I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast. Join me on an exploration of mindful modern magic, a journey towards deeper understanding of self and transformative individual spirituality. It's August 26, 2021, and today's episode is the second in a seven episode series on using tarot for self growth. Today we're discussing the basics of self growth, the difference between growth and evolution, and what it looks like to thrive in your life. Are you ready to grow your soul?
Welcome to episode 2 of the series on tarot for self growth. Last time we talked about what divination is, why it is actually better suited for self growth processes than it is for telling the future. So today, then, I thought we should really dig into what is self growth.
What do we really mean by growth? It’s… There are really so many terms that get tossed around in spiritual contexts that seem to mean the same thing, like we should all be thinking the same thing, talking about the same thing when we use them, but they’re a lot more broad and have a lot of different ways to take them, and self growth is one of those. And part of that is because spirituality is just a diverse area, so many related but fundamentally different ways of approaching things. Different definitions of what spirituality is and all that, therefore different definitions of what the goal is, what growth might look like.
But it’s also because there’s just a lot of different types of growth that we experience. So, when I talk about using tarot for self growth, it doesn’t just encompass spiritual growth, it’s all areas of life. Because that’s really the strength of tarot. It includes, it basically describes all areas of life, all facets of human existence one way or another, especially when you get into the reversed cards.
And in the end, everything comes back to and connects to our spirituality.
So I’ve got basically three main things I mean when I talk about self growth, three types of self growth that tarot can really be a tool to help with. The first one is spiritual development. And this is something I talked about in Episode 13 about your personal year cycle. No matter what we do, just going through life and experiencing things day to day contributes to and produces personal development.
It’s like aging, maturing. It takes some pretty extreme circumstances to hold us back significantly from that process. There’s a sort of biological imperative to physically and mentally mature as we become capable of it. But the person we mature into, that depends a lot on the types of experiences we go through.
This most obviously comes up in tarot when we do past-present-future spreads or something like a Celtic Cross where it gives some past context for whatever the reading is showing. I think it’s, you know, we have this instinctual understanding that wherever we are right now in life, whoever we are, whatever is happening to us, it has roots in the past. But I know when people came to me for readings, most people looked at the past context cards as an explanation of why their situation was whatever it was, not why they were whoever they were.
And this ties in with magic itself. I hate this idea that our mindset or our intentions or our energy is the CAUSE of what we experience, which is how this whole Law of Attraction thing has gotten twisted to mean for a lot of people. But we are locked in a relationship between the events and environment that makes up our life experience and the person we are. What has happened in the past isn’t just part of a cause and effect chain which explains why things are happening the way they are in the present. What has happened in the past has shaped who we are and why we’re reacting or responding the way we are right now, why we want what we want.
And this is the kind of growth which isn’t necessarily positive, right? It can be, but it isn’t necessarily. It sort of, if you think of this growth as like a plant growing, the conditions in which a plant grows is going to determine a lot about how healthy, how big it gets, if it blooms or bears fruit or whatever. It may still grow, still be alive, but it might not exactly thrive.
And that’s true for baseline spiritual growth. I talk a lot about this in the book that will be coming out in September, but spirituality isn’t just something we engage in with the religious-type ideas and trappings, it’s everything. I’ve talked about it here, too, that spirit is energy in general, mental energy, emotional energy, and there’s really not a line of delineation between personal growth and spiritual growth because what’s inside us is all spirit, all spiritual.
So everything about the person we are, the way we think and act and how spiritually and personally mature we are is part of our spiritual development.
And tarot when it looks into our past is great at pointing to the dynamics of how that growth has proceeded for us, what happened to shape us over time. It gives us personal context, insight into our own history, perspective on our past which sheds light on our present.
So when we use tarot like this, especially if we are intentional about using it to get answers about not, like, what’s coming – we talked about that last week – but about what is shaping our reactions, our decisions, the reasons we’re where we are and using that information to make more informed choices about how to proceed, that’s some of the best way to use tarot for self growth. Using it to help us see who we are, see why we are who we are, and to own how that plays out now.
