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 September 9, 2021, and today's episode is the sixth in a seven episode series on using tarot for self growth. Today we're discussing the mechanism of personal evolution, the difference between aspiration and evolution, and how tarot can be used to guide your own evolutionary path. Are you ready to grow your soul?
Welcome back for the sixth installment in this series on tarot, and today is where we’re really going to start putting all the pieces from the other episodes together. But I want to start by talking about what evolution really is and what it is not. This is really important to understand because it makes a huge difference in our basic intentions.
Now, in the very first episode of this podcast I talked about intentions and how we’re really kind of bad at understanding what our deeper motivations are. We’re good at dealing in surface motivations, but worse at really understanding the things we truly want. And I’ve talked in a few episodes, there was definitely an episode in the series on the basics of magic where I talked about how magic comes from within us because it’s something we’ve evolved as humans. And I touched a little last week on this. But I really want to spend this episode really digging into the difference between self growth, self evolution, and aspiration and what it has to do with our intentions and what tarot has to do with any of it.
Of course, this series is on self growth, not specifically evolution, but evolution is a special kind of self growth. It’s transformational self growth. And not all self growth is transformational. Like, a caterpillar becoming a larger caterpillar is growth. The becoming a butterfly is transformation. And it’s totally true that not all transformation has to be total, one hundred percent, head to toe change. But transformation implies a change into something different. Becoming not just a more advanced or older version of yourself, not just maturing as one would expect a human being to mature and grow over time, but making a real shift into something of a different person.
Transformation happens when we experience something that changes the way we see ourselves in the world, that causes us to gain a different understanding of reality or a different understanding of who we are and what we’re capable of.
So, for instance, every year in high school or every year in college I could sort of mark the changes in myself, right? The growth. I expanded my knowledge, I became more confident, I built on the foundation of what I’d known and learned before, the person I understood myself to be, kind of testing my wings and growing into my personality and expressing who I was, all of that.
But the shift from high school to college was transformational. The change in my basic life experience between leaving high school and starting college shifted the way I understood myself. I wasn’t just adding to what was there before, I was discovering and becoming a whole different version of self. I was unlearning things as much as I was learning new things, experiencing things which completely shifted the way I understood experiences I’d had before.
And it wasn’t just that transition from high school to college. I had transformational experiences in high school, like a summer program I went to called Missouri Scholars Academy. It was an experience I’d never really had before, being away from home on my own, in a group of people who were very different than a lot of the people I was around in school, an environment which for the first time showed me what it was like to express myself more authentically, to acknowledge and embrace my authentic self. And I know that was transformational because when I came back to school the next year, there were people who complained that I had changed.
That doesn’t happen much with growth, or not much, at least. It’s less drastic. It doesn’t feel to people around you that you’ve turned into someone else. If there’s any negative feeling from the people around you it’s more like being left behind or a sense of judgment if you’re growing and they aren’t. But it’s not that sense of “who is this new version of you” that you get with evolution.
Now, aspiration – aspiration is more like transformation than growth for the most part. Most of the time our aspirations for self aren’t usually so much “Who I am and the life I live is fine, I just want it to keep going this direction” and they’re more like “I want to become a different version of myself or at least live a whole different life.” The thing is, we don’t need to be transforming all the time. Sometimes we just need to grow. And sometimes growth isn’t going to get us to where we’re thriving and we need to transform.
One thing tarot is really great at is deflating our aspirations. Not in the sense of telling us we can’t do things we want to do or can’t achieve goals, but when we’re on a path of wanting to choose and guide our own transformations, tarot is really good at pointing out alternative paths and potential consequences. It’s that thing where you ask the deck for guidance to go where you want to go and you get a lot of contrary stuff, pointing you in a different direction, poking at the reasons you’re wanting so much change.
