reverb10 Prompt: Healing

Prompt: Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

I was healed this year. I was. It feels so good to say that! And it was both a long drip-by-drip healing and a sudden lightning strike of healing. I guess in order to have the sudden kind, you have to let things work themselves out behind the scenes for a while.

I was diagnosed with TMJ – a clicking and painful jaw – and in the process of seeking treatment I got so much more than I bargained for.

I detailed the experience in my tarot card blog. In the first post I did a reading, thought about what it could mean, and then in the second I reflected on what actually happened. I’ve pasted both posts below, so they can be read together, but it’s makes for a darn long post.

As far as next year…I would like to continue healing. One session at the acupuncturist does not a complete cure make, and I only just got the mouth guard for my TMJ treatment. One of my goals is to take my treatment seriously so I can completely reverse the symptoms in 2011.

Part one:

Star of the Magi: Week Nine – Part One
Deck: The Mythic Tarot

1. Sunday (Sun) True Self, Ego, Life Force, Money Judgement
2. Monday (Moon) Emotions, Changes, Journeys 6 of Swords
3. Tuesday (Mars) Ambition, Energy, Risk The High Priestess
4. Wednesday (Mercury) Communication, Business Matters Wheel of Fortune
5. Thursday (Jupiter) Faith, Luck, Abundance Hanged Man
6. Friday (Venus) Love, Beauty, Pleasure 6 of Swords
7. Saturday (Saturn) Discipline, Work, Stability, The Magician

No sooner do I decide to focus on the seven card spread exclusively, but I get a reading that is full of majors! When I looked at the cards I nearly gasped. It reminded me a great deal of the first seven card spread that I did while listening to the Tarot Connection podcast. It was as if the cards knew that this was a new beginning, and wanted to make sure to start with a bang.

A few things were noticeable right away. The first card is Judgment, and in the Mythic Tarot it is a picture of Hermes in a tomb, summoning the souls of the dead back to life. It is almost exactly the scene as depicted on the High Priestess card, as Persephone descends the stairs into the underworld. Both pictures have a figure standing at the bottom of the staircase. Behind them one can see the door to the upper world, and the landscape beyond. The landscape in the Judgment card looks like the golden hills of California in the fall, and there is a sunset. For the High Priestess the upper world is green and it is midday. Both figures are standing between a dark column and the light column, which is common in for the High Priestess card but not the Judgment card. The image of the High Priestess is the primary reason I bought this deck, and it is an incredibly powerful personal image for me. As someone who has suffered from seasonal depression, the story of Persephone speaks to me on a very deep level and I have often reminded myself that the queen of the underworld eventually did emerge from that dark place.

The author of the Mythic Tarot does a wonderful job describing the cards and giving descriptions of the symbols. Both the High Priestess card and the Judgment card are about the unconscious for her – and I agree.

“The dark world of Persephone provides only shadowy glimpses of patterns and movements at work within the individual, which require patience and the passage of time before they can be brought into the light of day. The myth of Persephone emphasizes the cyclical motion of time, portraying a mysterious rhythm, a constant coming and going of something.”

I love what she says about the Judgement card:

“On an inner level Hermes the psycho-pomp is an image of the process which occurs at a certain at certain critical moments in life; a summing up, when the experiences of the past are gathered together and is seen as part of an intelligent pattern, and the consequences of these experiences must be understood and accepted. This process of summing up is not an intellectual function, but rather a kind of cooking that occurs in the underworld of the unconscious. It is a call for the dead to rise, for the many and varied actions and decisions we perform to knit together and yield a harvest. The artist experiences this process when, after many hours or weeks or even years of attempting to formulate, research, practice technique and give shape to an elusive idea or image, something at last happens and the new creative work is born. The same process can be seen in psychotherapy, where an individual can struggle for many months with the disconnected memories and feelings of the past and present, stock and blocked, and suddenly a kind of course he didn’t occurs in one’s pattern makes sense at last.”

Of course, it’s ambiguous. A summing-up can be good or bad. Persephone can be going up or down the stairs.

The fact that the Judgment card and the High Priestess card are separated by the Six of Wands did make me smile. Sixes, on the whole are positive cards. The Six of Wands does depict a brief moment of joy and happiness in the journey. In particular the author of the Mythic Tarot has decided to depict a different myth with each suit and in the Six of Wands we see Jason with his golden fleece. I cannot help but notice that I have passed by my darkest point of the year and have emerged happier than I have been in a long time. Perhaps that is my Golden fleece, something I can hold onto no matter where I am on the staircase between the upper and lower worlds.

Lest I get too comfortable, the next card is the also ambiguous Wheel of Fortune. I have always loved them is depicted here, of the three sisters spinning out the lives of humans. I cannot fail to notice that the three sisters are in a cave, and behind them there is an opening to a lush green landscape not unlike the landscape depicted in the prior cards. The Wheel of Fortune is neither a positive or negative card to me, it is a reminder that life is a wonderful and tragic in turn. “Shit happens, the sisters on the Wheel card say, “Don’t take it personally.”

