If there’s a concept that has recently become my most hated concept, it is the concept of “time”. For someone like myself, “give it time” is not really the best thing anyone can say to me, as I like to immediately get things rolling and start doing things. It’s the fire in me, you see. That is what propels me, and keeps me going, so I need to keep feeding it. As soon as that fire extinguishes, that’s it. Game Over. Or, at the very least, there will be a time-break until such a time when that flame can be rekindled. That’s the thing with fire. It needs to be constantly fed in order to survive. Otherwise, it will just wither and die. If things stop moving, I become restless. Hunger will do that. Given enough time, hunger will turn into starvation and I’ll go into sleep mode. Usually, that’s not a problem. There’s always something else to do; something else to keep myself occupied. Unless, that is, everything comes into a halt.
This is what happened this year. I had just come from a year in East Timor, where I was teaching chemistry at the National University of Timor Lorosa’e. The contract ended and I was in no condition to renew it, so I came home to Portugal, hoping to pick up things from this side of the world. Living in East Timor for one year taught me a lot of things. Of interest here, is the way time flowed there. Contrary to the Western Hemisphere, time in East Timor was slow. And I mean really slow. People there didn’t bother that much with time. Not like we do in this part of the world. They didn’t see it as something one runs after, like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.
No. Time was something to be revered and enjoyed. It was something that could be stretched to infinity without any harm, for things would turn out well in the end. And they usually did. During that year that I lived there, my sense of time ended up slowing down to meet the local standard and I found out that I actually had time for myself. It slowed down to such a point that when I arrived here I had some problems reconnecting with the lifestyle in Portugal. I would always miss my stop when traveling on bus or underground; I would arrive late at appointments, because I couldn’t really calculate how much time it would take me to get there, etc. It took me a few weeks to re-adjust to Western Time. To the compression of moments so typical of this part of the world. But at the end, I did re-entry the Portuguese time-stream and everything was ok.
Except it wasn’t. If everything halts to a stop, everything has to re-start again. And this takes time. I’ve been bargaining with my guides to hasten the process, for stopping is very consuming for me. Even with the baggage that I came back with from East Timor. I can slow down, but I can’t stop. For as we say around these parts,
“To stop is to die.”
Ah! The cultural memes… How binding they become once they get past our barriers and reach our minds. Still, popular sayings are like cliches. There’s some truth in there, if one is ready to listen to it.
So if “to stop is to die”, then what is the problem? We’re already dead, right? So we can stop and smell the flowers, see the sunrise and actually have a life. A real life. A life where we can nurture and grow what is important for us, instead of trying to mimic the White Rabbit and chase what can’t shouldn’t be chased. But then, time again becomes important, since it allows us to focus on what we want. Our views / values / expectations / dreams. It makes us self-centered and concerned only with how far we can progress. It brings us back to life.
Remaining dead, on the other hand, set us free. As I’m writing this, I keep getting reminded of the Hagakure, a collection of commentaries made by Yamamoto Tsunetomo on the warrior code of the samurai. At one point, it goes,
“The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either / or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reaching one’s aim is to die a dog’s death is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When presented with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one’s aim.”
This time-break that I currently am going through can serve to set up a new course. Everything is up for grabs, so might as well go for it. For the permanence of death and the freedom of having to live a life. Going for it is no easy feat. As the Hagakure reminds me, it requires strength of heart and of mind to remain resolved in my direction. Which is probably the easiest step to take. It also requires to stop looking at how life evolves around me and the ones close to me. For evolution implies time and time is a thing of the living.
As I’m writing this, I know what I am going to do next. To take out the cards and do one of my favorite spreads: the Inanna’s Descent, created by Hajo Banzhaf. This is one of the most powerful and tough spreads that I know of. Alone, it can change lives, by indicating step-by-step how you can embrace that part of yourself that is missing and become complete. And become capable of achieving what you want. It is alchemy of the highest sort, since it leaves no stone unturned as you go down the steps to meet your shadow.
As the name of the spread indicates, it is based on the story of Inanna and her descent to the underworld to meet her dead sister Ereshkigal. As she approaches the main gate to the underworld, she is dressed in her finest and adorned as a true queen. To enter the underworld, she needs to pass through seven gates. At each gate, she is to leave behind one of her royal garments, so as to arrive in the underworld naked and humble. But leaving the underworld is not easy. Help is needed .
As how the spread works, it is easy: there are 5 trumps and 10 pips in the spread. the 5 trumps indicate the querent in the current state, its shadow-state and the final being after the union with the shadow state. The two additional cards indicate how this work will help us to leave the underworld. The 10 pips indicate how we present ourserlves at the gate of the underworld, what will help us and how this will ultimately end.
How can I free myself from time?
