For me, the start of 2020 wasn’t a happy one: Fresh from a devastating breakup, I was using any excuse to travel, socialize, and find ways to escape some very uncomfortable feelings that I didn’t know how to deal with at the time. And as much as people say you can’t run from your feelings, you can definitely distract from them… that is, until COVID hit in March and every form of distraction was taken away from me.
The first few weeks were a mess: Think crying, panic, loneliness, fear. The uncertainty of everything really hit my anxiety levels, and I knew it was time to finally face the feelings I’d been bottling up for a really long time. I was always into spirituality, but I felt like I needed some direction when it came to unpacking my feelings and finally feeling like myself again, global pandemic or not—so, enter Inner Compass Cards.
Created by Amsterdam native and founder Neel Van Lierop, Inner Compass Cards came after Van Lierop herself was struggling hard to get back in touch with her own intuition after years of perfectionist tendencies and a stressful corporate job. “About seven years ago, I was suffering from really bad insomnia, and I was crashing,” she explains. “It took me many steps to get back to feeling like I was in a balanced place, and I wanted to create the cards to help people get more in touch with their feelings and intuition.”
When I pulled that card, I realized a big reason why I was running from my feelings stemmed from being afraid—afraid of my future, afraid I wouldn’t be able to deal with the emotions once they started tumbling in, and afraid of achieving all the goals I’d initially set out for myself.
Basically, each card has a specific symbol and advice or message that’s meant to inspire you and make you think about something you need to release, or may be hiding from. There are two decks to choose from—Love or General—and they’re fairly minimalist, so it really is about interpretation. For example, the ‘Anchor’ card features a tiny, hand-drawn black anchor and encourages grounding, with the small booklet accompanying the cards reading, “Now is the time to slow down and take a long, good look around. Your gaze was fixed at the horizon and the beauty of the current moment was passing you by. Realize that there is a time for everything. Here and now is the perfect moment to breathe deep and ground yourself.”
When I pulled that card, I realized a big reason why I was running from my feelings stemmed from being afraid—afraid of my future, afraid I wouldn’t be able to deal with the emotions once they started tumbling in, and afraid of achieving all the goals I’d initially set out for myself. But by focusing on the future and distracting myself from things, I failed to appreciate so much, from having a job I love to friends I could rely on. It helped put a lot of things into perspective, and made me realize I was stronger than I thought I was.
As for how to use the cards, there’s no real method—like Van Lierop says, it really depends on your intuition and how you best think they’ll serve you. Personally, I found that picking one card in the morning and reading about it, as well as doing a little bit of journaling about what the card symbolized for me at that current stage in my life was the most beneficial, because it brought up a lot of things that I was suppressing—like my fear of being alone and also the belief that I maybe just wasn’t good enough for a romantic partner. It helped me uncover parts and beliefs I was suppressing because they were really painful, but I do believe that as much as it hurts to uncover those kinds of emotions, facing them is what helps heal and bring clarity.
This isn’t just pseudoscience, either: Studies have suggested that repressing emotions can affect physical and mental health in unprecedented ways, and can even lead to health issues such as high blood pressure and sleep disorders. But in a world that has always encouraged a fast-paced life, constantly running from one appointment or social event to the next, sitting with your emotions wasn’t always so common. Still, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this pandemic, it’s that sometimes there’s a benefit to slowing down.
If you keep rushing, you kind of end up ignoring that little voice inside your head. The thing is, if you take some time to sit, the answers will come more easily than you know.
“I think we’re all being forced to not rush through life anymore, and it helps us become more in touch with that inner knowing we all have,” says Van Lierop. “By seeing how things feel, it’s easier to figure out whether that job, person, etc. is right for you, but if you keep rushing, you kind of end up ignoring that little voice inside your head. The thing is, if you take some time to sit, the answers will come more easily than you know.”
It’s honestly incredibly uncanny how each day, the cards are able to pinpoint exactly how I’m feeling, from the ‘Choice’ card on the day I was trying to figure out whether to open up to someone new to the ‘Trust’ card when I was freaking out about my future again. Even though I know I’m far from healed, I still use these cards every day as a guide to help me highlight how I’m feeling, what I need to work on, and how to deal with those feelings.
Unlike Tarot, which can be more vague with several interpretations for one card, these cards focus on a single word, so it’s definitely easier to understand what they’re trying to say. Giving myself the time and space to do this ritual every day has given me a sense of purpose in a world that’s super chaotic right now, and helps to differentiate each seamlessly endless day that I don’t leave my house. I’ve also accepted being comfortable alone, which was never a possibility for me pre-pandemic. The loneliness definitely hits sometimes, but I allow myself to uncover the deeper feeling underneath and come to terms with it, even if it’s not particularly enjoyable in the moment. And who knows? When all this is over, maybe I won’t go back to running from my feelings anymore.