Less striving, more squish: stories from the Tarot
The sun (hot, too hot) is high in the summer sky as we move from Cancer season into Leo.
Cancer season is a watery, emotional ride. The archetype of moon-ruled Cancer goes into the deep well of emotions. Over the 6 weeks of Cancer season the watertables of our own emotional landscape naturally rise up, perhaps to overwhelming levels. It is not uncommon, I have found, to feel like flooded farmland when Cancer is a potent part of the sky. If you have been crying with frequency lately, you are in good company.
But here comes Leo season, ruled by the sun and characterized by feeling bright, feeling good, feeling ready and deserving of the spotlight.
We’re heading into Leo season tomorrow, July 22, after these last 6 watery weeks in Cancer. But Venus, the planet of love and relationships, just moved into Cancer, so it is likely things will stay a little wet for a while longer.
Astrology is not my main field of study, but one cannot study the Tarot at the depth I have without coming into a study of astrology. They move and work together. The Tarot’s origins are a mystery, but they always have been deeply rooted into the stars.
In the wheel of the zodiac, the sun of Leo comes after the moon of Cancer. And in the spiraling story of the Major Arcana, this is the progression as well. We move from The Moon, Card 18, to The Sun, Card 19.
In the Tarot, and in the zodiac, introspection has to come before expression.
We have to get a little squishy before we can shine.
This process of introspection before expression is a well-trod path of any artist — we know the dark corners of our soul quite nicely, as that is where we keep our bottles of inspiration, jewel toned and smelling of herbs and spices.
But it is not a path that is celebrated or even allowed in the mainstream culture of production and productivity, and as a result, many of us have forgotten the combination to the lock on those closets where we keep the phone that directly dials our muses, as well as the whispering of our doubts and fears and all the shards of the many times our hearts have been broken. But we are all artists before we are taught not to be — observe any 4 year old and this becomes obvious.
Our culture thrives in expression, but only within the acceptable formula. Queer people (I use bell hooks’ definition of queer — not as in who you are having sex with, but as in how you relate to the world) have always pushed back at the walls, shattering the limitations of how we are supposed to act, look, and love. But even there, the oppressions seep in. The police we have to abolish are on the streets with bully clubs and tear gas, but they are also in our own heads, and in the ways we communicate within our communities.
Here, then, is where the lessons of the Tarot, which are so woven into the lessons of astrology, come to help us. Look at the spiraling story of the Major Arcana, and we see that beauty comes after we let the structures of oppression crumble around us (The Star follows The Tower). Within all the space beauty gives us, if we give ourselves in to the ebb and flow of emotional tides, then the expression that comes from that with be so bright, whole landscapes will flourish under its warmth (the Sun follows the Moon).
The algorithm doesn’t know what to think of this.
We were taught, from young schoolchildren and onwards, that expressing oneself in approved ways reaps rewards, whether that’s good grades or likes and follows. We’re either taught we aren’t creative, or we’re taught that if we are, that we must be creative as a full time career or it doesn’t count. We’re either taught we are too unoriginal to express ourselves, or we’re taught that we must express ourselves according to our brand, always with the same colors and fonts. Even within the countercultures there’s a right and a wrong way — the binary has its fangs in us quite deeply.
These are old ideas, and it is time for new ones.
Less striving, more shining. And to get to the shine, we have to be willing to be a bit squishy.
I’m talking about our sweetly dimpled and rolling bodies and I’m also talking about our minds and the ways we hold them. There is such a deeply engrained story to “get better” and “fix” things. We tell ourselves stories to prove that we either are or are not living up to expectations. If you doubt that the story in your head of your perceived failures is in fact a story, ask someone who loves you deeply to tell your life story back to you. You will hear all the same plot twists, but told in a different narrative arc. Almost any story can be a comedy or a tragedy, depending on how we tell it.
There is so much pleasure, and incredible potency, in not trying so hard. In being less in the stories of our busy heads, more in the embodied perception of our soft and undulating bellies.
These are the final hours of Cancer season before we move into Leo, and you might find that in the coming days you are more inspired to be a little fancier and accept the spotlight with a little more graceful vigor. But of course, the constellation of the sky is never made of just one thing, just as the Tarot is never just one card, the forest is never one tree, and your body is never just a single organ or cell. Nothing that is whole can be separated down exclusively into its parts.
As the sun moves into Leo, Venus is in Cancer. So you might find your emotional watertables are still quite high. It makes sense, in this moment of human history, that you would.
In my career, which has been so difficult to describe in a single title, I have tried so hard to strive and push and move. Obviously, to create anything takes effort. When I suggest we let go of the striving I am not implying that we just lie back and let the world happen to us. Effort is everywhere in nature. But healthy effort is is appropriate effort. Not too little, not too much. The plant that has to strive for sunlight will not be a healthy one, but the oak tree in the middle of a field will stretch its branches out so wide it becomes monumental.
What if we changed our relationship to effort in a similar way? Less hard striving, more gentle, persistent effort. The body has ways to support us in doing this. This, in fact, is the central focus of what we practice in Anchor, the somatic learning community I lead each week. There are so many ways to find a easeful home in the body, and there are so many places the body holds tight to effort as though effort is what will save us.
To live takes effort — the birds and the trees alike can tell us that. But releasing the hardness will change everything.
Less striving, more squish.
Happy almost-Leo season, you stunning beauty.