some way. It’s interesting that the 4 Swords in the first row lessens by half in the second. The bad feelings weren’t that bad, and wore off pretty quickly, but didn’t go away entirely.
The 5 Cups results from the Pope and 4 Swords below. This could be the sense of emotional nourishment that I was taking time for, or the feeling of emotional capability that followed (i.e., a positive development), or the sense of unbalance that resulted (i.e., a negative development). The 6 Cups in the first row lessened a little.
In the row above that, there are 9 Coins and Death. These could represent how I was reaping benefits from what came before, and also putting an end to the money I had been spending on classes. The 9 Coins grow from the Hermit and 2 Swords. Here I’m seeing the 9 Coins as change and feeling more grounded as a result of turning my back to the conflict and also taking time for myself. I also like how there’s a line of flowers and vines that starts in the 6 Cups, continues through the 2 Swords and 5 Cups, and up into the 9 Coins.
The Death card results from the 2 Swords and 5 Cups, which could mean they contribute to an ending of some kind, or a reaping of the seeds that I sowed earlier (in the bottom row). The problem was a cold, unpleasant situation (2 Swords) that warmed up and expanded a lot (5 Cups), which is probably the good feeling I had when I left the bad situation, resulting in the change or ending (Death). It could also represent reaching a point where I have to cut it all away, clear the weeds so I can star anew.
Finally, there’s the King of Swords on top. I’ll say that’s me, and it’s looking off towards the 5 of Coins. The King is interested in a financial or material situation, which also represents a decrease from the 9 Coins in the row below it. Maybe that’s me looking forward to what I can earn from what I learned (despite the problems) in the first row. The King has his sword out, like he’s ready to take action.
So, what’s the answer to this question: “What are the seeds from my past trying to teach me today?” They are teaching me that  I learned what I needed, and I did the right thing by leaving when I did. I gained by stepping back, and I’m ready to move on and use what I learned.

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