The first thing to do in these types of readings is to look at the first majors: current state, shadow-state and the final being. Understanding how they relate to each other is key to understanding what the cards are trying to say. In this case, I got the Wheel, the World and the Sun, respectively. My first thought is about agency. Agency is everything and once again, if we’re to do something, well… just do it. What I think is at stake here is a lack of agency. With the wheel, things turn as they please, but who is turning the wheel? Maybe the lightning bolts that come from above, but they really just come from another wheel. There’s a higher entity that’s pulling the threads here, and I just sit at the wheel while it turns. What the World card is telling me is that I need to grasp this wheel and take charge of it. The wheel is now a serpent and will probably twist and coil trying to get free. But the Lady isn’t going to allow that. She will step over it if need be to stop the wheel / serpent from getting away. So my work here it to acquire dominion over time. To do what? Well, to radiate, as the Sun indicates. The thing here is to actually go beyond time and those rays of light that seem to break the Zodiac wheel indicate just that. Should this work be successful, I will find my opening and slip through.
To achieve this, we look at the steps. As I arrive at the gate, my card is the 10 of Coins. Uff! Things are heavy here. It seems that I’m too dependent on the actual workings of time. In a way, it’s as if my life is being dictated by time and its rhythms. There’s lots of things to shed then, as 10 wheels are way too many wheels.
The first thing to discard is the the feeling of failure that time can bring when things don’t move (7 of Coins). Everything is black here and the sevens are never easy cards. With coins, this is talking about fortune failing me. Fortune, in this case, meaning not wealth, but luck. However, fortune does smile on those who persevere. So, if it’s failing maybe it’s because I’m impatient and I don’t allow things to grow as they should. This then is the first thing I need to shed: my impatience and disappointment over things not going as fast as I’d like them to.
The next two cards, the Princess of Wands (related to the Page of Wands) and the Prince of Cups (related to the Knight of Cups) go even deeper. The princess is being carried away by the flames. In a way, it’s as if she’s seduced by them and just can’t resist their pull. A stop is needed. I should only move out of my own accord. There’s a need to take charge here and start to set the beat. And then actually start moving according to my will. The Knight of Cups also moves. Guided by his heart, he soars through the skies looking for whatever calls to his heart. But the heart can be a treacherous leader and send me down into a spiral of negativity and depression whenever things don’t go my way. Hence again, the need to rise above that shallow pool of negativity and gloom that was in the first step, which appears mirrored in the water curves below the rider. Talk about a steady heart indeed…
Next comes balance. Action is good, but I should learn the value of rest. Four swords stand in the centre of a lotus flower. Don’t fight it. Let it go its way and focus on what’s important. And this is probably what should be stressed. A pause in things is just a pause. A moment of silent in the middle of all the cacophony out there. It shouldn’t be taken for more than what it is, as it might lead to stagnation.
Stability seems to be a strong theme here, since the next card is the four of Cups. After centering myself, I’m to focus on my inner strength. Working for work’s sake will not get me anywhere. See how the source of water, that small flower above the cups is tilting and starting to wither. The path is clear: to not allow myself to get drained by all of this.
And then comes the two most difficult steps, which obviously were left for last. This Ace of Cups is a thing of beauty. It vibrates and hums like the most precious song. But is it really so? The aces indicate potential, so they’re all about promises. And illusions. The next step is then to shatter all illusions regarding time and its promises. Everything is an on-going project, so better not to get excited about reaching the end. As for the last step… it is about movement. It is about recognizing that time is measured by movement. But as the arrows indicate, even though time moves through all directions (past, present, future), they are all part of the same reality. It is, I think, about accepting that all times are here and now and there is no past or future. That this is not about the Chronos model of time — where events are timed as successive — but instead to transit to the Kairos model, where time is an interrelated constant, always pointing to the opportune / special / right moment. Sounds simple right?
So, what will I gain with all of this? The ability to pierce through the wheel (as indicated by the Ace of Swords). By understanding the nature of time, I’ll be able to first turn my back to it (with the Hermit) and then to cut free from it (Death).
These spreads are not easy to follow through, as they ask us to look at our way of doing things and change it in order to achieve something greater. In a way, it’s the perfect spread for personal transformation and for shadow-work. If we’re strong enough to follow through it. Truth be told, I haven’t met that many people that actually went all the way with this spread. And yet, the path to what we want to achieve is still there, if we just put in the work.
The last card of the spread, the outcome is the Nine of Wands. Here, the Sun and the Moon are joined together by a wand. Light and Shadow meet and are balanced. Which is exactly what one can hope for. Behind them, two sets of four wands are crossed and flames come out of the meeting of this mesh of wands with the Sun + Moon wand. There is strength here to withstand out coming blows. To be stable through ongoing change. Should I go through with this, well… I will be through this. And the boundaries of time — in the sense of chronological time — will cease to exist.