Major Arcana VIII: Strength Part Two

Strength card from The Fountain Tarot

 

 

For me, soul is where spirit and body merge, the place where we can explore our multidimensionality, the many layers of our experience. Strength is the card in the Major Arcana where our animal bodies meet our spiritual selves.  I want to share with you some simple methods for reconnecting to your body, your energy, and in turn, your soul, so you can feel safe and strong enough to journey into your deeper layers. While our spirits are whole and complete, our bodies take more time to catch up. “Catching up,” or merging spirit and body, is what we are here doing, and it takes time. When our bodies are grounded, more of our own energy can occupy our space, and we are available to listen and tend to our sensations and needs, instead of being bombarded with outside energy, or operating from a system that needs more soothing than stimulation. You know the feeling of being overwhelmed, when you just can’t get your space and you want to throw your hands up and say, “enough!” We have all been there, especially as sensitive beings. When our systems are overloaded with stress, we go out of body or we shut down; while helpful in the moment, over time it creates issues around having access to body awareness and cues that tell us we need to set a boundary, or leave an unsafe situation. It can also disconnect us from access to our feelings of pleasure,  joy, desire, and love. Our deepest knowing lives inside of our bodies, and if we are disconnected, we remain apart from the magic of truly trusting ourselves. We also become more susceptible to outside energies that can knock us from our center, our place of inner strength. It becomes harder to access higher wisdom from a place of wholeness, where the facets of us that need healing have been met, loved, held, and integrated. Disconnect happens through cultural messaging, as well as through trauma. We have all the wisdom within you already, it is simply a matter of committing to uncovering it and honoring it. When we can acknowledge the pieces of ourselves calling out for our attention, we can begin a new relationship with those aspects of ourselves that are longing to be held and expressed, so we can live mindfully, rather than having our unconscious bits take over and cause a ruckus in order for us to be able to see what it is we need to be paying attention to and respecting within. We try to tame the wildness within us by turning away from these pieces of ourselves, because it can be scary to meet these raw and unruly pieces; until we realize these parts of us are the treasure, the ones who will require us to step out of expectations and into our true desires, intuitive nature, and personal power. From a grounded place, we can allow space for our creative nature, emotions, and untamable wildness without trying to control, suppress, or stamp out our shadow or our light. When we do so we encourage everyone around us to step into their truth courageously and compassionately as well. This is the practice of presence and dynamic aliveness. This is the practice of learning that strength does not mean force or control, but rather being with ourselves closely, and listening kindly to what is here for us to be with and love through. At its core, strength is about self trust, which will allow trust to exist in our relationships to all that is.

 

 

Practices for Reconnecting to Your Inner Strength

 

Boundaries

Boundaries mean saying “no” as much as they mean saying “yes.” It means being in complete ownership of your time, energy, and resources, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Creating boundaries entails having discernment around what is truly valuable to you, and that requires re-evaluation regularly as you grow and change. It means creating space for what you want to feel and experience, first by deciding what you need to let go of in order to do that. A willingness must exist to do the courageous work of living your life on your own terms, in a way that nourishes your ability to show up for yourself, and replenish your reserves so you can show up for others. Make more room for what fills you up, and release what drains you. Sometimes this means letting go of relationships, or simply stepping back. Communication makes boundaries more solid and clear, as well as compassionate. We don’t need to be overly protective or defensive of our space, when we are fully inside of it and owning it as ours; but a certain level of integration of past trauma and healing of the nervous system is important in order to feel like we are in charge of our experience. Grounding practices are vital for being able to own our space, heal, strengthen ourselves, and sense subtleties within our bodies that are vital to our well being. We are in charge of how we meet our bodies, our hearts, our minds, our souls, and each other.  Find your space first in the quiet moments you make for only you. You will notice your impulses to quit, reject, and give up are much more calm, and drastic changes or abrupt shifts are less nourishing than finding how you can weave these changes slowly, creating a new way of seeing and being; your choices will follow the tone you set. The tone begins with what you allow in your space, and making clear what you are no longer available for, so what you are available for can find its way into your daily life. Boundaries can be as simple as saying, “This is what I am available for and desiring to engage in. This is what I am unavailable for and unwilling to engage in.”

