January Tarot for Yogis (originally posted to Wanderlust Journal)

this post originally appeared on Wanderlust Journal here.

Yoga is an ancient practice for self-examination, as is meditation. With origins as a card game that became a tool for divination and self examination in the 15th century, the roots of the tarot are comparatively modern. Occultists from this time and since have incorporated all three practices in ritual practice. Today, there are hundreds of different decks relating to all manner of interests, and tarot is widely used as a tool for insight. In my personal practice, I use tarot readings to guide my reflection, my meditations, and my home yoga practice as well as my teaching to the public. I take these reflections to my mat to help bring even deeper insight and lead me on my spiritual path.

January is named for Janus the god of doorways. It’s a powerful time of year to set an intention and decide what you will nurture throughout the coming months. It’s a time to evaluate growth, and nourish yourself in a way that’s consistent with your goals as well as your needs. Our first tarot reading of the year offers advice for seekers in 2019.

I performed this reading with the beautiful Fenestra Tarot by Chatriya. (It’s based on the classic Rider-Waite deck that will be be more familiar to many practitioners.) My personal connection to this deck is through my grandmother who was my first tarot teacher. I purchased this deck shortly before she died while on my way to visit her and shared it with her; we agreed it was very romantic.

This particular spread is a simple three-card spread. The first card represents the past, the second is the present and the third is the future. You can actually assign any meanings to the three cards in a 3 card spread so long as you are clear on the meaning before you shuffle and pull the cards. This makes it a very useful spread to know and one I often use for shorter 30 minute readings. This Past-Present-Future reading was in answer to the question “What advice do you have for practitioners at the start of 2019?”

What’s behind you? The Magician.
What’s before you? Six of Pentacles.
Where are you now? Ten of Swords (Reversed)

Looking Back

The Magician is in the Past position, representing what’s behind us. He is a symbol of action, skill, wisdom and craft. Do you trust the skills you’ve built to be there for you? Can you remember the efforts of 2018 and feel confident in what you’ve crafted? In practice, this is akin to crossing the threshold to be able to balance on your head or forearms. The journey can be so long and sometimes you won’t see your progress, until suddenly that work amounts to an ease with a pose that was once impossible. Suddenly, you’ve developed a new nature. Even if the image is still unclear, you can still find trust for the efforts you’ve made when they have come from your authentic self.

The Here and Now

In the Present position is the Ten of Swords, and here it’s reversed.* The Ten of Swords is a very unpleasant card symbolizing ruin, pain, sacrifice. Reversed however, the message is quite different. Now is the time of strength and determination. It’s a moment where you have overcome adversity, or you are in the final processes of this difficulty as 2018 closes and the last moon cycle of the year winds down. Strength and determination are typical qualities of Capricorn, and we are in the season of the Ram right now. Call upon your own strength, and trust that the skills you’ve developed (the Magician behind you) are here to support you. Trust in your capabilities, release the story of pain and torment and recognize that all along you’ve been in training and now you are S T R O N G. Use your strength and your skills wisely. Be realistic and gentle with the goals you are setting for your body and your mind this year. Value progress over measuring it and trust that you are already enough. If that headstand still eludes you, trust that showing up and working as you are will get you there; pushing too hard is unwise and unskillful, it often harms more than helps.

Facing Forward

The future looks, complicated, so you will need your steadiness. The Six of Pentacles represents generosity and charity, and the inequality represented between one who has and those who have not. What is your relationship to help? Do you receive it well? Can you ask for it? Can you give help to others wisely? As a student, are you willing to be vulnerable and ask a teacher for guidance where you need it? The wise one knows when to be a beggar and when to be a benefactor. There comes a time when we all must ask for help. Those who don’t know how will suffer greatly in life, and may find that they plateau and lose interest in their goals. The squeaky wheel gets the grease—and there is nothing wrong with being a squeaky wheel sometimes. Give yourself permission to need people. Your kula (tribe) are those who authentically care for you. When you receive help from someone who loves you, it gives you an opportunity to deepen your appreciation and your relationship with that person. Vulnerability is a strength.

There is also a time for you to extend what you have and what you know to others and there is nuance in this. Do you give your money to beggars on the street or a well researched organization with outreach programs? Service (seva) is a step on the path of yoga that enriches your life and your perspective. Consider your commitments to service, where do you feel you’ll have the most impact? On the same note, how does it feel when someone “bestows” unwanted advice on you? A true practitioner is one who knows how to listen.

The best way to practice listening is listening to your own inner voice in meditation. Sit quietly, breathe, hear your thoughts without responding. Give this gift to others as an act of service and support. Unwanted advice may come from a place of good intention but often it feels to the recipient like an ego trip, or perhaps like they haven’t been heard. Knowing when and how to give is what allows you to be truly impactful. Be wise with your aid, do not give where it’s not needed and do not hold back where you are able to help. Complicated right?

This is your task to overcome, and to fall in love with along the way. As the New Year begins, wake yourself from the singular focus of mastering your skills. Master instead the delicate balance of humility and generosity. After all, intentions are a dance—not a one way street. Be easy on yourself as you explore new ways of being and inevitably fall into old patterns sometimes too. The only way to fail your resolution is to stop trying… just like yoga. Ask and offer help wisely and you will find success.

* Card reversals can be controversial, some people use them and some do not. I only recognize reversals if the information provided with the deck mentions them. I like to work with the intentions of the authors and artists who create a deck as well as my own intentions. It works for me.

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