Because that’s maturity, right? Owning our own crap and doing what we can to do what is healthy and responsible and good for us.
If you're enjoying this episode of Waxing Soul, subscribe to the show! Each week we will dive into a different part of the world of spirituality, magic, and self-evolution. Check out last week's episode where we discussed the basics of divination, what it means, and why we don't even need to know what's in our future. And come back next week for part three of this series where we will discuss why our deep self is a mystery to us, how we can uncover more of the unknown parts of ourselves, and why it's so important to practice radical self-honesty.
The second type of self growth is what I call emergence. The first type is all about kind of discovering who you are, why you are who you are, what has shaped you, and it’s basically shadow work. That’s what that means, shadow work. It’s doing that work of gaining awareness of your authenticity, all aspects of it, and tarot is just the best at poking right in at your soft places.
Like, that’s why a lot of people hate tarot, right? You ask the cards for an answer, and instead they kick you right where it hurts. It’s good for you if you’re ready to do the work of integration. But even when you know all of that, all your shadow aspects, even when you’re aware and making choices with open eyes and good intentions for yourself and working on your spiritual development, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re comfortable with who you are or that you live as that person, right?
Embracing yourself and putting yourself out there in the world, actually embodying your authentic identity, that’s a whole other thing. But it’s an important part of self growth. It’s a process of clearing away and working through the stuff that is holding you back from that. It’s that pressure to be what you feel others expect from you instead of being who you are.
Now, that’s not to say that it’s a great mark of self growth and spiritual maturity to be totally in everyone’s face, totally defiant, break every single rule or expectation, whatever. Like, it’s not the difference that’s the point. Being different from everyone else isn’t automatically a badge of honor or whatever. And that’s definitely part of maturity and growth, to be able to embrace and own the parts of your authentic self which make you similar to others, those connections and similarities, and not just stake a claim of uniqueness for the sake of being unique and standing out. It’s all got to be rooted in who you authentically are, not who you wish you were or could be.
The point is, though, that if you do your shadow work and you connect with who you are deep down, and the authentic self that you come to embrace is someone you’re afraid to be, someone you know the people around you have never fully met, that inauthenticity and pressure is a burden that wears away at your soul, right? That’s why we have shadow selves anyway. It’s all the ways we’ve been made to feel not good enough, not okay, not right, the things we’ve been punished for or are ashamed of.
So it’s growth to get to know ourselves, to, you know, if we go back to that plant analogy, to understand what has shaped us so we can grow stronger and healthier.
But it’s also growth to – and this is where metaphors like this get weird because obviously a plant can’t do these things for itself, but I trust you get what I mean – it’s also growth to realize that we really can’t grow to our full potential without, you know, putting ourselves out there. Blooming and reaching for the sun and being visible and opening ourselves to that attention. It’s developing confidence in ourselves, stepping into our potential and our power, all of that kind of stuff that we tend to think of as empowerment and growth.
And I’ll definitely get into the how of using tarot for this, but I’ll just say that this is where tarot can be used in ways that aren’t so much divination, not really looking for insight or information, but using the cards as prompts and tools.
So, like, I love to use tarot to guide challenges. For instance, pulling a card and crafting some activity that pushes me to lean into that quality or explore that side of myself or whatever, make myself specifically pay attention to those aspects of myself and my life and to flex that muscle, so to speak. So it’s not so much about using the cards to tell you things but to point you towards choices you can make that would be good for you to learn, to practice.
So, I call this type of self growth emergence because it’s really like breaking out of the shell of inauthenticity that we’ve all got around ourselves, and… You guys know by now that I love my metaphors to illustrate this stuff, but I feel like I’m getting weird about it today. Plants and eggs and whatever. But that’s what it is. It’s coming out from under all the stuff that isn’t really us so we can fully embody our spiritual self. It’s growth that we choose, not just the growth that gets shaped by whatever happens to happen to us.