 

 

Communion

Make a date with yourself in nature. Even if you live in a city, gravitate towards the plants growing there, keep an eye out for flowers and trees that entice you. You can find a quiet spot in a park, or if you live near wild places, take a hike on a trail or walk along the shore of the ocean. Maybe there is something that has been on your heart or mind, something calling for you to look at in a new way. Or maybe it just feels good to empty the mind and move the body. When you feel the urge, stop at a place that feels inviting. Get yourself still enough to just listen and notice. Ground yourself into the present moment with your breath, maybe some movement.  Feel the earth as your body, and your body as the earth. You can bring a journal after some time spent grounding, and write what comes up for you. But you can also just notice. Be a witness to your immediate experience. See how what you notice (animals walking by, the feeling of fear, the feeling of bliss) is a reflection of your internal state. See how this quiet noticing, sitting still after moving your body, is a way of discovering deeper emotions and thoughts alive in you. Witness nature moving around you, watch how you move within nature, and notice how you feel taking up space as a tiny, vital piece of this vast world. Maybe something you see in nature has a message for you. Ask a tree or a plant what it has to say about it’s experience…you might hear just what you needed to hear (because after all, you are the one listening!)

 

 

Ritual

If you don’t feel like getting outside, you can create a ritual for yourself indoors to tune in. Make it work for you, keep it simple. There is no wrong way to create a ritual, it is as simple as being with yourself, and you can get creative. You can light candle, burn some sage or palo santo, put on some music, or create an altar with some of your favorite stones and images that evoke a feeling you wish to honor. The purpose of ritual is to acknowledge something sacred and personal, to recognize a threshold has been crossed, or a journey that is beginning or ending. It is grounding and centering, and keeps the sacred alive in the “ordinary.” I  love to create altars as a simple ritual of reverence to the sacred in the ordinary. Altars are a way to a sense of home wherever you are, a reminder of your power to create safe spaces for yourself.  Any space can be transformed into an altar, and anything of meaning to you can become a part of this creative dedication. See the altar as a living prayer, a liminal space bridging seen and unseen worlds. I place little offerings of love to the mystery, to spirit, to the unfolding self, to the earth, to the cosmos, to those who have gone on before me, to icons of divinity or humanity– any piece of inspiration along the journey. I may write something to call in or release and place it on the altar with intention, or I may collaborate with another person or a group of people, a creation honoring the collective vision.  The altar exists in the space between stillness and movement, between knowing and un-knowing, where I give deliberate attention to the moment.

 

 

Creating

Making time for creative expression is so valuable. It doesn’t have to be big or grand or even beautiful. It is just about making the space for something to be expressed through you. It is about being moved. You can gather together magazines, glue, paper, colored pencils, or paint, and make a collage. Collage is a wonderful way to explore the subconscious. It can be very interesting to see what images draw your attention, and then to start noticing a theme coming up as the images collect. Freely painting or drawing without an intentional outcome is also a way to move into the flow without the critical mind determined on “outcome” getting in the way. Dancing to your favorite music is another way to move beyond what “makes sense,” and into pure sensuality. Drumming is also a potent way for me to come into presence with the rhythm of my body and energy; letting myself be moved by the beat that comes through is grounding and enlivening. More sensuality, less sense will bring you more here, and less somewhere else. Getting out of the logical mind and into the body and emotions really helps move energy, emotions, releasing perfectionism, stagnation, and soothing the nervous system. Stagnant energy can result in bottled up emotions, which can result in aches, pains, inflammation, and general funkiness. On that note, maybe being creative, going on a walk, cleaning your space, or making time for a self-created ritual feels like too much right now. How about just getting some bodywork? Lying down, breathing, and receiving is an amazing way to reconnect to yourself. Or maybe being alone and quiet doesn’t sound helpful, and you just need to talk to someone and let it all out. None of this has to be complicated. Inner strengthening is all about listening to your deepest needs. Keep it simple. Keep it present. Keep it you.

 

 

Meditation

Having a meditation practice focusing on grounding reconnects us to the earth to replenishes vital life force. Sinking into this stillness and being with what is, will naturally clear away energy that is draining you. I like to think of it as bringing me back to me; after all, we are made of the same components of the planet! Grounding through meditation will help keep you balanced, with greater grace and fluidity. In order to unwind and release, we first have to anchor. 

Once you connect with your body, and the flow of energy between you and the earth, you really don’t need to worry about “doing” anything except being present. It is about connecting you to your body, your basic goodness and well being, and creating spaciousness in your experience. Allow what comes up to come up; focus on you in the present moment. Trust that with practice it will become easier and you will see changes happen externally when you can come back to yourself again and again. You can do this anywhere, at anytime. It is the simplest and most profound practice of energy management, and often overlooked as so much of what we are taught is about “getting somewhere else” to get what we need.

My favorite way to ground through meditation is in nature. Whether you live in a city or in the countryside, find a spot that feels inviting. Sit on the ground, perhaps with your back against a tree, or a rock that hugs the curves of your body. Take a few deep breaths from your belly; inhaling in through the nose for 4 seconds, out through the mouth for 8 seconds. Or gently breathe from the belly, letting it rise and fall with the inhale and exhale. Feel that all that you need is right here, right now. 

