Seven Ways to Sabotage Your Tarot Reading

When we’re new to something we spend a lot of time wondering if we’re doing it right and the Tarot is certainly no exception.

The abundance of information online about the Tarot is both a gift and a curse for the aspiring reader. Like every other topic, information is of varying levels of quality and there are a wide variety of approaches and skill levels to teachings. Add the fact that the number of decks to choose from is crazy confusing, and we have a recipe for overwhelm as we sit in front of a spread drawing a complete blank.

These tips are not going to make you a skilled Tarot reader overnight; but as I have worked to teach people about the personal growth and development available to us through a relationship with the Tarot, I have compiled a list of common challenges. Overcoming these challenges can be the difference in readings that resonate and invite us to look deeper, and readings that leave us feeling like we weren’t heard. Some are fairly obvious things we have a tendency to disregard. Others may surprise you.

Reading in a Potentially Noisy or Disruptive Setting

This seems like such common sense, but how many times have you had a reading go sideways because – while the house seemed like a peacefully Zen space five minutes ago – the sleeping dog goes bonkers because he sees a squirrel? Barking freaks out your cat, so she jumps a vertical mile and lands in the middle of your spread before tearing off Road Runner style under the nearest piece of furniture….you get the idea.

If you’re like me, you frequently consider noise a distraction in and of itself. Other people can effectively tune out external stimulation. If you’re one of these lucky people, you can do a reading pretty much anywhere and feel connected to the cards. Coffee shop? No problem. Psychic Fair? Sure!

If you’re not one of these lucky people, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, set yourself up for success by preparing – planning your set and setting so you’re able to connect – and stay connected with ease. Choose times when you know you have a free hour alone in the house. Ask your partner to be on solo child or pet-care duty for an hour. If you’re a single mom and rarely get a moment to yourself unless you’re at work, Take your lunch break in your car or at a park if it’s nice outside.

Failing to Ground and Center

Taking time to ground and center our bodies and our energy can improve readings.  Grounding, the process of consciously connecting to the energy of the earth brings us more consciously into the moment and the process of what we’re preparing to do. It takes just a moment to visualize tree roots extending out of your body and into the earth. Try to feel the changes that occur in your body – perhaps a feeling of being a tiny bit heavier? With practice, you can begin to feel the slightest tug as your roots wrap themselves securely around other tree roots, and whatever else happens to be below the soil.

Centering does for the mind what grounding does for the body. It brings us to a conscious place of power where we can tap into the energy available to us. Making both grounding and centering a part of your pre-reading ritual will help you ‘arrive in the moment’ both physically and energetically – and to use the focus on these two areas to your advantage in bringing in potential intuitive downloads.

You’re Upset or Wound-up

Opinions differ about whether or not we should be reading for ourselves when we’re upset, annoyed, angry, or otherwise wound up physically, emotionally, or psychically.

I’m of the opinion that you should read whenever you darn well feel like reading. AND – you need to be prepared to have your readings reflect what you’re most focused on in the moment – whether you’re conscious of it or not.

Most people get the best results when they are able to distance themselves from the visceral emotion, and tendency to operate from the amygdala (the fight or flight center of the brain). Hence, item number two on this list. 

If you’re crazy psychic, you can probably read the cards in any state of mind. If you’re a regular person working with the tarot for personal growth and development, chances are you’re not crazy psychic. You’re just regular folk who wants to tap into the wisdom of the Tarot and their own intuition.  Yay you!

Your Deck Doesn’t Resonate

When you graduate from using your Rider Smith Waite deck and choose your own deck, things really start to be fun. You’re likely to feel more like a real Tarot reader for the first time when you begin to use other decks on a regular basis. Congratulations!

There are literally thousands of decks out there. If you learned to read with the RSW deck, you should look for a deck that riffs on that one. The options abound. However, ‘based on RSW’ can mean anything from extremely similar artwork, symbolism, etc. or a loose interpretation that leaves a lot of room for flexible meanings, so do your homework before you buy.

Most of my decks have a unique look and vibration.  I even tend to get different results from different decks.  Through using each of them in a variety of readings I was able to pare down my list of ‘go-to’ decks for readings to just a few.

It can be challenging to find the perfect deck, but don’t give up! Take your time. Decks can get expensive if you’re buying a new one every few weeks, used decks are just fine. Yes, you’ll want to clear the deck’s energy before using it, but that’s the only caveat. If you get lucky and find a deck that appeals to you for sale used, go for it!

When you locate this elusive deck, you’ll know pretty quickly. Your readings will flow better. Interpretations will feel natural and you’ll feel more confident in the accuracy of your readings. The best way I can describe it is when you find the perfect pair of jeans. You might not be able to describe WHY they’re the best, but they’re just what you needed to feel confident and let the interpretations flow.

Your Logical Mind is Getting in the Way

This one has three parts, all related to learning to hear what the cards are telling you.

While we’re learning to read the Tarot, we have a tendency to call on our logical minds when something doesn’t make sense. Our brain is functioning like a computer, retrieving information from the most distant nooks and crannies and bringing it into our consciousness.

We see a card and immediately keywords, archetypes, card meanings all flood in, and suddenly we find ourselves in a confusing soup of metaphor, interpretation, logic, and memory. Instead of first feeling how a card makes us feel in our physical bodies, in our emotional bodies, and in our intuitive bodies, we jump to what we’ve been led to believe is true from other people.

We think back and try to remember the literal meaning of the card – what did that book say about the King of Swords? Ugh! I can’t remember! Then, when we’re finally able to coax the information out of its hiding place, we work to make sense of how it applies to our situation. Most of us are well trained to use our logical minds to make sense of things. We plug fact A into slot B and everything makes sense.

Except, when the Wheel of Fortune comes up as a card to explain why you’re struggling to achieve your goals or the Lovers comes up when you’re working on a business contract.

While I’m a proponent of learning the card meanings by rote for a richer Tarot experience, I have come to recognize and embrace the nebulous nature of the Tarot. There are times when you can turn the meaning of a card around in your head for ten minutes, thinking logically about what it’s trying to tell you. The longer you sit there, the more your logical mind is likely to be uncomfortable with the fact that you aren’t sure. At that point, it’s going to work even harder to make a square peg fit into a round hole when if you had been able to get out of your brain for a while and into your intuition / gut / instinct, etc. the appropriate interpretation of the card is likely to make itself known.

Now, here we are, second-guessing everything and calling the entire value of the reading into question. Is that right? How would someone else interpret this card? Maybe I should look for answers online!

Let me talk you down. Now, this isn’t something you’re likely to experience right away when reading the tarot. Our culture has led us to believe that most learning is conveyed from one person or institution to another. That we simply need to remember what someone else told us and apply it to our situation. The Tarot is tricky because there IS so much foundational knowledge it’s tough not to get bogged down and / or lean too heavily on standardization and memory.

My suggestion is to start by leaning on your intuition, gut feelings, etc. – even write down your interpretation of what the card means to you in this setting BEFORE bringing in the logic, internet, or deck guide book. The goal is to eventually be able to blend your didactic knowledge of the tarot with your intuitive self for the most insightful readings possible.  

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