I feel like it’s one important approach to enlightenment, too, in that there’s a point where you shift from being pulled along by the current of your life to, and here’s another fun metaphor, you build yourself a boat so you can navigate the current by your own will and according to your own understanding of yourself.
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The last type of self growth I’m talking about in this series is personal evolution.
And these are all, by the way, big topics in my book. It’s coming out in September and it’s called Deep Self Magic. It’s not about tarot, but the self growth, especially self evolution processes are really the core of our spiritual life in a lot of ways.
At some level, we all strive for this stuff. Or at least we want it and benefit a lot from focusing on these things in our spiritual practice. Growing and emerging and evolving our authentic selves. That’s self growth.
Evolution is the pinnacle of that, it’s the, I guess, highest form. Because if we go back to that example of understanding the current or flow of our lives which has gotten us where we are, made us who we are, once we understand it we can navigate it, choose how it pulls us along. But evolution is actually understanding that dynamic so well that we can shape it. Direct the flow. Control some of it so that we don’t just get to determine how much that flow affects us, we tailor the flow to affect us in the ways we want it to.
Which is all about thriving in our lives, right? What we want, even those of us who use tarot or are used to using tarot as a way to tell the future as we talked about last week, what we really want isn’t predictability itself, it’s the assurance that we can figure out how to thrive in life.
Evolution is self growth which is focused on becoming a version of ourselves which is capable of thriving where we are rather than relying on our ability to find an environment in which the person we are can thrive. It’s kind of a big shift to make, right? It’s about not just being mindful of who we are, how we can fully be ourselves and grow in a positive way, but the things about our authentic selves which maybe don’t serve us so well. Things we might want to change about ourselves, not because they’re bad, but because they hold us back from the life we’re trying to live or because they make it difficult to move to the next phase of our lives or whatever. They stand in the way of our thriving.
And this is where maybe tarot can get used in a truly divinatory way. It can point us to the stuff that stands in our way. The obstacles and challenges we face. But the important thing here isn’t the existence of the obstacles themselves. That’s one of the things I saw over and over again in doing tarot readings for people. Most of us, if we figure out that something is standing between us and what we’re trying to achieve in life, even if it’s something about ourselves… maybe especially if it’s something about ourselves, what we really want to do most is figure out how to get rid of that thing. Like, what are we supposed to do about this awful problem that’s been put in our way.
But the solution in life isn’t always to change the situation, it’s to change in response to the situation. It’s a question of how we rise to the occasion, evolve to thrive in the environment.
So when we turn to tarot to see what’s coming our way, the point isn’t what to do about what’s coming. The question to ask if you’re looking for self growth is, “Who do I need to be in order to deal with what’s coming?” And tarot can not just show you what’s coming, but it can point you to what needs to change, what development you can focus on to prepare you, to allow you to thrive given what’s coming.
And I want to make sure and differentiate between aspiration and evolution. Evolution isn’t about trying to become someone you want to be, it’s about being the version of yourself you need to be to function best given the things happening around you at the moment. It seems like a subtle difference, but it’s really not. Like, I could work really hard to become a version of myself that I imagine, that I think I could or should be, but first of all that could very well be something I aspire to because I feel like who I am authentically isn’t good enough, isn’t acceptable. We tend to imagine ourselves being what others expect of us, which isn’t authentic to who we are.
But second, it’s also, you know, we don’t know what kind of life we’re going to have later. We could pour all kinds of effort into being a certain say, being a certain version of ourselves, and when we get there we could find – and actually, we’re likely to find – that whatever we worked so hard to be isn’t as relevant or effective or important as we counted on it being. It would be like training your whole life to do one specific career only to get to adulthood and find that whole industry collapsing and that career irrelevant. So personal evolution is different. It’s adapting to the demands and challenges in the moment. And tarot can point us there.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.