on exploring personal limits

thoughts for september 2020

hello, friends. i hope that august brought some opportunities for rest and reflection, for awareness of needs, for new rituals of healing and recovery. we’ve just moved into virgo season, are working to fully embrace the energy of a new archetype, and now find ourselves at the top of another month.

this has been a difficult summer for a number of reasons, and i’ve been thinking a lot about what the tarot has to say about boundaries, about the ways that we push and stretch ourselves, about how we set limits around our energies and intentions. last month i wrote about rest, but as we spend these next few weeks embodying the energy of the hermit, a figure of personal exploration and new understandings, it feels like the right time to consider the ways that we stay safe, and the ways that we take chances. what do the cards have to say about edges and thresholds, about protection? how do we know when to hold back, and when to keep pushing to the bitter end?

limits and movement

there are so many different ways to look at the 22 cards of the major arcana: cycles, seeds, death and rebirth, seasons, evolution, stages of magic, discovering the self. but one important aspect to remember about the fool’s journey is the constant shifting and understanding of boundaries. at the very beginning the fool is sitting outside of the cycle, feeling something building within, letting it grow and twist and evolve until this longing is too big to deny, impossible to ignore. that first step forward is already taking us outside of our comfort zone, beginning a cycle that is completely unknown. there’s no road map, no compass, no guide - even our destination may feel hazy and uncertain, a moving target, something that can only clarify over time.

yet the fool knows that this journey must begin in spite of the risks, that there is no way to avoid what is happening. things have been comfortable, safe, and yet now we must give ourselves room to expand, must follow this path that is twisting and turning before us. we must leave behind what we knew, and go forward into a brilliant and uncertain future. we must take a chance.

so many cards within the majors speak of this kind of expansion, shifts into freedom, asking us to push past what we know to be true and see what we are able to discover when we explore the other side. the empress manifests creativity and abundance in ways that feel both brand new and familiar, the chariot helps us level up beyond what we thought was possible, the hanged one forces us to look at our world from another perspective and see what happens when we fully surrender. there are so many different ways to expand, to grow, to change. even death and the tower offer substantial, complete transformation, one slow and inevitable while the other is chaotic, destructive, freeing. there can be such power in reclaiming our liberty, in moving beyond the walls we’ve built for ourselves and instead seeing what the world looks like beyond our expectations. when we accept a six of swords moment, an eight of cups shift, we create space for new possibilities. we make room for ourselves to grow.

but not every path requires this kind of evolution. other challenges or ambitions require us instead to fortify our boundaries, to create new methods of protection that help us care for ourselves. the emperor and the hierophant both celebrate tradition, using organization and structure to make space for careful, deliberate progress and growth. temperance urges balance and consideration, moderation, space for the holy and sacred within our every day lives. strength asks us to be aware of our power, to utilize control, to be wise about when we are restrained and when we let our wildness reveal itself. there are times when we need to create spaces of containment, to embrace the independence of the seven of wands or the intentional caution of the four of pentacles, to recognize our needs and resources and plan accordingly. when we are willing to prioritize our own safety, to move gradually and with purpose, we can build something that will last.

there are times when all we can do is be still, be patient, gather our resources and plans and wait for the right moment to act. and there are other times when we must be willing to risk it all, to push forward in spite of the cost, to close our eyes and take a leap. but the trick is in knowing how to balance stillness with movement, in trusting ourselves to understand the power in both choices. connections, energy, magic, inspiration - these are not infinite resources, but rather things that we must weigh out, distribute with care. and in knowing what inspires courage and what dredges up fear, we can navigate challenges and choices with intention and purpose, rather than missing opportunities for growth or burning ourselves out with endless fire.

so how do we decide when we should embrace freedom and when to retreat into protection? how do we recognize when fear is holding us back, when it often feels similar to our instincts working to shield us from harm? it takes a finely tuned intuition to understand what is motivating our choices, to sit with the truth that is within us and recognize how we are choosing our steps. intuition is a muscle, one that can only be developed by frequent exercise - by listening to that inner voice, understanding what it’s really saying, trusting it and giving it space to breathe and grow and shift. we cannot force our intuition to tell us what we want to hear, but we can, with time and intention and maturity, recognize the guidance that is being offered. and fortunately, one of the best tools for flexing and strengthening this intuitive muscle is the tarot. 

trusting in the world

i was doing some casual midnight readings with friends over a video chat a few weeks ago, and someone asked for clarity on their next step. they were in the midst of making a decision, choosing a new path - and while it seemed that they had already made the logical choice, they were second guessing their intuition, worried that they were being too rash. they were concerned that their instincts were tugging them down a path that may prove too difficult or winding to be right, and it was obscuring their perspective on everything else. yet when the world card came forward, when we all began speaking of evolution and completion and being in the right place at the right time, i could see the fear begin to ease in her, see the anxiety settle and calm.

the world offered a promise: that evolution was possible, that wholeness was within reach, that everything was falling perfectly into place. and in that brief reading, in those few moments when our energies were all aligned on this person and the beautiful card that had emerged, i think we all felt the rightness of her decision. we all stilled as she relaxed. she could breathe again. things were as they should be.

there’s something beautiful in allowing ourselves to do what we know is right, even if that includes a shift in direction or a moment to consider every option again. we may not always get such strong assurances on our choices, yet when the cards offer that kind of grace and sweetness, a generous yes from the universe, the best thing that we can do is extend gratitude, release the tension that we’ve been carrying, and trust in what we know to be true. both stillness and movement have their places, because limits can both protect and inspire us. and when the tarot tells us that we already are doing the right thing, it’s important that we take that to heart.

the next time you find yourself struggling with your intuition, worried about whether you’re operating from a place of fear or from a place of hope, i invite you to grab your deck and take a few deep breaths. shuffle and hold space for all of your emotions, letting whatever is bubbling up within you come forward. draw a card, see where the deck leads you. whether the reading offers a chance at healing, suggests an opportunity for change, or invites you to prioritize your own needs over forced movement, do yourself a favor and listen. it’s okay to trust yourself, to admit that you already have your answer. it’s okay to be sure, even if you don’t know why. it’s okay to know your what your limits are, and to let them protect you sometimes.

have a beautiful september, friends. i’ll be back tomorrow for the full moon in pisces and an overview of our moon work for this new month.

this post features cards from the fountain tarot. all photographs created by meg jones wall.