Tarot is a story that never ends. It’s the alphabet of all stories. It’s a game whose playing pieces are the pieces of you, and we make up the rules as we go. Playing the game of Tarot creates a kinetic mirror, a metaphorical storm filled with twists and turns, unexpected surprises, and an ending that sticks with you. The characters and scenes of the Tarot call out to our unconscious minds, awakening a cast of sleeping symbols. These thought-emotion-forms that make up our memory, our personality, they jump out of us, into the cards, and back again. Uncommon pairings are made. It’s a company retreat for the many facets of our inner selves, getting the different departments to mix and allow for connections that don’t often happen naturally in the day-to-day work of living. We all contain many different people within us, and Tarot invites them all to an impromptu jam session.

A Tarot reading is a way to re-orient. When we’re feeling stressed, in a rut, complacent, numb to the world, cynical, or otherwise out of sorts, the cards are capable of shaking us up and forcing us to see our circumstances in a new light. A reading can often feel like a snap of the fingers made an inch in front of our face. We are called to attention, and what we’re paying attention to is The Big Picture. We can so often get stuck on tangents, or forget entirely who we are and who we want to be. There are many kinds of sleepwalking, and some of them are very similar to the feeling of wakefulness. Tarot is an antidote for the forces that compel us to take the circumstances of our lives for granted.

It works like this: You set aside a moment, or perhaps 15 minutes, or maybe a whole afternoon to play the game of Tarot. During this time, you will accept the premise that a deck of cards is capable of delivering a very clear and specific and important and meaningful message that is meant for you to receive, right here, right now. If this idea is too wild and electric to hold onto, you can simply accept the premise that an interesting moment of induced contemplation will be provoked by playing a game intended to inspire. A bespoke improv amateur motivational speech/talk therapy session with visual aids, perhaps. It matters not. All that matters is that you choose some cards “randomly”, and declare what general aspects of life those cards will represent while they are still face down. Next, you must reveal the faces of the cards, and try to tell a story based on what you see. That’s all.

This reading is for me.

My Tarot Reading for June 11, 2019

Center Card:
My greatest challenge at this time
Left Card:

What I’m being invited to receive to overcome this challenge
Right Card:

What I’m being invited to give to overcome this challenge

My greatest challenge at this time: The Chariot

The Chariot is a Major Arcana. If the Tarot is meant to be a summary of the human story, then the Major Arcana is a summary of that summary. In two symmetrical sets of 10, plus a card to represent both absolute nothingness and absolute everythingness, the Major Arcana chart the evolution of the human self from pure innocence to transcendent oneness with the universe. It’s a sequence of metaphorical steps in the process that starts with the big bang and ends with the sum total of all possible expressions of all possible variables. The Major Arcana are the weight-bearing pillars and joists of the architecture of becoming.

The Chariot represents the virtue of acceleration. It is the constant truth that anything happening can happen faster and more intensely. An intimate exchange of whispers can become a screaming fight. A seed can become a tree. A single act of defiance can topple an empire. An idea can change the world, if you run with it. The Chariot is always an invitation to turn up the volume and put the pedal to the floor. It’s our yearning for horizons both inner and outer. As Hunter S. Thompson put it: “Faster, faster until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.”

I’ve recently dedicated myself to a fairly radical change in routine. A bit of backstory: For most of the past decade, I had been living from gig to gig, selling my many talents to the various short-term and medium-term jobs and clients that could find some use of me. This led to a rather profound period of complete burnout. From the ashes of that wreckage, about 6 months ago, I found myself taking on a traditional office job. Although I had found a company with a culture and mission I was proud to join, it was a difficult adjustment to the Monday-Friday 9-5. I found my creative projects languishing. I would wake up just in time to catch the train, and I’d spend my evenings indulging in entertainment products. This set off a series of loud alarms in my soul, and I was forced to make a change.

I decided to become a morning person. I am waking up at 5AM to go to a series of 6AM workouts and yoga classes every weekday. I then have about an hour to focus on my latest writing project before catching my train to work. My evenings are now characterized by either a guilt-free indulgence in pure leisure, or a similarly leisurely indulgence in creative play. With the Chariot, I see the challenge as a question of how can I maintain the dedication to push this new experiment all the way through the adaptation period into becoming a solid and reliable lifestyle. What’s it going to take to keep me thundering along the path, rather than allowing it to languish like so many new habits started with the best of intentions.

What I’m being invited to receive: The Fool

The Fool is another Major Arcana. For two Major Arcana to be drawn in a 3 card reading carries a much more narrow set of odds than your average draw of a card. The more Major Arcana in a reading, the more that reading is capable of digging deep into the questions of “What is your life really about?”. I can talk at length about the practical matters of routines and habits and productivity, and the straightforward and obvious ways my life would improve with healthier habits, but two Majors showing up makes me feel like the real question is much deeper, even for me, someone who finds himself seeking the profound within the mundane a bit more frequently than the situation usually calls for.

