Ask the Agony Augury: How Do I Get Off My Butt?

The Agony Augury is a new regular column here in Two Sides Tarot Land. Think a trusted agony aunt, armed with tarot cards, the Agony Augury is here to take on your most pressing problems and difficult dilemmas! Got a question? Drop me a line, and your quandary might just get answered right here on the blog.

I'm cheating a little bit with this week's question, because it is, in fact, from... myself. I've been ruminating on this issue for a little while and considering going to another reader for guidance about it. I may yet look to someone else for help, but for now, I thought, why not role play it out here on the blog and see what happens? It could be interesting, and hey, I might just be able to solve my own problem! Shall we give it a go?

Dear Agony Augury,

I need a little help to get my fitness mojo back. I used to work out very consistently, and went through a period of several years where exercising was rarely a chore or something I complained about. It used to be just a fact of my routine, and I was even at times one of those weird people who LOVED it. In the last 18 months or so, my habits have become more sporadic, and although I do still work out, it's more like a weekly yoga session than five sessions a week of hard cardio or weights like it used to be. I put it down to the fact that in that time, I've started running my own business on top of working full time, and what with wanting to keep up with pursuing other interests and giving love and time to my relationships, I feel as though I just don't have the time or brain space to work out like I used to. 

I did go through a phase of self-recrimination about all of this, but now I have mostly separately my self-esteem from my level of fitness, so I no longer berate myself or my body if I don't exercise. Thank goodness! I do feel though that my body wants to get moving again, and I miss those post-workout highs and that powerful, embodied feeling that comes with being physically fit and well. All of that hasn't been enough to get me to work out consistently though, and now, whenever I try to get started with a new routine (even a small commitment like exercising twice a week), other things take up my attention and it falls by the wayside after a couple of workouts. I want to get physical exercise back into my life in a regular and meaningful way, but I just don't know how. Help me, Agony Augury!


Couch Potato 

Oh dear, Couch Potato. What a familiar dilemma! And I'm not just saying that because you and I are the same person. You could buy any women's magazine (and a good proportion of magazines for men, too), or watch any breakfast television program, and hear about ways to overcome widespread couch potatoism and find the motivation to get fit. As a species, it seems we're just not that great at habitually doing the things that are good for us. Because you're actually me, I know that you think most women's magazines are a simmering anti-feminist hotpot of capitalist propaganda, so you're hardly going to turn to them for advice. And don't even get yourself started on breakfast television! Let's turn instead to the noble art of tarot, which I hope will provide a more holistic, personal, and possibly even spiritual solution to your fitness dilemma. Before we begin, let the record show that I, both Agony Augury and Couch Potato, am desperately scrambling for the crumbs from the bottom of a corn chip bag as I write this. Zero irony, zero fucks given. Ok, now we can start!

I chose the Dreaming Way Tarot for this reading because it has both an earthy feel and a nurturing approach - excellent qualities for dealing with sensitive matters of the body!

Well, Couch Potato, there are a few things of note upon first glance at this spread. Firstly, a lot of Swords going on here! I suspect the message for you will be something along the lines of "mind over matter." Also note that we have two Eights here - a number of transition and breakthrough. It seems to be a good time to ask about this matter, because there is momentum at your back! Provided you can get over this last obstacle, you'll be able to get that mojo back. Now, let's get into the details!

1. What do you need to know right now about your relationship to your physical body and health? II The High Priestess

In many ways, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a less embodied card in the deck. The High Priestess governs the ephemeral, the emotional, the spiritual and intuitive. She's not exactly the type to hit the gym, and she keeps her figure because all she eats is the odd pomegranate seed from the underworld. Not a great prescription for health! 

This card has couple of points to make for you, Couch Potato. Firstly, you're not connected to your body in the same deep and grounded way that you used to be. This is probably because your priorities have shifted - running a spiritual business, being a professional tarot reader (hello, High Priestess), has engaged those upper chakras at the expense of the lower ones. You're so focused on the great mysteries that going for a run doesn't hold a lot of appeal. Understandable, I guess, but how is that working out for you, really?

The High Priestess archetype is both the obstacle and the answer, because the other point she has to make is that there is intuitive wisdom coming through to you from your connection to your body, tenuous though it may feel at present. You said yourself that your body wants to get moving again. All that hip stiffness and those knee twinges that you didn't mention in your letter but I know about because I am you? They are protests from underused muscles, whispers from the fleshy bag that you live in on this planet, demanding that you give it some love and attention. Your body is inviting you to come back in. You've spent way too much time honing your spiritual craft to be an idiot about this, Couch Potato. Don't ignore it. Use your High Priestessly powers to attune to your body's wisdom, and listen carefully.

A final note on The High Priestess - she may hold a clue about a way to get back into this. You mentioned in your letter that you're more likely to do yoga these days than hit the gym hard, and perhaps that's because this holistic practice speaks to you in a spiritual sense, as well as a physical one. Your priorities have changed, and you've changed, Couch Potato. It makes sense that you don't feel connected to the ways of working out that you used to. It could be time to find a new way. Consider how you might incorporate your inner High Priestess into your workout routine. She's hardly a gym bunny, but her style of activity would have to be something that connects body and soul. Perhaps therein lies your answer.

