How I Use Tarot In My Spiritual Practice

Since I’ve started offering tarot readings here on the blog, I thought I’d write about how I use tarot in my daily life.

For me, tarot is a way that I supplement my current spiritual practice. My current spiritual practice includes daily meditation and yoga asana. I use both of those as a way to remember my true Self. I am sure some of you will be confused by that terminology so let me explain how I see it.

There’s the ego self – the one that craves, desires, wants the wrong things for the wrong reasons, gets neurotic, gets grasping, or I suppose in Christian terminology you could say it is the “sinning” side of me. I’m okay with that definition, if we are defining sin as “something that separates us from the Divine.

I see the Divine as a couple of things. My perception of the Divine is that it is an entity – one that I cannot describe but I feel like it appears in many aspects. I have seen it portrayed as woman, man, wind, animal, energy. It’s mainly for that reason that I don’t ascribe to a religion. I also see the Divine as my higher Self. A way that I think of this is, it’s my future self, whether my older self in this life, or if reincarnation is a thing, my future self in many lives ahead of me. It’s a higher aspect of me that grants wisdom to this current iteration of who I am.

Now that that is explained… tarot does what for me, now?

Okay, if we are defining “sin” or “ego” or the “small self” as that which separates us from the Divine or from Oneness (which is also me), then I would say I use Yoga to reunite with the Divine/my higher Self. Yoga in itself means “union” or “to yoke”, so this makes sense. By the way, I mean Yoga in the grander sense – not just the physical form but the entire philosophy and way of life.

Tarot reading for me, is an extension of Yoga in the grander sense, a way that I remember and reunite with my Self and the Divine. It’s a reminder to me of which path will be the most nourishing and sustaining for me.

For instance.

This morning, I did a daily draw, partially for me and partially for my Instagram account (@bornsirius – follow me!). The draw turned out to be very significant:

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After I drew this, I knew instinctively that I have blocks to abundance in my life. Abundance? It is not showing up much for me at the present. I’ve got bills galore, for one thing. So I drew clarifying cards, asking, “how do I remove the blocks to my abundance?” The deck didn’t answer me straight. Instead it gave me Laziness, Conditioning, and Exhaustion.

I only knew this related because I’ve been noticing a tendency of mine. When I get overwhelmed, I shut down and I act like I’m tired. I’m really not tired; I’m really just avoiding something that’s hard for me. To me, the deck was saying that the way I’ve been doing things, the shutting down and pretending it away and working really hard until I collapse into the ground, was not working.

Well, what would work, then?

I knew I had to relax. To rest. I had just gotten a massage this morning. My muscles were so tightly wound that even I was surprised. I was a massive ball of knots, especially in my shoulders. Hilariously, also, my massage therapist (also a lovely friend – Hi, Beth!) kept telling me, “Stop helping me!” I kept tensing up; she was telling me to stop helping her and just relax.

All these things flashed through my mind as I looked at the card I’d pulled. Then something occurred to me. I had been thinking about even my massage in the light of “Oh my gosh. I’m so tight, my body has all these problems, I wonder what it means, blah blah blah.” In other words, I’d been seeing myself as broken. In an instant I understood what the Abundance card was asking of me – “Stop seeing yourself as broken and remember that you are whole, holy, divine, and ENOUGH right now in this moment. You don’t have to be fixed to be good enough.

This shifted my outlook for the rest of the day. It shifted my energy even. Previously, I’d been stuck in a dark hole of thinking that I’m not good enough, I’m unworthy, I should be better, etc etc. I’d been focusing on things that made me feel small, constricted, and dark. This reading shifted it to, “I am good enough, I have more than enough, and what if I were to live from that perspective?” My body instantly felt lighter, more expansive, more fertile, able to grow and take in beauty.

That’s what tarot does for me. I have experienced profound reminders of the truth from tarot, profound moments that bring me healing. It’s a way for me to extrovert what I am processing through my Yoga practice. Through the cards, I can tangibly see the things I’m emotionally processing.

Today, it just happened to bring a whole mental shift. And I’m left feeling lighter because of it.

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Finding Ground

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Back in February/March, I went to Sayulita, Mexico, and found myself as I have never done before. I went alone. As such, I was required to make my own self care an absolute priority, down to what I ate. While there, I encountered regular thoughts of self-hatred, regular condemnation for the lack of yoga I was doing (I’d planned on going daily while there), and general depressiveness. In spite of all this, I allowed and accepted these feelings with an equanimity that surprised even me. My big “S” Self stepped into the picture and held all the shifting in her great arms.