Imagine opening your root chakra, at the base of your spine; feel a golden thread, dropping all the way to the center of the earth (or imagine it however feels right to you.) As you anchor in, receive the energy of the earth. Feel your body as the earth, the earth as your body; feel the interplay of energy. Feel how held and supported you are. If you want, you can imagine the cord, or thread, spreading out as wide as your hips. Feel the fullness radiating down your legs, through the bottoms of your feet. Open the energy centers at the bottom of your feet, connecting down down down to the center of the earth. You can also visualize your body as a tree, or a rock, or the ocean, and feel what that is like. Feel the earth energy running up through your entire body, through every cell, muscle, bone, organ. Feel yourself being nourished. Feel you coming back to you. Stay in touch with your breath, but don’t worry about how you’re breathing, just be with it. 

You can also visualize the energy moving through your auric field, the space that belongs to you, all around you like a beautiful globe that protects you and nurtures you. I also call in colors that feel healing and nourishing. Gold, violet, and emerald are my go-to colors that fill me with unconditional love and strength.

 Make grounding a daily practice, whether that is through time in nature, ritual, movement, body care, creativity, visualization, or breath, or whatever feels essential for you. You are in charge of your space, and your intentional practices will greatly strengthen your body and energetic field over time, making your boundaries clear, your vitality bright, and the way you move through the world graceful and connected.

Major Arcana VIII: Strength

Photo by Mariana Schulze Photography
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

Strength is one of my favorite Major Arcana cards in the Tarot, because it calls for us to anchor in love and embody our truest selves. The Strength card is a reminder that when we know the our power, it cannot be bought, sold, given, or taken away from us. The healing of humanity and the planet is dependent on dismantling and recreating the systems that have taught us that our power lies everywhere but inside of us. True strength requires the risk of arriving at the door of our own heart and recognizing it as the heart of the world. We will see how our lives weave into every life, understanding the greater risk of ignoring the deepening pull of owning who we truly are. We are living in times of great upheaval, calling for us to be fully present in our bodies and connected to our souls, so we can move as gracefully as possible through the changes afoot.  Strength reminds us that transformation is an inside job, and that we are courageous, resilient, and creative enough to do it. We cannot force change, but we can become it. We are seeing old structures fall within and around us, bearing witness to the unearthing of old beliefs, identities, and ways of being that thrive on the “power-over” dynamic that has wounded us all.  When we are grounded in our strength, we move with more ease and confidence through our lives, no matter what outer circumstances are; we understand that there is enough, and that we are abundant beings with immense potential to create and share from the heart. There is a gentleness in this card that brings us back to love and connection. We live in a society that encourages a disconnection from nature, our bodies, our hearts, our needs, our desires, and from each other. In order to learn how to own our power and direct it in ways that are nourishing, uplifting, and life-affirming, we must first understand that we carry in our bones and our energy fields the imprints of a culture that is based on an imbalance of power. We are fully capable of clearing the old to make way for the new, beginning from within. In fact, we were made for these times.

We learn to outsource our power from an early age, grasping outside of ourselves for a sense of validation, safety, and belonging; of course as small children this makes sense. We are made to exist in relationship; problems arise when we do not have the tools for healing as we develop, and continue searching for self worth and security anywhere but within. The depth of our capacity to truly connect, is impacted by how true we are being to ourselves, and by knowing our inherent worthiness. As women, we are trained to find our value in how pleasing we can be—whether that means repressing our true expression, desires, and sexuality in order to “keep the peace” or not appear threatening, or whether that means using our power in unhealthy ways, because we have learned that we must do whatever it takes to gain ground and get our needs met. But we do not have to play that game. In fact, we can no longer afford to. The new paradigm, and one I have worked for in my own life, is one of community, collaboration, self-care, slowing down, reconnecting to the body, the earth, emotions, and creative energy.  We are healing thousands of years of patriarchal programming that creates an environment where competitive, dominant, and conquering behavior is the way to finding power. Paradoxically, we are taught to repress ourselves and stay small and quiet. We can see the harmful effects of this paradigm in racism, sexism, rape culture, destruction and pollution of the planet, and unequal distribution of wealth. We are also inundated with media that sells to us that impossible standards of beauty, the message that we have to “do it all” in order to be powerful women; and in order to be powerful women, we have to compete with each other. Men too are deeply wounded in the cultural messaging to disconnect from their emotional selves, perpetuating the seeking of power outside of themselves while devaluing a vital part of their humanity. The Strength card reminds you that your heart and creative spirit are unrepeatable, there is enough for us all, there is room for us to be who we are, and once you have touched your light, it can only grow. We all need each other to be doing the inner healing work of returning to ourselves, and choosing to heal and find strength in our vulnerability.

