The assumption that intellectual knowing is more valid than intuitive knowing is so pervasive in our culture that we rarely question it. But it is destructive, not only because it renders our experiences so lop-sided, but also because it is based on a hierarchy that places one mode of knowing over another, rather than honoring the value of both.
It is also deeply suspect. When you think about it, the systematic discrediting of felt, intuitive knowing is a sweet deal for entities that profit off of our dissociation. When we abandon the knowings of our bodies, unacceptable aspects of our lives and cultures become more palatable.
We are less likely to complain about unlivable conditions if we are not attuned to their atrocity. This makes us better and more obedient workers for a system that does not love us. It makes us better friends, family members and lovers for people who only take.
Many of us first learn to leave our bodies as a way of coping with unbearable aspects of our personal lives (Three of Swords). Once a person’s spirit begins the practice of fleeing the body, it is a hop, skip and a jump to fearing and hating it, and to severing ties to intuition in the process.
The longer we stay away, the greater we resist coming back. The backlog of unfelt feelings builds. It can grow so big that we feel we can never return. From there, we are easy targets to be indoctrinated with the idea that intellectual knowledge is superior. This kind of knowledge does not require that we be willing or able to go back to the body.
I like to think about the body as a channel, through which we are constantly receiving information and messages. We are not available to accept these messages and integrate them if we are not at home in the body when they arrive (Empress). The body is the only instrument that can accurately interpret the sacred language of energy and vibration (Empress).
Leaving the body is a coping skill. It is called dissociation, and there is no shame in doing it. The present moment is not always digestible, and can take a certain building up of tolerance to even withstand. Also, it is worth saying that some things should not be withstood. If you have been leaving the body for years and years, there will be backlog to deal with. There will be aspects of the present that you will need to train to cope with. Reclaiming our bodies requires that we learn new ways of coping. All of which takes time, practice and patience (Empress).
The very first thing we can do is commit to noticing when we drift off and leave. A certain amount of leaving is okay. Visualizing positive, radical futures is adaptive and necessary. Compulsive fantasizing, on the other hand, is reactionary escapism (Seven of Cups).
Being in the body is not work for the timid, or for those who are ambivalent about waking up. We are talking about advanced level healing and spiritual practice here. Stuff that will make your hairs stand on end and sometimes drain you and make you ask yourself why the fuck you’re even doing it.
It might scare you at times and make you feel raw. It might make you vastly more limited in the things you can consume, spaces you can be in and people you can be around. You will probably lose friends and struggle with the idea of what fun is. But being in the body will be worth it because it will give you access to psychic power, clarity of intuition, ecstatic pleasure, and sharper reflexes.
Giving up a behavior that has served you for your entire conscious life—like intellectualizing, or dissociating—is terrifying to the ego, which has been constructed around this way of moving through the world. Consider that a transition into a more secure, embodied presence (King of Pentacles) could feel deeply threatening. Ego will interpret anything that is uncertain as a potential threat.
And make no mistake, you being in your body is a threat. That is why you are discouraged from being there in every way possible from the moment you open your eyes until you drop back to sleep. With apps that are designed to be addictive. With a steady drip of numbing, binge-inducing Netflix shows. With endless streams of could-be lovers to browse from the comfort of your phone, should you ever find yourself idling with nothing “better” to do. Our environments are constructed around the goal of pulling awareness from the body. Who do you think benefits from this? And do you trust it? I do not.
The Death card is often read as a sign of a new beginning. This is preferred by those who don’t wish to have the less savory aspects of their lives told to them by tarot cards. New beginnings are more fun to think about then gory, scary endings. They are more hopeful, they give ego a thing to grab onto that resembles certainty. “Something better is coming. I am sure of it.”
But we are never really sure and we never really can be. Death demands that we do a blind deal, trading the decrepit and expired thing of the present for an ambiguous thing, an unknown. This registers as an assault to the evaluative ego, which is rendered useless in the absence of a thing to weigh and measure.
The new thing that death is clearing a path for isn’t for you to know yet. You have to trust. Can you do that? Why or why not? What would it look like to expect good things? And what will it cost you to stand in the way of the path death is clearing, refusing to let what must die, die?
I sometimes like to think about the process of death as one of the Soul’s truest allies. This isn’t to make light of or minimize anyone’s experience of loss. It is to point to the fact that death cares only about clearing and is indifferent to the desires of ego, whose obsession with certainty tends to be a barrier to new growth. Death is unfazed by attachment. It doesn’t care that you would prefer to not let go of a crumbling thing until you know what will replace it. No matter how much you love a thing, you will watch powerless when death rips it out from under you. As sure as the sun will go down tomorrow.
But barring birth, there is nothing more natural than death. No process more trustworthy. And here’s a thing to know: Birth and death aren’t opposites, they are two parts of the same process. It is the epic collective cognitive distortion of duality that makes us think otherwise.
As the lines between birth and death dissolve, we come into a gray area. This is where truth lives. We see clearly and finally that when we resist the little deaths in our lives we are resisting what wants to burst forth because we can’t allow mystery. We are outright refusing to take our scythe to the soil to clear space for next year’s harvest. It’s counterproductive. Understandable, but counterproductive.
Here is what I think about death: To the extent that we are unwilling to allow it to happen in and around us, we subject ourselves, and our Souls, to emaciation and atrophy. But if we are open to learning to tolerate the felt experiences of uncertainty, terror and grief that death delivers us, we will make way for continued growth, evolution and magic.