On the way home, I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t want to go to school for counseling, not now. This was groundbreaking, since I’d been wanting to go to school for counseling since I was 15 (so, for 10 years). What I did not realize is that this was the first of many shifts in my life this year.

I held onto my equanimity for about a month, and then my world began to tilt and I could feel my Self falling back under the influence of my scared ego. I became smaller again.

I started a supervisor position at work, which was much more difficult than I expected considering I have never been a supervisor. It was also difficult in the sense that I was officially dropping my dream of going to school.

I met a boy. We talked for a little while, then I shut him out, from fear. But this experience made me realize that I lacked spontaneity in my life generally, and that my program for love addiction was hindering me, rather than helping me. Instead of forming my own ideals about love and relationships, I was looking to others to do so for me. I decided to step away from my love addiction program, which I had participated in for almost 2 years, and in which I had completed all 12 steps required and a dating plan.

The same week I decided to do this, I moved to a new apartment. This was a mere 2 weeks after another incident at my old apartment, where someone broke into the basement below my apartment. This was the SECOND such incident I’d had in a year and a half of living there. I didn’t find out until last month (via my dad) that the 2nd guy also had a gun and fired at police. I had thankfully left the apartment by that time.

But it didn’t end there. In stepping away from my love addiction program, I also shifted my alcohol recovery. I’m not regularly attending 12 step recovery right now, though I continue to stay sober and in touch with my sponsor. I am choosing sobriety right now for this reason: I use alcohol to numb. In general in my life, what I am attempting to do is eliminate all things which I use to avoid the present and my true Self. As such I choose to continue to stay sober from alcohol at this time.

And then on June 29th, I started dating Kevin.

This completely ungrounded me. I had already had so much shifting happening in my life. From the very beginning of our relationship, I’ve struggled with massive fear. I’m not talking about the usual relationship worries and nervousness. I’m talking about flat out panic.

I am ashamed to say that it has taken me 5 months to regain myself. And there are prices to pay for not being yourself in a relationship. I am not at all proud of my behavior. I caused a lot of pain and have had to beg forgiveness. Yet on the other hand, I look at myself with compassion.

So much of this year has been about finding who I am, and not living others-defined. My entire life, I have lived defined by what others want of me. Growing up, if we didn’t fall in line with my dad’s dream of God giving us 1.7 billion dollars, we were verbally harangued. I went straight from that into a marriage that I felt like “GOD” was telling me to be in, with a dysfunctional man who was sadly a pornography addict. I finally stepped out of this, and straight into recovery programs that were very structured and I continued living by others’ ideas. I am not saying that my recovery programs were unhelpful. What I am saying is that my perception of how to “work” them caused me to again base my life on what others told me to do, when what I needed was empowerment. Truly, the biggest reason I have not returned to meetings is that I am still unable to change my perception on it, and know that I won’t until I have gained enough ground in myself.

Beginning with my decision to not go to school this year, it has been the year of unraveling living the life I was “supposed” to live, or told to live, or felt like I HAD to live… for the life that I want to live. Not in a selfish “I want to do this and fuck everyone else” sort of way, rather, in a healthy, skillful, heart-centered way. To do this I’ve had to find who it is that I am, without all the structures I’ve made myself up of.

So I suppose it was somewhat natural to go into a relationship and struggle with this very thing. Not allowing myself to feel whatever it was that I felt, out of fear that I would a) screw the whole thing up and be in another unhealthy relationship and b) cause great harm to someone else.

Ironically and very unfortunately, I caused great harm to my boyfriend, while trying to avoid it. Lesson learned. Do not abandon self, no matter what. No matter how much your feelings are scaring you, do not abandon self. Do not abandon feelings.

Thankfully, I found my yoga program just at the right time. The entire program is about becoming a teacher from the foundation of becoming your true Self. And the whole program EMPOWERS you to become your true Self instead of giving rules to follow. Through my yoga program, I’ve come back to myself.

I’ve written here about Patanjali’s sutra I.23 – Ishvara Pranidhana Dva. The sutra of surrender. The theme of the past 5 months has entirely been surrender, since the very start of my relationship. My relationship really began with the movie The Fountain, a story that I see as one of surrender, ultimately.