The Wheel of Fortune sits between the High Priestess and the Hanged Man. Again, I have to notice that the Hanged Man card has been in my weekly drawings for several weeks now. Just as the High Priestess card was extremely familiar to me this time last year, the Hanged Man has become an indication of the season. It is also an ambiguous card. Just as I don’t know where the High Priestess is on the staircase, or which direction she is heading, I do not know if the Hanged Man is there on purpose or as punishment. Often cards depict him as Odin, but in the Mythic Tarot he is Prometheus. Both the Hanged Man in the High Priestess talk to me about depression, And the process is that we go through in order to center ourselves.

After the Hanged Man, there is another six. There are only two pips in the seven card spread, and they are both sixes. While the Six of Wands depicted a moment of public acclaim and victory, the Sixth of Swords depicts leaving a stormy sure behind in favor of something new. This is generally a positive card, and we imagine ourselves on the boat looking ahead to a future where the skies and the seas are a little calmer.

It is interesting that the character in the Six of Swords is heading towards a to village built on a rocky shore. The rocks are the same color as those depicted in the next card, The Magician. And we are back to Hermes! He is recognizable, wearing the same cloak and holding the same double serpent sceptor. I find it interesting that he’s at both the beginning and the end of the Major Arcana in this deck. It really brings home the point that everything about the human journey is cyclical. Even at a quick reading you can tell that this seven card spread is about a journey that is cyclical, and begins again and again, asking me to retrace my steps over and over.

I was deeply grateful to see that the Star card jumped out of the deck, as a bonus. I put the card at the center of the reading, and I was comforted. Not only does the star remind me of my perception of divinity, it always seems to appear when I need a little reassurance that things are going to work out okay. In the Mythic Tarot the Star card is Pandora, and thus she is also very ambiguous. On one hand Pandora gave the human race all of our problems and worries. On the other hand, Pandora give us hope. Depending upon who is recounting the Greek myths, hope is either the best thing or the worst thing that she ever gave the human race. I also notice that Pandora is in the exact position as a girl in the picture that I once cut out a magazine. I have kept a fragment of paper for at least 20 years, because the image of a young woman kneeling, her hair flowing behind her, her face tilted up to something unseen so perfectly captures my idea of prayer.

I had wanted to look at the seven card spread in the context of the Star of the Magi spread. I had wanted to look at the planetary correspondences, and make some predictions for the week ahead. Right now I do not think that is possible. There is simply too much here for me to digest. This spread is hitting all of my sore points, and will take a great deal of time to process.

I honestly don’t know what I would say to someone if I choose these cards as I was giving a reading for them. I think I would try to say something about the fact that we return again and again to this point in the year, and a particular point in our psyche. We can inch forward and make progress, but we cannot avoid this place in time and all of its meaning. Over all, the fact that so many potent major cards have shown up but read ambiguous means that there is choice about the direction the questioner is heading, and combined with the number six means that this can be a positive reading. Perhaps those sixes are a way to talk about the day-to-day aspects of these larger issues. “Take a moment to congratulate yourself on how far you have come,” says the Six of Wands. “Don’t worry, you are going in a better direction,” says the Six of Swords.

I guess I’d say, “You are coming to a place, emotionally, where you are integrating past and present. You have a choice about weather this is positive or negative, but if you take a moment to look at your accomplishments and, after careful consideration and mediation, make it a step forward, you can become master of yourself again.”

Part Two:

It has taken me a long time to fully understand and digest the meaning of last week’s reading. I have certainly done another seven cards spread, and will post about that, but this week’s reflection pales in comparison to the deep thinking and questioning that week nine caused. It has also taken until now for me to see things the cards predicted come to fruition.

I know I will not be able to fully capture everything that has gone on in my head the past few days, but I’m going to give it a shot because it’s a pretty damn big deal.

After giving it a lot of thought, I knew that week nine’s spread was all about integrating past and present. It is about this point in the year where I am forced to evaluate how far I have come, and think about where I want to go in the future. I do a lot of thinking about my car accident and the recovery that followed. I do a lot of thinking about depression. This is made all the more difficult when other issues pop up – like my jaw pain and TMJ. It was a mess.

Something clicked into place for me this past week. On one hand it was due to what I was reading. I picked up two books at the library. The first one is called In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. It is by a Ph.D. named Peter A. Levine. The author starts the book by recounting the day he was hit by a car while walking across the street, and goes into great detail about his recovery process. It is his belief that when human beings suffer trauma there is a particular cycle we must go through. It is a physical cycle as well as a chemical and psychological cycle. If that cycle is interrupted for any reason, we get stuck in the trauma. He talked a lot about how basic medical procedures in emergencies pretty much guarantee that this trauma cycle will be interrupted, thereby increasing the chances that someone will suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. He talked a lot about being immobile, and being immobilized, and as he talked about how this was particularly difficult for children it was as if a light bulb went on in my head.

