In life coaching, the goal is to help you work through your shit. This isn't always fun, and sometimes problems prove to be so intractable that no matter how much we go at them, we don't seem to get anywhere.
This is when working with metaphor can really help. Metaphors are something that stand in for something else, that represent it in an often fantastical, creative way. Then we can play with the problem (note the word "play") in a way that's much less serious than before. We can either try to solve the problem in the land of metaphor and bring back what we learned to the real world, or we can just take a look at the metaphors and see if they give us any insight into our challenge.
This is where using the tarot, or any other imagery, can come in. It can also help us get from point A to point B by giving us a visual representation of our efforts and suggestions for how to bridge the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
This month, we're doing exactly that kind of work with Teddy. He's always been expert at overextending himself, but after the challenges of the past few months he's feeling extremely run down. That in itself bothers him, but it's frustrating him more that none of his efforts to yank himself up by the leg fur are helping.
We're going to do a bridging spread to see if we can help him get his life in order. I decided to go with a trusty, favorite deck -- The Wild Unknown -- because the cards are a bit of a stretch and depict things highly metaphorically. We could have used a more realistic deck centered around people (which, ironically, might not matter since he's a bear) but the point is to make him see his problems differently.
First, I had him choose two cards deliberately. The first one would represent how he would describe his current state, and the second, what he wants to feel, or attain. He chose the Ten of Wands, and the Sun. "The Ten is how I feel now," he said. "Everything feels too difficult, even the stuff I want to do. I feel like I'm buried under everything. The sun, now that feels high-energy and wonderful."
Once he picked the two cards, we laid them opposite each other and placed four pairs of cards in between, representing the possible block and solution in the four areas represented by the suits: the physical and material, the mind, the spirit, and the emotions. In order to be able to see the pictures better, I divided the reading in two.
The first picture shows us the physical and mental realms. For the physical, we've got the Nine of Swords and The World. To start Ted off, I told him that the basic meanings are worry or self-torment, and completion, harmony, and contentment. Then I asked him what he saw, reminding him that these cards relate to his physical self or surroundings.
"That's the freakiest thing I've ever seen!" he said. "I don't know whether that's a lobster claw or a jawbone, but it makes me think of self-sabotage, or, like, envisioning a monster and then hurting it. I don't know about the world, but it still kinda looks like one of them eyeballs, only happy."
"Ok, Ted," I said. "You say you want to experience health and vitality, but let's make a note to examine all the ways you might be sabotaging yourself, or maybe thinking you're not worth it. And let's try and home in on "happy eyeball." What do you need to do for yourself, physically, to feel rested, in balance, and physically good?"
"I don't know," he said. "Most of the time I'm just trying not to feel stressed out, or to come down from being stressed out."
"That's not the same thing," I reminded him, making a little note on my clipboard to give him some homework. "Now let's move on to the next set, talking about your thoughts. We've got a spider and a nice nest of pentacles. How might there be a block here?"
He paused to think. "That spider did a real thorough job. Maybe I think it's too much work to take care of myself? And I don't get the nest. It looks like a successful one, though."
"So let's plan on talking about your ideas around self-care," I said. "That's a whole topic in itself. And the Nine of Pentacles is about material success--but remember we're talking about how you could change your thinking. Like I asked you before--have you tried to make a real plan for taking care of yourself, or do you just wish you could?"
Teddy frowned. "Damn."
We moved on to talk about his spiritual life. Teddy was a little puzzled about what problem a right-side up could represent.
I told him that the Hanged Man, upright, is about a period of rest in which you might get a new perspective but that reversed, it can mean a lack of faith, or a refusal to take the time to go within, be quiet for a while, and get what you need.
Bats, actually, expend a lot of energy to move around and find food, and if they don't get enough rest, they die. Maybe it's not just his body that needs rest, I said, but his spirit too. How is he tending to that?
The Three of Pentacles is about teamwork, and relying on other people; it's also about focusing to make sure you have a foundation for your growth. Reversed, we'll say it's just calling attention to itself. Can Teddy take a yoga class or something? Since this refers to his spirit, maybe it means he should meditate!
At this point, Teddy started laughing, pointing at the duck. "It's her! It's Anatra! And you know, she does this thing when she's swimming, like she'll just flip over and do this roll in the water, and she has such a good time! Maybe I should have more fun, instead of beating myself up all the time. That's what the lion does, right?"
I laughed, too. Sometimes reading a card intuitively is the thing to do. Then I pointed out to him that the lion in the strength card isn't about force at all. Lots of people try and push through problems with brute force, instead of using the true power of gentleness and warmth. Our emotions affect our bodies. How often do we stop during the day and ask how we're feeling? How can we expect our bodies to feel good if we're constantly feeling sad, or overwhelmed? There's a huge emotional component to self care.
I was tempted to send Teddy home with a large amount of homework, but I didn't want to stress him out. We had enough to talk about for a few sessions, and we decided to try and hit on all four of these areas in two hour-long sessions, and see how it went. In the meantime, though, maybe he could go for a swim with Anatra.