So one thing I can definitely say about the mechanics of doing tarot readings for yourself and using the messages you get to guide your growth and evolution is that when the cards aren’t coming up Worlds and Fools and Tens and whatever when you’re trying to navigate into some big transformational change in your life, it probably means you’re in need of more personal growth. It means you might be wanting this big transformation in order to escape the need to tackle that kind of personal growth or that it’s the opposite of the kind of personal evolutionary change which will allow you to thrive.
It’s that intention thing. We’re not really good at knowing what we need and why we pursue what we’re drawn to, and that’s what tarot can help us tackle.
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 how to find the cards which represent you in the deck, the various aspects of self which you can look for, and why it's important to sometimes focus a reading around a manifestation of you. And come back next week for part seven of this series where we will discuss how to choose spreads to get the answers you really need, tips for getting clarity in the messages, and how to make friends with ever card in the deck.
I’ve touched on this before, like I said, but I feel like this is the most difficult part of understanding the mechanism of evolution. Evolution isn’t about intention. There’s no end goal to evolution. We’re not evolving as people or as a culture towards a predetermined form or an ideal. Humanity didn’t biologically evolve into this form because this form was chosen for us or because it’s a step on the way to a higher or more ideal form.
Evolution happens in response to changes in the environment around us. So it’s the changes in the world and the ecosystem in which we have existed over the history of life on earth and beyond which has shaped us into the species we are. It’s the changes in our lives and social dynamics around us over the course of our lifetimes which have shaped us into the individuals we are.
This is such a crucial concept to understand because there’s this common misconception that evolution looks like deciding who you want to become, who you aspire to be, and doing what you need to do to become that person. Because the common thing there is that we look around at other people and find examples of what we wish we were, what we imagine would make for an easier or more fulfilling life, and then work to become that.
But evolution is a dance. It’s not about intention.
Like, think about dogs. Most if not all dog breeds are things humans have intentionally shaped over time, right? We’ve selectively chosen certain traits and used our understanding of genetics to breed for those traits and away from others. And the upshot of that is that there are breeds with various health problems, that there are breeds which don’t really thrive without constant human care and intervention. Those changes were made not to help the dog thrive better in dog terms.
But left to nature, genetically speaking evolution would naturally work to reduce instances of problems which would hurt various breeds’ chances for survival and increase instances of traits which make them more suitable for the demands of the environment where they live.
That’s not different from personal evolution. I can decide that my life would be better, that I’d be better or happier or whatever if tried to pick up more of the traits of successful CEOs and billionaires and not indulging some of the interests and traits which distract me or stand in the way of that, but that may actually not be beneficial for me or help me thrive in my actual reality. Those traits might not even have anything to do with the goals I want to achieve, and the reason I’m not thriving in life may have nothing to do with any of the changes I want to make.
And, you know, the thing I see happen more often than not is that when we try to choose our evolutionary path we end up preparing and transforming and shaping ourselves to fit and thrive in a world that, you know, when we’re done with the transformation doesn’t even exist anymore. Because the world changes around us. It’s always going to. That’s what drives evolution.
So when we choose our aspiration, it’s like… It’s kind of like, and this may not be the absolute best metaphor, but I think it gets the point across well enough. It’s like when I was a manager, I know there were lots of other managers, usually ones who had been there much longer than me, who struggled because they’d learned all their management skills in the context of a company structure which didn’t exist anymore, and instead of growing and transforming in response to the changes as they came had been focused on reaching goals and perfecting skills which weren’t even relevant anymore. Sometimes even detrimental.
So what evolution really comes down to is adaptive transformation. Looking at the reasons we’re not thriving, the things which are holding us back, and then rising to those challenges.
So when it comes to reading tarot cards, some of the most useful information and messages we can get are the ones which point to those reasons, those challenges. It’s one of the reasons I think the Celtic Cross spread is so useful because it doesn’t just tell us about ourselves and our lives in the moment, it doesn’t just give us context, but it directly points to what’s going on in our environment, what’s going on inside us, what is holding us back or moving us forward, and what trajectory we’re on. And that kind of information is super crucial for self growth and self evolution because it will, first of all, tell us right away if we’re on a aspirational path which doesn’t serve us well.
