When you look at a problem from different angles, you increase your chances of finding solutions. Staring fixedly at a problem may get you stuck in a rut. This spread, based on the “heart” (the first two cards) of the Celtic Cross, might help you get unstuck. The cards are read: problem + challenge, solution 1, then problem + challenge, solution 2.
The two problem + challenge groups are two ways of looking at the same problem; they don’t present either / or descriptions of the problem. Both are true, you are just moving around the problem to get a different view.
This technique requires a specific question, rather than the vague “What do I need to know about …” question. The question for this exercise is “How can I better manage my time?” I used the Secret Tarot by Jane Lyle.
First “Problem + Challenge” group
Problem: Five of Wands (reversed)
The Five of Wands is a card of competition and conflict. The card is reversed, which could indicate inner tension rather than conflict in the outer world.
So, conflicting desires, too many focus areas competing for my time and attention. When I counted my various priorities, I found five work-related ones and five personal ones!
Challenge: Five of Cups
The Five of Cups denotes sorrow, but things are perhaps not as bad as they seem: although three of the cups are empty, two are still upright.
The challenge is to decide which of the projects to concentrate on. The problem and challenge cards are both Fives, indicative of disruption and tumult. The one represents work and career matters, the other emotions and creativity. Although the suit of Wands also concerns creativity, the emphasis is on the creative spark, inspiration and new ideas rather than creative projects.
The Cups card suggests that I have an emotional stake in all my priorities, but warns that I might regret my inability to focus. The challenge is to balance what needs to be done in business with creative output and emotional investment in my projects. Too much activity can stifle creativity. The fire of the Five of Wands is being extinguished by the Cups in the covering (challenge) card.
The grouping suggests that there is tension between ideas and enthusiasm on the one hand, and creative output on the other. Enthusiastically coming up with ideas and projects has its place, but the result is competing interests and smothered creativity.
Solution 1: The King of Cups
The King of Cups denotes mastery of emotions, tempering emotions with calm thinking, and emotional energy well managed.
He affirms my reading of the first two cards: it is time to end the conflict among my interests. The time for enthusiastically embracing all ideas (Five of Wands) is over. Instead of rushing around trying to do everything, I should concentrate on one or two projects that would most benefit me emotionally and creatively. I might also try some self-compassion, instead of beating myself over the head with all those wands!
The two Cups cards in the first group suggest that I listen to my emotions and intuition to prioritize, not overloading my "to do" list with all the things I believe I “should” do.
The King is immersed in his element—water (emotions, creativity)—but focusing on one cup.
But another way to look at the problem is …
Problem: Eight of Pentacles
Another way to look at the problem is that there is much work involved if I'm to make a success of my business.
The Eight of Pentacles represents skilled work and attention to detail. Some projects need close attention and dedication, but there are a number projects to work on. Furthermore, the Eight of Pentacles is often seen as a card of apprenticeship, of mastering a craft. Several of the projects are new to me, and require time and dedication.
Challenge: Five of Swords (reversed)
Another Five, suggesting change and upheaval. The Five of Swords is associated with hostility, dishonour, and defeat. Reversed, the card could mean aggression towards the self, perhaps self-sabotage and thoughts of failure, undercutting the industry represented by the Eight of Pentacles. Further possibilities include fragmented thinking and scattered thoughts. Instead of pulling ideas together, my thoughts are confused and conflicting, making it difficult to concentrate on my work.
The suit of Pentacles is a grounded, practical suit. The Eight of Pentacles might suggest stagnation; careful and conscientious industry, but no emotional involvement and little creativity. Perhaps close attention to detail is not what is needed. The Five of Swords is a violent response to painstaking work; it is both defeatist and aggressive. By immersing myself in the details, I am in danger of losing the vision I had in the beginning. I am frantically busy, but no longer creative. The swords are an attempt to cut through the busy-ness, but are not, in themselves, a useful solution.
Solution 2: Six of Cups
What a gentle card, especially after the Five of Swords! Six could indicate progression from Five, but the progression involves calm feelings and productive creativity, rather than the analytical thinking of Swords.
The Six of Cups often denotes the past and nostalgia. This card, however, shows an adult holding the hand of a child in a protective and tender way. This suggests to me that I should nurse and encourage my creative projects, not fight them. Much has been achieved and mastered (the adult), which can serve as foundation for building new skills and tackling new projects. The important thing is to choose one project to focus on at a time. The other projects (the cups surrounding the figures in the Six of Cups) are present and not ignored, but not the centre of attention.
Like the King of Cups, this card recommends that I let intuition and emotion guide me in choosing the projects to focus on. Now is not the time for analysis and logical planning, but neither is it time to focus on the details of my many projects. The King is concentrating on one cup; the adult figure in the Six of Swords is nurturing one child.
In contrast to the careful concentration of the Eight of Cups, the Six of Cups suggests that the inner child is yearning to be free. In order to regain my creativity, I should put detailed work and rational analysis aside for a moment, to have fun.