My very first memory is as being driven to the hospital. When I was in pre-kindergarten I ran into a dark room and bashed my head against a porcelain toilet bowl. Not glamorous, and it led to a great many awful nicknames. I also needed seven stitches. Now, while I remember sitting in the car watching the rain slide down the window outside, feeling the blood slide down my cheek, I have no memory of what came after. My parents tell me that I had to be immobilized – and that it took at least one adult on each limb and an adult to hold my chest down in order for the doctors to hold my head and do the stitches. Talk about trauma.

So it’s no wonder that I felt overly traumatized by being strapped to a board in an ambulance, and immobile in hospital bed in an emergency room. It’s no wonder that a lot of my problems started the year that I turned 18 and started to experience sleep paralysis. It’s no wonder that any depiction of a woman being immobilized and violated turns my stomach. For me, immobilization equates with a very deep and long-standing trauma.

Sometimes when you give something a name it loses its power. By recognizing that my reactions weren’t crazy, but the result of the very real documented traumatic cycle that had been interrupted multiple times, I suddenly felt lighter. I felt relieved.

The other book that I checked out from the library was less touchy-feely. It is called The TMJ Healing Plan: 10 Steps to Relieving Headaches, Neck Pain and Jaw Disorders by Cynthia Peterson. She is a physical therapist. This book is as practical and accessible as the first one was esoteric and psychological. Still, I got a great deal out of it as well and had another lightbulb go off. The first chapter that I turned to as I was leafing through the book was about posture and its effect on jaw pain. Immediately, a discussion of the pelvis this caught my eye. The authors said she had had a great deal of success curing joint pain but adjusting it a pelvis that was imbalanced. This made perfect sense to me.

So, with lightbulbs glowing in my head, I went to see two very different medical practitioners. I find it interesting that my seven card spread included to different images of Hermes. Perhaps this was an indication.

My first stop was a specialized dentist. He talked to me a great deal, discussing my symptoms, (dismissing the idea that the pelvis was connected) and then moved my jaw around. Once he had moved it into a good position, he squirted green goo into my mouth – without even asking my permission. When I squirmed and made a noise he explained what he was doing. He was making the beginnings of my mouth splint, something I could wear at night that would help my mouth’s return to a normal position that wouldn’t hurt. Since that appointment I have gotten a panoramic x-ray, and have had another dentist put purple goo into my mouth to take a full mold of my upper and lower teeth. I am grateful to have this opportunity, and I am very grateful that my health-care covers it entirely. But I have to notice that people don’t look me in the eye, the office is painfully overly bright and half the things I have to do actually aggravate my condition.

The other medical practitioner was an alternative healer recommended to me by a friend. In a tiny house painted purple, I met a very old woman who, just like every other doctor, asked for a full medical history. This time, however, instead of saying quote “wow!” or brushing off my questions about the possibility of my jaw until the pain being connected, she looked at my charts and said “well that makes sense.” It was such a relief. Then she proceeded to practice her craft – and there’s really no other way to say it. My husband calls her my ‘witch doctor.’ It was an acupressure session, nutritional consultation, therapy session, and psychic reading all in one. I’m not yet prepared to comment on all of the things that we talked about but let’s just say that her thing is helping people to overcome allergies and injuries by letting go of the past trauma that may be stored in the body. Once she was done with her questions she put her hands on my head and felt around.

She put her palm on the top right of my skull, and asked if I had had a head injury. Her palm was right over where my stitches had been. I told her about my first memory, and she said that she thought that perhaps my head had been out of balance ever since. She proceeded to push and prod very gently and finally put her fingers on my jaw muscles on either side. She pressed. She did not move. I did not move. But something shifted. I saw purple and green and everything went wobbly. Suddenly I was not in pain, and I have not experienced pain since.

That moment was such a powerful moment of integration and understanding. I made connections that cannot put into words, and something about making those connections and naming those connections allowed me to let go of pain.

I’m still going to see the dental specialist. I’m not stupid. In fact, because of the acupressure I have been able to do everything that the dentist has asked me to do – whereas before a lot of his requests and treatments made me hurt more. It is a tremendous blessing, and I am very hopeful.

All in all, a watershed of sorts. Just as the cards had indicated, it was a week of conscious and unconscious integration. It was a week of reconciling the past and the present – or recognizing the past in this present. I honestly don’t know if I would have gotten to this place without the cards. The kind of self reflection and questioning necessary to examine the seven cards spread I had for week nine primed the pump for all of the revelations that came after. Clearly I was ready for this kind of integration and recognition, the cards just helped me to see that.

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