On Friday, I looked up at the sky and asked the Universe, please let me know I am on the right path. Make it clear, startlingly clear for me, what I need to do. Within fast succession, BOTH things occurred (I should not have been surprised). Later that day at work, I found a poem in an old notebook, one I wrote before my boyfriend and I really even started talking much, about the terror of living in an overwrought mind, and the way past it (death/surrender), that used symbolism of an exploding star (a theme in The Fountain). I took this instantly as knowing “I am in the right place.”

On Saturday, I was standing in my work breakroom and I read yet another graphic on Facebook about surrender and grace. With tears in my eyes I fell to my knees and said, “Okay. Fine. I hear you. I’m done. I will feel whatever I feel.” That night, I went to our local poetry open mic. I saw a woman walk in, and as soon as I saw her, I knew that whatever she spoke would be for me. Her poem? It was on surrender and releasing, healing wounds to heal karmic patterns. I was floored.

And Sunday, my yoga training met again. We have been doing root chakra work, lots of it, and yesterday learned a set of asana poses specifically targeted for the root chakra. We spent 2.5 hours on these poses, which was grueling and exhausting. I felt somewhat resentful that we spent so much time in them, that the teacher was pushing us so much and so quickly. But I had a series of questions that came to me as we worked together Sunday. As these questions came up, I started to feel a stronger sense of Self.

“What if I am desperately craving connection with myself?”
“How do I bring growth to that way of being?”
“In what ways can I support my heart opening?” – this, as I realized that I have to find security and strength in root chakra before I can open up through my heart.

After our asana practice (mostly thigh/leg work) and these musings, I went and hiked the Incline with my boyfriend. I was finally just there, breathing, feeling whatever I felt with him, surrendered to what is. It was a great hike, and despite all the leg work I’d already done, I had a huge endorphin high. We got to the top just as dusk fell, so we headed back down Barr Trail as it got dark. For about half the trail, I was behind him, and we alternated running and hiking steadily. And as we hiked, something hit me.

“No matter what happens with us, I will be okay.” And I knew it all the way through myself, to the very marrow of my bones. I felt like I was snapped back into my body and was instantly flooded with an intense joy, at the reunion with myself. Something about feeling the ground underneath my feet, and the burning in my thighs and legs from the hike and the root chakra asana practice (which I am convinced brought on a lot of this transformation), brought me back to myself.

I am supported. Not because someone else holds me up, but because I am enough and I hold myself. This is surrender, to myself, to the knowledge that I have what it takes to hold the world within me.

This return to myself feels like touching the solid ground after being at sea for months. There is a sense of great relief, and bliss at reunion with my true Self. I remember the woman I was from Sayulita, the one who I truly am. The one who allows and lets life unfold and is not afraid to feel it all, because I am expansive, strong, resilient.

I can’t stop the glimmer of fear that I will lose myself again. But, I will breathe, and allow the fear, and keep surrendering. I know this truth: as long as I continue to surrender, I will always find Her.

It’s been a long journey over the sea of my ego-driven self, but I am finding ground. I am finally home.

Final Note: I don’t think it is a coincidence that I am writing this on December 8th, and scheduling it to post on the 7th anniversary of the death of my sisters. This year has been one of transformation – and every 7 years, a person’s body sheds all their skin cells and gains a completely new set of them. I am in a new skin now, 7 years later, truly transformed on a physical and spiritual level. And I would not be who I am without my sisters. Deep bow to you, my dear hearts, and two of my greatest teachers.

Reconciling

Many of us seem to have some strain when it comes to relating to our families. The strain can be especially poignant around the holidays, where interacting with family is expected; if not from our families themselves, then from other well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) friends.

This was certainly true for me this year. Going into the holidays, my anxiety at being around my family spiked. Part of this was also caused by a graduation dinner that my mother arranged that occured 5 days before Christmas. While the party was a good idea, and I very much appreciated my mom’s thoughtfulness in planning, decorations, and gifts… it was also very stressful for me. I was uncomfortable the entire time. The awkwardness was so apparent and felt thick like a cloud around my head. It was scary for me. It was a time I’d normally try to avoid; by drinking or by dissociating somehow. I went to the restroom to collect my thoughts and steady myself at one point. A good friend followed me in and grabbed my hands, telling  me to take a couple of deep breaths with her. After that, I could go back out and stay with the discomfort a bit easier.