2. What unconscious or hidden factors are holding you back from following through on your desire to exercise regularly? Eight of Swords

I can be frank with you, Couch Potato, because you're me. I wouldn't ever say this to a client so brashly, but I think you can take it. Stop bullshitting yourself, yeah? You tell yourself a lot of stories about why you don't make the time to work out. You're so busy, work is so tiring, you'd rather be reading, you're "listening to your body and letting it rest" - for A YEAR? Yeah, right! You've built such a convincing fort of swords around yourself on this issue that you've bought your own crap, hook, line and sinker. 

Your challenge now is to lift that veil. Throw off your blindfold, and see how easy it would be to lace up your nikes and jog out of this field of self-deception! Let's try working with a new story, that goes like this: "Am I being totally honest with myself in telling this story?" Now, every time you think about working out and then immediately start to tell yourself a little Eight of Swords sob story about why it's ok that you don't follow though, pause. Say to yourself - out loud if necessary - "Am I being totally honest with myself in telling this story?" Dig deeper. Interrogate the stories your mind is habituated to throw at you. Take off your blindfold and look them in the eye, and you'll see them for the steaming load of B.S. that they are! I'm not saying that there aren't legitimate reasons to miss a work out, and it's not the end of the world if you do, but you'll never get started if you take everything as a legitimate reason to miss a work out. Capisce?

3. What are you consciously resisting about exercising regularly? Eight of Wands

Once again, I'm going to be straight with you. Resisting the Eight of Wands says to me you're being a bit lazy, Couch Potato. You don't want to make the effort, even though you know the rewards are worth it. You don't want to be uncomfortable, you don't want to have to push yourself, you don't want to have to get all red and sweaty and take a shower (N.B. I have neither conscious nor unconscious resistance to showering, thank you very much - Couch Potato). Given that this is conscious resistance, you're well aware of it and prepared to own up to, too. I know working out seems like a hassle when sitting on the couch reading for seven hours without pause is pretty much your idea of heaven, but you wouldn't be asking this question if you didn't know that you could benefit from it.

Our friend here from the suit of Wands is vastly outnumbered by Swords in this reading, which I take to mean you need to switch your rational brain on and cut this lazy crap right out! You know that the kind of energy represented by the Eight of Wands, the kind of energy required to do some exercise, is an intense but short burst. It doesn't last for hours, and it doesn't even come every day. It's a little bit of time coupled with a concerted effort, and then it's over. Your resistance to it is irrational, and you have to cut through that by being realistic about what it will entail. It'll be quick, it's good for you, and in the immortal words of Jillian Michaels, you're not going to die from being uncomfortable. So, pony up!  

4. What mindset, approach, or archetype might you adopt to overcome these blocks and hindrances? Five of Swords

Couch Potato, I think you're going to need be a bit ruthless with this! Those irrational, habitual stories about why you don't want to follow through with your intentions to work out are so ingrained, they're overwhelming your ability to make good decisions for yourself. Effectively, you will need to do battle with that sluggish mythology you've created and seize back control for the smart, sensible part of yourself that knows how good you feel when you do the work. 

If you look at the image on the card, you'll see there are two figures, one empty-handed, and the other clutching all the swords and looking pretty smug. Right now, this is the excuse-making part of yourself. She's totally winning, and she's pretty pleased with herself about it! We all make excuses from time to time, and that's fine, but if we always let ourselves get away with it, nothing gets done! What you need to do is tip the balance back in the other direction. When those excuses start to filter through, take a minute to ask yourself that magical question - "Am I being totally honest with myself in telling this story?" Give the rational, intentional part of yourself, the part who knows that your body wants to do the work, a chance to have a say. Let her reclaim some of those stolen swords so she can help you act in alignment with intention. It might feel like an inner battle at first, but trust that this confrontation is necessary for you to take your power back!

5. What mantra or power phrase can you use to fire yourself up and help you stay focused on your intention? Page of Swords

It might be a little hackneyed, but I'm going to borrow from a well-known purveyor of exercise-related paraphernalia and say, "Just do it."

Like all Pages, the Page of Swords embodies the energy of her suit with excitement, enthusiasm, and anticipation. She doesn't get bogged down in dreading discomfort or worrying about whether this is best use of her time. She really doesn't have any mental baggage at all! Lucky for some, eh? The Page of Swords invites you to get back to basics with this - remind yourself why you want to start exercising regularly. Let this perceptive and rational Page cut away any inner misdirection, and help you identify all those good reasons for following through with your plans. Then, borrow some of her exuberance, and just do it. Get started. You don't have to be a master or even aiming for a marathon. Start at the beginning, where you are, and just do it. That's all it is. Mind over matter, my friend!


The Agony Augury

I must say, I had a great time giving myself some tough love with this question! Now let's see if I can take the Agony Augury's advice and get going with my plans! I'll report back.

I did kinda hog the spotlight this week, but next week I'd love to answer a question from YOU! If you have a juicy dilemma that you think the Agony Augury could take on, drop me a line at

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