And second of all it points us to either growth or evolution. That’s the kind of reading which can give us the lay of the land in our lives and then point to some specific tendency or trait or instinct which is impacting our ability to move forward and live up to our potential, and sometimes even tell us where those traits and tendencies come from, which is the key to changing them.
Remember that in biology things change at the root, right? In the DNA. And spiritually things change in our deep selves, in our souls, which has a base code of memories and experiences, some good and some traumatic, which inform and shape our understanding of reality. So tarot is a great tool because it doesn’t just have the potential to tell a story of events which lead to other events, it has the potential to paint a picture of how events in our past have led to our habits and beliefs and behaviors.
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If there’s one thing about personal evolution that I feel it’s super important to understand is that there’s no good or bad in it. We’re not better people after we transform than we were before. We’re just more suited to the lives we live.
That’s all. It’s really that simple.
There’s no end to the process, and there are plenty of examples both spiritually and in nature where evolutionary changes are somewhat temporary or where evolution results in a change and then evolves back to a prior form. Like I think I’ve mentioned before the moths in industrial London, I think it was… Industrial revolution in some big city full of smog where formerly light colored winged moths, which were able to hide and camouflage themselves against light colored tree bark, I think it was, evolved dark wings because the smoke and smog from coal-powered industry covered everything in black residue. But after changes were made in technology and industry so this coal smog wasn’t tainting everything, the moths evolved to have light colored wings again. It’s not because light or dark wings were better or because they were always meant to have light colored wings, they just adapted to an environment which happened to change and then change back.
It’s super important to remember that we’re on a journey of change and transformation but we’re not on a journey with a predetermined end point. Each evolutionary stage doesn’t change in value compared to the others. Big transformations aren’t better or more valuable than more subtle changes. Evolution isn’t better than growth. They’re just different things.
It’s not about success or prosperity or enlightenment or anything like that, either. It’s just about your ability to thrive in the environment you’re in, and thriving is about your ability to deal with and respond to and not be taken out by the things which life throws your way. Thriving isn’t the absence of failure or the constant presence of huge success. Thriving is the ability to meet challenges and get through them with resilience. If the challenges in your life take you out when they come and you don’t know how to bounce back from them, then you’re not thriving.
And it doesn’t mean avoiding challenges, either. Challenges cause us to evolve, they’re the tools of evolution because they show us the ways in which we’re ill suited for the environment we live in and point to what needs to be changed or transformed in us so that we can thrive. That’s how evolution works. Challenges come along like smog covering the tree bark where the moths used to be invisible, and if we aren’t able to metaphorically shift our wing color to keep ourselves safe from predators like we used to, then we die. Or maybe we – metaphorically – find a new surface to hang out on which is safe for us like the trees used to be. Or maybe we evolve a different defense from whatever predators are out there so it doesn’t matter that they can see us easily now.
There’s no right or wrong answer.
And that’s why tarot works to help us evolve. It can help us pinpoint the stress point, the gap we need to transform to fill so we can still thrive in the world as it changes around us. And that’s also why it doesn’t usually give specific guidance for what to do. It shows us possibilities, it’s a mirror to who we are so we can see the reality of ourselves and see both our useful traits and our vulnerabilities. But it doesn’t tell us how we should be.
Thats one thing I always reminded people of when I read their cards. That tarot was like a GPS. It showed where they were headed, it can show what was along the way, where they had been, where the wrecks and closed roads and stuff are, what might be at the end destination if we keep going the way we’re going, that sort of thing. But the GPS doesn’t choose where we go. We still have to program it and choose whether to follow it or not.
Tarot is just like that. It gives us a way to navigate but it doesn’t choose our destination. It doesn’t tell the future, it shows us the potential future. We’re not obligated to accept it. And since there are so many alternate routes, it’s always going to be up to us to choose our path.
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.