I really felt like it was a disaster; but of course, I catastrophize often. My feelings were convinced the world was ending. My expectations for my party had not been met anyway (damn expectations!) and some people had not been able to come, which in turn made the party much smaller than I had anticipated. My ego was not amused – people were supposed to be celebrating ME! As a friend of mine likes to say, I deserved a parade, damn it. And on top of not getting my parade, I had to deal with my socially awkward family (and my socially awkward self). It felt like Chinese water torture.

The emphasis is “felt.” Because as you can see, it certainly was not the end of the world. Thankfully I was aware of this within the situation and aware that I needed to sit with the discomfort of it. My meditation practice, which has been consistent for the past 2 weeks (miracle of miracles!) really helped with this, because often in order to meditate you have to sit with discomfort, even physical discomfort. That practice really helps when you have to sit with emotional discomfort.

Despite all my spiritualizing, I still came home and cried. And I think actually that’s crucial; to allow oneself to feel. It doesn’t have to define you or drive you, but feeling it is important.

All this led up to Christmas, and so in anticipation of Christmas, I had a lot of anxiety. I shared this at a meeting, and with my sponsor. Going into the week, I opened myself up to being of service to others. I also talked to my sponsor the night before I had to see my parents again.

And I won’t tell you it was a great success, because it wasn’t. I made some mistakes. I wasn’t as present as I could have been, nor was I of service as I could have been. I made a nasty remark about a family member that I will likely need to apologize for later. It was a “joke” but it wasn’t necessary. It was one of those horrible moments where you watch something come out of your mouth and have the impulse to stuff it back in right away and pretend it never was said. But I didn’t stuff it back in, and I didn’t apologize. Part of me also doesn’t want to apologize because I think this person deserves it after what they have done to me. Ouch. That is pretty ugly. Some amends to be done there for sure – and some looking at my part. So. Surprise. I was imperfect yesterday.

But I also noticed something really special that’s happening. I am reconciling fantasy and reality, my child self and my adult self.

I talked to a friend last week about my relationship with my parents, my dad in particular. How there is a part of me that is still sad that he isn’t what I want him to be. That in response to my backing away, he’s backing away. My friend said that maybe it’s my little girl self who is sad, not my adult self. And that my adult self can just sit with little girl self and comfort her. My adult self needs to back away to be healthy. But my child self is really sad about it and still thinks she can make her daddy see how wonderful she really is if she just does what he wants.

That conversation was what I needed going into this holiday season.

Yesterday, while we opened gifts, I noticed something interesting. My dad gave me his usual disconnected gift; something that has very little relation to who I am and what I enjoy. If my dad really knew me, he would know that I am not a huge Beatles fan (unlike my little sister). But my dad doesn’t know me. And as I opened the present (a Beatles CD and a CD of Bach organ music), instead of feeling angry or even sad, I felt acceptance. Because my expectations were in line with reality. I knew it wouldn’t be him magically knowing who I was, and so I accepted it internally without making a big deal out of it. It was kind of amazing actually. I have never been in that place before.

As I was driving away yesterday I felt the sadness. And today I feel anger. But it’s easier for me to deal with knowing that my little girl self is just sad and angry. I feel so much more reconciled to the truth of my family, because I’m slowly accepting what is real. And that includes how my little girl self feels, which is right and true. It is sad, and anger-inducing, to realize that your daddy doesn’t see you and doesn’t try. But my adult self is also beautiful, and wise, and holds that little girl knowing that her grandpa, her daddy’s daddy, probably never knew her dad. So it’s really no surprise that little girl Laurie isn’t known, either. In the end, adult Laurie is just going to keep on being the wise, loving, gentle parent that little girl Laurie really needs, cuz little girl Laurie is never going to have the dad she wants. So adult Laurie gets to take that role as best she can.

I also had a really weird realization yesterday too that when I smell alcohol on someone’s breath, it reminds me of my dad. My dad honestly doesn’t seem terribly alcoholic to me, although I’ve noticed that he drinks more than average people. He seems closer to a problem drinker than an alcoholic, in my opinion and if I was taking inventory. But it was so odd to me to catch the scent of alcohol on someone’s breath, then realize the familiarity I feel is because I viscerally remember the smell on my dad’s breath. I don’t know what to do with that. It’s another layer I never have completely considered. Another layer of reality.

But I’m reconciling. Past and present. Real and fantasy. Like a lens at the optometrist when they ask “is it closer to 1, or 2? Again, 1…or how about 2?” I’m clarifying between 1, and 2. And in doing so, I’m slowly getting closer to seeing clearly.


Some updates on how I’m working with my family now… It’s Complicated