on leaving things behind

thoughts for november 2020

hello friends, and welcome to november. i know for those of us in the united states, this is a time of incredible stress and fear, as we gear up for one of the most important elections of my lifetime. i have been focusing on my own transitions, moving into a new place and looking for a new job and essentially starting so many things over. and as i look forward, as i consider the wisdom of the tarot and the complex astrology that we are sitting in right now, my mind keeps going to grief, to release, to loss. what are we as a collective leaving behind? how do our personal shifts and transformations impact our larger communities? what can we learn about ourselves from the things that we as a world are enduring?

we are right in the middle of scorpio season, a time of death and rebirth, of powerful and permanent change, of saying goodbye to the old and making space for the new. and as intense and valuable as these shifts can be, as important as it is to recognize the ways that we are growing and evolving, i want to make sure we’re also talking about intentionality, about purpose, about choice. sometimes things happen that we cannot control - but other times we have options, possibilities, and are asked to make a decision about the ways in which we will move forward. while this is a season for endings and metamorphosis, if we aren’t deliberate about our movement, we can get tangled up, or even get ourselves stuck in an place that we never intended to be.

take a few deep breaths, give yourself a beat to find your center, and let’s dig in.

what really serves

there’s a phrase that comes up a lot in spiritual circles, particularly around the tarot and astrology: leave behind that which no longer serves you. it’s a call to release things that we are clinging to that don’t work: relationships that aren’t functional or healthy, jobs that are draining or consuming us, situations that are harmful or destructive, challenges that aren’t building to a change for the better. on the surface it seems like good advice, to prioritize ourselves and set firm boundaries and stop investing in people or things that are not worth our time and energy. this well-intentioned guidance urges us to have pride, to know our value, to listen to our intuition. it asks us not to take any shit.

the problem, of course, is when we go too far, when we take this advice past its logical conclusion and instead refuse to engage with anything even remotely difficult. we call this spiritual bypassing, and the result is that we end up never doing anything that pushes us, never challenging our own assumptions or expectations, never growing. we love and light our way past discomfort and reject any kind of evolution or transformation, simply abandoning things that force us to think too critically, to work too hard, to examine ourselves too closely. and while there are times when it’s absolutely essential that we protect ourselves and leave something catastrophic or harmful behind, if our first reaction to anything difficult is to abandon it, the result is that we end up stunting our own growth.

after all, what does it mean, to serve? what are we really talking about when we consider this idea? because for something to serve us, it’s not necessarily just there to make us happy and comfortable, to stroke our ego and tell us that we’re doing beautifully, to offer bland encouragement without provocation or substance. life is not painless or stagnant, and in trying to avoid every kind of discomfort, we ultimately limit our capacity for deeper connection, understanding, and transformation. sometimes we have to undergo challenges in order to find out who we truly are, in order to shift into the life we actually want, in order to expand beyond what we thought we were capable of. sometimes we have to let go of something, in order to have the freedom to grab onto something else.

the tarot offers cards that explore this idea from multiple perspectives. major arcana archetypes like death and the tower make space for natural endings and sudden loss, for transitions, for inevitable change and release - and while these are sometimes shifts that we can see coming, they are often unavoidable, something that happens that we are forced to deal with and evolve through. but minor arcana cards like the six of swords and the eight of cups encourage deliberate movement in the face of pain, urging us to take control of the narrative and leave something behind rather than simply react to a loss. while these minor cards have plenty of meaning on their own, tarot is all about cycles, stories, journeys. in all of these cases, it’s important to note what comes before, to consider how these cards contribute to the larger narrative.

with the suit of swords, we have already moved through difficult choices, painful heartache, have started setting boundaries and dealing with conflict - so by the time the six comes around, we have done our best to understand what is happening, have tried to move through it, and have ultimately recognized that we need to take back our power and shift into a new mindset or perspective. we are leaving behind those ideas or viewpoints that are harming us and allowing ourselves to expand into a new headspace, a new mindset, a new vision for the future.

similarly, when we reach the eight of cups we have already experienced deep loss, reflected on our histories and past, considered our many options, and now are choosing to leave behind something that is permanently broken. this is not throwing up our hands at a tiny little crack in the glass or giving up at the first sign of trouble - this is recognizing that something cannot be repaired, and instead allowing ourselves to find a new path, to seek something worthy of our time.

both of these cards represent a difficult choice, made after consideration, work, adjustments, and learning. there’s grief here, sadness and loss - but there is also a recognition of how hard we have tried, and a belief that what we are now moving towards is something better, stronger, healthier.

the idea of control

we don’t always have a choice when it comes to change. with both death and the tower, the transition comes without invitation, unavoidable, forcing us to adapt. there are moments when all we can do is loosen our grip on what we have known and let ourselves fly freely through space, waiting for our feet to find solid ground again - and sometimes we initially land in a painful place, have to spend time on grief and recovery before we can pick ourselves up and move forward. but in other moments, we can look out into the wild world, assess our options, and make a decision to leap instead of waiting to be shaken loose. other times, we can choose to take a chance, to leave something behind, to see what kinds of growth we can inspire if we have the courage to accept change.

what has been challenging you? where are you finding yourself stuck, discouraged, uncertain? what have you been investing in, that has failed to inspire or support or encourage you? have you felt something concluding, and what emotions or responses is that ending bringing up within you? pay attention this month to what you choose to release, and what you cling to. how do you decide when to leave something behind? where are you moving with intention, and where are you staying stagnant? are you acting out of fear, or out of awareness?

control is a tricky thing. too much and we limit our ability to adapt, to innovate, to learn - but not enough and we can find ourselves subject to the whims of others, unable to focus our energy or ideas. scorpio and death ask us to consider what we can and cannot control, and while we do not always have power over endings, we can decide how we approach each shift, what energy and flexibility we will bring to the table. how do you respond to change? where are you being invited to evolve? as we step into this new month, as we prepare for whatever lies ahead, pay attention to what is stirring within you, to new truths and insights that reveal themselves. where can you be intentional about transformation? how can you find strength in what is breaking, and what are you ready to rebuild?

have a safe and thoughtful november, friends.

images from this post feature cards from the spacious tarot. all photographs by meg jones wall.