Constraint as Discipline

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Sometimes we have a lot fewer options than we’d like to have. Sometimes it’s down to simply survive or not. Other times we just don’t have any options we like, or, as so beautifully depicted in the Eight of Swords Tarot card- we don’t know what our options are, but we’re pretty sure they are all bad, and we aren’t able to do anything anyway.

In a case like this, horrible as it is, our path can become crystal clear: when Houdini was in his water escape tank, I doubt he was worried about how many people were in the audience, or whether he looked good in his costume. His entire focus was on unlocking the locks, and getting out of the trap before he needed to draw a breath.

Some of the situations we get into are powerful “learning opportunities”… that we wish we never had. Looking back, sometimes we are grateful that they happened, or at least grateful for what we learned from them. Certainly, it would be better to have the knowledge and wisdom without the misery. But in the real world, sometimes that’s what it takes to learn the big lessons. Some say only hitting rock bottom makes you decide to do what’s needed to fix your problems.

In this human life, we find ourselves in some pretty bad situations, and have to learn to focus on what we really need, and what we need to do. Assigning blame is pointless, the disaster may be something you set up for yourself when you incarnated, it may be the natural result of some bad decision you made earlier, or it could be that you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, and simply have to learn to deal with that. When the same sort of things happens over and over, it seems more likely that this is a “cosmic clue-by-four” trying to teach you something.

I am reminded of when we first meet the character Chaucer in the movie A Knight’s Tale. The down-on-their-luck heroes are surprised to meet someone in worse shape walking along the road, stark naked. They ask him what he’s doing. He responds: “Trudging. You know, To Trudge? The slow, weary, depressing, yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in his life except the impulse to simply soldier on.”  

never say that!

The lesson may not be deep, but simply to survive long enough for the next opportunity to improve the situation. We can be beaten by it, or we can survive, and move on. At least it’s hard for it to get worse at that point. (I know- never say that! The gods sometimes have a weird sense of humor.) We may not have consciously manifested this lesson, we may not enjoy it, it may not be part of our “life’s plan”, but we can learn from it.


If you were literally in the 8 of swords, what would you do? Try to cut your bonds with the sword to which you were tied? Call for help? In times of disaster, sometimes all you can do is try to figure out one thing to change to move out of the situation. It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever be tied to a sword, but the images in Tarot convey feelings with which we are all familiar. That’s why we use divination when our brains freeze up and we can’t think of anything else to try. It gives us one more tool to cope. One tiny thing to change. Sometimes asking for help is the thing we really needed to do.

This is part of why we have themes for CTCW, each year it gives us one thing on which we can focus, this year dealing with needs rather than wants, and like so many forms of art, being required to work within those limits often pushes us to discover things we would not have found had we not been forced to work within those limits. We may not like it, but it can be good for us.

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