Our SparkTarot! team tarot challenge for the Week of 12 April 2009 has been to perform a "cleansing reading" for ourselves – that is, to spread the cards and use the images presented to reflect on where we've been, where we're at, and where we want to be in our lifejourneys toward better fitness and health. The challenge requests that we give special attention to obstacles and unproductive thinking/habits that may be slowing or complicating our efforts.
As I am currently at my goal weight, the direction from which I've approached this challenge is somewhat different than it would have been six months ago. I'm no longer actively pursuing weight loss, because I'm now rated at a healthy weight for my height (6' 0"). However, since reaching my goal on 5 March 2009, I've continued to shed pounds. And while I'm not yet BELOW a healthy weight, I'm getting close to that point.
Even before spreading the cards, I know exactly why the scale numbers continue to drop. In brief: after all the effort I've put into revamping my lifestyle, I'm terrified of backsliding, and regaining even a single pound of what I've lost. So, while I've modified my habits somewhat (and admittedly, my weight loss has slowed), I haven't yet truly given myself permission to relax and enjoy my accomplishments. Thus, for me, the question becomes: what's it going to take to get me to begin trusting myself, and trusting that I'll continue to do the right thing for my long-term weight and health?
I selected a rather complicated spread for this reading – but a spread that is very fluid, allowing me to approach the issue from many different angles, and observe how the complex, interrelated factors truly contribute to the whole of the problem... and the solution. The illustration below shows the spread, and the cards I pulled for each position. I like to read with reversals, so the (u) and (r) codes after each card name stand for "upright" and "reversed". The spread itself is laid out in the shape of the Qabbalistc Tree-of-Life, with each of ten cards assigned to the positions of the ten sephiroth.
The spread is not dominated by any particular suit or number. There are three Major Arcana cards, two Wands, two Cups, two Swords, and one Pentacle card. The suited cards include five pips and two courts; no values are repeated. I find it interesting, however, that all of the Major Arcana cards I drew (Strength, Hermit, Chariot) came up reversed. Furthermore, using the Waite-Smith ordering, the Majors are numerically "clumped" – cards 8, 9, and 7 respectively. The overall mix leads me to posit that where I'm at is the result of a variety of factors, not heavily weighted toward one or another. But the reversed clump of majors suggests that I may be stuck in a particular phase of my journey right now. Further analysis should help me to figure out what phase that is, and how to get moving forward again.
SUPERNAL TRIANGLE CARDS: STRENGTH, KING OF WANDS, HERMIT
The top three cards of the spread describe the motivating and formative elements of my situation. At the source of all is the Strength card, in reversed orientation. Unquestionably, finding the strength to do what needed to be done was the catalyst for my long-overdue weight loss journey. I had it within me, and I finally unleashed that strength, and made it work for me. However, there can come a point when strength becomes stubbornness – and the reversed orientation of the card here suggests that I've taken that inner resolve one step too far at this point.
Of course, there's the momentum to consider. I've been throwing myself into the task at hand for the last six months, rushing headlong at every challenge. Once you build up that much speed, you can't just stop on a dime (not without risking serious injury, at any rate). The King of Wands card – fire of fire, in a fiery position atop the right tree pillar – reflects the tremendous energy I've poured into this project. It appears to be focused on my weight loss goals still – but perhaps it's time to allow some of that energy to be redirected to other endeavors.
And then, there's the form in which this stubborn, single-minded effort has manifested – The Hermit, reversed. My "phase one" weight-loss work – the efforts begun in 2007, and in the process of becoming for naught in 2008 when my sister thankfully introduced me to SparkPeople – was undertaken largely on my own, without seeking input, approval, or support from anyone. (Not that anyone DISapproved of my efforts... but I didn't ask for help, run my plans by anyone, or worry about what anyone else thought about how I was going about things.)
Phase two – my "SparkPhase" – has, of course, been carried out largely within the context of the SparkPeople community. The reversed Hermit represents my "coming out of my shell", and allowing myself to find motivation by traveling this path with others. The results have been staggeringly successful, and there are few words to express the depth of my joy, pride, and appreciation. But I have to ask myself: at what point does the plan start to overshadow the goal? Can I not step back now, and allow myself to simply be satisfied with my accomplishments? This spread suggests that my aforementioned stubbornness and momentum are no longer my allies, as they are pushing me farther along in a particular SparkPlan that no longer has relevance in my current situation.
SPIRITUAL TRIANGLE CARDS: THREE OF CUPS, QUEEN OF CUPS, EIGHT OF SWORDS
These center cards represent, to me, the specifics of the life I've been trying to build for myself over the past two years. On the right, in the center of the so-named "Pillar of Mercy", sits the Three of Cups, upright. Here, I see my efforts to bring joy back into my life after suffering from undiagnosed depression for several years. While, upon reflection, I can identify several factors that brought me to the brink of initiating the life changes I so desperately needed to make, I can't say for sure what finally triggered the actual beginning of my efforts on that morning when I sat up in bed and said to myself, "enough is enough!" Nonetheless, this is an extremely important card for me. After doing a reasonably admirable job of pulling myself out of my "funk" through diet, exercise, and affirmation (and avoiding pharmaceutical solutions, which scare the beejeepers out of me), I unexpectedly and upsettingly slipped back into my old mindset for a while last summer. It was a jarring lesson that I should not become so complacent as to believe once the problem is solved, it is solved forever. Whatever I decide to do, vigilance is a necessary component of the process.
