Following Your Fault-Lines Home

Flipping through an old journal, I came across a passage I copied down from the book Cave: Nature and Culture:

W. H. Auden, who so loved the karst shires of the Northern Pennines, adored limestone. What most moved him about it was the way it eroded. Limestone’s solubility in water means that any fault-lines in the original rock get slowly deepened by a process of soft liquid wear. In this way, the form into which the limestone grows over time is determined first by its flaws. For Auden, this was a human as well as a geological quality: he found in limestone an honesty—an acknowledgment that we are as defined by our faults as by our substance.

In my own personal work, I have seen a gradual transition, mapped in the pages of my journals, from trying to eradicate my perceived faults to learning how to simply be present with them and to see what they have to teach me. And in my clients, the most striking transformations I have been lucky enough to witness have taken place, not as a result of further self-denial and hard-handed discipline, but from a compassionate acceptance of self.

It seems that the main challenge to self-acceptance is the fear that if we accept these “awful” things about ourselves, they’ll run rampant and ruin our lives.

The ego believes that our rejection of these faults is the only thing keeping us from destruction; it’s the dam holding the waters at bay. And all the while, we search and search for a feeling of wholeness, yet, as long as we continue to reject aspects of ourselves, this wholeness eludes us. It is only when we accept ourselves, fully–wholly–that we can feel whole. So, rather than serving as gateways to our destruction, these faults are our ticket home, our return to a state of wholeness.

There’s another interesting facet to these “faults.” I have found that, hidden in their core, these faults contain my greatest gifts, unique creations wrought by my history, my individual fault-lines, and erosion patterns worn by the waters of my life (water being symbolic of emotions and the unconscious realms). These ingredients interact to shape the gifts that I, and I alone, have to offer.

So, too, your gifts are a unique alchemical mix of your fault-lines and their interaction with life. When we accept these faults, they teach us. They teach us about our weaknesses, yes, and this can trigger feelings of vulnerability and shame, but they also teach us of our greatest strengths. If we can be present with the uncomfortable emotions that arise when we witness our fault-lines, we can penetrate the veil, beyond which lies our hidden gifts.

And as Auden intuited, “we are as defined by our faults as by our substance,” so even if we choose to shun these qualities, they shape us nonetheless, but in this shunning we lose the precious gifts they contain. Far better to embrace these fault-lines, weathering the discomfort (and it will pass; it always does), so we can reclaim the gifts they bring.

And if you are feeling adrift, unsure as to what your soul is being called to do, tracing your inner fault-lines will lead you back to your purpose. Remember, these lines are unique to you and you alone, and they contain gifts that require activation in order to fulfill your soul’s purpose. Like a spiritual scavenger hunt, the more of these gifts you assemble, the more their purpose will be come clear. If, metaphorically speaking, you unearth a whisk, a book of pastry recipes, and a bag of flour, perhaps yours is the path of a baker.

My path has led me from being painfully shy (as a child, I cried when people–my own family–gathered around to watch me open birthday presents, and later in life, I agonized over quitting jobs that required me to stand up in front of even the smallest of groups), to sitting with the extreme discomfort that arose in these situations, to eventually uncovering a powerful desire to teach, to speak, and to lead. What clues and gifts do your discomforts contain?

Follow your fault-lines. They will lead you home to yourself and to the wholeness and purpose that awaits.

Your Personal Grail Quest, Part One

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This is an excerpt from a book-in-progress, Crafting Your Personal Grail Quest, which is a guide to discovering and living your soul’s purpose.

If you’re going on a journey, it helps to have a map, and a Quest is no different. Well…it’s slightly different. If you’re going to a new restaurant, thanks to Google Maps you can see the entire journey before you set foot out of your door, but a Quest map is a different animal.

A Quest map is more selective in what it reveals, and yes, I’m talking about the map as if it’s sentient, because in a way, I believe it is.

The map is the universe, and just like no one has a complete and total understanding of the universe, no one is privy to the entire map at the start of their journey. If you’re scratching your head and considering throwing in the towel, let’s get more specific and explore what the map is and what it isn’t.

  • The map is complete, just like the universe is complete; we’re just not capable in our human form of seeing the entire map all in one go. But the good news is we don’t need to, and in fact, if we were to see it all our minds would be utterly blown, and then if there was anything left of us, we’d be bored stiff, because seeing the entire map would take all of the surprise out of life, like the ultimate movie spoiler. After a while, there’d be very little point in getting out of bed in the morning, because we’d already know what was in store for the day.
  • Even though we can’t see the whole thing, we are always given the next step or two on our journey. That next step might not always make a whole lot of sense, and we may be wondering what the point is of doing it, but that next step will be made apparent just the same. Once you take that next step, a further step will be revealed…
  • I know I just said we don’t get to see the entire map, but that’s not entirely true (get used to it–the Quest is full of paradox and seeming contradictions). While you cannot see your personal map in its entirety, you can see the universal map in its entirety, and from there you can get an idea of where you are, very much like the “you are here” signs at the mall. My favorite tool for accessing the universal map is the tarot, and this is what I’ll be outlining in this book, although it is far from the only option. Astrology and the Kabbalistic Tree of Life are just two of the many other options that exist, and by all means, once you learn the basic concepts of finding your place on the map, feel free to use whichever tools resonate with you.