True power is understanding that we have a choice to be and express from a place of wholeness, where all facets of ourselves are loved and given space to exist, and where we support each other’s growth. Acting from strength means our yes’s are full on yes’s and our no’s are clear as day. We also must realize that we are a part of a greater whole whose health and well being depends on everyone’s well being, with everyone granted access to the tools and resources they need to thrive. We are not bound to any way of being that is harmful to us, and when we feel rooted and strong enough in ourselves, we realize we have a choice as to what we participate in, becoming more aware of the places where we have given our power away. When we can begin to unravel the ways we are complicit in oppressive systems, we disentangle the whole mess. This is the work of generations, but it will always begin within each one of  us, and we can choose to access our strength in healthy ways right now. Setting fire to any and all remnants of self betrayal. Setting fire to the memories still alive in our bodies of what humans have done to themselves and each other in order to survive. Setting fire to self judgement. Setting fire to self abandonment. True power does not take. True power does not harm. True power does not manipulate to gain. True power burns for what is real. True power burns for the pieces of ourselves still in hiding, in service to healing and love and justice for every being and inner fragment who never had a chance to thrive. True power burns for our softness and our freezing, our confusion and our clarity, our anger and our joy. True power burns for exposing untruths and setting the course for freedom of expression, a right to exist however we are. True power burns for choice. True power burns for nourishment, feeding the flames for what must go, so what is to come alive has room to grow. Anything less than that dissolves here now. May the ashes make a gorgeous bed for new dreams to take root for humanity.

Because of the disconnect in our culture, reconnecting with our wildness is a courageous and rebellious act of tuning in to the deepest parts of our beings and loving ourselves through the process. When we reject the pieces of ourselves that are seen as unacceptable by the social norms, we inevitably see those pieces “out there” and point fingers, blame, or seek to control. Reclaiming the pieces of ourselves we have been taught to feel shame for and fear—sadness, grief, anger, needing help—are keys to knowing our wholeness.  Mindfulness and embodiment practices (which can be as simple as walking, journaling, meditation, and movement) are essential for connecting with our primal states of being. Engaging in our imagination and creativity also causes a glorious ruckus in the status quo because it tunes us into the complexity of who we are. Old systems don’t function too well with soulful people expressing themselves fully and supporting each other in their unique magic.

Once we have access to our deeper layers, can move through the world in full responsibility and compassion for our feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and actions. This presence with our bodies and emotions fosters clear-seeing and clear-knowing. Being gentle, kind, and loving with ourselves is key to being loving with others; not judging things as good or bad, right or wrong, and instead just being honest, aware, and open to shifting. Our strength is inside of our softness. Our strength is inside our willingness to hold the entirety of who we are, and commit to knowing, accepting, and loving ourselves and each other completely.

Outsourcing light only makes it darker, and wings burn too close to the sun we keep outside ourselves. Turning to the heat of our own hearth and inner sanctuary, we will remember who we are. This is how we strengthen the web of connection to each other. To express the light of our true hearts, we must continually turn inward and offer love to those pieces of ourselves who may still be in hiding, waiting for a sensation of safety until they come into view. The crux of heart-work is to listen to these fears, this grief, these human stories we carry in our cells, and to let them exist, so they can change form. We may watch aspects of self die, and watch others blossom— allowing these facets to be however they need to be is the crucial alchemical ingredient for transmutation.

Often the most powerful transformation is a shift in perception; there is much we cannot change, and contending with this requires feeling deeply, and holding ourselves and each other through this process of often brutal surrender. Surrender can feel like softness too; it can feel like vast empty space, and it can feel like a portal of infinite possibility. The practice of compassion during uncertainty deepens self trust, and is vital as we come into stronger resonance with the magic of our life force; we are creator beings, and we are beings who must face letting go. Without devotion to the inner anchor, we remain complicit in the systems that do not honor individual power and expression, nor do they honor the mystery, or feeling, or connection. Without access to tools and practices to strengthen inner connection, so that we can become intimate with our true desires and needs as we grow and change, our relationships to self, earth, and each other suffer.

Strength does not seek domination but rather to be expressed with such fullness that it empowers all beings to be free to express the fullness of who they are. We can practice graceful engagement with the parts of us we are afraid to meet and walk with; these are the ones of us that need tenderness, who hold the light of our passions, and our capacity to create new ways forward. Creating new ways forward is what we are here to do.

Stay tuned for Strength, Part Two: Practices for Reconnecting with Your Inner Strength, where I will share grounding exercises, creative exercises, and other ways to connect with your body, intuition and imagination in nature.
Recommended Reading
Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
The Moon and The Virgin: Reflections on the Archetypal Feminine by Nor Hall