Each week for the month of April, I’ll pull a card from the Fountain Tarot deck with the intention to understand what messages are important for us the week ahead. I’ll encourage you to reflect on how the card connects with you — feel free to share your thoughts on my Instagram, where I’ll also post the card and my interpretation. For more background info on Tarot and how I read cards, check out this previous post: a bit about Tarot.
April 30: The Six of Wands
The Six of Wands is a fitting card to round out this month of Tarot: it’s all about celebrating your success and drawing courage and inspiration from your (or others’) achievements. Personally, I’m proud that I was able to commit to something for an entire month and not waiver — my track record with follow-through doesn’t always shine brightly… and this project took more coordination than I expected!
But, enough about me. (for now. This is going to be a long, self-indulgent post.) One of my friends pulled this card recently and was immediately struck by the image. The man depicted sort of looks like he’s been impaled and is writhing in agony. Not knowing anything about the card’s meaning, she was shocked and a little disturbed. (She read the pink coloring as blood, and this suddenly felt really ominous.) Upon closer inspection, she discovered that he’s actually overcome with joyous relief, raising his wand in the air, surrounded by the others, like a runner collapsed at the end of a long race, hoisting the relay baton in celebration. Her whole mood shifted, as she began to reflect on how this theme was showing up in her life.
The students in the yoga training program that I’m mentoring are completing their first round of public teaching, and we always ask them how they feel when the class ends. Nearly everyone’s first response is “relieved.” The nervousness, tension, and fear are replaced by this flooding of in of relief and relaxed emotions. They quite literally let out a big sigh, as if they’d been holding their breath for the past 45 minutes. The Six of Wands, to me, represents that shift. We climb a lot of mountains, run a lot of races, and fight a lot of battles in our lives. As we cross the finish line, we move from the struggle into the celebration.
While so often our hard work is an internal experience, the Six of Wands has a public element to it as well — there’s a recognition of our determination and success. Many cards contain a duality, and here we have 2 sides of the same experience: being the victor and being the admirer. The Fountain Tarot offers this: “People love their champions as symbols of hope, strength, and potential in themselves. Heroes love their admirers for the recognition and the energy to to reach higher and higher. Whichever role you are playing, honor and value the other.”
The hero and the admirer only exist in context — you can’t have one without the other, and they each have inherent, necessary value in defining the other. (This takes me back to a particularly mind-exploding lecture on David Hume during my freshman year political philosophy class. “A table is only a table because we have given it context to know what it’s supposed to do… look at it from the eyes of a baby, and it’s 4 sticks with something flat on top that has no discernible purpose.” I swear, you could literally see our brains melting out of our eyes. It’s the reason I’ll never do drugs — this kind of thinking could honestly kill me if left unchecked.)
They’re equals, though we often think of the hero as playing a much bigger role.
It’s like this: I’m only a teacher, and I only get to be a teacher, because I have students. Me standing around, teaching yoga to no one doesn’t have the same (or any, really) effect. I’m only a wife because I have a spouse. I’m a daughter because I have parents. We exist in many ways in relation to the other people around us, and the hero-admirer relationship is just another part of that story.
This card came at the perfect time for me this month. Friday was the last day of classes at Penn State, and final grades for my students are due today. This semester was a long road. 16 weeks of teaching every day — 8 classes a week, plus my 6 other studio classes — made for a physically and mentally exhausted me. I wanted there to be some kind of fanfare on Friday when I walked out of the IM building, but it was pouring rain, I was in a rush to get over to Soña’s house so we could drive up to DuBois for 3 hours of YTT student observations, and I was also battling a bad bout of allergies/head-cold situation. Sometimes our long journeys don’t end with a big leap over the finish line. It’s often more of a stumble-into-a-face-plant situation, and then you roll yourself up the next morning and realize “oh hey, that’s over,” only to find yourself on a new starting line. Life is a treadmill. (Another parenthetical: The first quotation I ever recorded in my tiny journal of quotes is from my favorite book, The Rule of Four, and I had to go dig out the little notebook from my nightstand so I could share it here. It feels very applicable. “Book-learned people… could never quite reconcile themselves to the idea that our lives don’t follow the dramatic arc that a good author gives to a great literary character. Only in accidents of pure perfection does the world actually become a stage, and that, they seemed to think, was a shame.” I think that tells you everything you need to know about me as a person, basically.)
But this morning, I woke up to a few unprompted emails from my students, thanking me for the semester and letting me know that the class wasn’t what they had expected, but that it’d changed their outlook on their own lives in a deeply positive way. As I read their final reflections last week, I was encouraged by the thoughtfulness they put in and so inspired by their own growth. My role as a teacher only exists because they’re willing to learn and be taught — and while not all of them were the most open to my points of view and the material, all of them gave me a chance and, for the most part, stayed awake (literally and figuratively). It was a uniquely rewarding experience to see how they interpreted my teaching, learn what stuck with them, and witness the influence my own thoughts, philosophy, and encouragement could have.
Similarly, I’ve been working with some private clients at the studio, and just yesterday I took a step back and appreciated how strong they’ve gotten in the past 3 months, really acknowledging their progress. I shared that with them, and they, too, said they felt stronger and more confident. Another client let me know how much she loved the class yesterday morning, and someone last week expressed his sadness that I only teach one evening class each week.
And that YTT observation I rushed to last Friday (and the one prior)… wow. The women in our training are absolutely crushing the game. The amount of truth, joy, love, and compassion that is flowing out into their FIRST EVER PUBLIC TEACHING is truly inspiring and astounding. In that room, it’s easy to put Soña and I as the “hero” roles — the students look up to us, and it would be accurate to infer that they’re as good as they are because of the way Soña chooses to lead the material. Same with my coaching clients; when one has a particularly important breakthrough and then goes out to slay in her own life, I could take all the credit and boost my heroism. But all of these successful humans are also my own teachers and wells of inspiration. The relationship isn’t a one-way street. We can inspire and be inspired in equal measure, like a beautiful circle of infinite encouragement.
I’m not sharing these things to brag — I’m sharing them to remind us all that these little moments of the Six of Wands exist for all of us. This week’s reflection gave me the space to sit and recognize where I have influence and how I might be showing up like a hero in my own life, what finish lines I’ve just crossed, and what recognition and success I can allow to boost my energy. It also provided the space to witness the success of others, where watching someone else grow, flourish, and shine inspires and encourages me to live my own truth a little more fully and courageously. I could go on and on about all the people who encourage my own being — I won’t use this platform to that end, but I am going to be more intentional about sharing that with them on a personal level.
So, dear friends, in this last week of April: What finish lines have you crossed recently that you might have overlooked? Where has your hard work paid off in ways you might not have noticed? What applause can you receive with gratitude, and where can you give it in a way that fills both you and your source of inspiration?
Reply with your thoughts or share them on this week's #TarotTuesday Instagram post. I'd love to know what connects for you!