The Fool represents total receptivity. It’s the ultimate blank slate. It’s the constant element of nothingness that allows forces and forms to have their separateness. It is the silence between the notes. It is the shutter between the frames. It is the emptiness of the bowl that makes the bowl useful. It is the dark waters from which The Word emerges to call forth The Light. It is the act of the entire universe getting packed up into one big box and then unpacked again into a new arrangement, that trick that happens in between each micro-moment, faster than any living thing could ever perceive. It is God jumping off a cliff of forgetfulness to in order to find her identity on the way down. It’s the faith it takes to allow your hand to let go of the edge of the dock and allow yourself to be carried away into the ocean of possibility.

I’m being invited to receive the act of receiving itself. The problem is, I already have ideas about what it means to blissfully surrender to the unknown, to open myself up to the mysterious and the unfamiliar, to be brave in the face of uncertainty, and to allow the universe to catch me. For the Fool to come up in the position of receiving means that none of those ideas will be fully relevant or otherwise sufficient in order for me to really take in what’s being given to me. If I am to really carry my Chariot of harmonious living forward, I have to receive unknown resources from unknown sources in unknown ways. I have to discard all of my maps and categories and inhabit the raw intensity of The Great Now that hides behind the flip-book of worldly time-based senses. I have to let go of my understanding of the act of letting go. I must choose a radical perception of each new day as an utterly unique and unpredictable series of potentials.

What I’m being invited to give: 6 of Swords

The suit of Swords is the suit of the Mind. The Mind is a useful tool and a dangerous weapon. Anything that can be thought can be possible. And all change that we make begins with a thought, either conscious or unconscious. A thought is a word, a symbol, a shorthand that allows the big and complex to be reduced to a manageable abstract asset. This act of reduction, turning a magnificent explosion of beautiful color, magical music, and flowing grace into a “bird”, this is an inherently violent act. By giving things names, we cut those things down to size, like whittling the round peg to fit into a square hole. The suit of Swords is a series of scenes that depict the human spirit’s cyclical relationship with the awesome power of The Word.

6 of Swords represents a scene of forward escape. Imagine that this character had just previously burst through their own front door, and commanded their family to pack the most important possessions as quickly as possible, with no explanation. They then loaded everyone into a boat, and began to paddle to a new destination, never to return. 6 of Swords represents a moment where we are forced to clear out the clutter of our minds, leaving us only with the bare essentials, the thoughts and ideas that we know are absolutely necessary for only our deepest identity to survive. This card is an invitation to discard any ideas that prevent you from moving forward, especially the ideas that keep us comfortable and complacent.

For 6 of Swords to be in my “giving” position, I see a rather serious question, one that asks “What am I willing to give up?”, with the understanding that the more I am willing to give up, the faster I will be able to arrive at the goals that truly matter to me. By deciding to wake up at 5AM every weekday, I need to be falling asleep at 9PM the night before. This will prevent me from attending many wonderful events with friends. It creates less flexibility in my day-to-day life, forcing me to get very serious and very specific about where my priorities are for both how I spend my time, and how I spend my thought energy. Ultimately, I’m going to have to set aside many aspects of who I am, sacrifice parts of myself for the sake of packing light. I will need to be as mentally unencumbered as possible to reap the full benefits of this plan. My level of tolerance for my own bullshit must dramatically decrease!

Putting it all together…

If nothing else, this reading “forced me” to type out all of the above, and that would be enough! This is what I’m trying to get at when I talk about what Tarot is and how it works. It doesn’t matter if the cards are capable of predicting the future, or even if the cards possess “supernatural power” of any kind! The real magic of Tarot is in its ability to prompt and to provoke. The train of thought that a reading creates is utterly unique, and would not have expressed itself with its own particular power had I merely sat down to “think about my troubles”. Upon giving myself this reading, I am seized with fresh purpose and the pure essence of inspiration.

My greatest challenge at this time is to accelerate the plan I’ve laid out for myself. I need to stop tinkering with the parameters, and simply breathe a fresh flow of fire into the setup I’ve already created. The iron is hot, and I must strike! The most important thing for me to receive is a complete overhaul of that very understanding of “receiving something important”. Both definitions of “receiving” and “importance” must be called into question, there is no room for assumption or expectation. What life has in store for me will not fit within my existing definitions! The most important thing for me to give is for me to perform a radical act of prioritization. I must list the ten most important things in my life, and then cross off five of them! I must write down 10 statements that begin with “I am…”, as if these would be the only 10 answers I could ever have for the question of “Who am I?”. I must pack for an existential backpacking trip, with a set limit of mental cubic centimeters, and if my thoughts are too bulky and heavy, I must replace them with lighter, more flexible thoughts! I must be the Luke Skywalker that leaves the belt of weapons behind before entering the cave.

I hope this reading has been helpful for someone other than just myself.

Brian Duffy has been studying Tarot for more than 10 years, and regularly performs readings at public events and private parties. He also conducts individual readings, and teaches classes.

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