Tarot for Teddy: How to Have Compassion for Yourself and Others

September 11, 2017

With a monthly theme about how to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, it's fitting that Teddy came to me without a particular question but just wondering how to deal better with life in general. "I'm too hard on myself, I know that," he said. "And it's non stop, no matter whether good things are happening or bad things. Is there a way I can just stop doing this, maybe?"

"It's a long process, but a great idea," I told him. Let's see if we can get any insight into this. We'll do the Lovingkindness Spread from Liz Dean's "The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Spreads." It's good for giving us an idea of how to be compassionate towards ourselves; and then as a result, towards other people.

There's six cards in the spread, arranged as such.

  • middle - You, or your situation,
  • bottom left - What you need less of
  • bottom right - What you need more of
  • top left - How to be more compassionate to yourself
  • top right - How to be more compassionate to others
  • top - The outcome, based on following the other cards.

You'll note that two of the cards in the picture are reversed; often I won't use reversals, because this can be complicated, but with a very clear, visual deck, like Maggie Stiefvater's "The Raven's Prophecy" deck, turning the cards upside down can sometimes give you really interesting meanings based on what you see upside down. So I decided to go with it. And it worked well for Teddy, who immediately laughed when I flipped the first card, the Page of Wands Reversed.

"Oh man, that's so me," he said. "That flame's gonna just go right up and burn up that match in an instant. I start things quickly, but I don't do them right and end up burning out."

"Ok," I said, "That's one issue, but that's just about what happens. It feels like the issue is the crap you give yourself about what's happening. So let's look at that. Look at the card at the bottom left. What do you need less of in your life?"

"It looks like a feather and a chicken foot. I don't get it."

"Well, the Page of Swords likes clarity and precision, and prefers when things are in black and white, kind of like that line against the background. Tell me if I'm wrong, but from what you've told me before you get frustrated when things aren't as clear as you want them to be. And I bet you get frustrated at being frustrated."

Teddy nodded. "That's very clearly correct. I have a lot of judgements about things, all the time. And tell me if I'm wrong, but I bet that card to the right means I need more of burying my judgments and preconceptions."

"Sounds good to me," I said, laughing. "But a traditional meaning for the eight of Coins is hard work. Don't forget, that what you're talking about is hard to do, and takes a lot of effort. If it were easy, you'd already be doing it."

"Yeah," he said. "And what about that Two of Swords? Does that mean I should tie myself up to keep myself in line?"

I laughed. "You're a hoot today, Ted." I said. "No, it means that you can be more compassionate to yourself by NOT doing that. This card is about choices, dualities, and resolution. It's easy to get tied up by going over possibilities in your head and being caught between ideas and thoughts. And when you're in that place, you're holding yourself hostage. Maybe instead of going back and forth so much in your mind, you could just give yourself permission to make a decision."

"And not worry about it so much being the perfect one, right?"

"Yup. And you need to be prepared to be kind to yourself about what you do. I'm guessing that you avoid doing a lot of things because you know you'll second guess yourself afterwards."

"You know me too well," Ted said. "But I also give myself crap for being indecisive."

I smiled. "Yeah, I knew that. Now what do you think about the card on the right? How to be more compassionate to others?"

Teddy frowned, and stared at the card. "Well, I know water represents feelings and swords the mind. So I would say if I were going to be literal that it kinda looks like instead of plunging the sword into somebody's feelings you just let it fall out."

"That's pretty cool, Ted," I said. "But what do you think that means?"

"I think it means I need to mind my own damn business," he said. "Anatra's always telling me she just wants me to listen and not try to fix things or give her advice."

I laughed. "Yeah, that sounds about right."

"And I like that top card," he said. "It's a nice warm light. It makes me think that I'll be able to find my way out of this mess."

"I think we'll leave it at that," I said. "But how about if you do two things for me before I talk to you next? Identify a handful of thoughts you need to bury, and also report back to me on a few ways you untied yourself and just DID something."

"I don't know if I can do that," Teddy said. "Maybe I can, maybe I can't."

"Oh, stop."