Saturday, May 27, 2017

Healing Path of Tarot: Love Letters to My Inner Child

Like a lot of others, my first introduction to tarot was as a tool of divination.  I sat across the table from a rough and tumble psychic and begged him to tell me whether or not I would reconcile with my ex.  I watched with horrified fascination as the cards revealed the depth of once beloved’s deceit.  While the answers I was receiving were not the ones I wanted, I was fascinated by the cards and soon acquired my first tarot deck.

I soon graduated from using the tarot as a tool of torture to look at my ex’s new life to using it to explore my future and whether or not I should take a new job or what was ahead of my romantically.  As my relationship with the cards deepened, I began pulling a card a day as a way to explore the cards and gain insights into what the day ahead would bring.  From pulling a card a day, I graduated to Visual Journaling with my tarot cards and was hooked.  I took several e-courses from Lisa de St. Croix and found that the combination of art and tarot made the messages from the cards deeper and richer.  Now every reading I do for myself includes an art component as meditating on the background and how to use art to enrich the reading helps me focus on my question.

Last winter as I was doing research for a book I’m writing called The Healing Path, I came across a story in Rachel Naomi Remen, MD’s book Kitchen Table Wisdom.  The story told of how as a boy a man had overheard his father say, “If that little runt was one of the animals, I would have put him out to starve.”  As an adult, the man took unnecessary risks, broke bones, and had a series of health risks as his subconscious took his father’s cruel words to heart.  It was only when he consciously chooses life that he started to recovery.

That story gnawed at my soul and I kept thinking about it and I finally realized it reminded me of a family story about when I was a baby and my mother had dropped me on my head.  My grandmother had, as the story goes, said, “Don’t get too attached to her, she might die.”  As an adult, I’ve struggled to form close relationships and I realized the root of it might be I was feeling as if I wasn’t worth getting attached to.  I also thought about the times I’d been bullied and realized my self doubt might have attracted those bullies.

By this time, I’d been working with Tarot for almost a year and I knew that it had a way of cutting through the mental chatter to get to the root of a problem and to help initiate the healing process.  I meditated and came up with a Tarot exercise to help gain clarity and help myself heal.

Step 1—Traumatic Outline of My Life
I took pieces of construction paper and cut them into pieces about 1 inch by 2 inches.  On each piece, I wrote a period of time and a brief comment about an upsetting period in my life.  Some of them read:

  • · Birth—Grandma’s comment about not getting attached
  • ·       18—Body shamed by my family
  • ·       43—Separation and Job Loss
  • ·       45 to 50—Building a relationship with my kids

Step 2—All My Selves
I took all of the pieces of paper and arranged them by themes / topics.  Some of the groups had a single item and others had multiple items.  Each of these was classified as a self:

  • ·       My not expected to live self
  • ·       My pulling it together self
  • ·       My young wife and mother self
  • ·       My world was falling apart self
  • ·       My abused self
  • ·       My self who survived my Dad’s dying and John’s heart attack
  • ·       My bullied self
  • ·       My drunken self
Step 3—Pulling Cards
I pulled a Tarot card for each of these selves and wrote a love letter to that self from my card.  I was amazed at the wisdom and lessons that came through.  Here are the cards I pulled for each self:
My not expected to live self
Eight of Pentacles
My pulling it together self
The Magician
My young wife and mother self
Page of Pentacles
My world was falling apart self
The Fool
My abused self
Five of Swords
My self who survived my Dad’s dying and John’s heart attack
The Tower
My bullied self
Queen of Swords
My drunken self
Eight of Cups

Some of these cards like The Tower for the me who had survived a horrible year and the Magician for the me who was rebuilding my life were amazingly appropriate and others initially made no sense.
Step 4—Love Letters to My Selves

After I pulled the cards, I made copies of each of the cards (reducing them to about 70 percent of the original).  I took more construction paper and made cards for each of my selves.  I then set about writing love letters to each of my selves.  I started with the easy ones like the letters from The Tower and The Magician and those almost wrote themselves.  Others were more difficult and I had to review multiple sources and meditate before the meaning became clear.  The most difficult was the Eight of Pentacles for my “not expected to live self.“ It was when I checked that one last reference that the meaning of this card became clear and I wrote this letter to myself:

Dear Self,
You have always learned and studied and made your way in the world.  However, you’ve been so focused on goals and security that you haven’t let yourself get truly attached to anyone.  You’ve lived a somewhat solitary life because of your fear and that comment your grandmother made so long ago.
It is time to notice other people and start building attachments beyond your children.  Part of the reason you are noticing all the deaths of people around your age is because you are still hearing your grandmother’s comment and you are afraid to become attached to people because they might die and hurt you or you might die and hurt them.
Grow attachments.  Love is worth the risk.
Your Self

Writing these letters was one of the most incredible acts of self love I have ever practice.  I let myself be vulnerable to the cards and they provided amazing insights into both my pain and my resilience.  They also provided tremendous messages of healing.

Step 5—Documenting My Journey
The next step was to create a place in my Tarot Journal to house my love letters and my life long journey of pain.  I created a background using wrapping paper and laid my small pieces of construction paper from Step 1 out in order.  I glued them down in chronological order.  On the back of that two piece spread, I created a packet with another piece of construction paper to house my love letters.
Step 6—Letter to Myself
I took some time to review each of the letters I’d written and pulled one final card (the Seven of Swords Reversed and wrote a letter to myself.  I reminded myself of all the challenges I’d faced in life and said that I knew I would meet these challenges as well.
Lessons Learned

As I wrote each of these letters, I felt pieces of my heart heal and I knew that the guidance I was receiving from the cards was reaching deep inside of myself and hugging parts of myself that were longing for love and healing.  I could have easily written these Love Letters to myself without using Tarot cards, but I chose to use Tarot cards because I have learned that they can illuminate wisdom that might be hidden otherwise and they did.  If I would have chosen to write the letter to my “not expected to live self,” it would have been a very different letter and not as meaningful.

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