The reason why we do this work of checking our location connects to our definition of a Quest, which, to recap:

A Quest is the process of setting the intention, moment to moment, to see life as a sacred adventure designed to further your personal evolution and expansion.

Seeing where you are on the map clues you into the gifts that life is offering you in the present moment, the gifts that are designed to further your personal evolution and expansion.

This is incredibly awesome, because what this means is that you’ll be able to consciously look for these gifts, and from personal experience, these gifts can show up in pretty strange and unexpected places, such as arguments with your partner, wonky interactions with a coworker, and other circumstances that most of us would rather avoid and that we’re certainly not used to viewing as gifts.

Seeing your location on the map allows you to make spiritual lemons out of lemonade, mining unpleasant experiences for rich insights and rewards. Trust me when I say this is a total game changer; it turns life from something you have to get through to a moment-by-moment adventure, regardless of whether you’re stuck in traffic or in the middle of mind-blowing sex.

Using Tarot As Your Map

Let’s look at how we can use tarot as our map, and this method is accessible even if you’re totally new to tarot cards. For starters, a tarot deck consists of 78 cards, and the deck can be divided into what’s known as the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana cards. Arcana means “secret” or “mystery,” which is perfect for our sacred quest, as we’ll be plumbing the depths of the unknown, looking beyond the surface to uncover the lessons and plans meant just for us.

The Major Arcana is made up of 22 cards numbered zero through twenty-one, and as their name suggests, these are the “biggies” in the tarot deck; they’re the cards you’re most likely to see featured in movies, cards like Death and the Hanged Man. The Major Arcana depicts a carefully chosen sequence of archetypes, and this sequence begins with the Fool and culminates with the World. This is our universal map of how to travel from the position of the uninitiated Fool to the all-encompassing World.

To begin, take your tarot cards and separate them into two stacks: the Major Arcana cards (the cards numbered zero through twenty-one with names like the Devil or Strength) in one stack and everything else in the other.

When you’re ready to check the map, you’ll take a few moments to prepare a sacred space using whatever method you like, and then you’ll shuffle the stack of Majors. The card that you draw from this stack indicates the lesson that your soul is being asked to embrace right now.

Now, it’s time to interpret that card. Even if you’re a seasoned reader, I encourage you to empty your mind as much as possible and approach the card fresh. Have a notebook handy so you can jot down your impressions.

Begin by simply looking at the card. Take note of any aspects of the image that draw your attention. What are they–Symbols? Animals? Human figures? Certain colors? Jot these down in your notes.

Begin to describe what you see in the card aloud; you might be surprised at which elements come into focus as you do this. Take more notes.

The object, here, is to pay attention to, and make a note of, which elements of the card capture your attention and resonate with you, even if you can’t articulate why. These elements are what we’ll be calling “clues” on our Quest.

A clue is a detail in everyday life (a quote, an image, a thought, an animal, a scene from a movie, a feather…) that resonates with you.

If something resonates with you, treat it as a clue.

Once this process feels complete, look over your notes, let the information sink in, and see if you can formulate this into a one- to two-sentence lesson statement.

Let me walk you through an example. Let’s say there’s a turtle in the card that captures your attention. After meditating on this for a minute, you realize how often you feel harried and rushed. Perhaps you formulate the lesson, “I am learning how to slow down, how to take my time and cultivate patience.”

What if your notes don’t lead to any lessons that you can see? Not to worry. You’ll simply go a bit further in order to coax the necessary information from your intuition. Here are three great ways to do this:

  • Meditate on the card. This simply means sitting in a comfy position, closing your eyes, relaxing your body and mind, and conjuring up the image of the card. Watch to see if anything changes or moves. If there’s a figure in the card, whether human, animal or otherwise, ask if they have any messages for you. If you’re not visual you can do the same process by looking at the card with eyes open, setting the intention of receiving messages from the card, then closing your eyes and paying attention to any sensations or thoughts that arise.
  • Look the card up in a tarot book and see which elements of the book’s interpretation, even if it’s just a word or phrase, jump out at you.
  • Look up an element of the card in a non-tarot book. For example, if the roses in the background capture your attention, look up roses in a metaphysical book and/or a field guide. See what jumps out at you as you read the entry on roses.

Then, try to formulate your lesson once more. If you’re still feeling stumped, set the intention to receive your lesson in a way that is correct and good for you, and go about your day. Pay attention to anything that reminds you of the card, and treat those details as clues that are designed to help you discover your current lesson.

In a future post, we’ll talk about the next step in using the tarot to guide you on your Quest. Stay tuned!