It is so cold in Melbourne right now, as Winter Solstice is upon us- Happy Yule everybody ! And of course, I’m loving it. Every morning when I peek out my window, there are reassuring dark skies brooding away, cloaking the world in winter and threatening rain. I get so energized and feel almost like the world has recovered a sense of mystery. Almost. It’s a little harder to maintain that sense of beautiful melancholy once you’re on public transport, but my lesson at the moment is to not let my environment control me, but for me to control my environment. That, of course, means I have to first be able to control my reaction to my environment. I have discovered (through long and painful experience, as seems to be my wont..) that in order to achieve any real power or strength, it is necessary first to have a deep sense of balance within and maintain an equilibrium no matter what is going on around you, or even within you…
It’s not easy. I am SO reactive to, well, pretty much everything in my immediate vicinity. Seeing the old house around the corner with it’s abandoned apple trees and vines growing through the windows used to bring me such a lovely sense of nostalgic story-book sweet spookiness, every time I went past it I was thankful for it’s presence. I knew it was only a matter of time before the developers moved in and this little piece of history would be gone forever. Property prices around Northcote have soared in the last few years and so there are fewer and fewer spaces left that aren’t being built up. So I wasn’t surprised when I recently went for a walk and saw the old house had been totally demolished and where there was once a back yard and old fence with morning glory climbing over its crooked frame, now there are no less than four square apartments, squeezed onto the block in orange brick ugliness, not a square of green grass left. Modern development makes me want to start a revolution. It destroys my soul just looking at it.
See?? This is where the challenge really comes in. To look on passively like a Buddhist monk, totally non-reactive and with a half-smile of nonchalant indifference is never going to happen – however, I CAN shift my focus onto something else so as not get all knotted up inside about it and thrown off balance. Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall; the nature of things is to change. The fact is, there is very little to nothing I can or could do about this (monstrosity of aesthetic abuse) and my getting all upset about it really doesn’t help anyone, least of all me. So, I remind myself of my new credo: my environment doesn’t control me. Soon, if i keep walking, I will return home to my own little home with lots of boston ivy and cedar trees with yellow leaves. On my way I see that the council has once again poisoned the strip alongside the tram line where wild tomatoes and belladonna and even crazy pumpkins had started growing (kind of an urban miracle considering how many times they’ve poisoned this harmless bit of land) and I look down at the hurt earth and the few surviving prickly weeds and shards of broken glass, and I grit my teeth with resolution – again – I WILL NOT BE EFFECTED BY MY ENVIRONMENT, I will not let it control me….I can always look up into the sky and take another deep breath.
Temperance is a quality I wish I’d cultivated earlier, both in regards to my environment and also in terms of relationships. Just to be cool, unaffected by other people (and all the shit things other people do).As I always emphasize to my clients in Tarot readings, it is inevitable that people are at some point going to let you down, hurt you, infuriate you, and bewilder you – that is life. But it’s never too late to learn to accept this as a given, and focus instead on what it is in your power to change. THIS is an art worth pursuing.
So despite my little anecdote above (one scenario of many i face on a daily basis, believe me) I am actually feeling more balanced, one might even go so far as to say, more at peace, than I have in a long, long time (maybe ever!) and I really like it. I used to place an inordinate amount of emphasis on living a dramatic, highly emotional life, FEELING and EXPRESSING every little thing. I felt totally justified in creating a drama around my feelings, regardless of the circumstances, because as far as i was concerned, my feelings were the most important things in the world and also the most real. To hold anything back, to repress a feeling, was tantamount to self-abuse and would, as most pop psychology would have us believe, result in physical and emotional sickness.
It has taken me all my adult life to realize that this belief is a load of crap.
Sure, of course there are times when we need to express ourselves, and it is true that for some people the inability to express emotions can create many problems, but constant rocking of the boat does not a peaceful journey make. To take the metaphor further, storms happen of their own accord, without us choosing to make waves unnecessarily. (Okay, okay, I’ll stop!) All I ever got from my great emotional outbursts was chaos and pain and confusion. Did expressing my emotion help clear things up? Rarely, if ever. Did I gain clarity or a sense of control over my situation? Pretty much never. Did I feel a sense of relief? Sometimes, but usually followed by some degree of remorse, or more commonly, a recurring incident of very similar nature which in time would evolve into a degenerative pattern of behaviour that bore me down into a darkness from which I had very few tools I could use to actively help myself out.
A little Temperance would have gone a long way. Just a modicum of understanding that it wasn’t all about my feelings. Many of those feelings -though real in that i felt them – were borne from past pain or insecurity and fear anyway. Being swamped by old feelings is hardly a recipe for personal power. It is only when we can step back and remove ourselves from the immediacy of the feeling and take an objective look at the situation, inviting reason to the party, that we can truly experience anything like true power. In a nutshell, it’s about self-control. Choice – in that we choose at any given moment how we are going to respond to a situation rather than just finding ourselves at the whim of any crazy emotion that rises within us. I always remember my tarot teacher Jo saying the Strength card was not about brute force, but gentle control. Inspired Strength, represented by the angel, or spirit, holding the mouth of the beast, our ‘animal instinct’.
If I see Strength and Temperance as two complimentary trumps in the Major Arcana, I would just like to finish with the image of the Six of Swords as the Minor Arcana counterpart. All those swords representing the painful truth, but the gentle moving through the waves to calmer waters. To me the Six of Swords emanates a sense of calm acceptance. Not without sorrow but with an element of surrender. It is a card of quiet wisdom, and the magic is in the simple movement of the little boat onwards towards a mysterious future made possible by the deep knowing that comes through experience of pain – and the will to move beyond it.