People like the word discipline about as much as they like the word ‘patience.’ In the world of commercial New Age ‘spirituality,’ spiritual wisdom is touted as a ‘secret’ we can buy… a ‘secret’ that magically helps us get the dream job, ideal relationship and manifest perfect health into very old age. It is no secret that true spiritual wisdom and growing the soul takes a lot of hard work – it requires discipline. And it’s not about manifesting whatever our ego desires!
Many modern students of the Tarot will do what people do in general these days when it comes to a spiritual path and cherry-pick, absorbing only the feel-good stuff. However, you should not expect to be able to read the Tarot (or use the cards in any meaningful way) unless you understand the principles of spiritual discipline laid out in the cards and you cannot understand them until you embark on a disciplined spiritual practice.
There are seven main practices that underpin a spiritual path and they can be divided into three inner and four outer spiritual practices.
Inner Spiritual Discipline:
Outer Spiritual Discipline:
- Observing the rhythm of Nature
- Ritual and worship
- Being an Anam Cara
Meditation – There are many types of meditation but the three main categories are concentration meditation, mindfulness and transcendental meditation. Whichever type of category you choose to centre your practice around, meditation always creates great change on the inner planes if you persist and stay disciplined about your practice. This is the mother of all other spiritual discipline, for without it the ego will rule unfettered.
The corresponding Major Arcana card is The High Priestess.
Contemplation – This can be very similar to active meditation but it involves an element of study. The contemplation portion is then to mull over what you have just learned. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to read the Bible or other Holy Scriptures on a daily basis. You can learn from anything as long as you strive to connect the dots in meaningful ways.
The corresponding Major Arcana card is The Hermit.
Prayer – This discipline is barely even talked about any more and I suspect strongly that this is the one the ego objects the most to. To even begin praying, we are telling the ego that we are going to stop listening to that broken record in our mind and hand those thoughts, worries and anxieties over to a Higher Power. Surrender is something that is difficult to wrap our modern, individualistic minds around.
In prayer, we surrender the will of the ego to Higher Will and extend the grace of Heaven to all who have been placed in our path to care for. The actual words we use are less important than the intent.
A person who prays from the heart is more powerful than the richest man on the planet – S/he is a true warrior of the Light.
The corresponding Major Arcana card is The Hanged Man.
Service – To give your life in service to the Light is the ultimate act of devotion. Your life is no longer your own. Yet, paradoxically, only what you give away completely do you get to keep. Because a life in service to the Light is a life that will not fade in Eternity.
The corresponding Major Arcana is The Star.
Observing the Rhythm of Nature – Celebrating the main stations in the Wheel of the Year is a wonderful spiritual practice which takes discipline and a willingness to prepare. It is what connects the soul with Gaia and helps us ground our spiritual practice in the most helpful way for the planet.
What we observe are the eight solar sabbats and the 13 lunar esbats.
The eight sabbats are:
21 March, Ostara – The spring equinox, a time for new beginnings and setting plans in motion
1 May, Beltane – The great fertility rite and a time to honour the returning light
21 June, Litha – Midsummer is a time to take stock of what we have cultivated so far and also a great time to connect with elementals
1 August, Lughnasadh (or Lammas) – First harvest, a time of gratitude
21 September, Mabon – Second harvest, a time for sharing our bounty
1 November, Samhain – A celebration of darkness and a time to honour/connect with those who have crossed over; the New Year in some traditions
21 December, Yule – Midwinter, a celebration of death and rebirth and a time to do deep dreamwork
2 February, Imbolc – The first signs of spring, a time for cleansing and making pledges
The esbats fall on the Full Moon when the goddess is at the height of Her power. These dates shift year by year, so please keep track of them by using a an almanac with lunation info or keep track online.
The corresponding Major Arcana is the Wheel of Fortune.
Ritual and worship – These are the spiritual disciplines the ego approves of the most and which should therefore be the last on our list of priorities. They can easily become power trips and a space to show off.
The corresponding Major Arcana is the Hierophant.
Being an Anam Cara – this is about being a true friend to the soul of the persons given into your care. The true anam cara does not massage anyone’s ego but is always gentle and loving. I recommend reading the lovely book titled Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O’Donohue for further information.
The corresponding Major Arcana is Strength.
The corresponding Majors for spiritual discipline in general are The Chariot, Temperance and The World and it is not by coincidence they are number seven and multiples of seven. This is something for you to contemplate when you have some quiet time.
As you can see, these seven spiritual practices can be applied to any path and that was my intent for writing this article. I was searching for information on a solid structure that could be used on any path and more or less had to channel what I wrote above since I could not find the information.
I pray that you will find it useful on your Path.
Your Anam Cara,