In 2015 I went to study ashtanga yoga with the master of the lineage in Mysore, India. I’d been anticipating the trip for years, and had lots of ideas about what it would be like—the friends I would meet, the strength and flexibility I’d gain, the poses I’d do, the realizations I’d have.
From the day I arrived, I developed a painful health issue that made it difficult to practice. I spent the majority of the four weeks I was there focused on being in as little pain as possible.
One thing I was able to do was attend a small class that was being held in the home of an ex-engineer turned sanskrit scholar named Arvind. He was teaching us about the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu spiritual text.
The first thing we learned was that doing yoga had nothing to do with doing poses. This was a relief for me since some days I could barely walk to the studio, let alone practice difficult asanas.
“To be a yogi is to be one with the Lord,” he said.
This meant, simply, that to be a yogi was to fully surrender to what is. To transcend attachment to the pleasure-seeking agendas of the ego, and to always practice a willingness to acknowledge and accept reality. In this context, surrender is justified by the idea that God has a plan and railing against it is futile. But belief in God is not a requirement to be a truth seeker. And a reality facer.
So, what does this have to do with the six of swords, a card about challenging life transitions?
You are in the midst of great change. You are leaving something behind that has begged in so many ways to be abandoned. You are moving into a new territory, and crossing over a metaphorical bridge. You are in the throes of the angst and uncertainty that comes with letting something significant go and being uncertain of what comes next.
But to read this card as only about change would be inaccurate. It’s just as much about the attitude we have toward change as it is about the change itself. More specifically, it’s about trust.
Look at the figure steering the boat. He is dressed in the same color as the woman being steered—which suggests a oneness between them; that they are of the same essence. He is shepherding her across this waterway, yet she is facing forward. She cannot physically see him.
She does not look back. Does not watch to be sure he has control of his oar. She sits still, looking ahead, in a posture of complete trust and surrender.
The swords often speak to situations in which decisions have been made, or must be made, and which are often involving hard to digest information that may be even cause physical pain when swallowed. In these times, more than ever, the Six of Swords asks that we remember trust.
Many psychotherapy traditions teach us to clarify what deeply matters to us as a way of helping us change maladaptive or dysfunctional behaviors. It’s considered healthy to act in ways that serve our highest values and the things that we want most out of life. But sometimes we set intentions, and we go after things we want, and those things are just not available to us. What then?
As humans, we have a great capacity to affect our circumstances, but there are and always will be things that are beyond our control. And things that we want with every fiber of our being but cannot have.
The Six of Swords asks us to remember that sometimes, no matter the purity or righteousness of our intentions, we are not entitled to get what we want at all times. Further, there will be times when what we think we want is not what’s best for us.
If you are not getting what you want, is it possible that you may not be seeing the full picture? Can you be okay with the fact that the whole picture is not for you to see right now?
Can your ego allow for the concept that your agenda is sometimes irrelevant? That the things you’ll want throughout your life will sometimes not be the things that are meant for you? That perhaps there is something better for you down the line, if you can have the courage to believe in something you don’t yet see?
And is it possible that the thing you thought you wanted is attachment- or fear-based, and not actually the best thing for you after all? Can you trust in forces that you cannot see, in whichever way you choose to conceive of them? Can you accept that as a human all things are not for you to know?
The Six of Swords acknowledges that a time of great change and transition is underway. But it also asks us to have complete faith and trust in what is. It asks us to put aside the misguided belief that we are, or should be, in control of all that happens in our lives. We don’t need to be yogis or believers in God to do this, but we must be willing to see things as they are, to accept them, and to act in ways that reflect a surrender to a reality that is beyond our territory of control.
Find relief in knowing that there are much stronger forces in this world than you and your ego. You are in a transition phase, and change is often scary. But it will be easier to manage if you can find a way to release yourself from the belief that you must—or can—control all that goes on. If you meditate on it a bit, you will likely find solace in this surrender.
Tarot Tuesday is a weekly series focused on engaging the intuition, considering what matters most, and encouraging fresh perspectives. For more information about booking a tarot session (in-person or via Skype), go here.