The title of this post is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember.
It’s problematic if you’re a control freak and a perfectionist in a world that’s inherently and by definition impossible to control and perpetually imperfect.
I can generally keep these impulses under wraps, but what happens when I’m faced with an important personal matter in which I have very little to no control over the outcome? That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where my inherent compulsion to “do” something to move things forward or bend events to my will gets completely thwarted.
In my readings for clients, I often encounter this same type of resistance when there is a situation “on the table” that calls a client to step back and allow events to unfold without their direct intervention.
It can be extremely hard for those of us who are used to making our own breaks, to be called on by circumstances and challenges in our life to simply take a step back and allow life to proceed.
For me, control has always been about trying to create the semblance of predictability, thereby giving me a sense of security. In my conscious or unconscious mind, it always seemed to me that if I could do something to control the outcome, I could rest easy, because then I wouldn’t be caught off-guard or unprepared.
Of course, as we are faced with an infinite and continual number of challenges and unexpected circumstances in life, this approach soon reveals itself to be faulty.
I decided to turn to the cards for some insights about how we can approach a situation where we are forced to let go and relinquish our desire and need to control, and instead allow events to unfold. There’s a need to cultivate trust and faith in the Universe when we’re faced with these situations. There’s also a need to realize that we can only do our part and that we aren’t responsible for the decisions or actions of others, only our reactions to them.
1: How can we find calm and peace when we feel the need to control events around us?
2: How can we cultivate and grow our faith and trust in the Universe and in the reality that there is a divine wisdom that guides everything in our lives?
3: What is the best approach, advice or guidance for times when it feels impossible to let go?
I have a tarot deck that I’ve never used before, although I’m a bit ashamed to admit it because I bought it more than two years ago. It’s Joanna Colbert Powell’s Gaian Tarot, and I adore both Joanna (join her Gaian Soul tribe here) and the sacred ground she works upon, the Pacific Northwest, a place I called home for many years and would ultimately like to return to.
I can’t exactly pinpoint why I’ve never used it but it is calling to me for this particular reading, because the imagery on the deck is one that I find quite empowering and bright. Sometimes that type of energy doesn’t feel appropriate for a reading, but here, it does seem that it would address these questions quite nicely.
I put that preface because in my interpretation here, I’ll be facing these images for the first time and will draw on my first impressions along with my overall knowledge of basic tarot principles. This is similar to what any new reader might do when first learning, as well as what seasoned readers do in these cases when we’re encountering a new deck for the first time.
Here are the cards that came up:
Right off the bat here we see two major arcana cards, which I always highlight to clients are signposts of important life lessons or soul lessons that we’re encountering through the challenge being addressed. In fact, Colbert also ascribes to this theory which she elaborates a bit on in her book to accompany this deck Journey Through the Gaian Tarot.
What’s interesting here is the immediate contrast we can see between the upheaval and destruction of the first card, trump 16, which Colbert calls “Lightning” and in traditional tarot is The Tower, and the open and growth-based imagery in the advice we get from trump 20, which Colbert calls “Awakening” and which in traditional tarot is Judgement.
Basically we can conclude that letting go and flowing with major change and upheaval which is ultimately and essentially beyond our reach and out of our grasp, is what leads to a sort of metaphysical and psychological rebirth, the call to a new purpose, or, as I often like to describe trump 20 to my clients, akin to the myth of the phoenix, the bird who rises anew from his or her own ashes. It reflects the cyclical nature of life, the universal truth that from every experience of death and destruction comes new life, new birth, new consciousness, new learning, new growth.
It may seem counter-intuitive that the cards would show us 16, a card namely of an uncontrollable destructive force for change, as the way to find calm and peace when we feel the need to control events around us; paradoxically, however, it also makes perfect sense. This card is showing us that no matter how we might struggle in heart and mind to wrangle situations to our favor, the bottom line is that we’re not in control. We don’t control the heavens and the earth, we don’t control lightning that strikes from the sky and hits the ground. Anything can happen at any time, and it’s ultimately beyond us. The essential meaning here is that we can find peace and calm in knowing and accepting that there simply is no other choice than to accept that the nature of life means we aren’t in control. Therein lies the peace, the silent space where we relinquish control because we acknowledge that we never had it to begin with.
In the second card we see a small squirrel with an acorn, which gives me the idea of collecting up and saving for the winter. Traditionally this card would be the Four of Pentacles which I’ve always seen as a quite stubborn card, hard-headed and really tightly clinging to the “known” quantities in life. Here we’re being shown the Four of Earth as a way to cultivate trust in the ultimate purpose of divine wisdom and the flow of events in our lives.
Colbert links the fours to structure and boundary, and I often mention how the fours provide stability, just like a table needs four legs in order to stand. In Colbert’s book she says the rocks on this card represent the stacked stones of the Inuit culture, called an inukshuk, signifying qualities that can’t be stashed away and held onto like those acorns, qualities such as safety, hope, and friendship.
This card is telling me that the only way to cultivate trust in the Universe is to practice trust, one event at a time. Each time we place our trust in the Universe and then put this trust into action, we build one more “stone” in our personal inukshuk tower. Therefore, this card shows me that trust and faith are a real-world practice, not just lip service to a spiritual ideal or lofty idea. Trust and faith have to be built one step at a time. This card shows me that it takes slow and careful progress to build a stable foundation of deep trust in the divine nature of the world and the ultimate purpose that all events have in our individual lives. By trusting, we learn to trust. Again, we have here the idea of a cyclical nature, an almost catch-22.
In the third card we’re given a message of guidance about how we can let go when it feels impossible to let go. I’m struck first by the image of the man with open arms, a sort of umbrella image over the card itself. It’s the perfect symbol to represent opening up and letting go: arms open, hands open, ready to receive, vulnerable and accepting of what is.
When our arms are open and we welcome the world as it is, we can’t be controlling or perfectionist. We accept things as they are. What’s more, when we welcome things as they are into our lives, we are building on the trust we learned with the previous card: we learn to trust that everything that presents itself in our lives is an opportunity for new growth and for awakening and rebirth through that experience.
The image here of the community encircled around the man on the card is also significant for me, because as guidance it reminds me that we can’t go it alone. We can take refuge when we feel vulnerable and need to control by looking outward towards our own personal circles and communities of support, who can help remind us that although we aren’t in control of things, and although we are far from perfect, still, we aren’t alone in our journey, and this can be of comfort.
Colbert, in her description of card 20, says, “To live in alignment with your deepest, most authentic Self is not possible without the help of spiritual allies,” and I would absolutely agree. Spiritual allies can be found through your prayers, through nature, through your friends, through community. The message here is that controlling isolates, while opening up to vulnerability brings others in and is ultimately freeing.
If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, I recommend Brenè Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection.