Whether you're a seasoned pro or a tarot newbie, it's easy to get stuck in a rut with reading tarot, especially if you're doing a lot of reading for yourself. If you're anything like me, you may find yourself fixated on reading tarot "the right way." As I can personally attest, staying in your head and focusing on getting it "right" is the fastest way to cut yourself off from the magic of the cards.
Reading tarot is an intuitive practice that requires a special headspace. You don't need to have a permanently furrowed brow and uber-serious dedication to the original meanings of any deck. (However, if this is your preference, go for it!) It may, however, limit what you're able to see in the cards.
Personally, I've found that the best readings allow plenty of space for the unexpected to pop up. This can be a message you may not directly see in the card's imagery or traditional meaning, but feel coming through nonetheless. As an intuitive tool, Tarot is meant to access parts of our minds that don't make logical sense. Maintaining total control actually stifles the potential of a reading.
Embrace the uncertainty and see what you can teach yourself about the cards. You may be surprised at what you find. A sense of play and exploration are actually essential to quality, insightful, and accurate readings.
Here are my favorite ways to break free of the "doing it right" mindset:
1. Transition to a Different Headspace before Reading
Yes, I am telling you to ground/meditate/center before you read. Going into tarot readings for yourself or another person "cold turkey" is the perfect recipe for an overly-analytical reading. You're basically jumping straight into things without allowing your mind to transition into a different space. And I think we'd all agree that ideally our tarot readings should be different from a standard conversation.
This is a good time to mediate on your purpose for the reading and open yourself up to the meaning of the cards. It even helps to directly address your mind/thinking brain or whatever you'd like to call it. Direct your analytical thoughts to take the backseat and invite your intuition in. This can be done directly, through ritual, or simply through a brief meditation session. Do whatever feels best to you.
2. Step Outside of Yourself
Sometimes ego can take over a tarot reading without us even knowing it. Rather than read as yourself (or your idea of yourself) take the time to shift into a different headspace. If I'm reading for a client, I mentally shift gears, reminding myself that I am here to interpret the cards and transmit their readings. It's not about me, my ideas, or any of my ideas about what I think "should happen." Simply acknowledging this allows for more fluid, accepting readings that also honor the individuality of the querent.
3. Set the Stage
Ritual and ambiance are an amazingly effective way of shifting the energy of a reading. Yes, those candles and crystals serve a purpose. You can get as woo as you want to with this, but I believe at the very minimum, taking the time to create a magical space for your reading results in more powerful readings. You get out what you put in. And who doesn't enjoy a little candlelight?
4. Be Playful
Yes, tarot can be fun! Run with things that pop up in readings. Do you see a story emerging? Does a figure remind you of a person or a story or event? A dream? A song? Follow it and see where it leads you. Don't give your mind time to cut your inspiration and excitement off. Often these seemingly random threads lead to powerful insights.
The magic of Tarot is that it uses the language of symbols to access our own subconscious. Taking the time to explore your client's or your own symbolic language is absolutely priceless. Explore why the color blue makes you sad or why The Fool's costume reminds you of a dress your mother wore. This is one of the fastest ways to move tarot out of the realm of pre-determined meanings and into a place of great personal transformation.
5. Explore New Insights
With the last suggestion in mind, don't be afraid to incorporate these insights into your understanding of a card. This is how readers develop their own unique styles and deep reservoirs of tarot knowledge. The best advice I can give here is "if you can feel it, follow it." Does the Page of Cups make you feel a sadness about your relationship with a friend? You're probably on to something. Gently explore what it could mean to you and give it plenty of time to percolate. Just because it doesn't match up with a card meaning doesn't mean it's not valid.