Monday, 23 April 2012

hitting the wall

There are times during the study of any subject when the student hits a wall. It's kind of inevitable and I don't know of many people who've been on the path of studying Tarot for some time who haven't hit it at some point. It's particularly prevalent in those who've really been burning the candle at both ends - giving every spare second to furthering their understanding of the cards. No one can continue at 100% full steam indefinitely. I hit the wall last year, after spending months bulking up this blog with my thoughts and feelings on the subject, as well as doing readings both online and face-to-face, and being heavily involved in the online Tarot community. I was devouring books on the subject at an incredible rate after many years of learning more intuitively, revising my views after a long time in one place and expanding my knowledge base rapidly. Suddenly, one day I didn't want to pick up the cards and the thought of doing so made me feel drained. I wasn't sure what my next move should be in terms of study. I felt my exploration of the subject running dry. There are a great many lists compiled to read online which take you through some key ways to get back on track when you feel hemmed in or bored. Suggestions such as frequenting relevant blogs and forums for ideas or finding an area of the subject that you haven't tapped into before are valid and can help. But so can just putting the damn things away for a while if they're really trying your patience.

Loving something dearly doesn't have to mean overdoing it. You don't have to be strict with your study pattern. Of course, routine helps when you're dedicated to learning something, but so does an understanding of the value of space and time to rethink its place in your life. Evaluating the importance of a passion is key to keeping it real, I think. Many things that are put out of sight for a long time and eventually considered irrelevant are then returned to once we've had time to devote energy to other things and thus feel more prepared for the next step on that particular road.

If you hit the wall, don't immediately try to climb over it or smash it down for fear that it will get higher or more impenetrable. Forcing yourself to shuffle your deck and draw cards when you're really not in the mood can be counter-productive. Sometimes your mind tells you loud and clear when it's on overload. Don't think of it as a sign of weakness or failure but rather as a demonstration of how hard you've been working and the necessity for a well-deserved break.

If you've seen the film, 'Labyrinth' you'll understand the image I have of the wall and what it actually represents. It's not a wall at all. It looks like a wall and it seems impossible to get beyond, but once you've been stood there for a while you will find, like Sarah did in the movie, that it's actually a labyrinth with many hidden ways through to the next stage. You just have to change your way of looking at it and it will then become a symbol of invitation and opportunity, rather than an obstacle. Getting frustrated doesn't help. Calmly wait until your perception adjusts to the problem and you will then see your way through and begin study again. Being devoted to Tarot doesn't mean flogging yourself for it or keeping it at the centre of your life through some kind of misplaced duty. The deck is an object. You don't owe it anything. You can appreciate its value and beauty without honouring that in practice every day, which will leave you feeling burned out if you're really not in the mood.

Everyone has their own unique way of getting over the wall and I won't presume to tell you how yours works or what your instructions are in that regard. What I will say, however, is that there are one or two pieces of advice I can offer for consideration.

- three is the magic number
It is often said that there are three ways of understanding the cards. There's intellectual study, intuitive study and absorption. Intellectual study involves learning the card meanings and theories laid out in books, giving yourself the overall, accepted definition of each card and learning what the wider Tarot world has to say about issues and ideas. Intuitive understanding involves then setting books and other resources aside and getting in touch with what your heart and mind have to say about each card. Absorption of the card meanings goes one step beyond this, asking you to 'step inside the card', becoming one with it through visualisation, meditation and story telling devices in order to feel a deep, personal connection to its imagery and symbolism. If you have tended to favour only one or two of these learning methods, perhaps turn your attention to the one you've been neglecting will help. Some readers believe that it really is impossible to have a worthwhile relationship with the deck until you've honoured each way of reaching understanding.

- keep things light-hearted
Keeping Tarot fresh in your mind whilst you're up against the wall is difficult and bothersome. I think that putting the decks away, ceasing to do readings etcetera is undervalued as a coping method and can actually be a way to gain clarity and find your way back to the subject. However, if you're worried that the work you've done will go out of your head, how about occasionally doing simple things like taking one of the many online Tarot quizzes? ('Which court card figure are you?' for example.) Or doing a lame, electronic daily draw just out of curiosity to see what comes up. You could invest in a novelty deck - something silly and cute like the Hello Kitty deck, maybe, as a way to start seeing the cards in a new, less demanding light. You could occasionally drop Tarot into a conversation with like-minded friends online or in your wider life, just asking them what they've been up to lately in the Tarot realm. This way you'll keep Tarot on the perimeters without letting it take over again. You need to feel ready to let the cards take centre stage. Punctuating a break with the occasional dose of Tarot goes a long way towards keeping the meanings fresh but keeping you from exploding with stress.

- remember the value as well as the cost
When you're thoroughly fed up with Tarot and you feel burned out from giving too many readings or unable to progress with a method of study, it's easy to start looking over at your deck gathering dust and thinking of it as a nuisance. It's also easy to quickly start referring to it as a past passion. Just because you haven't picked up your deck in a couple of months doesn't mean the love you have for Tarot is resigned to the scrapheap, but that's how it feels sometimes. Keep in mind all the positive messages Tarot has offered to you and your friends or querents in hard times. Recall the occasions on which it's offered you key advice. Give yourself credit for how far you've come on the road of study. Don't berate yourself for taking a break and don't think of Tarot's complexity and richness as something that eventually caused you to quit. Taking a break and quitting are not the same thing. Sometimes a breather is all you need to come back to it feeling refreshed.