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8 minute read
A friend and I were talking the other day about what it really means to walk away from religion. A lot of us reach the point where we admit that the belief systems we grew up in just don't cut it anymore. And choosing to walking away from that is a sort of reclamation of our power.
But, my friend said, there's a downside to leaving religion that many of us don't discover till later. Because like it or not, religion is a source of hope. It's the root of resilience. It's what keeps a lot of people grounded, believing that things will get better. And when you walk away from it, you're left with a big ol' question: where will you now find faith, hope, and an anchor to keep you strong during the tough times?
These 8 cards above – pulled randomly, as always – mirror the journey most of us go through when we start exploring our spirituality. Each card represents one step in the path. Some of you might be in the stage shown in the first card, some in the last. And for most of us, we cycle in between all of them, because life is never just a straight line.
But wherever you're at in this moment, this reading will invite you to step back and look at the bigger picture of where you're coming from and where you want to go.
So get comfortable, take a deep breath, and let's explore the nitty gritty of what it means to create your own spiritual path.
Step 1: The Tower
The Tower seems like the perfect place to start this reading. It represents something fundamental in your life that's built on shaky ground.
And this is really where the spiritual journey begins for most of us. We have this belief system that looks indestructible. I mean, religion is one of the biggest forces in the world. But once we start to grow up, when we start to really examine what we believe and why, we realize something is off. The foundation isn't strong enough to hold up this massive tower that we've built on top of it.
And so whether by choice or by life unfolding on its own, this massive tower that we thought was unshakeable comes crashing to the ground. And we're left to pick up the pieces. Which, naturally, is scary as fuck.
Step 2: 8 of Cups
When our Tower starts to crumble, we have two choices. One, refuse to leave the tower because you can't imagine life without it. We sometimes stay inside a collapsing building because familiarity feels safer than whatever is on the outside. Or the second choice: realizing that even when the sky is literally falling at your feet, you still have a choice – and choosing to walk away.
The 8 of Cups requires a certain level of emotional maturity. To look at something and decide that it no longer serves you is one of the most adult things we can do. And tarot doesn't pretend that this is an easy choice. If you look closely at the 8 of Cups, mountains lie ahead in the distance, symbolizing that walking away isn't easy. There are challenges that you're going to have to overcome even after making the decision.
Step 3: 5 of Wands
The 5 of Wands represents a conflict of wills. This can be the pushback you get from friends or family when they realize that you no longer believe the same things as they do. It reminds me of the Tower card. Because instead of accepting that we're all different, some people cling to their beliefs so tightly that they have no choice but to fight anyone who sees things a different way.
Beliefs are the compasses we use to navigate life. But when you use them to bash the people around you, then something has gone wrong.
On a more intimate level, the 5 of Wands depicts the fight that goes on inside of ourselves as we try to figure out what we believe in. I don't know about you, but my process of leaving the church came with major guilt. I had been taught my whole life that losing faith meant you were being tempted by the devil.
I don't think it's a coincidence that the first 5 pages of the Bible start out with a story about how humans made a choice for themselves that they thought was wise, and then they ended up being doomed for eternity. It's a warning straight out the gate that any thoughts or ideas that go against the Christian deity are bad, and you should never listen to them or you'll end up falling right into the devil's trap. And that can cause massive amounts of trauma for people who truly feel like Christianity is not for them.
I wrestled with my non-belief for a full year before eventually leaving, and I don't regret it. I wanted to be completely sure before I made any big decisions. I talked to pastors from different churches, looking for answers to the 'big' questions. But none of them had any. And to make it worse, they couldn't admit that they didn't know. I realized that if you identify with something too strongly–even something that's meant to bring you inner peace–then it becomes difficult to look at it objectively. And that's how I ultimately concluded that I had to find my own path.
Step 4: Page of Wands
I think this is the stage where a lot of people get lost. They've left religion and they've made peace with it. But now what? Religion, for all its faults, is easy because it tells you exactly what to believe in. But now you have to try and figure out all that stuff for yourself.
The Page of Wands holds an important secret for where we can start to try and find some of these answers, because he's all about curiosity. Unlike the people in the 5 of Wands who blindly use their sticks to bash each other, the Page has gone back to the beginning. He's curious about what he's holding in his hand. He's dropped all assumptions and judgments, and is questioning everything.
For me, that means walking barefoot on the grass because I like to ground my energy into the earth. For someone else, that sounds weird and woo-woo. That's why it's not the greatest idea to try and co-opt spiritual practices that we see other people doing just because we think that's what needs to be done. You have to look inside yourself for what gives you meaning. And there really is no right or wrong answer. Volunteer work is spiritual. Deep breathing for 2 minutes every morning is spiritual. Spending time with plants and animals is spiritual.
Step 5: The 10 of Pentacles
Now, this is the ideal stage that most people want to get to. The 10 of Pents symbolizes being grounded and confident that you can handle life's challenges. It's living from a deep sense of meaning and fulfillment in this batshit crazy world.
But here's the thing...
If you have a friend who works out every day and you haven't left the couch in 3 months, you can't just wake up one day and copy their behavior. You likely won't make it past the 3rd day.
Similarly, we don't unlock deeper fulfillment by 'acting' spiritual – buying incense or reading spiritual books, and expecting that to change how we feel on the inside.
Change in behavior is birthed from the changes we made internally, usually way before. And that's why I emphasized the Page of Wands as the starting point for self discovery. If you haven't taken the time to discover what fulfillment means for you, you won't get there by trying to copy what you think you should be doing. Spirituality is created from within us, not outside of us.
Step 6 & 7: 2 of Swords and 4 of Swords
So far we've cycled through all the other parts of being: Cups as emotions, Wands as energy, and Pentacles as behavior. Now we see Swords, representing the thoughts.
Swords are usually a very active suit of tarot. They symbolize the mind, which is always doing something. So I find it very, very interesting that the cards that came out today were the 2 and 4 of Swords – two cards where the images show someone sitting in place.
Tapping into your spiritual self is not the domain of the mind. It's actually the opposite.
Everything we've talked about above about finding what excites you, all of that has to come from intuition. And intuition does not come from the mind. In fact, more often than not, the mind is the biggest barrier to intuition. Because the mind likes to be the loudest voice in the room, while intuition speaks to us really, really quietly.
Look at the 8 of Cups and the maturity it takes to walk away from something. You're not always walking away from something broken. Sometimes you're walking away from something that looks great on paper, but just doesn't feel like a good fit. That's intuition.
So I believe the Swords cards popped up today, not to play any major role, but just as a reminder that sometimes it's time to put the mind in the backseat and let our other parts express themselves more fully.
Step 8: 5 of Pentacles
The final step is, I think, quite obvious, even to people who don't know anything about tarot. The 5 of Pents shows two people walking outside in the snow, not realizing that there's ... of all things... a church right beside them.
This is really how most of us are walking through life. We believe that spiritual comfort is only available to religious folk, so we resign ourselves to walking through life alone. But support from a higher force is always available to you, whatever you believe in.
Religion is not the moon. Religion is the finger that points to the moon. – Thich Nhat Hanh
We can all see the moon, no matter where in the world we are. We don't need anyone to show it to us. We just need to lift up our heads and look.