Across the tree, in the middle of the "Pillar of Severity", sits the Queen of Cups. This is perhaps the most puzzling card in the whole spread. I've always identified pretty strongly with the Cup Queen – it was perhaps my favorite card in the whole deck at one point. In its current location, however, there is a strong suggestion that my water-on-water tendencies (sidenote: I'm also a Pisces, BTW) are currently not the most beneficial personality traits I have to be drawing upon.
Admittedly, in the past, I've had somewhat of a bent toward being a "drama queen" at times. But having recognized those inclinations in myself some time ago, I think I've made admirable strides toward mediating their expression (if not quite conquering them entirely). So where does that leave me? The sephirah associated with this position, Geburah, indicates something that I should be clearing out of my life in order to move forward. (Alternatively, it could be indicating something that I'm wrongly clearing, and need to keep – but my gut is telling me that in this reading, it's the former.) About the best I can come up with is that it's time to push aside the emotional issues that remain (in this case, fear of backsliding), and allow my intellect more of a free rein to guide me at the moment.
In the middle of it all is the Eight of Swords. Eight of the other nine cards in the spread feed into this nexus in one manner or another. The message is clear: it all adds up to an over-restrictiveness that is at the heart of my dilemma. It's not much of a revelation, but it is an important confirmation of my current beliefs. What's important is deciphering how the other factors contribute to this central difficulty... and what do to about it.
ASTRAL TRIANGLE CARDS: THE CHARIOT, NINE OF WANDS, ACE OF PENTACLES
Now we get into what's actually coming through, to manifest on the surface. It begins with that upside down Chariot at the bottom of the right column. In the reversed orientation, I'm looking at the Chariot's power to drive, direct, and get things done... NOT! Emotional higglety-pigglety definitely reins. It's not so much a matter of "highs" and "lows" as it is the allowing of my feelings at any given moment to take control. The result is a sort of emotionally-driven version of ADD, with fleeting whims, instead of useful goals, taking up too much of my time.
It would be more productive to allow my intellect to focus my energy (and there's undeniably plenty of energy coming down from the King of Wands at the top of that same column) on a limited number of the most important tasks. But I don't do that; I flit from one project to another, never fully accomplishing anything, with the exception of that reversed-Strength stubbornness continually driving me in the direction of my fears. This feeds my restrictive Eight of Swords center further, through poor planning that leads to a later limitation of choices.
Balancing this – if you can call it balance – is the Nine of Wands, reversed. Although I tend to fancy myself to be an intellectual – and there's no question that I often tend to over-think a situation – the truth expressed here is that at the moment, I'm allowing my gut to dominate my head. There are times when that should be the case. However, glancing once more at that central Eight of Swords, I think it's pretty clear that right now, this is not one of those times. My strength right now – my REAL strength, as opposed to the pig-headed variety from whence my current behaviors arise – should be coming from dealing with facts and realities, not outdated or imagined scenarios that won't, in the long run, serve my best interests.
Interestingly, these two cards feed further downward into the Ace of Pentacles, which appears upright. Not a bad card at all to manifest in this position, since the Pentacle Ace is a font for the components of earthly success. And indeed, I'm enjoying success on many levels at the moment. This provides a reminder that the factors highlighted in this reading are not bad in-and-of-themselves. In fact, the truth is just the opposite: they've been essential to my progress thus far. However, what works in one situation does not necessarily work in all situations. Intellectually, I know it's time for a change if I want to continue seeing success. But this reading underscores the idea that I'm continuing to allow emotional components to retain the "upper hand". It's strange to consider the possibility that success can bring limitations with it – but sometimes it does, and it's time I recognize and acknowledge that fact if I'm going to move forward.
MALKUTH CARD: SEVEN OF SWORDS
So, how is all of this visibly manifesting in my life right now? It would seem that my obsession with my health and weight-loss goals is potentially interfering with the process of moving on and fully living my life. I did what I needed to do; I enjoyed it, and I'm proud of what I've accomplished. But I need to acknowledge that "phase two" has now ended, and a "phase three" needs to begin. Until I can embrace that fact, any other projects that I try to undertake will suffer from lack of focus and incompletion.
The Golden Dawn title for this card is "Lord of Unstable Effort" — an expression of how I am currently allowing my fears to interfere with the further success I'm clearly capable of achieving.
I am so very blessed to have the friends and resources I've needed to make important changes in my life – changes that have definitely been for the better, and have made me a better person than I've been in years. While my overall interpretational tone for this reading may seem a tad on the pessimistic side, the truth is that I'm fine and dandy and doing quite well. Just to wake up every the morning feeling like I want to embrace the day, instead of dreading it, gives me reason enough to be happy and content.
However, as I think this reading confirms, complacency is not necessarily a healthy attitude in the long run. It's important to periodically reassess, especially when new factors enter the picture. I look at this reading as a reassessment – the first I've fully verbalized since reaching my goal weight last month. Trouble is not yet here, but if I'm not attentive to the signs, it could be just over the horizon. Better to anticipate and plan than to wait until the universe "forces" action upon you. The time has come to trust my intellect, and not rely on emotional factors that, while very productive in motivating me toward one goal, will not be so useful for moving me into my next stage.
To that end, I'll be continuing my maintenance work, but perhaps making some more aggressive changes than I have over the past month. I'll also be trying to reanalyze my priorities, and begin the process of "redistributing" my energy among my various projects accordingly. Furthermore, while I have no plans to leave the SparkFold, I do think I may now need to put less reliance on the tools here that were so beneficial to my during my weight loss phase, and instead find tools more compatible with my long-term maintenance lifestyle. (I'm sure I can find them – I just need to overcome my fears and take the blinders off first.)
This is an extremely exciting time for me – I only hope I can find the wisdom to let go of the past, and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.